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Honolulu

Hi,

I am headed to a conference in Honolulu. Would like to know where to eat seafood, local cuisine, Asian food.

Thanks,

Nancy

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  1. Gyu Kaku is great - japanese yakiniku, grill your own food. It is a chain from Japan and is lined up all the time. Great food, great prices and amazing atmosphere.

    1. For local food go to Rainbow Drive-In and get yourself a plate lunch.

      Rainbow Drive-In
      3308 Kanaina Avenue
      Telephone: 808.737.0177

      1. A good Chinese restaurant near Waikiki on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki is "Bamboo House" Restaurant. Their Garlic Prawns, dry bean with minced pork and salt pepper sea bass are first rate! This is a small "mom and pop" Chinese restaurant located in the Kapahulu area.

        Located close by is "Ono Hawaiian Foods" another small restaurant that has good Hawaiian food. The lau laus (pork/fish wrapped in ti leaves and steamed) are HUGE and should be ordered on the side rather than one for each person.

        Parking is on street so give yourself some time to find parking. If you are staying at a hotel near the Diamond Head side of Waikiki, it might give you a pleasent walk to the area. If it gets too late you can always catch a cab after dinner. Both places are also open for lunch.

        Happy eating!

        RC50

        Bamboo House
        740 Kapahulu Avenue
        Honolulu- 732-2229

        Ono Hawaiian Foods
        726 Kapahulu Avenue
        Honolulu- 737-2275

        1. I really liked Indigo - plus a really fun Happy Hour!

          1. It's a mini-chain in Hawaii, apparently, but I had a great meal at Sansei sushi restaurant. It seems to be a fusion/traditional mix, most of sushi and creative rolls but a lot of interesting dishes as well. I went with a party of 9 people. Not only were they extremely accomidating for our large group, and everyone seemed to love the food, but the waiter was kind enough to split all our checks without even being asked! Now that's service.

            1. Alan Wong's!!!!!!!!!!! (That’s eleven exclamations)

              I'm not exactly sure if this qualifies as a "seafood" place, but they do have killer seafood, it is "local", and it's on my list of places to go every time I am in Honolulu.

              I highly recommend Alan Wong’s for an awesome meal. It has been a couple of years since I have personally gone, but I have heard from friends who have gone in the last 6 months that it is just as good as I recall. I am a little surprised nobody has already recommended this.

              Alan Wong's is not known for its location or view, so don't go expecting to be wowed by some sprawling scenic/beachy Hawaiian location. However, do expect to be wowed by everything else that is Alan Wong’s. I always take a cab there because it is a little off the beaten path and not exactly walking distance from the Waikiki hotels I usually stay at. You enter from the non-descript street level door into what I refer to as “the magic elevator” that takes you up to the restaurant. I say “magic” because I don’t recall the building or immediate neighborhood to be anything special. However, once inside the magic elevator, you seem to be jettisoned into some alternate culinary universe.

              I am not sure how the real story goes, but Alan Wong, born in Tokyo and raised in Oahu, was somehow partnered with Roy Yamaguchi (of Pacific Rim Roy's and Roy's). They split, Roy did his thing, Alan did his. Although both are highly accomplished and acclaimed chefs, I heard Roy was more of the business guy and Alan is the more artsy and more talented chef of the two. That bodes well with why you have probably heard of Roy's and not Alan Wong's, but people who have been to both say Alan Wong's is better. In my experiences at both, I prefer Alan Wong’s to Roy's. I even heard that Roy’s is now somehow intertwined with OSI (Outback Steakhouse) and their happy family of corporate menus. Yet another reason I like Alan Wong’s more.

              Check out the Honolulu Alan Wong’s online:

              http://www.alanwongs.com/kingstreet/k...

              If you go, be sure to save room for dessert and a French press of one of their many coffee selections from their extensive coffee menu (yes I said coffee menu).

              Enjoy!

