Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Hillstone Hawaiian Rib Eye, the best steak I have ever made!

OK I have finally come to summertime and to the Grill! I love using the BBQ grill like most Americans do. And I am fortunate to have a really nice grill setup on my roof. This given that I live in an apartment building in NYC. Yes, but my roof is really great and we enjoy it as much as possible during the summer months. Especially in the evenings when the sun is out of the middle of the sky and it's nice out. I am just glad that few people in my building take advantage of it! I have grilled all manner of dinners up there including a very sad lamb dinner once! Yikes! Regardless of the options however, when company is coming I almost always choose steak.

Steak is one of America's greatest obsessions. We love steak, we cook steak , we dress up steak ,we grill it, pan sear it, oven broil it, smother it, marinate it, and even fry it! I can tell you that when I was working for the James Beard Pop Up Restaurant last year in 2011, where I managed the front of house, at least 8 of the 10 odd superstar chefs that came through as guest chefs cooked steak. Well that could have had something to do with the fact that Certified Angus Beef was one of the sponsors, but who cares, Steak is good and Americans love it!

My relationship with eating steak out started early on in grade school when my father took us to the first steak dinner I can remember. It was at an naval officer's club and I thought that having steak cooked perfectly medium rare and delivered to your table was pure genius! It wasn't very often however, that we got to indulge in this treat out at a restaurant. So my main memories of steak and actually those of my father cooking a meal centered around the BBQ grill and dinners under the lanai in our back yard. Now you might have noticed that I just said the word "Lanai". Well, that's because it was when we were stationed in Hawaii that my parents stumbled upon the BBQ smoker/cooker of all BBQ smaoker/cookers, the Japanese Kamato Grill. (Hence the word Lanai!)

What is a Kamato? Well it was a clay tower about 4 feet tall and topped with a dome lid that would swing open to reveal the grill. The dome had a round "chimney" like vent with a topper which could be removed to let out the smoke and or heat. It produced a taste that to this day I have found unparalleled in intense BBQ quatlity. it was indeed a smoker which most BBQ's are not and thus lent a really special flavor to meats cooked in it or on it.

The other part of living in Hawaii, and being that it was the 1970's, was that many of the BBQ sauces and marinades of the day had a soy sauce/teriyaki twist to them. It was all the rage! So my memories of my Dad's BBQ sauces and marinades had a sweet pineapple and soy twist to them.
I love this sort of Marinade, the flavor, the aroma, and appreciate it all the more when it is done with excellent execution on all sorts of meats. One taste and I am transported back to that naval housing lanai and backyard. The plumeria trees in full bloom, the tree fort in the backgound and the noise of the neighborhood kids at play on the playground in air. The family is gathered around the picnic table, and my father, mother, grandmother, brother and I are relishing another fine homemade masterpiece of a meal, and laughing and sharing time together. It is a happy and sweet memory sensation indeed!

But where does one find such a place which enlivens the senses and brings back such sense memory occasions. Well you may laugh, but it is at my favorite chain restaurant in NYC. Hillstone ( aka Houston's Restaurant in other parts of the country). And how you any ask? Well it wasn't always my favorite chain restaurant. You see I was introduced to it by my dear friend Liz Solmes. She loved it because of the dark masculine atmosphere with dark wood and dim lighting and excellent service. And the steak! The Hawaiian Rib Eye, the most popular item of the menu in the steak category I have since learned. She told me about this steak and when I tried it, in all it's Polynesian glory, I was hit by the taste memory of BBQ dinners with my Father and family and all those wonder times we shared together. Strange the power of taste and sense memory, right? Who knew that something like that would bring back such delicious and fond memories. Liz and I went there often over the years for the martini's and that steak, Sadly for me now that she is gone form NYC, but fortunately I have other friends who also know and share in the power and allure  of the Hawaiian Rib-eye at Hillstone!

But you know me. I don't want to eat out all the time. I want to cook! So I got the recipe from one of the servers ( at the least the ingredients) and have made up my own version using those tastes as a homage to my Dad and the power of his BBQ. So give it a try, you may have visions of a Lanai , Palm trees and a drink with an umbrella in it before you know it. Me, when I taste it I just remember being young, and having my Dad cook up delicious memories!! Enjoy ya'll!

BTW: Since I published this Hillstone has released their recipe through Bon Appetit Magazine. My recipe is very close to the one they printed. But if you want the one they offer up check it out. The main difference is they make a compound butter with sesame oil and butter and they melt a big dallop on the steak to finish it off while it's resting before serving. Yum, try that at home for sure.


Forrest's Hawaiian Rib Eye Steak ( Based on Dad and Houston's Hawaiian Rib Eye)

4 ribeyes 1-2 inches thick bone out or in ( prefer out for this)
salt and pepper

For the marinade:
1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2  6oz cans pineapple juice
3/4 cup soy sauce ( low sodium )
1/8 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsps fresh chopped garlic
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ginger powder
2 tsps Grated Ginger

Season the steaks well on both sides with lots of salt and pepper

Place all ingredients  for the marinade in a sauce pan and heat on low for all the flavors to come together.

Bring mixture up to a boil then turn off the heat and let cool completely

Seal steaks in a ziplock bag with the marinade and let sit in the fridge for at least two up to three entire days. 48 to 72 hours. ( I know commitment right)

When ready to cook let come back to room temp. Season again and then grill steaks over high heat for 2 to 3 mins on each side. (They are so marinated they do not need long on the grill)

Please feel free to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.
--2 ribeye steaks


  1. thanks for recipe! quick say before you grill, season again? with just salt and pepper? and do you sear yours? thx good luck

    1. I do season with a little pepper and salt. I only have used a grill to cook these and I have never seared them on a flat grill or pan, you could but they cook pretty quickly although you might get a crust on them which you don't get from the grill. I like them medium rare and that takes a few mins on each side at a high heat. The marinade really tenderizes them.

  2. It’s amazing how one delightful meal can bring back so many special memories. I don't havy any doubt that that Hawaian ribeye steak is one of most delicious steaks ever. It’s really convenient that you live in a place with a rooftop, where you can grill anytime you feel like and recreate that wonderful meal. Thanks for sharing the recipe! Happy cooking!

    Lawrence Neal @ Prime-13

  3. Indeed Lawrence, I a working on a book about food and memory currently, It's a very strong connective tissue in our lives and one which binds us both with our past and those we share with in the present

  4. Given the time at which this was written, there are a few more Houston's turned Hillstone. Flagship: San Francisco.

    1. I just ate there when I was in San Francisco last month. Thanks for dropping by I'm a big fan of the chain as is my brother who travels often for business.

  5. I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!..
    Best Steak

  6. Thanks so glad you liked it. Hope you follow future posts. Cheers