WHEN YOU ARRIVE at Herringbone Waikiki —Hakkasan Group’s latest opening in Honolulu—you first notice the big graphic fish, artistic catch hanging upside-down next to planters brimming with greenery. Immediately, you get it: Herringbone is about sea and field. The newest addition to the chic eateries at International Market Place’s Grand Lānai is notably the first to feature seafood—and the first where the visual feast matches the gustatory one. This is why you’ll want to take your time getting to your table. Stacks of fishing crates greet you at the entrance, aquamarine glasses dot the tables and a living wall of organic edibles brings you to a scene of whole tunas cavorting on ice. And that’s just at eye level. Overhead, skiffs hang from the ceiling near the skeleton of a marine mammal. Fishing lanterns dangle over a table on the lānai, where puffed-up blowfish hang like surprised ornaments on a light-festooned tree.
Herringbone Waikiki, the fourth rendition of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s fish-meats-field concept, is as playful as the flagship in La Jolla, Calif. To keep the cuisine up to spec, the Honolulu kitchen has been entrusted to talented executive chef Chad Horton. Two tidbits of intel will add to your feast. First, there’s a daily oyster hour in the lounge and bar area from 4 to 6pm. Second, Herringbone’s menu invites group dining. Ignorant of the latter, our hungry party of two was thrust into drooling indecision over the one-page menu. With assorted friends, servers and managers weighing in with their own favorites, we did what any food-giddy party of two would do... and ended up ordering enough for five.
Beside the daily selections of Kualoa, Shigoku, Kumamoto, Barron Point and other varieties of oysters, few things on the menu come in small portions. Far from austere, Herringbone deftly delivers a culinary feast. You can generously dine on starters, salads and sides alone. Start with an unctuous Caesar salad (yes, a salad!) with succulent house-smoked trout and the Buffalo octopus. Its tenderly massaged, twice-fried tentacle comes coated in a crispy, spicy crust with ranch-tossed black-eyed peas and shavings of fresh celery.
There are cold seafood platters, of course, loaded with oysters, Alaskan king crab, jumbo shrimp and Kona lobster. They range from the $75 Skiff to the $155 Yacht, with more than triple the seafood. But we were in search of creations unique to this Herringbone in the middle of the Pacific. It turns out the menu is studded with local ingredients. Greens and veggies are from Mari’s Gardens in Mililani and Ho Farms of Kahuku; the Pono Pork is raised in Wai‘anae, and the fresh chicken at J. Ludovico Farm on O‘ahu. Locally sourced dishes include tuna tacos with Maui onions, shoyu and macadamia nuts; and a crunchy, eclectic salad of tea-scented Big Island hearts of palm. A fun choice is the Ray Ray Style fries, a creation of executive sous-chef Ray Locquiao: a heaping platter of thick-cut fries topped with furikake, green onions, zesty aioli and bright-red specks of tobiko (flying rish roe).
We were quickly stuffed to the gills, thanks partly to the cocktails we were imbibing. The eight-page wine list spans Old and New Worlds and is divided into suggested pairings with oysters, seafood, poultry and red meat. But it’s cocktails we were set on because it was the end of the week and the sun was setting off Waikīkī. Herringbone excels at the likes of Kiss My Bubbles, a concoction of Belvedere vodka, strawberry, vanilla and sparkling wine that reminds us of Maui’s old-time cross of sherbet and ice cream called guriguri. The Bitter Is Coming—a bitter-sweet delight of Plymouth gin, Campari and grapefruit three ways—was so good that we ordered another.
After all our imbibing, the entrees arrived. We were already full, but when Hakkasan Group Marketing Manager Rob Mora told us the Pono pork chop was the only one that comes near the skillet-seared salt-and-pepper version his dad cooked, we melt and acquiesce. This chop, although grilled instead of seared, was brined and tender inside its savory crust; a sweet-tart combo of roasted kabocha and a kukui-macadamia nut vinaigrette add flavor balance in all directions. Like the simple, perfect seared pork chops he had growing up, this grilled dish is involved in a lengthy labor-intensive process. We also heard raves about the whole fish, prepared simply with sea salt, lemon, herbs and olive oil, but we opted to save that for the next time.
Marine wonders aside, desserts satisfy too. Your inner child will crumble at the warm mac nut and white chocolate cookies and horchata, the cookies crispy on the outside and still melting within. Noted pastry chef Vivian Wu—from fellow Hakkasan Group resto Yauatcha next door—has done well with the Lilikoi panna cotta. The creamy vanilla gelatin has bounce under a thin layer of passion fruit curd topped with passion fruit sorbet and crunchy meringue shards.
At the end of the evening, two large bags held stacks of our boxed leftovers. Next time, we’re coming for oyster hour. And we’re bringing reinforcements.
International Market Place, 2330 Kalakaua Ave., Grand Lanai, Waikiki, O‘ahu, 797.2435
Cold fare, $18-$35; greens, $14-$18; flatbreads and hot fare, $17-$22; plates, $34-$51; seafood platters, $75-$155
Sun.-Thu. 5-10pm; Fri.-Sat. 5-11pm