A New Twist

Check out the redesigned Hanohano room at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel

Even if you’re afraid of heights (as this writer happens to be) it’s worth the scare riding the elevator up to Twist at Hanohano at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

Located on the Sheraton’s 30th floor, the view on the way up is pretty spectacular – you can see all of Waikiki and more.

The elevator doors open to the newly redesigned Hanohano Room, now renamed Twist at Hanohano. The sky-high space makes good on its views of the ocean and Waikiki shoreline below, and with that, the popular “sunset” side of the dining room still fills up first. Contemporary/metro music plays over the airwaves, and dimmed lighting creates an elegant, yet cozy feel in the dining room.

“It was tired; she needed a facelift,” exclaims Suzy Ford, public relations and promotions manager of food and beverage for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Waikiki. “We wanted it to be very hip and sophisticated to match the food. We added seating, tried to change the bar so it was loungy. (There’s) new furniture, new carpeting – the bar has been completely revamped.”

Spearheading the redesign of the restaurant, which debuted Oct. 17, 2008, was Kelly Sanders and the rest of the Sheraton Waikiki hotel management team. Off-white leather couches adorn the waiting area by the host stand, and the same material covers the barstools and dining room chairs. Pianist Ginny Tiu performs regularly weekdays on the stage.

“(Sanders) and the rest of the team worked really hard in designing the concept. We’re the most unique restaurant in Waikiki,” says Ford. “The Hanohano Room is an institution. People have gotten engaged here.”

Cocktails are a must for any fine evening out on the town, and Twist offers some refreshing signature drinks, including the twisted guava martini (a mix of Ketel One Vodka, Danny DeVito limoncello and a float of Orchid guava liqueur). Another favorite is the white ginger and lychee martini with Kai lychee vodka, Orchid lychee liqueur and a ginger elixir, shaken, not stirred. If you’re in the mood for wine, Twist offers many varities by the glass and bottle as well, including Pinot Noir Au Bon Climat.

Moving on to the food, the new menu centers around the “farm to table” concept, featuring dishes made with fresh local ingredients such as Nalo greens, Hamakua Springs mushrooms, Kona kampachi and others. Guests choose from either a three-, four- or five-course meal, each offered with or without wine pairings. Popular choices on the appetizer list include the Kona lobster bisque with roasted cauliflower truffle essence; the Hawaiian-style crudo with Kona kampachi, shaved fennel, pickled red radish and sea asparagus; and the citrus-scented diver scallop with fava beans and morels and a tomato fennel marmalade.

Both Ford and Twist assistant manager Paul Tacci agree that the most popular entrees are the seven spice-rubbed duck breast, served with gingered cranberries, baby arugula and honey pumpkin puree; the Tahitian vanilla poached onaga served with a corn and blue crab potato cake, coconut kaffir and lime nage; and the pine nut-crusted lamb chop, which comes with minted lemon pesto, carrot and Maui goat cheese puree.

On the dessert menu, choose from the ginger coconut float, pineapple and coco d’amour soup, lemon and vanilla custard or chili chocolate catalan cream with cinnamon sugar “churros.”

“The entire thing has changed,” Ford says of the menu. “It used to be steak, lobster, prime rib. We find repeat customers who’ve gone through the transition, they’re blown away. They’re like, ‘Wow!'”

Chef Ryan Loo, the menu’s mastermind, says he offers up dishes in his signature European/Mediterranean style. The 26-year-old local boy previously worked at Hoku’s and held an apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Loo joined the Hanohano team in 2007, cooking his way up from sous chef to executive chef. He says the new menu is nothing fancy, just a simple deliverance of great flavors.

“It was a lot of work, all the tastings. Seeing it all come together, seeing it come alive, it’s very gratifying,” explains Loo.

In addition to Loo’s core menu, a second menu themed after an island is offered and changes every two weeks. There are seven islands total: Key West, Santorini, Mallorca, Sicily, Porquerolles, Phuket and Africa’s Seychelles.

“Twisting on contemporary, that’s where the idea of Twist is,” says Tacci. “What we’re looking to do is be the best new restaurant in 2009. We’re going for the upscale dining category. I think we can do it.”

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