Chowing Down at the Chart House Waikiki

Seafood and steaks with a local twist at Joey Cabell’s Chart House Waikiki By: Skye Mayring
Joey Cabell (second from right) shares lobster sashimi with friends at the Chart House Waikiki.  // © 2012 Chart House Waikiki
Joey Cabell (second from right) shares lobster sashimi with friends at the Chart House Waikiki.  // © 2012 Chart House Waikiki

The Details

Chart House Waikiki

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The restaurant prides itself on fresh seafood, including this 10-pound New Zealand lobster.  // © 2012 Yana Deaton
The restaurant prides itself on fresh seafood, including this 10-pound New Zealand lobster.  // © 2012 Yana Deaton

Sunset Dinner Special

A Sunset Dinner Special is available at the Chart House Waikiki every night for $29.50 per person. It includes:
• A Caesar salad or New England clam chowder
• An entree of Fire-grilled pork chops, shiitake-stuffed chicken breast, shichimi-seared chicken, grilled opah with lemon caper butter, a prime rib sandwich or an 8-oz fire-grilled New York strip steak
• A dessert of creme brulee, fresh fruit sorbet or key lime pie

He was one of the most successful surfers in the 1960s, winning the Makaha Invitational twice, the Malibu Invitational, the Peru Invitational and the Duke Kahanamoku Classic. Surfer magazine called him one of the 25 surfers who changed the sport. He has taken home numerous sailing titles and holds the reigning state fishing record for yellowfin tuna. He also helped establish one of the most successful steak and seafood restaurant chains in the country. If this sounds like the biography for “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” you’re not far off. Surf legend Joey Cabell is the kind of guy you want to have a beer with — especially if it’s at the bar of his beloved restaurant, the Chart House Waikiki.

The Chart House Waikiki, which overlooks Honolulu’s Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, can trace its roots to the early ’60s when Cabell and his friend, Buzzy Bent, opened their first restaurant together. The Chart Room, later renamed, was founded in Aspen, Colo., with an initial investment of $2,500 a piece. In 1963, Bent and Cabell opened another Chart House in Newport Beach, Calif. And, five years later, Cabell opened the Chart House Waikiki, which is currently the longest running, singly-owned-and-operated restaurant in Honolulu. Cabell and Bent parted ways in business, Bent developing several more Chart Houses on the mainland, which are now owned by Lawry’s Restaurants, Inc. 

Undeniably, the differences between Cabell’s restaurant and any other Chart House establishment are omnipresent. The Honolulu location retains a Hawaii-circa-1960s atmosphere from its king plank wooden tables that Cabell crafted by hand to a wall of authentic petroglyphs imported from the Big Island. The Chart House Waikiki also offers nightly live island music and regional specialties that visitors would be hard-pressed to find on the mainland, including kimchi fried rice and Kimmi’s firecracker unroll, a deconstructed sushi roll with Hawaiian poke flair.

And it’s a safe bet that the other Chart House restaurants don’t send the owner to the local fish auction to pick out the best-looking cuts of Hawaii’s bigeye tuna, fresh mahi mahi, opah and moi.

“It keeps the cost down and the quality up,” Cabell told TravelAge West. “I enjoy being at the helm of the restaurant because the Chart House Waikiki is my home away from home as it is to many others from near and far.”

Executive chef Randy Manuel shares Cabell’s passion and suggests that diners try the pan-seared, herb-crusted ahi, served rare with a ponzu soy butter sauce. For those with a big appetite, the chef recommends the crustacean broil, a medley of jumbo shrimp, ocean scallops, Dungeness crab and a whole live Maine lobster.

For landlubbers, the menu features Hawaii Rancher’s New York strip steak and grass-fed Wagyu beef that is pasture-raised in New Zealand without antibiotics or hormones. And if that’s not enough, customers have fire-grilled pork loin chops, Paniolo baby back ribs and shichimi-seared chicken breast with citrus soy cream from which to choose.

But no trip to the Chart House Waikiki would be complete without sampling the restaurant’s signature cocktail, the Guy Tai, created by one of Oahu’s best-known bartenders, Guy Maynard. Maynard has been perfecting his award-winning recipe for 34 years (he’s one of nine employees who have worked for the restaurant for more than two decades). This potent concoction of Bacardi Gold, Meyers’s Dark Rum and a mai tai mix made from scratch is poured over crushed ice and served in a 16 oz glass.

“My dream dinner at the Chart House Waikiki begins with a Guy Tai,” said Cabell. “For pupus, I like live Szechwan Kahuku prawns and the Kimmi’s firecracker unroll. Dinner is delightful with live Big Island abalone and/or the Alan Brothers’ dry-aged New York steak from Chicago, finalized with a chocolate lava cake for dessert.”

Without a doubt, the menu is filled to the brim with delectable dishes, but only regulars and friends of Cabell’s would know about the Chart House’s unique, off-menu take on lobster — lobster that is served raw.

“Lobster sashimi is a delicacy in Japan,” explains Cabell. “We slice the lobster into sashimi pieces, rinse it with ice chips and a dash of sake and then pat it dry. It is served sashimi style on top of the lobster shell. The head can be returned to the chef to make into a miso soup.”

When Cabell isn’t talking about food, selecting seafood from the fish auction or dining at the Chart House with friends, you can find him surfing open-ocean island swells, sailing his catamaran to Kauai and snowboarding in Aspen. What else would you expect one of the world’s most interesting men to do?

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