Bali Born Again

July 1, 2014 | By James Cave

Find a new menu, a new chef and a new interior at Bali Steak and Seafood, where the only thing that hasn’t changed is the incomparable view of Waikiki, just steps away from the sand and water.

In December of 2013, Bali Steak and Seafood entered its second act. With its new decor and menu, Bali’s new executive chef, Joseph “JJ” Rein-hart, hopes visitors will find the restaurant just as fresh and exciting as ever.

The décor—dark, masculine accents, serious furniture—also complements the menu’s attitude. This is a steakhouse, and Reinhart is a man’s chef. After the classically trained and Tony-winning trumpeter quit music, Reinhart learned food at the Playboy Mansion and made meals for a varied host of luminaries, such as Mexican President Vicente Fox.

“In a place like the Playboy Mansion, there’s definitely a lot of distractions,” Reinhart says. “But Mr. Hefners’ spirit of hospitality allowed us a lot of freedom to grow and to try new things.”

Reinhart has built a menu that reflects “island harvest cuisine,” meaning that “whenever possible, we want to partner with local farmers, fishermen and ranchers, so that we’re utilizing as much as what Hawai‘i has to offer,” he says.

Christina Maffei, Hilton Hawaiian Village’s director of outlets, says this philosophy allows her to experiment with mixing local ingredients into her cocktails. Ask for the Ilikea’s Mai Tai ($17). Maffei took the trophy at the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in 2011 for this recipe, and it pairs very well with one of Reinhart’s pupu (appetizers), such as the Kona Lobster bouillon ($14) or the kiawe smoked beef carpaccio ($15).

Bali’s wine menu is extensive; according to Maffei, the restaurants within the Hilton are the only places on the island to offer such a selection of first-growth Bordeaux, white burgundies and vintage ports that date back to 1945, with bottle prices and quality that run the gamut. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay is $55, for example, while a 1961 bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild can set you back $2,750.

Whereas Reinhart’s food menu is sturdy, he has a light touch. On a recent visit an 8 oz. filet came with smoked salt Gorgonzola butter sauce and a stroke of carrot purée underneath. You can add a Kona lobster tail ($24), king crab oscar ($30) or bone marrow ($18).

Seafood is available chilled— shrimp cocktail ($18), lobster carpaccio ($20)—or hot: There’s grilled ono ($34), roasted mahimahi ($34), or you can order a platter for two, with ‘ahi poke, king crab, jumbo shrimp, aba-lone sea asparagus salad and Kona kampachi crudo, for $64.

The wedge salad ($14), iceberg lettuce under house-cured bacon, Maui onions and a tomato dressing, is good for two.

In the past, sides have included a corn and bacon polenta brûlée, lobster potato gratin and coconut jasmine rice, but the menu changes based on seasons and what is available.

Bali’s dessert menu offers a broad selection of local ingredients, such as warm malasada (Portuguese donut) bites ($10) or roasted Kona coffee créme brûlée with Maui raw sugar and a macadamia nut biscotti ($11).

“Over the next few years, we’re just going to continue to grow,” Reinhart says. “With the food scene in Hawai‘i, it’s a freight train moving forward. There’s so many good things going on, and we want to lead that charge, to see what we can come up with.”

Bali Steak & Seafood
Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rainbow Tower
2005 Kalia Road [D:4 Waikiki Map]
(808) 949-4321

Photos: Courtesy Bali Steak & Seafood