              M

              1. I would definitely give the nod to Alan Wong's (King St) over Roy's. We have dined at many Roy's locations on the mainland and most in Hawai`i, and, while good, Alan Wong's is GREAT. We've been to three Alan Wong restaurants in Hawai`i, King St, Pineapple Room and the Hualalai Grille (Big Island 4-Seansons). We do not miss the King St restaurant, even if we are just passing though Honolulu - a cab ride from the airport for a quick dinner is worth the $. I was less than impressed by the Pineapple Room location (Ala Moana Shopping Center/Macy's), but am attending a function there in Sept, so my "jury is still out." We will NOT miss the King St location though.

                To try and complete the Roy's Hawaiian circuit, we are doing the Poipu location, which had not re-opened after Iniki, when we were last on Kaua`i. Like I said, it's good too, just not in the league with Alan Wong's. Of all of the Roy's that we have tried, the best WAS the Waikoloa/Big Island restaurant, when a young lady from New Mexico was the exec. chef. Unfortunately, she's long gone, and her influence on Roy Yamaguchi's fare is missing. One note: most of the exec. chefs at the Roy's locations have some latitude in the menu and the preperation, so each can be quite different, even if the menu "looks" the same. Of the bunch, the two on Maui and the Hawai`i Kai (Oahu) were the weakest of the bunch.

                On Oahu, I have also heard some great things about Chef Mavro's, but have not dined there yet - Sept reservations, and review will be posted here.

                Hunt

                1. I dont disagree with any of the above but, if you want a lunch of fresh seafood w/local flavor, you really need to get to the farmer's market behind Ward's Warehouse shopping center to eat from the stands. There are tables around and you cant get a better variety of fresh poke (first cousin to ceviche). Trust this NY'er... we go there every time and have been doing so for well over a dozen years. And take back a container or two if you have access to a fridge.

                  1. Hitting self on head for not thinking to mention it - believe what they say about Alan Wong's - the only thing I can add is that it is a lot more fun sitting at the chef's counter, and you must reserve for that.

                    Bill, I'll be interested to hear your take on Chef Mavro - we loved the wine paired dinner - it's a lot of food, but we thought worth it. I may be meeting my husband spur of the moment over there next weekend. I have 4 nights - I'm thinking:

                    AW's (of course)
                    Hano Hano to check out the new changes
                    Cabanas - have never been there
                    Diamondhead Grill - I really liked this place & am hoping it's still good.

                    I may have to trim this list down a bit when my husband figures out what the total bills will be ;-)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: torta basilica

                      You might consider trying Hoku's. They have done a major overhaul of the dining room, tableware, uniforms and the menu. I'd be interested to hear your take on it. I'd definitely do that over Cabanas.

                      1. re: Yoshio

                        Hi Yoshio - Please tell me why - I've always wanted to do Hoku's, but the whole Cabanas concept sounds pretty cool to me - let me know your thoughts.

                        Also, I'm spacing again on what night Diamondhead Grill is hot - was is Sundays? Or is it not so happening anymore? Not that we're hot or happening - just fun to get a booth table & watch the action!

                        1. re: torta basilica

                          I was just at Cabanas last week.
                          Hoku's new dining room looks amazing.
                          But I do think that Cabanas is worth it because it is one of the rare chances you have really to eat a great gourmet meal out at the beach in a beautiful place.

                          1. re: torta basilica

                            I will have to defer to linlinchan on the Cabanas - each time I've been there (admittedly not to eat) it has been so windy that I couldn't see how one could have a pleasant meal. Regarding DHG I do think it was Sundays but I'm not sure if it's still as popular.

                            1. re: Yoshio

                              Actually I could see how that would be a problem. It does get awfully windy out there.
                              I have kind of been lucky as far as that goes, though, it seems, which may be why I have a positive impression of the place.

                              In that case, I guess Hoku's is the best bet for consistency in that way.

                      2. Well, after seeing the reports of Daniel, changed my Cabanas resv to Hoku's! Hopefully, it will die out by Friday! Called for a Sat. resv at Alan Wong's & they had only very early & very late... until I said I wanted the Chef's Counter - she said that was wide open!

