The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, July 11, 1996

Steck's keeps it simple
and it works

Steck's has never garnered the attention and praise heaped on its more famous Kahala-Hawaii Kai neighbors, Roy's and Kahala Moon. While the latter two cater to those in search of a dining "experience," Steck's has always been more of a low-key place for pau hana drinks and pupu, with a menu that was adequate, but not particularly ambitious.

Now the restaurant is aiming a little higher, though it breaks no new ground, continuing to cater to the comfort level of current patrons. Still, the dining room has been renovated to create a more contemporary, open look . Don't mind the yuletide lights and ornaments strewn about the place; the staff is helping many a business - too busy to party around Dec. 25 - mark Christmas in July.

As for the menu, management has enlisted the help of chef Bones Yuen, whose name is very familiar to local diners. Back in the early '80s he ran a little Palolo eatery called Serendipity, where he earned fame for his Rack of Lamb and Beef Tenderloin. He put in a brief stint at Coasters before reopening Serendipity in McCully in the early '90s. In between restaurant gigs he toiled as executive chef for Govs. George Ariyoshi and John Waihee. Most recently, he has been in the kitchen at Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island.

THERE are more options on the lunch menu than the dinner one. The salads and sandwiches are classics. Everyone knows Caesar ($6.50 salad) and Reuben ($8 sandwich). Entree specialties include a Grilled Miso Chicken Breast ($10.50) and Shrimp Santa Cruz ($11) tossed with warm salsa, cilantro and swingy capellini.

The dinner menu features no more than 14 items from appetizer to entree. Although Bones has a few Pacific Rim touches up his sleeve this time around, at its heart the menu is still about getting a no-nonsense meal that fills you up. It's steak. It's lamb. It's chicken, with plenty of everything. Where others might serve three tiny Lamb Chops, here there are nine proffered, topped with a macadamia-gorgonzola crust ($22). It's easy to skip the accompanying honey and rosemary vinaigrette on the side, as thick and cloying as molasses.

Blackened Sashimi ($9.50) is a no-brainer starter, but it's done well, surrounded by an artful pool of soy and Dijon mustard sauce. Clam Chowder ($3.50) is creamy and comforting, thankfully lacking unnecessary thickeners. Fresh Waimea Greens ($4.50) are a reminder of Bones' Big Island stint, but 'Nalo baby greens would work much better on Oahu.

Aged New York Steak ($18.50) is dressed with a spicy, aromatic blend of Puna papaya and Northern Chinese pickled vegetables on a slaw of daikon, carrot, won bok and cilantro. Ask for it to be cooked to medium and you'll get what you ask for.

I'm still looking for good Cioppino ($28). The one served here, as at so many places, featured overboiled seafood. Shrimp was beyond rubbery. Snow crab legs, rather than being firm, flexed with each squeeze of a nutcracker. You could fold it, but you couldn't crack it.

The staff is rightfully proud of desserts, including a Poha and Portuguese Sweetbread Pudding and Ricotta Pie. Ono!

Steck's - A Restaurant and Lounge

Where: Kahala Mall, 4211 Waialae Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday for lunch; 5 to 9 p.m. nightly for dinner
Prices: About $8 to $12 per person for lunch; about $45 to $60 for dinner for two without drinks
Call: 732-2861

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

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