Food As Good As The View

Jo McGarry
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Friday - June 23, 2006
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Darin Sumimoto and Shelly McLain
Darin Sumimoto and Shelly McLain

When food writers talk about Oahu’s hidden secrets and undiscovered dining gems in Honolulu, we’re usually referring to mom-and-pop lunch places in the middle of a busy shopping mall or on an obscure corner somewhere in Kalihi. But the truth is while they may be gems, they’re rarely truly hidden.

Luana Hills is the exception to the rule.

As a destination for Sunday brunch it’s one of the most beautiful places on the island, but you’ll not drive past it on your way to anywhere else. In fact, you’ll not even get accurate road directions if you Google it up on the Internet. But take a left at Castle Junction (coming from Waimanalo) or a right onto Auloa Road off the Pali Highway, and you’re headed for one of Honolulu’s most beautiful locations for lunch.

Luana Hills was originally designed as a private country club, and the golf course, designed by Pete and Perry Dye, was intended for those who played the same course two or three times a week. At the foot of the Koolau mountain range, the course has been carved into the existing verdant countryside.

A holiday destination for Hawaiian royalty, preferred because of its cool climate, the Maunawili valley boasts stunning scenery, much of it visible from the road as you approach the clubhouse and view part of the golf course. Royal palm trees, rare bird life, banana and koa trees and dozens of indigenous plants are plentiful on this, arguably the most beautiful course on Oahu.

And while the course itself may be a challenge, Sunday brunch offers the opportunity to appreciate the course from a comfortable vantage point. The dining room.

“It is incredibly peaceful here,” says Shelly McLain, director of food and beverage, “and people who come for the first time can’t really believe that we’re here.”

Those who know the country club and it’s stunning location need no encouragement to visit, but if you’ve never been, and you’re looking for somewhere to experience the beauty of the rural Windward side of Hawaii, and enjoy an outstanding buffet, then this should suit you perfectly.

“We get so many people who come for the first time and are just amazed that they didn’t know about us,” says general manager Darin Sumimoto.

Shelly agrees. “Every week I hear someone raving about the food and the fact that they didn’t know we were here,” she says.

It’s hard to imagine really that such a beautiful location has been kept a secret quite this long.

Go for Sunday brunch and you’ll taste daily specials prepared by chef Solomon Kaonohi that include meats from a carving station, freshly made omelets and a huge variety of hot and cold entrees, salads and desserts. “The entrees change each week,” says Shelly, “so people feel that they’re having a different Sunday brunch if they come regularly.”

Signature dishes include the popular Chinese-style roast chicken with honey plum glaze, watercress bean sprout salad with Korean style barbecue beef, sautéed mahi mahi with creamy pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce, and oven-roasted pork loin with apples, apricots and citrus grain demi.

“People just love the brunch,” says Shelly. “We have nothing but rave reviews when they leave. “

Next time you feel like you need to get away from it all, celebrate with family or just leave some of the weekday work stress behind, head across the Pali to Luana Hills. This is one hidden secret on Oahu that everyone should know about.

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