                        1. Jimbo's Restaurant
                          1936 S. King Street
                          Honolulu.

                          Great homemade udon!!!! We tried the nabeyaki (udon w. tempura on top), donburi and stir-fried udon. I'd recommend udon in broth with whatever topping. It is a local joint ... a mix of local and japanese.

                          Crowded a lot of the time and you wait outside...can get warm. If you get there and you see the line there is a clipboard by the door where you write your name and party# on it. They come out call the names of the list.

                          Also, if you are at the convention center...across the street in the little plaza (there is a 7-11 or at least last december)... You Hungry. It is the quintessential local plate lunch spot. It's high carb but I can't resist the tuna macaroni and rice sides. Get a two-choice which gives you two mains.

                          1. I assume you're attending the conference at the Convention center? This is in addition to places already listed.

                            Close by on Kona Street there is a little Japanese restaurant called Akasaka behind a bunch of Strip bars'. Looks like a seedy area but its pretty safe, and its right next to the big Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Ala Moana Hotel.

                            For local Chinese close by there is Fook Yuen at the McCully Shopping center They're open pretty late and have good food, IIRC they still have a $9.95 lobster special ( per pound). Chinese food is always better if you go with a group, of course.

                            At the Kaimuki Municipal parking lot there's a good Korean restaurant called Koreana. Prices are quite reasonable and not hot unless you ask for it. Right next door is a little Japanese restaurant called Bozu which is amazingly cheap ( dinners average $12). although you don't get a lot of fresh fish. Nearby are two great desert places Cafe Laufer, and JJ's a little further down hill. Both serve dinner, too, although a bit more nouvelle cuisine.

                            For Thai food close by in Restaurant row there is a Thai restaurant called Payao that is pretty good, better than most as they cook in their chilis per order instead of just heaping it on afterwards.

                            For cheap lunches, i addtion to what was already posted, Try a place called Keawe Grill close in the Old Stadium Mall: Huge portions if you order the regular plate, so I normally like the mini plates. The cook tends to make everything well done so specify medium rare and you'll be alright.. In addtion to the regular Kalbi and such, you can get buffalo burgers, salmon, Saba, and some Korean dishes. You can also choose from a selection of Kimchi vegetables, and such local favorites as macaroni salad

                            The area is quite filled with little Japanese and Korean restarants however, and I do not know anyone who has tried them all. Most are fairly decent..

                            Chinatown about a three miles away has great Chinese food. For luincheon dim sum the best is called Taipan, an tiny places where sometimes you have to share tables with other diners. Just around the corner and only open for lunch is the Hong kong Noodle shop: inexpensive and they feature home
                            made noodles.

                            Stu

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: uncelstu52

                              this thread is two years old, I think Nancy has come and gone

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                I hope that Nancy had a glorious time and wonderful food. Unfortunately, as so very often happens, we'll never know.

                                Though too late for Nancy, I appreciate UncleStu52's recs. Maybe the next "Nancy" will find the post and appreciate the more contemporary info.

                                I also think that it must be the phases of the Moon, or something, as there have been a dozen "zombies" arise recently on the New Orleans board. Some go back to the earlier days of CH. Don't know how they survived, as many of my posts from ~04 have all gone to byte-Heaven.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I'll be traveling to Oahu with my wife Nancy and our 3 kids in July so appreciate the updated info. So far Nico's Pier 39 and Alan Wong's is on our dining list. Hate to admit it but I promised the family we would do a Luau night with show one night - I'll be the one drinking the oversized mai tai's - any suggestions?

                                  1. re: ratuetuate

                                    Paradise Cove.

                                    Will you have a car? If so, you could also spend the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center and have the luau there/

                                    1. re: kc72

                                      both the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Hilton Hawaiian village have luau type events on their grounds in Waikiki. I have no idea if they are any good or not, but certainly less involved than taking a bus out to Ko-olina.

                                    2. re: ratuetuate

                                      With the exception of a special event lu`au a at Sea Life Park, I have been less than impressed with any of the commercial events on O`ahu. I like KiamukiMan's recs. Another "event," that we have enjoyed has been the "King's Jubliee" at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Friday nights. Now, we normally have a suite with lanai overlooking the show below, and a bottle of Montrachet, followed by restaurant reservations afterwards, it's still fun, though it is NOT a lu`au, by any stretch.

