Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tommy Bahama food for an island lifestyle

Nadine Kam photos
The luxe plantation hale-style interior of Tommy Bahama Restaurant.


The power of a brand can be measured in how much it can repeat its success over different platforms. If true believers like your clothing, why wouldn’t they like the accessories, the home furnishings, music, airline or hotel associated with your brand, your taste, your style?

Tommy Bahama is one of those powerful lifestyle brands that make it easy for you to envision what various aspects of the business might be like if they existed. Knowing nothing about Tommy Bahama Restaurant you’d probably envision a breezy, tropical, upscale-casual environment and food to match. And, you’d be right.

The boutique opened on Beach Walk Avenue in Waikiki last month, along with a rooftop bar and second-floor restaurant with an interior reminiscent of stately Manoa homes, with indoor-outdoor spaces and living walls of lush greenery that embraces the notion of the ideal life being one that balances modern-day creature comforts and nature.

Ahi tacos in wonton shells with slaw and light wasabi-avocado purée.

The restaurant, of course, is heavy on the creature comfort aspect. As soon as you step into the dining room, your eyes will alight on the enticing dessert tray waiting at the top of the stairs. You’ll see the chocolate and brulée-filled pineapple before you see the hostesses.

Another prominent feature of the dining room is its central bar, graced with a recycled glass countertop, the color of ocean shallows. Reclaimed monkeypod, mango and mahogany trees were used to produce all the outdoor dining tables.

Many clothing brands are able to branch out in compatible categories like accessories and jewelry, but few are able to make the leap to running restaurant, a whole other beast. In a bit of magical thinking, I wished that clothing sales would defray the cost of a meal, but the reality is, more square footage equals more rent so in some instances you will pay a Waikiki premium to cover the 10,000 square feet of restaurant space that more than doubles the retail space.

The menu might be thought of as Hawaii as imagined by a band of outsiders for mainstream diners, with nothing too scary or challenging, unless you fear raw tuna.
Tommy Bahama is at 298 Beach Walk. Open daily from 11 a.m. Call (808) 923-8785.

A crudo trio of citrus-cured striped marlin, New Zealand king salmon and big-eye tuna drizzled with olive oil and layered with parsley and celery greens and onions, was a recent special at Tommy Bahama Restaurant on the second-floor of the Tommy Bahama store at 298 Beach Walk.

This started as a healthful vegetarian salad of roasted seasonal vegetables with warm farro salad and grilled cauliflower “steak,” but I had to go and add the grilled shrimp. You also have the option of adding chicken. Nice sides if you’re a meat eater and your companion is not, or vice versa.

Ahi and avocado Napoleon.

The restaurant is best known for its deep-fried coconut shrimp.

I really enjoyed the Hamakua mushroom and apple flatbread with lemon arugula and truffle oil.

A recent dinner special of a seared Hokkaido scallop in five-cheese fondue, paired with juicy slow-roasted Kurobuta pork belly with whole-grain mustard braise reduction; $22.

Maui Mokka Coffee-crusted ribeye was served with cauliflower-chive mash, lemon arugula and garlic butter; small for $41.
If you can’t splurge on the ribeye, you can still enjoy a generous taste of beef with the char-grilled filet mignon salad with crispy shiitakes; $23.50.

Jerk pork tenderloin was paired with a colorful combination of Okinawan sweet potato, mango salsa and pineapple rum sauce.
Tahitian vanilla creme brulée served in a pineapple section with surprise center of white chocolate mousse was my favorite dessert.

Butterscotch pudding with Dewar’s Scotch, chocolate ganache, caramel and white chocolate mousse was good but looks a little misleading. The chocolate on the side makes it look like a fluid fudge sundae, but the chocolate is hardened to create the distinct pattern, and virtually unscoopable.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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