The rolling tides fronting 53 By The Sea have welcomed many… From those who have ventured from afar, to locals who gather along the water’s edge. This magnificent location is positioned on the oceanfront, offering breathtaking views of the pacific, while majestic Diamond Head monument beckons in the distance. Here you’ll find an award-wining restaurant that boasts a menu as diverse as the region, with influences spanning the globe.
What evolved from classic American fare into fine Sardinian Italian dining, has returned to showcase the flavors and fine textures of home. Modern Hawai‘i cuisine is the focus of 53 By The Sea’s new executive chef, Joshua Goetz. “The cuisine we focus on now is essentially highlighting locally grown vegetables and enhancing their flavors with the mixture of local ethnic diversity,” Goetz says. The well-traveled chef offers a tender mix of exploration, education, culture and community that comes with experience and hard work.
Taking a mélange of cultures and cuisines comes easily to the native who hails from the Pacific Northwest, lived in Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Thailand, Kaua‘i and New York before calling O‘ahu home. Goetz appropriated much of his adult life to traveling the globe, learning hands-on how to craft, create and master his skills in the kitchen. After growing up in Salem, Oregon he spent some time studying Biochemistry and Biology in Washington State. But he was later enticed by the study of another craft that would encourage him to expand his horizons and immerse himself in a community many miles from home.
“That’s where the food was… I was mixing asparagus velouté with Thai green curry, but had no idea how a home cook in Thailand would make that curry, so I went to Thailand to figure it out.” After a year in Bangkok, Issan and Chiang Mai, the inquisitive chef went on to culinary school. “I was seeking that classic French experience.” Upon completion many up-and- coming chefs aspire to stage (intern) with notable master chefs, But Goetz opted to once again set his sights on complete immersion and ventured off to Italy. “I was making pasta with grandmothers in the kitchen and getting the true flavor, something that lives in my memory and my tastebuds.”
Back here in the states, the worldly cook went on to work with famed French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud in New York. “I worked at Daniel and also helped open DB Bistro which is famous for its foie gras stuffed hamburger.” He was later sought to assist the Hilton Beijing with revamping their culinary ventures prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics. From China, he made his way to Hong Kong where he felt he was pampered with the finest fruits, vegetables and ingredients that was conveniently flown in fresh from Paris daily.
But as the islands usually do, they beckon you. 53 By The Sea was seek- ing a new executive chef and Goetz had connected with Hawaiian Regional Cuisine master Chef Alan Wong, who is a close friend of Shigeyuki Takami, who owns the restaurant and its bridal boutiques. Wong was instrumental in influencing Goetz in the past as an aspiring chef and lent a hand to connect the pair. Goetz enjoys utilizing local ingredients and getting to know island farmers, while putting a modern spin on his take on regional cuisine. “I like to take the flavors that exist today and alter the ingredients to include what’s available here.”
The evolution of the menu is similar to the evolution of the city of Honolulu, contemporary, yet enhanced by modern classics. You’ll find local favorites including roast pork belly, fresh market oysters, Kona lobster, Hawaiian abalone and Hudson Valley foie gras. A six-course tasting menu showcases a wealth of offerings from the mountains to the sea, while the Chef’s Degustation Menu presents caviar, scallop tartare and Black Angus beef tenderloin with bone marrow.
A true example of taking something familiar and classically Hawaiian is the coconut-poached snapper. Goetz utilizes freshly caught snapper, submerges it in coconut milk, then incorporates delicate flavors and innovative enhancements that emulate a staple Hawaiian plate of squid luau and lomi salmon. Within this dish you will find a refined and elegant Luau Purée, Serrano Gel which is aimed to be similar to chili pepper water in flavor, tomato caper relish offers acid and freshness likened to lomi tomato, ‘ulu (breadfruit) mochi fritters are steamed then fried, and topped with a kobayaki glaze. The texture of the fritters is similar to mochi but the sole ingredient is only the starchy breadfruit, which offers a unique combination of crave-worthy flavors and textures. The snapper is enhanced with a touch of Big Island Kaffir lime dust and also some refreshing finger limes within the poaching liquid. This dish elevates your traditional Hawaiian ingredients and brings them together in harmony.
To the seafood lovers delight, Chef presents the show-stopping Seafood Tower with an impressive two-tiered serving of Lobster, Poke, Kauai Shrimp, sashimi of ‘ahi, kampachi, Kona abalone, tako (octopus) and Kualoa oysters. The presentation is jaw dropping and the dipping sauces are unique. The liliko‘i cocktail sauce, finger lime mignonette and soy wasabi sauce offers subtle enhancements to the pure and extravagantly fresh seafood display.
While the restaurant, which offers luxurious lunch, dinner and a welcoming happy hour, also serves a variety of steaks including the coveted tomahawk, roast duck and pasta; seafood is their homage to both the region and this community they call home. One of the stars is the Seafood Salad served with fresh seared ‘ahi, local abalone, Kaua‘i shrimp, a bean salad of soy bean, long bean and barley atop an avocado purée. Available on the menu tasting along with an à la carte version, this dish is enhanced by the crunch of local macadamia nuts, pickled mushrooms and marinated ikura. Flavors are pronounced and bountiful on this plate.
“The ingredients we source here are the best ingredients on earth.” And with that, chef and Mr. Takami also hope to perpetuate this restaurant’s legacy as a place for those seeking a refined education and an opportunity to learn and grow. “This is a great place to train and essentially educate yourself… learn culinary or white glove service, meanwhile making conscious and good decisions that help our community.” A community that is influenced by other regions of the world but together call this place home.
53 By The Sea, 53 Ahui St., Honolulu, 536-5353 or 53bythesea.com