                                      Next rec. would be to do cocktails at House Without a Key. We were less impressed with the full menu, and the wine list, BUT - the musical performance is always great. The drinks fun. The venue excellent and the pu`pus pretty good. Not quite a lu`au, but if you want the show, neat drinks and a lovely sunset venue, it is hard to beat it. Just plan on having a later dinner elsewhere. An alternative would be to dine at La Mer, upstairs, and request a table over the stage below (at HWAK). The food is great, and the service and wine list extensive and well above par. The show is more heard, than seen, but that will not be important.

                                      There are a lot of ways to "skin this cat."

                                      Aloha and enjoy,

                                      Hunt

                                      -----
                                      House Without a Key: Halekulani
                                      2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      La Mer
                                      2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      Royal Hawaiian
                                      2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa
                                      2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      1. re: ratuetuate

                                        As a PS to my post below, or above? Alan Wong's King Street is our all-time favorite restaurant. We've dined there ever since they opened. They have been our constant restaurant, as we've added some and deleted some others. While we love dining in the main room, for us, the Chef's Counter is the highlight, along with the tasting menu and the sommelier's wine pairings.

                                        If you look on this board, I have maybe a half-dozen reviews of Alan Wong's King Street. Most reference the Chef's Counter. If that strikes your fancy, you will be greatly rewarded.

                                        Enjoy,

                                        Hunt

                                        -----
                                        House Without a Key: Halekulani
                                        2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                        Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                        1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                        La Mer
                                        2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                        Royal Hawaiian
                                        2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                        Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa
                                        2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                2. Little Village Noodle House in Chinatown has some great Chinese food, and some of their seafood dishes (Mussels, Clams, etc.) are spectacular. Chun Wah Kam in the Waimalu Shopping Center is a souped-up version of a fast food restaurant, but their Chinese food is amazing, and they have the best Egg Fu Yung I have ever had. Also their Crispy Gau Gee (you can find that only in Hawaii) is among the best now on Oahu (shed a tear for Kelly's Coffee Shop on Puuloa Rd., which used to have the best, but which closed about 10 years ago).

                                  Fook Yuen is OK, but it did not blow me away, and I think they use a lot of MSG in their food.

                                  For local foods, you want to check out "plate lunch" places. Rainbow Drive-In is one of the more popular (you get the Mix Plate there). Also very good is the teriyaki beef plate at Bob's on Waiakamilo Rd. (and the chocolate malt that you order with it); the chicken katsu plate at Heights Drive-Inn in Aiea; Chicken katsu plate is also excellent at Jamie's Snack Shop on Pauoa Rd.; any Saimin at Shiro's (or the Beeg Shiro). Also consider a baked Manapua at Royal Kitchen on River St.

                                  1. Just got back from a week in Honolulu (mostly) and then a trip around Oahu. Read the recommendations before leaving (thanks!) and have a few comments and updates to share. I may have to spread them over several postings, since there is a lot of information to share.

                                    First, Alan Wong's. We went to the restaurant on S. King Street on our last Saturday night in Honolulu. We made the reservation on Thursday or Friday, and it was relatively easy to get a table. I don't know if this is a sign of the times or we just got lucky. We had a table by the window, and although it is not an inspiring view, it is pleasant. Unlike some places, they have paid attention to putting sound absorbers on walls and on the ceiling so you could actually hear the person you were with and be heard without shouting. We opted for the fixed price five-course dinner with the wine pairing. The first course had one of their signature dishes, Poki-Pines, and then a chilled tomato soup served in a martini glass (reminded me of Michael Chiarello) with a Parmesan frico, and a kahlua pig-based "ham and cheese" sandwich. Outstanding! Course #2 was the ginger crusted onaga. Superb! The third course had some Kona lobster on a potato cake with two relishes, one gobo based and the other long bean based. At this point in the meal I thought I would have to sell my house and move to Honolulu. The fourth course was their soy-braised and then grilled "kalbi-style" short rib. I love braised meats. If you catch them at the right point, when the gelatins have broken down and the meat is just right, braised meats are a delight. This dish missed the mark. Although the ribs were tender, they were more stringy than moist and unctuous. The closer was a coconut tapioca in a shell with generally nonlocal fruit, and then chocolate "crunch bars". Good, but far from spectacular. I would definitely go back, but I would really stick with the seafood, and skip the meats (or at least the short ribs). You wonder if they use too lean a cut. It was a very enjoyable albeit uneven meal. The service was unobtrusive but very attentive. At $135/person I think I would focus on the seafood, and pick a nice bottle of wine rather than go with the fixed price menu tastings.

