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Coverage: Wailele Manoa Grand Opening Gala

Deep within the lush green rainforest of Manoa Valley, a new chapter at Paradise Park has officially begun as Chef Kanani Lincoln of Hale ‘Aina Caterers proudly introduces Wailele Manoa, the restaurant formerly known as Treetops. While the new restaurant has been open since January 2017, an invitation-only Grand Opening Dinner Gala was held this past Friday evening, May 12, 2017.

The Wailele Grand Dinner Gala featured an open bar with craft cocktails, a 3-dish pass around pupu menu and 5-course sit down dinner menu. Live Hawaiian music was provided by Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner, Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom. The VIP dinner party guests included Chef Kanani’s personal friends and family, business associates and members of the media, including Yours Truly. 

Wailele Manoa Grand Opening Dinner Gala
Friday evening, May 12th, 2017
An invitation-only event, featuring Craft Cocktails, Passed Pupu and Sit down dinner, with a performance from Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom
3-dish Passed Pupu Menu:
5-Spice Duck Confit Spring Rolls with Lilikoi Gastrique
‘Ahi Prosciutto Tartar on House Lumpia Crisps, Ume Balsamic Reduction, Shiso Chiffonade
Chinese-Style Ginger Tiger Prawn and Vegetable Sauté on Steamed Bao, Thai Chili Aioli
5-course Sit-down Dinner: 
First Course: Smoked Duck Breast Gyoza, Truffled Shiitake Nage, Hoisin-Bourbon Reduction
Second Course: Kabocha-Ginger Bisque, Lavender Crème Fraiche, Chive Oil
Third Course: Mochiko Crusted Monchong on Keahole Lobster Risotto, Coconut Curry Butter, Thai Basil Chili Oil
Fourth Course: Schezuan Peppercorn Venison, Ewa Sweet Corn and Celeriac Puree, Blackberry Beet Gastrique
Fifth Course: White Chocolate Banana Cream Tartlets, Madagascar Vanilla Whipped Cream, Kahlua Ganache, Salted Caramel Gelato

Following is photo coverage, captions and commentary of the event. Enjoy. ;-)

At the beginning of the narrow windy road at the very end of Manoa Road that lead into Paradise Park, still has the old Treetops Restaurant sign, however it’s now called Wailele Manoa. 

The bridge that takes you from the upper parking lot directly into Wailele Manoa Restaurant. 

A view from the access bridge above, looking makai

A panoramic view of the lush rainforest and winding driveway from the access bridge, looking Makai

A panoramic view looking Mauka of the parking lot areas and surrounding rainforest from the access bridge

Manoa valley rain forest surrounding the parking lot… look out for stray Velociraptors! lol

You know you’re FAR from the city when there’s roosters clucking and pecking around the parking lot

Wailele Manoa Restaurant building, with gift shop and art gallery on the lower floor. I swear, this would be the perfect set as an experimental laboratory in a ‘Jurassic Park’ film! 

Wailele Manoa bridge entrance from the upper parking lot

Wailele Manoa Restaurant parking lot access bridge

There’s a reception desk in the restaurants main lobby just as you enter, making this an ideal venue for banquets and wedding receptions. That wooden tree wall art was created by Chef Kanani Lincoln himself, being he’s also a woods craftsman. According to Kanani, the trunk of the tree is made from a Lychee tree trunk, while the round leaves of the tree are made from cross cuts of Ohia branches. Do you see anything else besides a tree in that wood art? I see a Rainbow Unicorn jumping over a big pineapple. lol 

Massive Hawaiian gourds flank the lobby entrance of the restaurant

Early guests were able to participate in the blessing of the restaurant by Halau Mele (wearing orange Haku), shown afterward congregating in the front lobby area

The restaurant entrance lobby reception desk and waiting area

Wailele showroom main entrance hallway, facing towards the reception lobby area

Historic photos of Manoa Valley adorn the entrance to the restaurant. Above is Pu’uhonua, the home of Mary Tenney Castle, widow of Samuel Northrup Castle, a missionary from the 8th missionary group to Hawaii. Castle & Cooke was founded in 1851 by missionaries Samuel Northrup Castle and Amos Starr Cooke. Built in 1900, the Castle’s Pu’uhonua home was one of very few residences in Manoa Valley, otherwise made of mostly of farms. It was also one of very few homes of that era to have electricity and other modern conveniences. The home was finally demolished in 1941. 

