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Fresh poke from the raw bar.

Just on the outskirts of the bustling Waikiki Strip, Wai‘olu Ocean Cuisine is perched facing westward toward the setting sun. With cascading views of ‘Ainahau Triangle Park and steps from Fort DeRussy’s rolling surf, this casual lounge and fine dining restaurant is perfect for a leisurely escape. Vibrant bougainvillea line the veranda while melodies by Hawaiian music greats resonate through the lounge. This is a contemporary part of Hawai‘i that pays homage to the classics once found decades ago, while boasting an intimate and romantic setting for two or 10. Refined and elegant, the journey at Wai‘olu Ocean Cuisine has just begun.

Preparation for the fresh seafood menu began many decades ago, when executive chef Shoji Namatame first began his culinary training in Japan. The Yokohama native spent several years harnessing his skills in the kitchen preparing fresh sushi, traditional Japanese cuisine and fine contemporary cooking. His experiences spanned the globe as he honed his talents in Bora Bora, Guam, Mexico, Portland and California before arriving in Hawai‘i.

A broad array of ethnically diverse residents and visitors to the islands inspired the worldly chef to create a menu that is completely customizable. Attention was paid to the nearby over-abundance, and steady influx, of steakhouses and meat-focused restaurants in the area, so Namatame chose to do something completely different and reformat the menu.

Last winter the team’s research and development lead to a new positioning: the ocean-view restaurant would specialize in impeccable ocean cuisine. “We wanted to do the opposite of everyone else, while many of the restaurants are focused on serving steaks, we decided to serve the freshest seafood and most delicious fish,” Namatame says.

Since its inception, the new concept of the seafood offerings has continued to evolve and grow, with the demand from guests and the changing creativity of the team. Attention is focused on menu options highlighting the always popular raw bar, fresh day boat island catch, Alaskan King crab, whole Maine lobster and premium sushi offerings.

“Besides the seafood, we don’t want to confine ourselves to just fish, we have steaks, core meats and grilled chicken breast that features fresh seasonal vegetables and porcini and Hamakua mushrooms,” Namatame adds. The New York strip loin is served with a port wine demi glace, saute?ed vegetables and comes in a variety of sizes from 6-, 8-, 12- and 24-ounces, Domestic Colorado lamb is also highlighted on the menu and features a flavorful chermoula Moroccan-inspired marinade bursting with earthy herbs and spices to enhance the lamb flavor.

But enough about the meats; let’s talk more about the seafood. Namatame’s raw bar consists of extremely fresh oysters, your choice of Kumamoto, Shigoku, Kushi or Fat Bastard (the big brother to the Shigoku oyster from Washington State). Half-a-dozen divinely shucked oysters are also accompanied by ponzu citrus, mignonette and classic cocktail sauce to tickle your fancy. A half-pound of Alaskan crab legs, jumbo Pacific shrimp and 1-1/4 pound whole Maine lobster are also paired with the respective dipping sauces, but you can also customize your order based on your desires. If you wish to have the seafood prepared hot and wonderful flavor. I like the [intestines] inside. I personally like that, it’s usually bitter but this does not have that.” Served sitting in its shell already delicately removed, the meat is mildly chewy but as chef mentioned also very tender. The flavor is on the buttery side and also somewhat smoky. Prepared with delicious garlic butter sauce the abalone is both decadent and delicious.

Also sourced locally, the heart of palm shrimp salad is composed of Maunawili Greens, pink and chartreuse watermelon radish; topped with sweet shrimp, Big Island heart of palm and served with a lime cilantro dressing. The greens are grown in lush Kahalu‘u and are harvested from a hydroponic farm. Meanwhile, the heart of palm is sourced from Puna Gardens on Hawai‘i Island, and is considered one of the best quality hearts of palm in the world. A generous portion and abundant with fresh garden greens, this salad is perfect for sharing and highlights Hawai‘i’s pristine local produce.

In addition to the mouthwatering seafood dishes, Wai‘olu Ocean Cuisine has also recently launched premium sushi offerings with an additional sushi chef born and trained in Japan. Only the highest and best quality seafood is served. “Tuna from Hawai‘i is very good and delivered up to four times a week,” Namatame boasts. “We also source our otoro (bluefin fatty tuna) from Kyushu, Japan.” Whether served sashimi style, nigiri or maki, the fine sushi offerings are available omakase or ? la carte. Specialty rolls incorporate contemporary flavors while the nigiri is both traditional and classic in preparation and presentation.

Compliment your meal with a variety of craft cocktails, their famous “World’s Best” Mai Tai or a variety of worldly wines. Strong focus is placed on differing regions, varietals, vintages and sizes. Much of the selection is sourced from abroad and includes France, New Zealand and American classics from California, Washington, Oregon and even sake from Japan and Hawai‘i.