BUFFET AT HYATT
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, 2424 Kalakaua Ave.; 237-6395. Dinner. $$$$
Most buffets are about bulk over quality. Not so at the Buffet at Hyatt. Succulent crab legs, ultra-fresh sushi and creative poke are all on offer here, but the Hyatt does not overwhelm you with bounty.
The layout is a creative use of space with an acute attention to detail and presentation. Foods are displayed in attractive dishes about the size you might see at a large dinner party, replenished frequently by attentive staff. This adds up to a much greater sense of freshness than at typical buffets where food is piled into huge steam trays.
But enough about presentation; let’s talk about the food.
WHAT YOU’LL run into first is the oyster-snow-crab-legs-king-crab-legs-prime-rib display. OK, that was a mouthful. This is where the oysters and crab legs sit on a huge mound of ice. Enjoy them cold or have your server steam them for you. The sauces are standard clarified butter and red chili sauce, but the winner was the just-right-with-a-sweet-tang Singaporean Chili Crab Sauce. Yum.
The crab legs were fresh, fresh, fresh. I normally shy away from crab legs on buffets as they are often over the hill. The Hyatt did not disappoint. The snow crab legs were sweet and succulent; the king crab legs meaty and juicy. Heaven!
Hint: You’ll be provided with a cracker to break the crab shells and a black plastic tool that works like a can opener to cut a seam into thinner pieces so they easily release their meat. Just ask your server how it works (it wasn’t until I was on my second round of legs that I figured it out).
While I was consuming crab legs to my heart’s content, my dining partner was enjoying raw oysters with abandon. They were just as fresh and delicious.
I should also mention that the prime rib was juicy and tender, and the horseradish sauce divine.
Your next stop should be the fresh nigiri sushi — salmon, ahi, ebi and ika — beautifully displayed. Rolled sushi is offered as well. I loved the large bowl of pickled ginger and mound of wasabi that you can load up on your plate.
And let’s give the culinary team kudos for their poke. Ahi poke comes in versions with inamona, Maui onion, green onion, ogo, Hawaiian sea salt and sesame-shoyu. I especially loved the ahi with edamame. Who knew that was a great combo?
The salad bar deserves raves for artful display and selection. The greens are arrayed in rows: baby romaine, red lettuce, arugula and more. Prepared salads are offered alongside. The night you go I hope they have the fusilli pasta and potato salad. Most pasta salads are either too dry or drenched in oil and vinegar. I don’t know what the culinary team here did, but the dressing was divine, like a creamy Green Goddess. Delish!
It’s not all salads and seafood. A hot bar presents a dozen or so other options. I tried the kalua pig and cabbage, and huli-huli chicken to see if these local faves were up to snuff. The kalua pig gets a gold star. The chicken was very good, but more like a light teriyaki than true huli-huli. The best hot dish was a local fresh catch in a lemon-capper sauce with clams, baby vegetables, and a tomato medley that included fried capers, lemon zest, parsley, celery leaves and shaved radish. Divine! Save room for that.
WHEN IT came to the beautiful dessert display I didn’t know where to start. The big draw for kids seemed to be the soft-serve ice cream, a vanilla base with eight flavors that could be mixed in. I tried a bit of the lilikoi and it was pretty bad, so I just went with vanilla, filling a bowl and adding toppings such as crushed Heath bars, crushed Oreos, sprinkles and an array of sauces. I had so many toppings on board there could have been mashed potatoes underneath. Loved it!
Other tasty goodies included a tiramisu (with kids present the level of rum was a hint and totally acceptable), coffee-chocolate mousse cake, carrot cake, flan and green tea cream puffs. The hit was a raspberry chocolate cake that was a perfect blend of chocolate ganache, layers of cake, mousse and raspberry filling.
A few final notes: Your server will welcome you to your table and let you know you have 90 minutes to enjoy the buffet. The restaurant is mostly under roof but is open-air, so there’s no air conditioning. And if the pool area is booked for a private party, chances are that area will be walled off, leaving you without a view. I didn’t care. The buffet was delish. And if you are kamaaina, you get a 20% discount! Woot!
KC Collins, director of development at the Hawaiian Humane Society, bid for the opportunity to write a restaurant review in a silent auction to benefit Leeward Community College’s culinary program. Collins especially enjoys Thai, Korean and Sichuan cuisines. “Let the flavors sing and keep the heat in the kitchen,” is her motto. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser put the guest-critic experience up for bid in LCC’s L’ulu benefit in May.