Chef Kanani said he spent many, many days and hours of blood, sweat ‘n tears getting the restaurant’s (closed door) kitchen back into clean and fully operational shape

Rain forest views from one of several open balconies of the restaurant

Seating near the bar area to side of the main dining room… some strange noises coming out from the rain forest on that side! lol

Seating near the bar area to side of the main dining room… arrrrrr grrrrrrr rrrrrrrr arrrrrhhhh lol

Hawaiian petroglyph art adorns the interior columns of the restaurant. Also notice gone are the worn out carpets from Treeptops, and in with clean and natural hardwood flooring. 

Like its predecessor as Treetops, Wailele retains the open beam ceiling treatment, giving the room an airy, plantation home feel

Window seats at the mauka side of the main dining room

Wailele’s main dining room (called a showroom) has a seating capacity of 150 people, with an additional banquet room on the side with a seating capacity of 80 people, for a total seating capacity of 23o people for the entire venue 

Note, the communal table arrangement was used only for this special event. The tables are separated and spread out for daily lunch operations. 

There’s a separate slightly smaller banquet room to host private parties and meetings, or to add on to the main dining room for added seating capacity (80 people max.)

There was an open bar at the grand opening event, manned by event bartender Joey Gottlesman, former mixologist for Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Resort 

Most of the repurposed woodwork in the restaurant, including the bar, was handcrafted by owner and Chef Kanani Lincoln. The bar top is reclaimed Monkeypod wood. 

Wide variety of premium drinks were offered at the open bar

Surprisingly there were no signature craft cocktails, as Joey Gottleson was only serving as bartender for this grand opening event, while during normal lunch operations, there isn’t a permanent bartender on duty. However I did hear folks raving about what he was concocting. Never tried any myself, being I had to drive. I think they really should create at least a few signature cocktails though, such as perhaps the “Wailele Mist” and the “Manoa Mangotini”. 

Wailele Manoa owner and chef Kanani Lincoln gives an emotional, heartfelt speech to guests at the grand opening event.

Chef Kanani’s ’95 classmate from Kamehameha Ikaika (left) chats with Kanani’s cousin Kainoa (blue shirt). More of Chef’s family are seated with them, including his mother.  I’m seated between them on my left and the media group to my right. This, as Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom gives an AMAZING dinner performance! 

Ah yes, finally, the food! The first course of the pass around pupu menu were 5-Spice Duck Confit Spring Rolls with Lilikoi Gastrique.

Next up for the pupu menu, Chinese-Style Ginger Tiger Prawn and Vegetable Sauté on Steamed Bao, with Thai Chili Aioli.

Rounding up the pupu menu, Ahi Prosciutto Tartar on House Lumpia Crisps, Ume Balsamic Reduction and Shiso Chiffonade. 

Starting off the sit-down dinner menu was the first course, the Smoked Duck Breast Gyoza, Truffled Shiitake Nage, Hoisin-Bourbon Reduction.

Smoked Duck Breast Gyoza

Smoked Duck Breast Gyoza “money shot”

Next up for the second course of the sit-down dinner menu was a Kabocha-Ginger Bisque, garnished with Lavender Crème Fraiche and Chive Oil.

Kabocha-Ginger Bisque “money shot”

Next for the sit-down dinner menu is the third course, the Mochiko Crusted Monchong on Keahole Lobster Risotto, Coconut Curry Butter and Thai Basil Chili Oil. 

Mochiko Crusted Monchong, “angle B”

Mochiko Crusted Monchong, “money shot”

Next up for the fourth course of the sit-down dinner menu, we have Schezuan Peppercorn Venison (rare medium-rare done), Ewa Sweet Corn and Celeriac Puree and Blackberry Beet Gastrique. 

