Royal Hawaiian enhances experiential dining

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The Royal Hawaiian's revamped Aha Aina Luau is scheduled to launch April 2.
The Royal Hawaiian's revamped Aha Aina Luau is scheduled to launch April 2.

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort has revamped its signature luau and added an experiential dining program, augmenting the iconic pink property's cultural and culinary programming simultaneously.

The Aha Aina Luau, set at the Royal Hawaiian's Coconut Grove on Waikiki Beach, an area that was once the summer home of Queen Kaahumanu, has been redone with new food, entertainment and presentation, and is set to relaunch April 2. 

The luau experience starts as guests mingle and participate in cultural activities, such as tapa (barkcloth) making, lauhala mat weaving, and poi pounding. 

Royal Hawaiian Executive Chef Colin Hazama led a plantation-inspired revamp of the luau menu with each item meant to reflect what comes from the pastures, farms and sea around the Islands. Selections include pipikaula tomato salad using local Ho Farms' tomatoes, ahi poke, fresh poi, lomi lomi salmon, huli huli (barbecue) chicken, kalbi-style flank steak, steamed fresh catch, and carving stations featuring house-cured and smoked kalua pork. The desserts also represent Hawaiian products, such as the chocolate caramel macadamia tart and pineapple upside down cake. 

After the meal, guests enjoy the reworked show, which follows a timeline chronicling Waikiki's popularity as a getaway for Hawaiian royalty to its current status as the state's most visited resort area. The show introduces key members of the Kamehameha Dynasty and relates the history of the storied Royal Hawaiian as one of the first Waikiki hotels in addition to presenting Tahitian dance, hula, a fast-fingered ukulele performance and a Samoan fire knife dance.

"As stewards of this important parcel of land, it gives us great honor and privilege to share the history and culture of Hawaii with our visitors," said Tomo Kuriyama, Royal Hawaiian general manager. "The reinvigorated Aha Aina Luau is the perfect showcase for the Royal Hawaiian's past, present and future."

The luau will be held Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with pricing starting at $75 for the show only, and $149 per adult and $109 for children for dinner and the show. Upgraded seating options are also available.

Additionally, new for 2020, the Royal Hawaiian has introduced a four-part immersive and interactive dinner series that dives into the history of the Islands through food. The series, called "Heritage -- A King's Table," examines the evolution of cuisine in the Aloha State from the arrival of the first Polynesia voyagers, to the Asian and other influences introduced during the plantation era, the development of the highly regarded Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement in the 1990s, and modern Hawaiian culinary movements.

The first installment is April 3 and will be held in the resort's oceanfront King Kamehameha Suite. The evening's menu focuses on the Islands' first contact with humans, when ancient Polynesians sailed to Hawaii in their quest for new land. They introduced chicken, pigs and plants like taro, combining them with indigenous fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The six-course menu, crafted by Royal Hawaiian executive chef Colin Hazama, includes Lanai shrimp with Hawaiian chili pepper, local finger lime, smoked ahi heart, coconut avocado butter and nasturtium; and "deconstructed lau lau" with Kalua roast pork belly bacon, charred luau leaf and smoked Hamakua Alii mushrooms topped with brandied Ulu puree and cabernet poi essence.

The meal costs $200 per person for food only, and $250 per person for wine/beverage pairings. Future Heritage dinners are scheduled for June, September and December.

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