Buffets have been a vanishing breed of restaurants in Hawaii over the past 15 years. For hoteliers and restaurateurs aiming to boost their brands with cooler-than-thou 21st-century concepts, this relic from the early days of tourism didn’t seem to fly with a more sophisticated audience seeking a more personalized than mass experience.
Yet even the most jaded diner would feel like a kid in a candy store when faced with a fabulous food spread such as the brunch at La Hiki Kitchen at The Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. Upon entering this buffet on steroids, you’re bound to be elated by the many options. Upon leaving, you might suffer sadness over the body’s refusal to accommodate all that your eyes take in.
Smart diners will hike the line to formulate the best plan of attack. But unless you are a brilliant observer and have a photographic memory, it is nearly impossible to note every item in one round. And unless you have a will of steel, it will be hard to refrain from simply jumping in and making picks. There’s that inner kid again.
The last time I wrote about Second City dining, I was chided by a reader to refrain from being envious of the food marvels west-siders are only now experiencing after a long restaurant drought, but it’s difficult not to feel the J-word when this buffet handily bests any in Honolulu.
Put it this way: An omelet station is usually among the most popular at any buffet, but here the omelet/frittata maker sees little action. People are lining up instead for crab claws; prime rib; grilled steak, lamb chops or lobster; and fresh fish you can enjoy sashimi style or mixed poke style, to your taste, on the spot. As much as we love eggs and omelets, we’re no fools when it comes to value. Eggs we can get anytime. Crab claws, not so much. Even stacks of crunchy bacon and pork sausages go largely untouched when there’s the option of juicy roast pork sliced to order.
It’s worth noting that a majority of buffet-goers are local and believe the experience is well worth the $65-per-person price. Word has spread quickly since the buffet’s launch in June, and it has become a go-to place for special occasions.
Keiki get their own buffet in miniature, in a playroom equipped with low tables and chafing dishes featuring kid-friendly fare such as fried chicken, minipancakes, hash-brown nuggets and French toast that nevertheless could be raided by supervising parents. As one remarked, “Hey, that looks good!”
Adults will start off with a choice of beverages that include complimentary bloody marys, low on alcohol but thick with tomato goodness and no skimping on Tabasco. The drink is the best I’ve had since a trip to New Orleans more than 20 years ago.
There are loads of hot-plate specialties, salads, fresh fruit and appetizers that include salmon three ways: poached, smoked and salt-cured. But taking precedence for me were trips to the raw seafood bar for oysters, cocktail shrimp and crab claws, and to the grill station for steak, lobster and herbed lamb chops.
La Hiki Kitchen, Sunday Brunch
Where: Four Seasons Resort Oahu, 92-1001 Olani St., Ko Olina
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
Cost: $65, $25 ages 5 to 12, $15 ages 4 and younger