Making A Splash At Oceanarium

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - February 04, 2009
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Chef Michael Arita

Executive Sous Chef Michael Arita has been with the Pacific Beach Hotel since 1980 and oversees operations at Oceanarium Restaurant. Arita is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and earned a degree in food service management from Kapiolani Community College.

Arita frequents the farmer’s markets, always looking for an opportunity to feature local ingredients. Arita is the treasurer of Good Bears of the World on Oahu, and also supports MADD, the American Red Cross and Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Oceanarium Restaurant is one of the most unique hotel attractions in the world. Diners can sit alongside the 280,000-gallon, three-story tank, a reef community with more than 70 different marine species from the tiniest fish to huge 4-foot stingrays. Keiki are fascinated by the diver who feeds the fish several times daily. Call 922-1233 for feeding times.

Customer favorites are daily breakfast buffets, Saturday and Sunday brunch, and nightly prime rib and seafood dinner buffets. Kamaaina enjoy a 25 percent discount before 5:30 p.m., and the buffets include a wide array of dishes to suit any palate. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


At Oceanarium Restaurant, Arita encourages staff input and contributions to the menu. One of the lead cooks, Neil Hung Ngo, who has been at the hotel for more than 20 years, helped in the development of the following recipe.

I would like to dedicate this column to Chef Arita with a thank you for sharing this recipe with MidWeek readers!


* 4 heads baby romaine lettuce, shredded

* 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced very thinly

* 2 cups red cabbage, sliced very thinly

* 1/4 cup sliced green onions (for garnish)

* 10 sprigs Chinese parsley (for garnish)

* 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (for garnish)

* deep-fried won ton (for garnish)

*3 3/4 pounds chicken breast

Marinate chicken overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In heavy oven-proof pan, sear chicken breasts skin-side down on medium-high. Cook for about five minutes until golden brown. Turn over and cook for an additional four minutes.

Transfer pan to oven and finish cooking for an additional six minutes. Oven time may vary. When done, remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice chicken breast at an angle.

Lightly toss romaine, red bell peppers and red cabbage.

Drizzle orange vinaigrette over greens. Arrange chicken around the salad and top with garnishes of green onion, Chinese parsley, sesame seeds and wonton.

For Marinade:

* 1/2 cup minced lemongrass

* 1 tablespoon minced garlic

* 1/4 cup minced round onions

* 2 tablespoons minced green onions

* pinch black pepper

* 1/2 teaspoon Sambal olek

* 1/4 cup soy sauce (may use low-sodium)

* 1/4 cup oyster sauce

* 1/4 cup sugar

* 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine marinade in food processor or blender and pulse for 30 seconds.

For Vinaigrette:

* 1/2 cup mint leaves, minced finely

* 1/3 cup minced Maui onions

* 3 cloves garlic, minced

* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

* zest from 1 whole orange

* 1/4 cup orange juice

* 1/2 cup champagne vinegar

* 1/4 cup honey

* 1 teaspoon kosher salt * 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed

*1cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly whisk in olive oil and adjust seasonings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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