Waikiki Steak Out


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It’s been a little more than a year since Michael Mina’s Stripsteak opened its doors at International Market Place, and the restaurant has hit its stride.

Honolulu’s foodscape is ever-changing. from the classic favorites like chef Mavro and Alan Wong’s to Ed Kenney’s local first establishments, down to the quaint, hole-in-wall joints who have amassed their own following on Instagram, one has to wonder if there’s room for something truly old school—the chain restaurant. If that chain happens to merge the innovative fare that put it on the map in first place, fused with the flavors that the local milieu has embraced, then the short answer is yes.

When Stripsteak opened last year, I admittedly raised an eyebrow. Eighty-six hundred square feet is a lot of real estate for a Waikiki establishment—even more so at International Market Place. But if the crowd is any indication of how it’s doing, there are only good things ahead for the Waikiki restaurant. (Disclaimer: I was there on a Saturday night, and it was a full house from the lanai to the center of the main dining room.)

As its name implies, Stripsteak is just that—a steakhouse. Star chef Michael Mina opened the first Stripsteak in Las Vegas more than a decade ago and his second in Miami a few years ago. Waikiki was chosen as the third because Mina himself is incredibly fond of Hawai‘i, and O‘ahu is perfect for the concept he’s laid out for the restaurant—merging the modern steak-house with touches of Asian flavors and of course, the use of local ingredients when possible. Combined with sleek interiors and a bar that’s a destination all its own, it fits right in with our current dining scene, or at the very least, Waikiki’s as of late—an amalgam of tourists, couples, girls’ night diners and local execs talking shop over slices of sashimi and artfully plated entrées.

And while it is dubbed a steakhouse, Stripsteak’s offerings go well beyond dry-aged steaks. We kicked offdinner with a few slices of moi and Hamachi finished with ikura. In lieu of rolls, duck fat fries served with a trio of sauces was the addictive carb of choice, and it’s hard not to ruin your appetite with the crisp and delicately seasoned frites, so eat mindfully.

We also had the Seafood Tower, a two-level starter comprised of fresh lobster, king crab, raw oysters, poke, shrimp, sashimi and sushi—Ken’s Roll, which was made with pine nuts, shrimp tempura and spicy tuna. Th e red king crab was a particular standout. Sweet, succulent and rich, executive chef Ben Jenkins has a friend in Colorado who goes to Alaska for the coveted crab and processes his catch in such a way that much more of the crab’s flavor and texture is retained.

The dishes that followed the tower were hot and just as delightful. Th e “Instant Bacon”—Kurobuta pork belly, topped with tempura oyster in black pepper-soy glaze— was presented in a literal cloud of smoke.

The seared Hokkaido scallops were melt-in-your mouth delicious, served with mushrooms, shallots and a dollop of béarnaise sauce. Apparently, taking a steak approach to seasoning scallops is a wonderful idea.

Then, it arrived—a medium-rare, USDA Prime tomahawk steak, dry-aged for 45 days. After a month-and-half of aging, the steak the goes through the affectionately nicknamed “butter spa”—the signature Mina process where steaks are first slow-poached in butter prior to being perfectly seared and brought to the table. Ours came with a sauce trio of classic béarnaise, Stripsteak sauce and shiitake chimichurri. Plenty of sides are available such as spicy fried rice, but honestly, each tender slice is better savored on its own. If you must pair it with something, try a medium-bodied Chianti, instead. Stripsteak’s wine list is extensive though the sommelier can help you navigate through the menu quite easily. His suggestion for us was the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico 2015.

Just when I thought I couldn’t handle another bite, dessert arrived. Th is time, it looked familiar. It was Michelle Karr Ueoka’s strawberry-matcha shortcake with the crunchy, white sesame crust— one of my all-time favorites. Stripsteak recently collaborated with the dessert maven, so fans of Karr-Ueoka have yet another spot to satiate their sweet tooth.

All in all, while Mina has plenty of restaurants to manage, as long as he keeps operating them as well as Stripsteak Waikiki is being run, I’m completely fine with dining at a chain.

Stripsteak Waikiki, 2330 Kalakaua Ave., Third Level, 800-3094, stripsteakwaikiki.com

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