Peter Kim’s latest restaurant breathes life back into Ala Moana Hotel’s top floor.
If you can’t recall what the views are like on the 36th floor of Ala Moana Hotel, a visit to the Signature Prime Steak & Seafood will surely jog your memory. On one side, there’s Ala Moana Beach Park and the buildings of downtown Honolulu in the distance, while the opposite end of the venue boasts views of Diamond Head and Waikiki. The former Aaron’s space-which closed in 2009-is now home to restaurateur Peter Kim’s upscale dining venture. Tapping longtime-Vegas-resident-turned-island-local-once-more Jacque Viloria to be The Signature’s general manager was serendipitous to say the least. Kim First bumped into Viloria sometime ago during a visit to Del Frisco’s steak house in Las Vegas, where Viloria also held the GM role. Today, Viloria is in charge of running the show at The Signature, as guests come to experience the culmination of countless hours of entrÃ©e experiments and cocktail combinations.
The one-page menu presents a streamlined selection of offeringsâ€”nothing longwinded and showy, but a straight-to- the-point mÃ©lange of appetizers, soups and salads, steak, seafood and sides. “We wanted to focus on a small selection of expertly prepared dishes instead of an overabundance of options that are just so-so,” says Viloria. With that, starters comprise items that rely on quality ingredients-oysters on the half shell, ‘ahi sashimi and steak tartare. The Signature also puts a Thai twist on its fried calamari. Instead of the usual marinara or aioli, this version is topped with a sweet-chili sauce and peanuts, which remains crisp despite the sauce addition. Soups and salads consist of items that you’d expect at a fine-dine venue- lobster bisque, French onion soup, wedge salad… The Signature chopped salad was dotted with fresh slices of strawberry, candied walnuts and crumbled feta.
Lobster, king crab legs, scallops and fresh fish are also on the menu. Additionally, miso butterfish was added to the bill of fare as a result of the lack of the locally favored dish while Viloria was still living in Vegas. But when it comes to prime, wet-aged steaks, there’s a hearty selection of cuts to choose from, whether porterhouse, New York strip, rib eye or filet mignon. Aside from the beef, another standout in the “Steak and Chops” category is the rack of lamb. The chop we sampled was well seasoned, and traces of any kind of gamey flavor were practically non-existent. It’s amazing what the right amounts of salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder can do to enhance the chop’s robust flavor. No mint was served-just the lamb to be savored on its own.
However, side items at The Signature should not be ignored. In fact, if you put a few of them together, it would also make for an impressive meal. Offerings include lobster mac and cheese (which had a generous helping of fresh lobster claw meat), truffle mashed potatoes and creamed corn. Made from scratch, the side dish was creamy, yet still had the somewhat crunchy texture that comes with fresh corn.
If you have room for dessert, “The Shake” takes care of dessert and after-dinner libation in one serving. The creamy cocktail is made with Absolut Vanilla, Kahlua, Godiva chocolate liqueur and vanilla ice cream. Finished with macadamia nuts and cinnamon, the decadent drink is both refreshing and satisfying.