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Vol. 17, no. 2
April / May 2014


The Dinners of Yesteryear 

Story by Dave Choo
Photos by Dana Edmunds

If you dined at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Surf Room on the evening of Saturday, August 4, 1951, you’d have heard the music start at 8 with the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders, who roamed the Surf Room playing by request. At 9:15 the Ku‘uipus would have started their hula show, followed by Bill Akamuhou and his Royal Hawaiian Hotel Orchestra, who kept the dance floor open until midnight. Your hors d’oeuvre might have been the poi cocktail, the canapé of smoked Kentucky turkey or marinated herring in sour cream. For your entrée you could have chosen roast saddle of spring lamb, salami of mallard duckling or the only local seafood on the menu: aiguillette of ‘opakapaka.

You can learn a lot about Hawai‘i’s good old days by reading a menu. In 1928 a popular breakfast item at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was a fish you don’t often see these days: broiled Hawaiian kumu (goatfish) with melted butter. Another now-rare fish—in restaurants anyway— made an appearance on Honolulu’s Black Cat Café’s lunch menu in 1945: fried ulua, tartar sauce and potato salad. Cost? Only $.55. And guess what was Honolulu’s most popular entrée from the 1930s to the 1970s? If you guessed ‘ahi, guess again. It was ham and pineapple.