The Weekly Eater


Tiki’s has plenty of kitsch and
food that’s fun but tame

Thwack!!! Such is the collective sound of dozens of isle restaurateurs raising palm to forehead upon hearing the news several months ago of plans to open a tiki-themed restaurant. The forehead slap was likely followed by a chorus of "Why didn't I think of that?"

Tiki culture had been on the ebb for a couple of years to the point where tiki bars can be found from New York (natch) to Portland, Ore. (at least two I know of). Portland! Not exactly the trendiest city in the world, and yet they beat us.

It seems so unfair, doesn't it? Was not tiki culture born in -- or at least inspired by -- Hawaii in the Golden Age of Pan Am bags, black lava figurines and exotica? Where's Martin Denny when you need him?

Well, it's better late than never.

Tiki's Grill & Bar is a natural fit at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, where it overlooks the beach with all the trappings you'd expect of the original tiki bars of the '50s and '60s, which popped up around the International Market Place.

Tikis, fishnets, carved masks and war clubs make up the decor at Tiki's. The view is open to the ocean.

You can choose to sit on the lanai for a view of the ocean, on another lanai near the pool or in a quiet back room surrounded by lava rock. The room can be closed off for those with enough friends to throw an 80-seat private party. Keep that in mind as you go about your holiday planning.

Throughout are fish nets hanging from the ceiling, and hand-carved masks, statues and war clubs from different regions around the Pacific, and of course the tikis. These range from 3 1/2-footers to an 8 1/2-foot fellow that greets guests at the door.

If anything, it's all too clean and arranged to reflect the kitschiness of the original tiki bars, but such is life in the prissy, yuppified '00s. You won't find too many luau feet in the crowd.

FOOD, TOO, reflects a sensibility more fun than serious. Chef Fred DeAngelo, who brought crowds into Palomino's for several years, keeps the menu lively here. It's been created to suit the masses and, in particular, a young crowd that may be lured off the beach by the party vibe that surrounds the restaurant.

There are lots of pupus to accompany those mai tais, Lono's rum punches and li hing margaritas day or night, including some throwbacks like sweet coconut-rolled shrimp ($8.95) served with a sweet-sour dipping sauce, and baked oysters a la Tiki, topped with a blue crab crust and lobster hollandaise ($6.95). But I'm sure the cool cats of the past couldn't have imagined kalua pig-topped quesadillas ($6.95) or a prawn martini served with cocktail sauce spiked with wasabi ($7.95).

I liked the quesadillas, and other favorites would include the guava barbecue sauce grilled ribs ($8.95) and beef tenderloin skewers ($6.95) with alternating layers of zucchini and onion. You can get both on Tiki's Hot Combo Platter, $11.95, which also features lesser Korean-style garlic-cilantro chicken wings ($5.95 a la carte).

The appetizer menu is so varied, you might forego the typical pupu-salad-entree lineup and nosh only on pupus.

The menu is purposely tame so as not to frighten tourists, and that works against certain dishes such as the five-spice seared scallops ($17.95) with barely a taste of the Chinese spices. More effort should have been made to keep the scallops dry. Sautéed in garlic butter sauce as they were, they became soggy, which defeated the purpose of searing.

Those in the mood for seafood will find grilled mahimahi ($15.95), grilled monchong ($14.95) or Tiki's panko-crusted fish and chips ($10.95). King Salmon ($15.95) is the signature dish, but I opted for the tender New York Cut Omaha Steak ($20.95), which offers more beefy flavor than most. Another option is the Filet Mignon Omaha Steak ($21.95).

If you still have room for dessert, check out a daily trio of crème brûlées. The mass vote would probably go to the Kahlua-flavored version; I liked the lime accented with ginger. I believe the third was coconut, which was also good, but I spent most of the time demolishing the lime.


Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, 2570 Kalakaua Ave. / 923-TIKI (8454)

Food StarStar1/2

Service StarStarStar

Ambience StarStarStarStar

Value StarStar1/2

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:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

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