Before coming out to Hawaii, there were many things that I had not experienced. Among them was the concept that you can find Monday to Friday at the Hula Grill – the chef’s tasting menu. What’s so awesome about this meal is that, for a set (and very reasonable) price, you choose your meal from a set list, one starter, one entree, one dessert, building to a fantastic three-course meal.
To start, as with most of the other food posts here, the pictures are split between my Canon PowerShot and Beedoo’s Panasonic Lumix. However, we do have to start with one taken with my iPhone, as it is of the actual menu. :) It’s not the best photo, but it gives you an idea of the choices we faced for our courses. You can also view the tasting menu online here.
Two things I will like to note about the tasting menu -
- A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of the menu goes to local organizations whose goals are to further awareness and protect the natural resources on the islands.
- The portions that you are presented with are actually half of the size of the normal serve that you would get if you purchase the regular item off of the menu
Before the main meal began, we got our drinks. Both Beedoo and I had the Lava Flow, which is just an awesome drink to enjoy, and one that is something that is a great refreshment to enjoy and, in my experience, doesn’t have much of an effect on me. For me, the best part is just to be able to take my time and enjoy all of the flavors that are in the drink – coconut, strawberry, pineapple and banana.
Beedoo’s other half had the Blue Hawaiian, which he reported as being strong.
Shortly after the drinks were served, the waiter brought us a bread basket, which was at the perfect temperature. What was even better was that the bread was served alongside two containers of oil – one with plain olive oil, and the other containing a chili oil. What we did was mix the two oils and it was a perfectly spicy. For me, I did put a little more chili oil than olive oil on my plate as I do like my foods a bit spicier :)
Due to the fact that we had set ourselves a 5:30 reservation (as the tasting menu is only available from 4:45-5:45 PM), it was just the perfect time for us to catch a sunset over Waikiki. Since you’re on the second floor of the Outrigger Waikiki, you have an unobstructed view of the sunset over the ocean (well, other than a few palm trees that you have in front of you, but that’s hardly an obstruction :))
However, that’s enough of the beauty, as it was time for us to begin the main portion of the meal, which were the starters. Both Beedoo and I had the Potsticker Duo, which was a surf and turf combo – Kalua pig with Ponzu plus Lobster & scallop with guava-plum sauce.
Both potstickers were delightfully crunchy on the outside, the fillings were awesome, but the best part was the sauce, as you do not really expect to have a sweet sauce along with the savoury fillings that you’re presented with on the plate. What made this even better to me was that there was a small collection of greens next to each potsticker, which helped to collect the sauce on the plate.
Beedoo’s other half opted for the tomato soup, which was presented with a finger sandwich of Big Island goat’s cheese and garnished with basil oil. Note: In the current version of the tasting menu, the soup option has been changed to be a chef’s choice.
One thing to know about him is that he can be a bit of a picky eater at times. One of the things that I’ve been told that can be a bit of an issue is tomatoes. Being tomato soup, it might be surprising that he did finish the whole bowl and enjoyed it thoroughly! :)
Soon after that, our waiter presented us with our entrees, of which we all had something different. I chose the Shrimp Chow Fun which featured locally-made rice noodles and truffle kabayaki. Note from Beedoo - this appears to not be on the menu anymore! It has been replaced by Shrimp Scampi with garlic butter, tomatoes and capers.
The shrimp that they put in the dish were certainly not shrimps, they were jumbo shrimp (or prawns if you would prefer :)). Now, I have no idea what a kabayaki is, but the dish had an excellent Asian flavor to it, and the noodles were perfectly cooked, making this a fabulous dish! :)
Beedoo chose the fresh-caught fish, which was crusted in macadamia nuts and served with rice, pineapple coleslaw, along with a chilli beurre blanc tying it all together.
I do not remember what the fish was, but it appears to be a whitefish, so possibly opah. The particulars of the flavours are not coming to me as a surprise, but I do remember it being quite decent from the taste that I had of it.
Her other half had the lemon ginger roasted chicken, which came with asparagus, mashed potatoes and a Maui Onion and roasted red pepper (capsicum) sauce.
As far as the entrees go, I felt that the shrimp was the best of the lot, but really, all three of the dishes were spectacular.
Ah, but this is a three course dinner, so we had desserts left over, and with the portion sizes being perfect, we all had room for dessert!
For the starters and mains, there were more selections than people. For dessert, the ratio was perfect, so we each had one of the choices. I opted for the Island bread pudding, featuring fruits of the island up to the discretion of the chef.
It was sided with some fresh vanilla ice cream. If you make the picture full-size, you’ll see the vanilla bean specks in the ice cream, and that was definitely a great addition to the dessert. The bread pudding itself was alright, but not the best of the three desserts ;)
Beedoo opted to have the Tropical Dreams Sorbet (which does have a sub choice of mango lychee or raspberry guava). I think you can tell which one she took by the photo :)
The raspberry guava sorbet would be the correct guess :). It was served on a fried wonton wrapper and tasted fairly decent, but again wasn’t the best…
The definite winner of the dessert round was her other half who got the ice cream sandwich (labeled on the menu as petite, but I would disagree!).
Just looking at this ice cream sandwich now is making me crave one just like it – filled with awesome ice cream and surrounded on three sides by chocolate or chocolate syrup, with a raspberry coulis as a garnish, this was by far the best of the three desserts that we were presented with, and the one that, if you do take this meal, you should be having every single time ;)
Overall, the tasting menu gave us all full stomachs without being overstuffed. It was amazing to think that all of these three courses were just half of the size of the regular portions if you ordered these items a la carte.
On a normal night, had we ordered a la carte, I know that I would not have had dessert, as the potstickers and shrimp would have been more than enough to fill me right up to the brim.
Note from Beedoo -
Out of all the places I most wanted to eat, this one was really high on the list of must-dos for me.
I would rank this 3rd of the top 5 meals we had on Oahu. The whole meal was seriously amazing – we each tried a bite of all the options you see above.
Starters - The soup was amazingly flavourful, the Kalua Pork potsticker was packed so full of pork and it tasted incredible, I could eat those all day long. The lobster and scallop version was great too.
Entrees - All 3 options we tried were wonderful but there is no doubt the winner serving size wise was the Other Half with the chicken, this seemed like it must be a full size serve unless you get a half chicken for the regular serving!
Dessert - again the winner was the Other Half who chose the ice-cream sandwich – if you are not going to have the tasting menu I strongly recommend you drop by the Hula Grill for one of these at some point during your stay.
The service was fantastic, we had a wonderful time here, great atmosphere, and the food was amazing. Would return for both this menu and some of the other options there. Possibly even breakfast.
Let me add this – if you can’t get into Dukes downstairs, go upstairs and see if you can get a table at the Hula Grill, you won’t regret it for a second. Both Dukes and Hula Grill are part of the same chain called TS Restaurants. You may even find some of the menu items you wanted to order at Dukes are also available at the Hula Grill.