Schezuan Peppercorn Venison, medium-well done version

Bringing Wailele’s sit-down dinner menu to a sweet ending is the fifth course, a White Chocolate Banana Cream Tartlet with Madagascar Vanilla Whipped Cream, Kahlua Ganache and Salted Caramel Gelato.

White Chocolate Banana Cream Tartlet “money shot”

Halau Mele performed the Hawaiian Blessing for the Wailele Manoa grand opening

2004 Miss Hawaii, Olena Rubin Heu with Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner,  Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom. 

Pomai Souza with Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom.. she’s only taller than me because she has jacked-up heels on. Me vs. you Amy: Kara’oke at Wang Chungs. Singing contest battle. I’ll take you on any time, Amy! LOL! 

Amy Hanai’ali’i Gilliom’s sound engineer Wade with Hawaiian music record producer and radio personality Harry B. Soria, Jr. 

Olena with her “Gusband” Will lol

Pomai with Kelly Simek, KHON2 News morning weather anchor

Kelly Simek with her boyfriend Tom, currently finishing school in computer programming and video game software design

Wang Chung’s staff alumni Brian about to enjoy a craft cocktail

oey Gottlesman, bartender of the evening, with longtime former coworker and friend Wendy Nagaishi, Chef Concierge of The Luxury Collection at Royal Hawaiian Resort Waikiki

Chef Kanani Lincoln after a LONG AFTERNOON & EVENING preparing for his Wailele Manoa restaurant grand opening event. Chef Kanani is a 1995 graduate of Kamehameha Schools Palama campus. 

And? First and foremost the food. For the most part, it was all AMAZING! Incredibly complex, you can tell Chef Kanani really knows his gourmet chops. Especially his sauces… OMG! He says he learned how to use Chinese sauces from his mother, who loved to cook Chinese, and he loves to incorporate those bold flavors in his dishes, as was evident in what he put together for this incredible dinner menu.

Starting it off was that Smoked Duck Gyoza, which seemed rather simple upon arrival, yet once you tasted how the Chef put it together, we knew we were up for a treat the entire night. So ono!

That Kabocha Bisque alone could have held me over all night, it was that incredible. There was this hint of smokiness to it I couldn’t put a pin on, yet it absolutely set it apart. While the luxurious, quite viscous texture of the Kabocha bisque itself, along the addition of the Lavendar Creme Fraiche and Chive Oil topping it was a 1-2-3 knock-out!

That mochiko crusted monchong with lobster risotto yet another orgasm on a plate, where I swear I could have poured the sauce from the Lobster Risotto on my rubbah slippah and ate it. Seriously! 

My seared rare-medium-rare Venison with those complex sauces something I personally could NEVER come up with, yet leave to the expert hands of Chef Kanani, and that was by far the best “meat anything” I’ve had in a while. Like a very lean beef steak with major attitude thanks again to those incredible combination of complex sauces he plates it with. 

Finishing it of was that White Chocolate Banana Cream Tartlets, Madagascar Vanilla Whipped Cream, Kahlua Ganache and Salted Caramel Gelato, that had all the gals seated around me gasping, “OMG, this is so good!” Ditto! Crunchy, meets creamy, meets cool, meets the perfect, most elegant assembly of dessert components you could come up with, altogether tasting so fresh and elevated to the next level of dessert dining. 

The pass-around pupu menu items were equally taken to the next level of complexity and excellent, where I and those around me savored each and every small bite. 

Can’t say much for the cocktails at the bar, as due to having to drive, I didn’t drink any, except for a small sipping glass of Red Car Pinot Noir with my dinner meal served at the table. 

I will have to note as a responsible blogger that there was a major logistics “glitch” that caused the food service to be delayed quite a bit for this grand opening event. However that was mostly out of the Chef’s hands, so it wouldn’t be fair to nix the place because of that. Overall the reaction from people who sat around me at the table was “OMG, this dish was so worth the wait!” And that carried on throughout the courses served that evening, albeit much later into the evening than we had expected. 

