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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 12, 2005

Former Otani employees open new eatery

By Simplicio Paragas
Dining Out Editor

Ken Inthasone, left, and Ken Furuta offer a diverse tasty menu at their new Tropical Garden in Kahala.

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori

Tropical Garden

Where: 4614 Kilauea Ave., next to Kahala Post Office

Call: 734-1727

Hours: Breakfast from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

Note: Catering is available; private parties can be accommodated.

Normally I avoid going to new restaurants, especially during their first week of operations.

But I broke this rule last Saturday night when I heard that restaurant-industry veterans Ken Inthasone and Ken Furuta, both formerly of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, had opened up their own establishment in the Kahala Mall area.

Once the site of Kahala Moon and more recently Fox & Hound, Tropical Garden is now open for breakfast — much to G.B.'s and my delight — lunch and dinner.

Contrary to the "Garden" reference, the restaurant does not offer Chinese cuisine.

Instead, the menu is reminiscent of the Pacific Rim-esque dishes that Furuta was known for when he was the executive chef at Hau Tree Lanai.

Anticipating that the one-week-old restaurant would probably not have its liquor license, G.B. and I went to our "wine cellar" and pulled out a bottle of Avila Pinot Noir, an unoffensive wine that we figured would pair well with whatever entree we would have.

Sure enough, the restaurant's liquor license was pending and it was strictly B.Y.O.B.

Our waiter Kevin did inform us that no corkage fee would apply, at least for the time being as the restaurant waited to obtain its proper license.

While a few seats are available outside, G.B. and I opted instead to sit inside at a table that offered prime-view seating to the rest of the dining room, which boasted a tropical flair because of all the surrounding flowers and artwork.

Looking over the menu, it was nice to see that a cold soup of the night ($3.75) was one of the options — perfect as the temperatures begin to climb.

But I couldn't resist the Hawaiian ahi sashimi (market price), which is always a refreshing appetizer. And this one certainly was.

G.B. decided to have the shrimp-and-avocado "Supreme" salad ($8.95), which offered poached jumbo shrimp, chunks of avocado, sweet vine-ripened tomatoes, Manoa lettuce and sweet onions that could have been sliced a little thinner or even preferably diced so as not to overpower the delicacy of the papaya-seed dressing.

When it came to entrees, a legal-size page was filled with seafood, meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes.

(All entrees here come complete with sauteed fresh vegetables and choice of starch, unless otherwise stated.)

Crab-crusted moi ($24.95), kataifi-wrapped lobster tail ($25.95) and seared garlic ahi ($20.95) were a few temptations. But after having the sashimi, I wanted the other kind of red meat.

So I ordered the filet mignon ($25.95), which was broiled to a medium-rare temperature and enhanced with a butter a la maison that was churned with herbs. Linguine was an option with this dish and it was a tasty departure from the normal rice or mashed potatoes.

G.B. decided to try the roasted pesto chicken ($18.95), which was oven-roasted and served with garlic chive mashed potatoes. What would otherwise be just your average, everyday roasted chicken, the pesto gave this dish added oomph.

Tropical Garden is still new and a diamond in the rough. But with a combined 50 years of experience of Inthasone and Furuta, and Island residents' voracious appetites for new restaurants, this could become an East Oahu eden.