Pagoda: A Piece Of Old Hawaii
Friday - July 15, 2005
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My food travels take me to all sorts of places, from the finest dining spots to the most casual retreats.
Mostly I’m in search of great food, but I always look for ambience and anything that makes a restaurant stand out.
I had lunch at Pagoda a few weeks ago when the Quarterback Club honored my good friend Don Murphy. Walking from the street through the hotel’s grounds to get to the banquet rooms, I was struck by how truly unique Pagoda is. Of course, almost all of you reading this column have been there — many of you are now third-generation visitors, I’m sure — but how many of you have walked through the lush Japanese gardens in recent years?
From the street, it’s impossible to know that you can dine where there’s a waterfall, beautifully tended tropical plants, “floating” tea rooms and a fish pond that’s home to an unusual mix of koi carp and ulua. “The giant ulua are rare because this is fresh water,” says general manager Edward Saunders, “and people are always amazed to see these huge fish swimming around.”
Whether it’s the fish with their calming effect or simply the fact that the hotel has been around for more than 40 years, there’s an old Hawaii ambience here that causes you to shake off stress. Nobody’s rushing at Pagoda.
“We have families that come again and again and bring their children and their children’s children,” comments food and beverage manager Debbie Tuaileva. “And we have families who stop by when we’re feeding the fish so the children can watch.”
The family feeling is important at Pagoda. It’s one of the last family owned and operated hotels in Hawaii, and one of the most resistant to change. “Our guests kinda like things the way they are,” says Edward.
But in the kitchen, Chef Nathan Kina says his guests are constantly looking for change.
“We change our buffet often because we listen to the customers,” he says, “ and they want to try different things.” Try breakfast at Pagoda if you haven’t been in a while. Sit in one of the private tea rooms for a fine view of the gardens and the fish, and enjoy a breakfast menu that features American staples (pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelets). Local dishes are a specialty of Chef Kina, and some of the most popular are the Kalua Pork Omelet ($9.75), Seafood Skillet ($9.75) or Island Ahi and Miso Soup ($9.50).
Parking is easy and plentiful.
If you’re looking for a place to hold a baby shower, a celebratory family breakfast or a business meeting, or if you just want to show Mainland visitors a piece of old Hawaii, try Pagoda. You’ll wonder what took you so long to come back.
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