Wednesday - June 11, 2008
I’m probably not alone in readjusting our summer plans this year. Trips to the Mainland are out for our family, and we’ve decided instead to stay in Hawaii, keeping our dollars where they’re needed most. We’ve been rediscovering Waikiki, and I am no longer prepared to listen to anyone who complains about high prices, “gouging” and too many tourists. Certainly you can pay top dollar for a lot of things in Waikiki; but if you look carefully, there are dozens of good deals.
We spent last weekend at the Outrigger Reef On the Beach. The hotel’s $110-million (and still counting) renovation is almost complete, and the beachfront Ocean Tower is finished. The refurbished guest rooms are beautiful, and those on the ocean have some of the best views of Diamond Head of any Waikiki property.
Outrigger has taken great care to make sure the hotel renovations are being carried out as discreetly as possible, so you hardly notice the construction once you’re past the main entrance. The Polynesian theme of the hotel is reflected in a must-see collection of Polynesian canoe art by renowned historian Herb Kane, and there’s a charming library area in the lobby with Hawaiian literary works and artifacts on loan from Bishop Museum. The lobby and the lounge areas are impressive and welcoming, with cozy nooks and wide desks with room enough for laptops if, like me, you feel the ridiculous need to work even when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Rates for kamaaina offer some of the best values in Waikiki.
On Saturday morning, sitting at Shore Bird having breakfast on the beach with the prospect of a day of swimming and eating ahead, Bobby and I just looked at each other and wondered why we’d ever thought of going to the Mainland in the first place.
We had dinner Friday night at Ocean House - a first for me. Ocean House is a gem for several reasons, two of them being beachfront location and reasonable prices.
“We wanted to make Ocean House accessible to local people,” says general manager David Nagaishi, a veteran of Hawaii’s fine dining industry. “We wanted somewhere locals could enjoy without paying too much.”
There are some beautiful decorating accents in both the dining room and the bathrooms, and the restaurant has the feel of an early 20th century Hawaiian home. There’s a charming waiting area fashioned as a library, and the dining room’s beach view is seen from almost every table thanks to a two-tier seating design. Entrees begin at $19 and, as you’d expect from a spot right on the water, there’s a fine selection of fresh fish including mahimahi, hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian sea bass) and opah. Pupus start at $9, and nobody minds if you share.
One of the most popular dishes is Coconut Lobster Skewers ($13), which come with a sweet chili lime sauce for dipping. There’s a nice keiki selection, too, with “proper” food like grilled chicken and linguine with marinara sauce and, thankfully, nary a hot dog or pizza in sight.
But while the sunset and the restaurant’s décor might be impressive, it’s the Hawaiian-salted, slow-roasted prime rib that has people coming back for more.
“It’s the best in Honolulu,” says Nagaishi with a smile.
He might just be right. For $28, you get a hearty portion of incredibly tender beef that’s been slow-roasted in the restaurant’s electric imu.
Ocean House can get really busy at sunset and on weekends (it’s open for dinner only, from 5 to 10 p.m.), but call ahead (923-2277) and ask for a table on the beach. David and his team will be happy to see you.
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