From the steaks to desserts, The Colony delivers
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
The room is cool and comfortable, cream-colored wicker and rattan touches everywhere, with tables in the center of the dining room and large, cozy booths along the perimeter. Old Hawaiian photographs in koa frames line the walls, ceiling fans set the stage for the Island experience, while soft jazz and contemporary Hawaiian music tinkle away in the background.
The $3 Moskovskaya-brand martini special was enticing. The menu offers a lychee-flavored one (with lychee nectar), an appletini (with sour-apple schnapps), a mango monkey (banana and mango liqueur), something called pure passion (with POG juice, of course!), and a citrus choice (with Cointreau) rimmed with sugar. Never underestimate the power of a $3 martini, my friends.
When you're seated, a warm loaf of onion bread is brought to you, soft and fragrant, matched with a small bowl of delicious tomato strips marinated in olive oil and herbs.
The flavor is slightly sweet and acidic, a perfect accompaniment to the bread. I asked for seconds on these tomatoes, ruby red and full of juice.
Foodwise, the place to begin might be with the casserole of prawns ($12), locally raised freshwater treats roasted in garlic butter (creamy and quite close to a Newburg sauce, actually), dusted with panko crumbs and Moloka'i-grown herbs. The prawns are smallish, but the flavor was quite good.
Two apps to happily dunk your bread into come next. The escargot ragout ($9) essentially was a sautéed mushroom dish in garlic, tomato and veal-stock sauce, in which snails were added. Another saucy treat were the steamed Manila clams ($12), flavored with garlic, lemon grass, chili pepper and cilantro.
The Island chowder ($5) is flavored with fish, clams, roasted corn and a red bell-pepper puree. It has a clean mouth feel to it, most likely because the naturally astringent pepper puree helps cut the cream for a fine balance.
The tomato and Maui-onion salad ($7) and the Caesar salad ($8), both of which have won first-place awards at the Taste of Honolulu festival, are excellent choices.
I was pleasantly surprised that aged prime beef is used for the steaks here.
The New York steak (10-ounce $23, 14-ounce $29) is a very flavorful cut, firmer than the most tender filet mignon ($22 for an 8-ounce, $29 for a 12-ounce) and the popular rib-eye steak ($20 for the 14-ounce cut).
The steaks are grilled to your liking over kiawe wood, served with a teriyaki glaze or with the mouth-watering green peppercorn sauce on the side.
The double lamb chop ($20) is from domestic lamb, and the grilled chicken breast ($18) is matched smartly with an herb-butter sauce.
The catch of the day ($28) was 'opakapaka both nights I visited. It's cooked in a parchment paper wrapper, and topped with julienned vegetables for a delicate treatment.
Pacific salmon ($24) is prepared on a grilled kiawe wood plank for a smoky and woodsy flavor. Cold-water lobster tails ($32) were huge; two to an order, served broiled or steamed.
A wonderfully pleasant note is that baked potatoes are offered here, a rare sighting in Hawai'i restaurants.
For dessert, a popular choice is the chocolate in paradise ($6), 16 layers of sponge cake, chocolate cream and chocolate ganache, topped liberally with a mound of flaked chocolate and cocoa powder. The mocha Frappucino skyscraper ($6) is composed of large ladyfingers stuffed with mocha mascarpone mousse, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and sprinkled with pistachio nuts. But my favorite was the Oreo cheesecake ($6), a two-layered affair of a rich dense cheesecake base, topped with a thick layer of Chantilly cream, and plated with chocolate sauce and crushed Oreos.
The open kitchen is a quietly efficient and fast-paced place with a fine staff of cooks, the servers are swift and friendly, the drinks keep flowing and the food is quite good. I had a really nice time here on two separate occasions.
A lot of locals steer clear of Waikiki, but in all honesty, there are a lot of very fine restaurants there. The Colony is one of them.
Reach Matthew Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.