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The Weekly Eater

BY NADINE KAM

Sunday, September 8, 2002


art
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Stacy and Erik Morimoto, newlyweds from Chicago, enjoyed the food and ambience at The Ocean House restaurant at the Outrigger Reef Hotel last week.




Ocean House serves
savory seafood
in idyllic setting



CONSIDERING that we're surrounded by water, visitors to our isles must be stunned to discover very little oceanfront dining, primo real estate having been snapped up long ago by private home owners.

Well, Waikiki adds one more destination as the Outrigger Reef Hotel split the Shorebird Restaurant in two, cleaned up the lounge and recast it as a turn-of-the-century plantation home to create The Ocean House Restaurant. The architects have done an amazing job with details like decorative brackets under the eaves and woodwork reminiscent of The Moana. The entry is like stepping onto a private porch, complete with a sitting room and library.

Once inside, you may think of The Ocean House as Michel's West because of the similar lovely expanse of ocean that opens to you, without a pane of glass to separate you from its scent and cooling breezes. Call ahead for a ringside seat.

While the view is spectacular, there's no need to fuss and primp before stepping out your door. The restaurant's menu and demeanor are relaxed and casual, though never slouchy.

The restaurant is a dream come true for operations manager David Nagaishi, who's worked in many high-profile dining rooms around town and was on the verge of opening his own place when he found in The Ocean House the kind of restaurant he likes to frequent: "casual, with good food and moderate prices."

That's pretty much what most people want, isn't it? Some will quibble with that "moderate" bit. Certainly it's not among the priciest restaurants in town, and you'll likely pay less here than at other restaurants with ocean views, but obviously, the Ocean House offers more theater than your corner restaurant. Expect to pay about $9 for appetizers and $23 for entrees.

THE MENU READS a bit touristy, with the likes of seafood laulau ($23), crab-stuffed mahimahi ($25) and mac-nut crusted opakapaka ($27), conjuring memories of the overcooked '60s and '70s.

Erase those thoughts. Kitchen timing is perfect, so everything I tried was tender and moist, and flavors are thoroughly 21st century ready, with such contemporary Pacific Rim accents as ginger miso combined with beurre blanc to accompany chilled rare ahi chops ($26). The fish, by the way, is dressed with sugar cane spears to resemble lamb chops.

Start with a pupu of oyster lettuce cups ($8), with the oysters dredged in a light coating of panko, deep-fried and served in silky sheaths of butter lettuce, destined for a dip in wasabi cocktail sauce. Shredded coconut coating on skewered pieces of lobster ($12) was fairly light, but the lobster itself failed this dish (blame it on genes), lacking any flavor. An accompanying sweet chili lime sauce offered some consolation. The less adventurous will be pleased with seared peppered scallops ($9), sauteed with mushrooms in a creamy sauce of soy, sake and butter.

Now you come to the tough part -- salad. It's a tossup. The health-obsessed will go for the Waimanalo Greens ($6) served with a lively minted guava vinaigrette. More decadent types will opt for the Caesar ($7), a stack of romaine with both grated and shaved parmesan, topped with whole anchovies.

Don't dally in your decision-making because it'll just take longer to get to the main attraction, prime rib slow roasted au jus in the electric imu that was a hit at Ivy's at the Shorebird. Choose from the 12-ounce Ocean House cut ($23), the 16-ounce Alii cut ($27), the thin-sliced English cut ($24) or the 12-ounce Pulehu Prime Rib ($24), rubbed with garlic and fresh herbs.

If you didn't get your fill of cheese with the Caesar salad, you might try the opah piccata ($24), which packs the double whammy of a parmesan crust topped with a lemon butter sauce.

Otherwise, the restaurant focuses on seafood, ranging from local-style Kahuku moi ($27) served whole, either steamed or wok-fried, to seafood coconut curry featuring fish, shrimp and scallops mixed with sliced carrots, celery and onion in a light English curry sauce. It's accompanied by a sweet, vinegary mango chutney and mac nuts, supposedly to take the heat off, but it's not necessary.

Portions are generous here, so with most diners running out of steam by meal's end, the dessert menu is rather perfunctory. There's chocolate cake, banana lumpia, tiramisu, ice cream and sorbet, offering a sweet finish but no surprises.

The real treat is in basking tableside, soaking in the day's last hours by the water's edge. I wouldn't be surprised if they have to chase people out.


THE OCEAN HOUSE

Outrigger Reef Hotel, 2169 Kalia Road (next to Halekulani); $5 valet parking / 923-2277

Food StarStarStar1/2

Service StarStarStar1/2

Ambience StarStarStarStar

Value StarStarStar

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. daily

Cost: About $65 to $80 for two without drinks




See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.




Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

excellent;
very good, exceeds expectations;
average;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com



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