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31 Jan 2021

Moana Surfrider, Honolulu 2021

 Private Gourmet Oceanfront Dining at BEACHHOUSE

Located on Waikiki Beach, BEACHHOUSE at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, packs quite a punch thanks to incredible views, amazing ambiance, and delicious gourmet fare.

This essay by Michael Shulman originally appeared in ShulmanSays.com (January 22, 2021)
Every year from January to mid-April or so, my folks can be found on a world-cruise—usually on Crystal or Regent—upon which they visit many tropical ports of call.  This year, however, with their cruise canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to decamp to Hawaii (where the COVID rates are dramatically lower than on the Mainland), where they’ve hunkered down for January and February at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach. *  What’s more, they invited me to join them for a few weeks, which couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as it was snowing in Las Vegas when I departed.  So, Aloha from sunny Waikiki, y'all!
Because of COVID, not only is the resort only 15-20% occupied, but management was forced to rejigger their food-and-beverage venues.  So, while Beachhouse at the Moana—the resort’s acclaimed fine dining restaurant sitting right on Waikiki Beach—is closed (except for breakfast, which is served on The Verandah, Beachhouse’s Victorian-style wrap-around terrace), the hotel’s management told my folks that if we’d like to dine there a couple of times each week, they’d be delighted to set-up a table for five [actually a rectangular ten-top with five seats surrounding three of the sides] that they’d place right on the rail overlooking the beach and the incredibly color-saturated sunsets over the Pacific.  Further, they were told that we could order just about anything our respective hearts desired so long as we submitted our requested menu to the chef and the Food & Beverage director, with a few days’ notice.  Quicker than you could say “Food, Glorious Food” they’d replied in the affirmative.
Last night was my first opportunity to dine at Beachhouse, and it did not disappoint. First of all, there’s something decidedly grand about sitting at the lone table in a restaurant.  But when that table is all the way at the end of a long passageway and all the other tables have been removed, it’s a bit spooky in a beautiful way.  Though sounds of the local singer under the giant banyan tree and the waves lapping upon the sand required certain bits of our conversation to be repeated by the people in the middle of the table to those at either end, it was a very tranquil dining experience.  And while ambiance goes a long way with me, at the end of the day, it’s really about the food and how it’s presented, which, in the case of the Beachhouse, is fantastic on both counts! 

We kicked things off with cups of French Onion Soup covered in gooey Gruyere.  It was pretty fantastic, and considering how much food was to follow, the conscious decision to go with cups instead of bowls was a wise one.  The soup was followed by a Caesar Salad prepared tableside [don’t you miss tableside presentations?] that featured both crunch romaine from the Mainland and the softer kula greens from Maui with a nice creamy Caesar dressing. 
Going for a family-style surf-and-turf vibe, we’d ordered an Island Snapper and a Grilled Ribeye.  What we weren’t expecting was the fantastic presentation; so, when the entire freshly-caught 8lb Opakapaka—aka Hawaiian Pink Snapper or Crimson Jobfish—was served, we all broke into applause.  The fish had been steamed whole, with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs; then stuffed with tomatoes and shaved fennel and topped with fennel fronds, and it was just stupendous.Meanwhile, despite my not being a Ribeye guy (I prefer a NY Strip or Filet, depending), I’ll be the first to admit that our steak was tender, simply seasoned, and quite tasty.
There were an assortment of Steamed Vegetables and some Garlic Mushrooms, but when it came to the sides, I stuck to the Truffled French Fries (that I dipped in Sriracha Aioli), and—like the rest of the table—ate so much that when the time came, there simply wasn't any room for dessert. I have no idea what we’re ordering for our next dinner at Beachhouse, but I'm certain that it’ll be fabulous.
[Editor’s Note: Built at the tail-end of the 19th Century, the Moana opened in 1901 as the first hotel on Waikiki, earning it the moniker of the “First Lady of Waikiki,” and a place on the National Register of Historic Places.]