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Most Ono Restaurant! Alan Wong's or...?

  • j
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My best friend and I grew up in Honolulu and now we're all going back for her wedding. I want to treat her to a very special dinner, but I haven't been back in (gasp!) 15 years. Any suggestions? Is Alan Wong's the most ono, or what?

p.s. Thanks for the earlier posts on tips on what to order at Alan Wong's!

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  1. I have eaten at Alan Wong’s and really enjoyed it, but in November when I was on Oahu I decided to try something new and went to Mavro’s instead. The staff was very accommodating and pleasant (I even spied Chef Mavro walking around the dining room), and the food was out of this world!

    The menu is a la carte and they have three, four and six course prix fixe menus as well (available with and without matching wine courses). My date and I had the three (with wine courses) and four course (with one wine course) meals.

    In addition to the prix fixe meals we were given a delectable amuse-bouche of carrot puree/soup with curried croutons and coriander leaf as well as a “pre-dessert” of sliced strawberries in Champagne gelatin with mint. The amazing-delicious-wonderful dessert course was also served with Guava and Lilikoi pyramids and assorted Truffles.

    Three Courses:
    Hawaiian-Style Moussaka of Upcountry Vegetables with Cardamom Accents,
    Rosemary Infused Garlic Coulis, Parmesan Tuile
    1998 Fumé Blanc, Sonoma Valley, Benziger

    Rotisserie Island Chicken, Luau Style
    Leeks, Carrots, Sugar Peas, Ginger with Long Rice (Mung Bean Thread)
    1999 Cru Du Beaujolais, France, Fleurie, Georges Duboeuf

    Seasonal Berries with Pressed Berry Jus, Lightly Flavored with Black Peppercorn,
    Icy Cream of Hawaiian Vanilla, Almond Tuile
    1998 Riesling "Late Harvest," Geisen Estate, New Zealand

    Four Courses:
    Salad of Grilled Kahuku Prawns Marinated with Cumin,
    Island Tabbouleh & Bouquet of Watercress

    Fillet of Moi, Thread Fish, Crispy on the Scales
    Sauteed Chanterelles & Salisify with Lemon Accents, Saffron Coulis

    Wine Spectator Magazine Beef Entrecôte, Coriander-Crisped
    Artichoke Barigoule, Angel Hair Yukon Gold Potatoes
    *(this dish was served with a super-subtle pinot, anchovy sauce that is still haunting me, so good!)*
    1996 Chinati Classico, Italy, Pèppoli, Antinori

    Lilikoi Malasadas, Guava Coulis, Pineapple-Coconut Ice Cream

    I think that the service at Mavro’s was superior to Alan Wongs’. The dining room was less chaotic and there weren’t too many tables crammed in it. The food was also IMHO better than Alan Wong’s was. I would suggest going to Mavro’s first and if you have time and money left enough for another blowout meal, then go to Wong’s.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Heather

      Mavros does some things fairly well, but if the word ``ono'' is applied, it's Alan Wong's by a country mile. The dining room can be loud, and the service can occasionally be unfocused (though it is always sharp and knowledgable), but I would venture that there is not another chef in the United States who interprets the food of his own particular region as well as Wong does Hawaii.

      Mavros does pretty good French food not so different from the French food in any other part of the country.

      If every state had a chef as passionate and as knowledgable as Alan Wong, America would be a far better place to dine.

      1. re: Pepper

        Pepper, your saying that Chef Mavro’s does only French food, “not so different from the French food in any other part of the country,” when I listed a menu including not only Hawaiian ingredients (threadfish, lilikoi, kahuku shrimp, etc.), but also Hawaiian dishes (luau chicken, long rice and malassadas) confounds me.

        Am I missing something about the word “ono” (I think it means simply “good” and not necessarily made by a local boy), or is it in the “interpretation” of these ingredients that something is being lost on me? I have eaten at both restaurants, granted at Mavro’s only once, but I have a preference and I am suddenly wondering how I could miss something that is so patently obvious to you. Could this be just a difference of opinion or can you convince me otherwise?

        What is it about Alan Wong’s that is so transcendent to you? Elaborate, please.

        1. re: Heather

          I understand the term ``ono'' to mean not just tasty, but tasty in a specifically Hawaiian way. Mavros isn't bad, but it also isn't ``bad,'' if you know what I mean.

          The occasional fillip aside, I think the restaurant could exist anywhere in the country, where it is impossible to think of Wong's outside the context of Hawaii.

          Same with Padovani's Bistro, which is very good, even extraordinary, but doesn't breathe a sense of place.

      2. re: Heather

        We REALLY liked Mavro's. and agree w/above post.

        are going back this spring (2002) and will
        try Allan Wong's place.