The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill restaurant, has re-opened under new owner/operators (and brothers) Mariano ("Maro") Molteni and Martin Molteni. The restaurant will be open six days a week, beginning at 4:00 p.m. It will be closed on Mondays.The Royal Hawaiian temporarily closed its doors on January 22nd, handing the keys and ownership of the restaurant to Chef Maro Molteni, the former owner of the award-winning Laguna-based restaurant, Maro Wood Grill. His brother, Martin, is sharing in the ownership, dividing his time between Laguna Beach and his culinary empire in Argentina. Martin, named Argentina’s #1 chef, and one of the highest ranked chefs internationally, cooks in multiple cuisine styles as a guest chef to vaunted restaurants everywhere.
Opening Week Already Sold Out
When the popular chef team announced opening day to their email and social media audiences, it took less than two hours to fully sell-out Wednesday’s opening day. Thursday, Friday and Saturday sell-outs quickly followed suit.Reservations for next week forward can be made at the website, www.RoyalHawaiianLB.com. Easter brunch and Mother’s Day brunch are open for reservations, too. Guests can also book group dining, cocktail parties and special events at the same website.
A New Look
Expect an entirely new look when you visit Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill. Molteni hired Laguna resident (and former Tabu Grill designer) Christine Hallen-Berg to create the grand dame’s look moving forward.
“There were all these great tikis and totems and they were beautiful, collected over years and years of the Royal Hawaiian’s existence,” says Christine. “So, my main goal was to spotlight each of them in a bigger way, and the only backdrop that would work best with them was …blue. It brings the sky and the ocean inside, and that’s what Hawaii – and Laguna Beach – celebrate every day,” she says.
Laguna resident Chris Karl added his design skills on the plant side, building out fresh Polynesian flower scenics and adding live plants at every turn.
A New Menu Based on Historic Cooking Cultures
While younger brother Maro has spent hours of input on the menu with his older brother, Martin has primarily been in charge of creating Royal Hawaiian’s next era of food and drink. In the process of restructuring for Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, he spent time researching the historical cultures of Polynesia and tropical/coastal regions of South America.“You look at the 12,000 miles between the Hawaiian islands and the tropical coast of South America and you think there’s no way they’ve have anything in common in their cooking styles,” says Chef Martin.
“But, their historical cooking cultures are very similar, running in surprising parallel through the ages. So, we're introducing a new kind of menu to Laguna Beach that weaves these worlds together. The Royal Hawaiian is our way of welcoming this big wide world of people into an experience that proves that it really is a small world after all,” he says with a smile.More important to Chefs Maro and Martin than the actual menu items is the sourcing of all their ingredients. Together, they spent weeks in research, searching out the finest grass-fed beef and lamb, researching Pacific-based fish and shellfish options, meeting with organic farmers, combing through farmers’ markets and more.
On the new Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill menu, pure Polynesia sparkles with Ahi Poke, Hawaiian Hamachi Sashimi, Local Halibut Ceviche, Wood-Roasted Pacific Lobster, Mesquite Grilled Sausage, "Blu" Salmon, Luau-Style Grilled Pork and The (revamped) Royal Hawaiian Burger.
And, items such as fresh-baked, super-steamy Empanadas, Pulehu-Style Charred Chicken Breast, Sweetbreads, Braised Lamb Shank, Ribeye Angus Beef and the return of Maro’s famed Ricotta Gnocchi served with Ossobucco and wild mushrooms share the spotlight with equal aplomb.
Original Lapu-Lapu Returns
Thanks to what Royal Hawaiian bar manager Sean Melia calls the "locals' coconut telegraph," the very popular original Lapu Lapu recipe has somehow found its way back home and is now being served along with ever-present Polynesian cocktails such as Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians. Melia and Martin have also worked out an enticing menu of "other coastal tropical drinks" from around the world. “The Hawaiian culture is big on “ohana” – it’s all about the family,” says Chef Maro. “This is what we want the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill to be – a place where you always feel like family because … in the end, that’s all that really matters. It’s not about the colors of your walls or how you serve your lobster, or the pattern you use you recover your chairs … it’s about creating a place where everyone feels like family." The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill is located at 331 N Coast Highway, a half block north of the Laguna Art Museum.