Oahu's Top Romantic Restaurants

From beachfront restaurants to secret hideaways

No four words in the English language will elicit more fear and sweaty palms than “Will you marry me?” Some to-be proposers will go through elaborate ruses, soliciting the help of family and friends, sparing no expense along the way with the engagement ring, roses and dinner at some romantic retreat. Others, though, will opt for a simpler—and perhaps safer—route by sending a “WLUMRyMe?” text message. Seriously, it has happened.

But for the hopeless romantic and less tech savvy, here are some places where Cupid has been known to aim his arrows.


Azure's beachfront

Azure

In the past, Azure staff members have participated in proposal schemes, even once helping one-time "Lost" actor George Chung with his big day. The California resident told me that he chose the Royal Hawaiian because of its iconic status. "It took me seven to eight months to think about it," Chung said. "I’m not a guy to just get down on one knee and ask for her hand; I wanted to make this a memorable proposal. We wanted to be able to come back to a place every year to celebrate our anniversary."

The menu skews toward seafood, offering such fruits de mer as an ocean salad composed of Kona lobster, prawns, Big Island abalone, scallop, crab, octopus and tobiko caviar; a savory modern bouillabaisse, teeming with Kona lobster, Kauai shrimp, clams and Hokkaido scallops; and the calamansi-and-butter-poached lobster tails.

On the land side, menu options include the Colorado lamb chop, dry-aged Duroc pork chop with black garlic jus and Hawaii Rancher’s ribeye steak complemented with a red wine sauce.

Azure, The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki, 2259 Kalakaua Ave., 808.921.4600


Beachhouse at the Moana

Beachhouse at the Moana

The Beachhouse is a fashionable modern steakhouse with a bit of a feng-shui flair. It’s sophisticated without being pretentious and cold. Inside, cozy love seats replace naugahyde booths; white linen table cloths substitute for butcher’s paper; and a minimalist approach in decor gives this stately room a warmth that exudes aloha and e komo mai.

Outside on the lanai, al fresco dining towards the ocean feels like, well, a beach house. Here, you can hear the pound of the surf while live harmonious Hawaiian music wafts in from the neighboring courtyard.

Chef David Lukela has tweaked the menu to reflect his island roots and Native Hawaiian heritage. Among the new items are the Makana salad composed of butter lettuce from Waipoli Hydroponic Greens on Maui, Kahuku corn from Nozawa Farm near Oahu’s North Shore, Hawaii Island heart of palm, pipikaula (smoked beef) and Maui onion dressing. There’s also the beet and tomato panzanella, featuring roasted Molokai beets, herbed cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy in upcountry Maui, or Hamakua mushroom risotto and kampachi from Blue Ocean Mariculture on Hawaii Island. Those who prefer a heartier entrée may opt for the rack of lamb, cioppino or the shortrib ragu. In addition, there are three tasting menu options, featuring Lukela’s Ultimate Loco Moco, surf ‘n turf combination or a Porterhouse/Tomahawk steak.  

Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., 808.921.4600


Cuisine at Chef Mavro

Chef Mavro

From the prestigious James Beard to the rigorous AAA Five Diamond, the awards have been heaped on George Mavrothalassitis’s Chef Mavro, where food and wine are wedded in eternal bliss.

Still proud and passionate about his cuisine, Mavro can still recall when GQ food writer, Alan Richman, named his classic encrusted onaga dish as one of the "Ten Best Recipes of the Year." "Of course, it was an honor," said the French native. Long before the farm-to-table term entered the culinary vernacular, Mavro was already an ardent proponent of using local ingredients whenever possible, an ethos deeply rooted in his culinary psyche ever since his chef-in-training days with numerous masters of contemporary French cuisine and his experience as owner of a gourmet restaurant in Marseilles and Restaurant La Presqu’ile in Cassis, France.

“At sunrise I looked out over Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head,” Mavro recalled of his first morning in Honolulu, “and I said to myself, 'That’s it! I’m home!'”

Chef Mavro, 1969 S. King St., 808.944.4714


Hoku's Kona kampachi crudo

Hoku’s

A perennial favorite for special occasions, Hoku’s multi-level dining room allows every table to have a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. And after a recent multimillion-dollar renovation the setting is now even more intimate. New aesthetics include artisanal front doors that replaced the restaurant’s glass wall; new rustic flooring and walls; and custom lights that resemble stars.

Signature menu items include the seafood tower, layered tiers of king crab, lobster, Big Island abalone, shrimp and assorted poke-sashimi; tea-smoked veal chop, charred spiced octopus and Hawaiian-salt-and-herb-crusted Colorado rack of lamb. A must-try is the ahi poke musubi, described as "a deceptively simple ball of sushi riced stuffed with ahi poke, coated in furikake and served crisp."

Kahala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave., 808.739.8770


La Mer

La Mer

Known for its haute cuisine, La Mer is synonymous with fine dining and impeccable service. Staff members are professional without the pretension; they’re attentive without the intrusion; and the well-choreographed staff exceeds guests’ expectations. Tranquil, graceful and refined, La Mer epitomizes superlative fine dining, and is Honolulu’s most sought-after restaurant.

For the ultimate dining experience try the Dégustation menu, which includes six different courses, each one a progression of flavors that climax with bite-sized desserts. Guests can also order a la carte or choose from a three- or four-couse menu.

La Mer, Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, 923-2311


Alan Takasaki of Le Bistro

Le Bistro in Niu Valley

Le Bistro in Niu Valley Shopping Center possesses a quaint, je-ne-sais-quoi charm and intimacy with its buttery colored walls and dim lighting. It may not have an ocean view, but you’ll have enough to admire when the food arrives. Bearing a French name and concept, it would be negligent for Le Bistro to not have escargots ($9.80) as an entrée, in the true sense of the French culinary world where the term entrée accurately means appetizers. Neophytes shudder at the thought of eating snails, but yet they’re part of the mollusk family, which is the same genus that covers oysters and clams. The food euphoria continues with the premier plat (main course) of bone-in Kurobuta pork chop or opt for the best selling quartet of beef ($38.80), featuring a foie gras slider, red-wine-and-peppercorn short ribs, rib eye with bone marrow and a piece of filet. And when in doubt, order the pan-roasted sea bass. For dessert, the caramelized apple tart has long been an after-dinner must-have. 

Of course, there is the matter of the person sitting across from you. Just be sure not to text him or her with “ILuvU.”

Le Bistro, Niu Valley Shopping Center, 5730 Kalanianaole Hwy., 808.373.7990