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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Not Your Ordinary Summer Barbecue

Halekulani executive chef Vikram Garg | Jo McGarry photo

The aroma of summer barbecue is drifting from Halekulani onto the shores of Waikiki each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evening as executive chef Vikram Garg gets grilling. But, as you might expect from the world-class resort, there’s more on this globally inspired summer menu than barbecued chicken.

“I’ve been in the industry for 23 years,” says Chef Garg, “and most of that time has been spent traveling the globe. There is something from almost every country that I love.”

Born and raised in India, the classically trained chef with a specialty in French and Southeast Asian cuisine originally worked at some of India’s finest five-star hotels before leaving his home country to travel the world, gathering recipes and techniques en route.

“Each country has a different word for barbecue, and a different way of grilling,” he says, “and that’s what we want to highlight.”

It was tough deciding which dishes would make it to the summer menu at House Without A Key, so Garg decided to go with dishes that brought back indelible memories of great food. From Sarson Ka Chaap Lamb Chops – a dish reminiscent of his time in India – to Cornish Hen Bin Zattar, the flavors emanating from the grill are more than kiawe wood and spice. “When I was in Dubai, there was a Lebanese chef who grilled Cornish hen on a barbecue right in his kitchen. Every time I went home after my shift, I would stop to nibble on his small grilled chicken. It was simple and perfect and this dish, Bin Zattar, reminds me of that.”

The simply grilled Cornish hens are butterflied and served with a simple salad, lemon juice and a garlic aioli, the resulting breast meat tender and moist. “The herbs and spices in these barbecue dishes are simple,” says Garg, “but they leave an unforgettable impression on the taste buds.”

Even barbecued ribs are getting the Halekulani treatment with a house-made rub and a homemade barbecue sauce that’s not for the faint of heart.

“Our sauce is full of bourbon,” says Garg, with a huge laugh. Tropically inspired, with hints of citrus and some spice, the sweet, hot sauce is a fabulous complement to succulent rib meat.

“We use a bit of heat in the sauce,” the chef says, “because heat kills heat.” And then comes more laughter. “They’ll make you sweat a bit – and cool down!’

Indonesian pork chops with a lemongrass-infused marinade are served with a sweet and salty peanut sauce, and Garg’s Hawaii influences are evident in “Soe Galbi” Korean-Style Beef Short Ribs with Kim Chee – a tasty reminder of his first visit to Hawaii – and in Ribeye Steak “Pulehu Style,” where black lava salt is rubbed onto tender beef. “The local-style Pulehu preparation is simple, but really sophisticated,” explains Garg.

Expect to see a lot more local people making a beeline for House Without A Key this month. Vikram and his staff will be grilling through July 4, enjoying the more-relaxed culinary pace. Reservations are neither required nor taken.

“I don’t really have the time to barbecue at home too much nowadays,” he says, “so we spend summer barbecuing here instead.”

Happy eating!

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