igniting Waikiki

RumFire is the hottest new place in Waikiki, offering an ambiance - and menu - unlike any other, as well as some of the best views of Diamond Head and that famous beach. The hottest new place on the beach

Melissa Moniz
Friday - February 08, 2008
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As a fire pit crackles, Kelly Sanders shares a rum beverage with hotel manager Roseann Grippo
As a fire pit crackles, Kelly Sanders shares a rum beverage with hotel manager Roseann Grippo, left, and assistant food and beverage director Clarissa Clark

Forget what you know about rum.

Forget what you know about Hawaiian decor.

Forget what you know about bar food.

And be whisked away at the sizzling new Sheraton Waikiki Hotel addition - RumFire.

This new Waikiki experience, which celebrates its grand opening this week, challenges your senses and everything that’s remotely associated with dining,cocktails and social events.

Call it what you may - a bar, a lounge, a club or even a restaurant - because it seems that even Kelly Sanders, general manager of the Sheraton Waikiki, can’t quite put his finger on it either.


“Because we have a full menu it’s like a restaurant - but it’s not a restaurant and it’s really not a bar,” says Sanders. “It’s difficult to put your arms around, but it’s more about the experience. It’s a place you can come off the beach and have a great snack, to coming in and having happy hour with your friends or just watching the sunset, to getting very hip at night. It’s not just a bar, lounge or a nightclub or a restaurant. It’s all of that, depending on the time of day.”

To sum it up, they’re calling it Tapas, Tastings and Libations.

Sanders says, “It’s simply hot.”

And that’s not just a figure of speech - he’s talking fire.

Kimberly Kaneda serves drinks to Doug Richardson and Joyce Vicente
Kimberly Kaneda serves drinks to Doug Richardson and Joyce Vicente

Private fire pits adorn the stylish outdoor lounge sections, perfect for cozying up with that special someone or socializing with colleagues and friends. The flame-carved fire pits are just one of the well-thought-out elements that create a relaxed,upscale and warm atmosphere, with a view that simply can’t be beat. Adding to the warmth of the room is a signature tower of world-class rum, emitting a heated energy with vibrant red,orange and yellow hues.

With ceiling-high glass windows that slide open to let in the ocean breeze, RumFire lets in all the beauty of a Waikiki beachfront setting. Contrasted with the modern, clean furnishings, guests are offered a balanced blend of Hawaii without being overwhelmed with floral patterns, tropical arrangements and hula dancers.

“We were looking at creating a new bar experience, and we spent a lot of time really looking at what would be a unique experience on Waikiki beach that isn’t currently found,“says Sanders.“So really what we started looking at is creating something that had a Hawaiian element, but stayed true to a more-modern approach, because the hotel is going toward a more-modern Hawaii approach.”

If RumFire, which is part of the first phase of the $200 million renovations scheduled for the Sheraton Waikiki, is a model-like glimpse at what’s ahead, Sanders has a lot of reasons to smile.

“You can tell how excited I am right?“asks Sanders.“So, come see what this is like, because the whole hotel will be amazing when we are done. It will be completely transformed, modern, but still with an element of sophistication with a Hawaiian element that’s different and you don’t see anywhere else.”

The décor is a slam dunk.

So why rum?

Sanders has just the answer:

“We started talking about rum because rum is made from sugarcane and sugarcane is in Hawaii, so that’s that great tie-in that we could play with. Plus there’s some great rum distillers in Hawaii, so that’s kind of nice as well.

“And besides, rum is the new cocktail. We’ve gone through the whole vodka and martinis. And everyone is really now into mixology and creating drinks that are made from scratch that really bring out the flavors. And rum is like cognac and a fine scotch; it’s aged in a barrel. It is really about the next wave. It’s the drink for ‘08 and beyond. It’s the new craze.”

Kelly Sanders and RumFire Chef Colin Hazama
Kelly Sanders and RumFire Chef Colin Hazama

The idea stuck, and RumFire’s selection of more than 100 different bottles makes it the largest rum selection in the United States. And coming soon is the unveiling of rums from the Kolani Distillery on Maui, which uses 100 percent Hawaiian sugarcane molasses.

Besides offering an unmatched selection of rum from around the world, RumFire went beyond just slapping together some pre-mixed mai tais and throwing in a whimsical umbrella to wow tourists - they worked with Francesco Lafranconi,world-renowned mixologist and director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits, to create signature libations for the venue itself.

“Besides working with the master mixologist with Southern Wines and Spirits, we also worked with the mixologist on the island at Better Brands,“says Sanders.“So we partnered with both companies,, and they each created drinks specifically for the venue.”

And the food? Let’s just say there are no pistachio nuts or greasy potato skins served up at this joint.

“I like to use a lot of high-quality products and ingredients, and I wanted to make it comfortable, where it’s more a bar or lounge-style menu with tapas, tastings and smaller portions,” says executive sous chef Colin Hazama. Menu items include Fire-Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos, Cast Iron Seared Scallop Salad, Garlic Wok Fried Rice, Soft Shell Crab Reuben, Inside Out Musubis and Charred Baby Back Ribs.

“The menu was hard - we went through 36 menu revisions,” says Sanders. “The comment we hear over and over again (since the Dec.

 

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