Celebrating the reopening of Halekulani’s House Without a Key, chef de cuisine Jarrin Otake gives us the dish on Hawai‘i flavors.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HALEKULANI
A 130-plus-year-old kiawe tree lies before the scenic view of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head, giving diners at Halekulani’s House Without a Key (halekulani.com/dining/house-without-a-key) a picture-perfect view of the sunset on Waikiki. Over the summer, the iconic outdoor gathering spot that entertains the honored tradition of cocktails with its signature mai tai and entertainment with its nightly Hawaiian music, paired with graceful hula dancing of the current Miss Hawai‘i USA winner or a former Miss Hawai‘i, reopened with a refreshed look and new viewing kitchen.
“The new viewing feature allows our guests to see the kitchen operations and watch the various dishes being prepared and created,” says chef de cuisine Jarrin Otake. “In addition, it’s nice for our culinary team to be able to see our guests enjoying the food and the ambiance as well as interact with them.”
With a kitchen that is three times larger than before, Otake is thrilled his team has more room to be creative. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, and with nearly 30 years of culinary experience across the island of O‘ahu, Otake approaches cuisine through a local lens, with a signature style that reflects regional Hawai‘i flavors. “Our cuisine features local-style comfort food from various cultures, similar to Hawai‘i itself with its diversity of ethnicities and experiences,” he says. “This goes hand in hand with my personal style of Hawai‘i regional cuisine, using fresh and local ingredients and working with the local farmers, ranchers and businesses.”
Guest favorite mai tai. PHOTO BY ELA SATHERN
The top three dishes he’s most excited to serve guests are the House Without a Key laulau (braised pork and misoyaki butterfish), kapakahi fries and fresh mahi-mahi fish tacos. “The House Without a Key laulau dinner dish is our deconstructed version of the traditional laulau with the flavors of the pork and butterfish,” he says. “The lomi tomato would be my version of the lomi salmon, and of course we wanted to be sure to add fresh poi to accompany the dish.” The pupu dish, kapakahi fries, has become a new favorite. Topped with kabayaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, furikake, green onion, crispy garlic and tobiko, it’s french fries with an Asian twist. “One of the most popular lunch items is the East-meets-West dish, fresh mahi-mahi fish tacos,” he says. “Habanero tobiko meets avocado!”
Light pupus on the menu include House Without a Key ahi shoyu poke, Halekulani coconut shrimp, edamame hummus dip, ahi tataki and the soon-to-be-famous kapakahi fries. PHOTO BY ELA SATHERN
When we ask chef Otake what goes into making a dish unique, he says, “I really enjoy creating depth and layers of flavors in dishes; making flavorful and balanced stocks, broths and reductions; pickling vegetables; and curing seafood. Some of my favorite ingredients are fresh garlic, ginger and chile peppers, as well as using local ingredients such as fresh fish, shrimp, pork belly, vegetables and bacon!”
PHOTO COURTESY OF HALEKULANI
Also added to the kitchen is a new dessert station, which I must advise to order the signature Halekulani coconut cake. Even if you’re full, there will be room to enjoy this light delight with creme anglaise and raspberry coulis as the sun sets and you’re entertained by the harmony of Hawaiian music by the ocean.