Optimism rules at Outrigger grill


POSTED: Sunday, April 05, 2009

Many people get upset at mention of the dreaded D-word in comparing the current economy with one of the worst eras in U.S. financial history.





        Outrigger Reef on the Beach / 924-4992

Food: ;*;*; 1/2


Service: ;*;*;*


Ambience: ;*;*;*


Value: ;*;*;*


Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with live entertainment 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily


Cost: $25 to $35 for two without drinks; valet parking $6 for up to four hours





        » Monday: Kimo and Kamuela Kahoano present a “;Pau Hana Monday”; talent search.

        » Tuesday: Weldon Kekauoha

        » Wednesday: Cyril Pahinui

        » Thursday: Kawika Kahiapo and Martin Pahinui

        » Friday: Kaukahi

        » Saturday: Manoa DNA

        » Sunday: Mountain Apple Co. showcase. Brother Noland is featured today and next Sunday.



Examining the past is instructive, and I find it reassuring to know that society did not fall apart during the Depression. Cinema prospered because people sought escape through entertainment. It was slow going, but the nation came back stronger than ever.

For those who only want to look at the bright side, I think mindsets are changing and we're on our way to becoming more human, less consuming, work-driven automatons. Lately, I've been taking more time to renew friendships and enjoy others' company, and I think others have, too.

I feel that this is the spirit behind Outrigger Reef on the Beach's new poolside restaurant and bar, Kani Ka Pila Grille. It's built around friendship, family and escape to the comfort of Hawaiian music brought back to Waikiki nightly on a casual, “;ain't no beeg thing”; basis. Musicians range from slack-key greats Cyril and Martin Pahinui to newcomers invited to participate in a “;Pau Hana Monday”; talent search. And, you never know when a musician in the audience might hop onstage for an impromptu jam.

It's relaxing to sit under umbrella-covered tables with a drink and ample pupus, and prices are reasonable by Waikiki standards. Even if you hate the specter of Waikiki parking, the restaurant is steps away from the valet, close to the entrance. That also makes it ideal for women who insist on wearing the kind of impossible heels only good for walking the few steps from car to door.

THE MENU IS simple, befitting Kani Ka Pila's poolside role. There are nice touches, such as poke nachos ($13), the ahi tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil and a light touch of wasabi, served in a crisp won-ton cup. I liked the chicken skewers ($10), four pieces of chicken marinated in a light curry sauce, sprinkled with black pepper, grilled and served with a fruity chutney and macadamia nut sauce.

There are plenty of other standards to choose from and share, such as Tutu's spinach-artichoke dip ($12.50), pork and cabbage pot stickers ($9), pork quesadillas ($10) and chicken wings ($10.50). Kalia's calamari ($10) seemed tempting with its five-spice coating, but these seemed to have come from a freezer, heavy on breading with very little squid inside.

To go with your food, draft and bottle beer runs $5 to $6, and a short list of wine by the glass runs $7 to $12.50 ($22 to $48 for a bottle).

If pupus don't fill you up, there are also a few salads, burgers and sandwiches available. Having eaten a lot of burgers lately, I passed on the Hula Burger ($13.50) and felt no regret after tasting the ahi steak sandwich ($14.50). It can get a little messy with the drippy Hawaiian cole slaw with pineapple and paprika, but the combination of slaw, ginger-wasabi mayo and generous slices of seared rare ahi is delicious, and seared is the best way to eat the fish. Ahi sandwiches tend to be dry when the fish is cooked through. The sandwich is served with fries or taro chips.

Next best thing, or perhaps equal to the ahi sandwich, was the Reef Ahi Tacos ($12.50), two hard-shell tacos filled with shredded lettuce and a large dice of avocado, along with the fish. It's served with slaw and salsa on the side.

Pork fans can opt for a Paniolo Kalua Pork sandwich ($12.50) with smoky barbecue sauce. And, for family-friendly cred, there's a small keiki menu of $6 items: chicken tenders, hot dog, rigatoni, and peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls.


Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin.