One From the Door
Insider Tips from a Waikiki Veteran
Halekulani doorman Curt Otsuka’s spirited energy and youthful exuberance should be the first clue to Waikiki visitors that the aloha spirit is a real and tangible thing that keeps people grounded. For example, he doesn’t appear old enough to have acquired the following statistics: Having started as a dish washer, then a steward, Otsuka has since been greeting guests and driving cars at the Halekulani for 26 years; he also has three kids, all of which are in college. Such a personality seems like the perfect person to ask about some favorite haunts, which may prove useful to both visitors and residents of Waikiki.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT IN AND AROUND WAIKIKI?
Curt Otsuka: I love that they opened a Side Street Inn up on Kapahulu. That’s the best right there. And, although I promise, no one here is twisting my arm to say anything—I really love Nobu. The ambiance and service are the best in town. And the sushi and sake you can get there is better than anywhere else. My final choice would be Hy’s Steak House. No need for salt and pepper! Tasty.
AFTER WORK IS DONE, WHERE DO YOU HEAD?
CO: We spend a lot of time at the Yard House (on Lewers Street). But basically because they treat the (hotel) industry people really well, offer us cheap hors d’oeuvres. Again, I love to head to Nobu for the front lounge and their specials, too.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
CO: The people. And not only the guests, but my co-workers. I have bosses that trust me, never tell me what to do—they let me make my own decisions. I know you don’t get that everywhere, and yet it creates a really positive atmosphere.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A “CHANGE” IN WAIKIKI THAT YOU THINK IS FOR THE BETTER?
CO: Beachwalk looks WAY better. It used to be old and crusty. It had some character—one might have called it raunchy! But now it’s so world-class. It’s very modern.
ARE THERE ANY ASPECTS TO OLD WAIKIKI THAT YOU MISS?
CO: Sure, there’s always some of that. The old jazz and karaoke bars were a lot of fun, and they seem to have disappeared with the modernization of town. I worry about there being enough aloha for everyone. It’s something we need to stay focused on—sharing that spirit.
LAST QUESTION—WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE CAR, OF ALL OF THEM, TO DRIVE IN THE VALET?
CO: Definitely the Audi. The A6 or A8 are my favorites. Don’t get me wrong—I love the Ferraris that come through. But the Audis are all class.