Other improvements for the grand opening event itself would have been the inclusion of the menu on the table on table stands, so all the guests knew what they were being served. If you weren’t in the email loop, simply didn’t pay attention to file attachments, you were pretty much on your own, other than others like myself who had the info’ on file. Also again, they should have had signature cocktails for the restaurant, as suggestion in the caption being perhaps a “Wailele Mist” and “Manoa Mangotini”.  Also, the wines should have been paired with each course, given the high caliber of individually-plated dishes we were being served. 

As for the new Wailele venue, as you can see by the many photos, it’s GORGEOUS. I honestly haven’t been to Treetops for a long time now — I’d estimate it’s been around 7 years — however from what I remember it was getting long in the tooth. Wailele has done fantastic renovation work and a HUGE IMPROVEMENT to the space, including the kitchen, bathrooms and of course the main dining room and adjoining banquet room. All with a clean and contemporary,  yet still old Hawaiian sense of feel, heightened in those senses by the priceless beauty of the surrounding lush green Manoa Valley rainforest (it must always be said like that lol) viewed through the many large, clear ‘n clean picture windows.

As for the grand opening event, other than the many VIP guests (among many, John Morgan and his wife of Kualoa Ranch was there, however I didn’t get to talk with them), of course the highlight of the evening was the live performance by Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom, who is a personal friend of the Chef’s family. And WOW, she was AWESOME! She still got it for sure! In fact, Amy told us she’ll be starting a residency at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui soon. Good for her and great idea! 

It’s just gorgeous out here at the new Wailele Manoa restaurant, and I highly recommend you come check this place out for lunch, where they’re open daily from 11am to 3pm. Currently breakfast and dinner are not served, however you can book private events for up to 230 guests.

Chef Kanani Lincoln, with all his experience as a private chef with his own Hale ‘Aina Caterers business, among other high end culinary gigs, really knows how to put out first class “Roys and Alan Wong’s” caliber Pacific Rim Hawaii Regional fusion cuisine at the the new Wailele Manoa, formerly known as Treetops. Very impressed! 

Wailele Manoa
3737 Manoa Rd
at Manoa Waterfalls
Honolulu, HI 96822

Tel. (808) 988-6839


Open for lunch daily 11am to 3pm 
Booking for private events available by request (max capacity 150 + 80)

Related links:
Hale ‘Aina Caterers 

Video clips of the dinner performance by Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner, Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom (recorded on Pomai’s Note 5):

P.S. Below the Wailele Manoa Restaurant is another level you can walk down or across the parking lot to that’s home to the Na Makana at Paradise Park Art Gallery and Gift Shop. Here you’ll find the art of local artist Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker, who originally hails out of Kaneohe. I used to hang out with one of his youngest sons Patrick “Kipi” Parker in Heeia Elementary School, and remember going to their house and watching his dad Kawika paint these styles oil painting life in ancient Hawaiian times. He was also an avid formula 1 model kit builder, as masterful at that, as was at oil painting. Following are some of his work on display at Ka Makana studio at Paradise Park. Note, permission has been granted by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker for the Tasty Island to publish these photos of his gallery art. Enjoy. ;-)

Kamehameha I by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

Final Battle at Kuamo’o by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

Queen Lili’uokalani by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

High Chief Boki Kama’ule’ule and Kuini Liliha by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

The O’ahu Eight by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

Ka’iana and Kekupuohi by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

Holua Hawaiian Sled by Mahi La Pierre True Hawaiian Instruments LLC

Hee Holua Hawaiian Sled Riding by Brook Kapukuni’ahi Parker

One thought on “Coverage: Wailele Manoa Grand Opening Gala

  • May 19, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Amazing looking food! I’ve added Wailele Manoa to my ever growing list of places to try when we come home again. I’m with you Pomai, I can’t even remember when was the last time I went up to Paradise Park/Treetops. Aloha!


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