What once was old is new again. Welcome back International Market Place. More than 1,000 people gathered Wednesday night to preview the newly revamped complex, which opens to the public today. Among them were the lucky Frolic team. Here’s a recap of what we found: 345,000 square feet spanning three levels on a six-acre site, with about 100 stores including Hawaii’s first Saks Fifth Avenue plus 10 tasty restaurants.
Wednesday’s gala benefited Bishop Museum, Daughters of Hawai’i, Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and the Waikiki Community Center.
Amanda Stevens attended the early evening opening of Saks Fifth Avenue — along with a who’s who of Hawaii and model Emma Hepburn Ferrer, the granddaughter of Audrey Hepburn.
I got my suit, minus the tie, and got fixed up to the nines. Bad idea. I thought the gala would be an indoor event. But just like the original, the rebuilt marketplace is open-air. After walking a few blocks to Waikiki, I looked as if I needed a shower.
Security at the Kalakaua entrance understandably gave me the once over. I was greeted with a kukui nut lei. Women were given seashell leis. The event staff was on point, as one of them discreetly informed me that my jacket vent was still stitched. Grateful and looking for any reason to disrobe, I yanked the offending stitch.
I’m glad I did, because the new International Market Place is vast.
We got the VIP treatment: our own personal tour guide. We started on the third level, known as the Grand Lanai where the majority of the restaurants can be found. I would consider it the closest thing to a food court that the International Market Place has — but grand, of course.
The Banyan Court on the second floor is named for the giant banyan tree guarding the Kalakaua entrance. It cradles an unassuming treehouse in its boughs, which can be reached via wooden walkways. Both banyan tree and treehouse are relics from the original International Market Place. On a regular day the treehouse is open to the public, and you can learn its history.
The Queen’s Court on the first floor is where you’ll find the main stage. It features statues of Queen Emma and the royal family, along with a pond filled with lilies, her favorite flower. Onstage last night were Willie K, Jake Shimabukuro and a host of Polynesian dancers. In between performances, The Daughters of Hawaii served as cultural ambassadors, sharing their knowledge about the history of Hawaii and the original marketplace.
The gala’s highlight was a check presentation of $100,000 to the charities. There was much smiling, handshaking and hugging, then the entertainment started up again and the gala continued through the evening. At this point I decided to grab some of the pupus I had been drooling over during our tour. Plus I needed napkins to wipe the sweat from my face.
Pupus throughout the evening were provided by chefs David Passanisi of Eat Honolulu and Catering Connection’s Grant Sim, along with desserts crafted by MW Restaurant’s Michelle Karr Ueoka. My favorites were the Hearts of Palm and Lobster Roll, followed by the Jidori Chick and Hamakua Mushroom Roulade. I found the serving station and thought it best that I just eat from there. So that the servers wouldn’t have to serve me. Right next door, a tasty toasted coconut latte Americano was being offered. This was a good plan.
After grazing and sipping, I made my way out to Kalakaua. I was gifted with a goodie bag that had a coffee table book detailing the history of the International Market Place and samples from various shops and restaurants, designed to keep me coming back. Well played. I’ll have to come back. Without a jacket. Especially in this weather.
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Ave.