Restaurant Revival

An array of new eateries are coming to Waikiki

By: Marty Wentzel

As tourism officials serve travel agents a menu of tools for selling the improved Waikiki, they’re stressing the reinvention of the destination’s culinary scene.

“Waikiki’s new spectrum of product strives to offer every visitor the best of the best, and that includes dining,” said Stacey Alford, Oahu Visitors Bureau’s director of travel industry sales.

Best doesn’t necessarily mean most expensive, however. As Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s senior vice president of marketing Jay Talwar put it: “Waikiki’s cuisine delivers everything from the loco moco [a local standard with eggs, hamburger, rice and gravy] to black risotto.”

Travel agents can really ice the cake on a client’s itinerary by sharing information about Waikiki’s dining draws. Up and down the strip, visitors are finding familiar mainland marquees as well as international and island-style eateries.

The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is introducing several restaurants to the Hawaii market for the first time. One, called Sushi Doraku, provides a colorful and informal setting for Japan’s most famous finger food. Another Hawaii newcomer, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, projects a mid-2007 opening at the center. The center is also readying for the opening of Senor Frogs as well as a P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. And those with a sweet tooth should not miss Satura Cakes, where baked goods promise to be “maddeningly delicious.”

Next door, the new Wai-kiki Beach Walk is catering to food-loving clients with its own appetizing range of restaurants. The Yard House, open since Feb. 11, is known for American cuisine and a huge selection of draft beers. Clients might have dined at one of its 14 other locations, including its branch at the River at Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, Calif., but the Waikiki outlet distinguishes itself by showcasing Hawaiian music on Sundays.

In March, Waikiki Beach Walk’s highly anticipated Ruth’s Chris Steak House is opening its doors. Clients can pull up a chair for prime steaks, fresh island seafood, live Maine lobster and dishes inspired by New Orleans’ Creole and Cajun traditions.

Roy’s Waikiki, the newest creation of Hawaii celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, has chosen a prime streetfront location in the Waikiki Beach Walk area. With indoor and outdoor seating, Roy’s regales clients with recipes focusing on seafood and feature Hawaii-grown ingredients, European sauces and bold Asian spices.

Notable new hotel restaurants include MAC 24-7 Bar + Restaurant, situated at the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel since December. Short for Modern American Cooking, MAC serves sandwiches, soups, salads, sides and breakfast fare to hungry clients around-the-clock, making it Waikiki’s only 24-hour restaurant and bar (the latter is open from 6 a.m.-4 a.m.).

Opening this spring in the Waikiki Parc Hotel is Nobu Waikiki, the dazzling 7,500-square-foot restaurant whose famous chef Nobu Matsuhisa blends classical Japanese techniques with global flavors.

Of course, some clients already know what they like. And Waikiki does offer national names like California Pizza Kitchen, the Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks. But for travelers ready to broaden their culinary horizons, Waikiki’s international dining map presents a chance to taste something new.