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Pau Hana Patrol: d.k. Steak House has got the goods
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not a stranger to chef David “D.K.” Kodama’s fine food. When his Sansei sushi restaurant had an outpost at the then-Restaurant Row, and on special occasions in Waikiki, I have been a repeat visitor at Sansei, drawn back for Kodama’s above-par dining, generous portions and laid-back, locals-friendly vibe. For one reason or another, though, I’ve never hung out at the d.k. Steak House in Waikiki. Showing up for happy hour was a happy surprise.
Waikiki Marriott Resort, second floor
2552 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
Happy hour is available Tuesdays through Saturdays, with discounts on food and drink. As with other restaurants in the D.K. Kodama family — Hiroshi’s and Vino at Waterfront Plaza — discounts are available only from the bar during the daytime pau hana, with limited seating. On two separate visits, though, I had no trouble claiming seats for two or three.
The afternoon pau hana offers a charming advantage here: While it’s not a direct view, the afternoon light and beach view through the d.k. Steak House doors to the lanai are visible from the bar seats, granting a bit of oceanside glow to the experience.
I also enjoy the connected feeling of eating at the bar, where the bustle of bartenders filling cocktail orders provides some extra entertainment. At the bar or away from it, d.k.’s servers are friendly and efficient.
The restaurant itself has a classic steakhouse feel, not too bright, wood-toned, good-humored and humming with diners. By 7 or so the room is full, but at 5:30 and 6 you might encounter a half-full room and mostly open seats at the bar. (Lucky for you!)
Then there’s the food. If you’re familiar with D.K. Kodama’s restaurants, you’ll know that under this chef and restaurateur’s guidance, the menu is consistently built to please, with generous portions, fresh ingredients, original preparations — and no stinting in use of fatty, appetite-sating ingredients.
This holds true in our happy hour choices, all of which were quite satisfying and qualified as a bargain for the price — just $5 each for risotto balls; quesadillas made with fresh salsa; calamari on a bed of greens; a set of two sliders, served with a small side of sweet potato fries; or the d.k. Steak House Tater Tots.
The bare description doesn’t do these plates justice. To begin with, and not to be missed, the sliders: hamburgers made from ground filet mignon and topped with Nalo Farms arugula, Swiss cheese and a tangy barbecue sauce. Each is topped with a couple of plump onion rings. I did a complete double-take when I bit into this for the first time; they were amazingly luscious.
The Roasted Hau’ula Tomato Risotto Arancini is served with a macadamia nut pesto and lovely cherry tomatoes – not something you just pop in your mouth, it invites savoring.
The calamari, light, crispy and tender, comes with fancy, peppery mesclun greens and Nalo basil, pepperoncini, diced tomato and red pepper. This is a farm-to-table dish, with homegrown and island-sourced ingredients.
The quesadilla features braised pork, mozzarella and pickled Maui onions. A cut above. And the “Tater Tots” include jalapenos, bacon and cheddar, drizzled with garlic oil. Bar food, yes, but ono.
If you choose the three-course menu offered, you’ll get a salad or soup, d.k.’s dry-aged steak or catch of the day (with vegetables and a starch), and gelato or ice cream for dessert. At other times the entree alone comes at this price. I was impressed by the steak, with its distinctive, umami-permeated flavor. At the bar, the server has no objection to cutting the steak pupu style so it can be shared.
My only “complaint” about this food, if you can call it that, is that you have to exercise restraint if you’re counting calories. On my first visit, thinking $5 orders couldn’t be that big, three of us ordered “one of everything.” We were groaning by evening’s end, facing down a big scoop of chocolate ice cream that finished the steak dinner.
Here’s an off-the menu tip: Ask for the $5 hand rolls, general manager Ivy Nagayama suggests. (I got the lowdown from Nagayama on my second visit, when I identified myself as a Star-Advertiser writer so that we could take photos.)
The hand rolls are made for Sansei but are available at the d.k. bar if you know to ask, and it’s a good suggestion. We sampled California roll, rich with crab; tempura shrimp roll, rich and eminently satisfying; and spicy tuna — classic, with the tang, fatty lusciousness, fresh fish and crisp first impression of the wrap.
DON’T NEGLECT the cocktails, either. d.k.’s cocktail menu is inventive and the drinks deliver. My Ume Rita with Patron Silver tequila, Patron Citronge, a crushed whole ume and fresh lime juice was a tangy delight, just $7 at happy hour prices. I also sampled the Ginger Blossom, a ginger-citrus martini, made with Tuaca and Canton Ginger liqueurs — resort-ready, and $6.95 during happy hour.
It’s worth noting that d.k. Steak House and sister restaurant Sansei both offer “Buy and Eat Local” menus each week, Wednesdays at Sansei and Thursdays at d.k. Check the menus and find other special offerings on the website.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Her blog, Freestyle, appears on HonoluluPulse.com each Tuesday. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.