                                    We also went to Ono Hawaiian Foods (info given in an earlier post) and had an enjoyable meal there. The locals were lining up outside, and we caught it before the line got too long. I have been to places on Kauai with a similar menu, but the food was better here. It is a very very informal place.

                                    Bamboo House, which was our original destination, and which is also listed in a prior post, was no longer in business. The new restaurant was a Creole-New Orleans place, and if I want that kind of food, I can find it locally.

                                    We found some very good ramen restaurants and a spectacular and inexpensive dim sum restaurant in Chinatown that I will give information on in a later post.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tutti_a_tavola

                                      So to continue, we also visited Akasaka near the Convention Center and enjoyed the meal (sushi and a tempura platter) and service there.

                                      We also tried a number of places that had not been previously recommended as part of this thread.

                                      Mei Sum Dim Sum is at 65 N. Pauahi St, at the corner. The dim sum is served from 7 AM until 8+ PM. We went for lunch on Saturday and tried nine dishes, all of which were generous for two people. The items come in three price ranges, starting at $2.25, and then maxing out at a bit over $3/dish. We tried nine items, including two desserts, and everything was really tasty. The place was filled with locals, and they were doing a healthy take-out business as well. The tab for the lunch was about $23. In terms of value, this may have been the best meal we had in Honolulu, and we went back the next day and ate there again on our way to the airport. It was an odd time, about 10 AM and the service was a bit chaotic even though the place was not full. Still, everything we had was delightful. Across the street from this place there appears to be a place that sells buns or pastries, and although we did not try it, there was a steady stream of locals going in and coming out on Saturday with boxes. Next time.

                                      We had one dinner at Side Street Inn (1225 Hopaka St.) a place rumored to be a favorite stopping point for chefs on their night off. The service was very friendly, the place was low-key, the servings were very generous, and the food was good. They had a version of ribs with a lilikoi barbecue sauce that was very good.

                                      We stopped off at the Marukai Market on the way back to our hotel from a farmer's market. This is a membership-based market, but if you go to the service counter outside the store, they will give you a one-day pass for free if you can show them that you are from out of state. We went in and picked up an assortment of sushi, and a number of other items that are harder to find on the mainland. It is not a gourmet destination necessarily, but a good place to pick up some fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods.

                                      Having had extended stays in Tokyo and in Fukuoka, I am very fond of ramen, and I have not found anything here in the SF Bay Area that comes close to the shops I was taken to by friends in both Tokyo and Fukuoka. There is a shop in the Ala Moana Center that is named Goma Tei, and then another one about a block or so from the Nordstroms that is part of the Ala Moana Center and across from a Walmart/Sam's Club called Goma Ichi. At Goma Tei I had the tantan ramen with char sui; nice rich-tasting dark broth, very nice noodles, the pork was a generous portion, tender, but not as moist as I would have liked. At Goma Ichi I had their zasai sunghonmen which apparently had won an award from Honolulu Magazine readers. I liked this a great deal as well; the added char sui was fatty and a rather modest portion. I wish both would open a branch in Berkeley CA.

                                      Finally, a place or two that you could skip. I was hoping to find some good Korean food. I failed. We went to Yuchun Korean Restaurant at 1159 Kaiolani Blvd. near the Blaisdell Center. The kalbi was tough, and the spicy calamari and vegetables was uninspiring. They brought out a little portable heater, and a pan containing several whole squid slathered in hot sauce. They turned on the flame, walked away, and came back a few minutes later. The cooking time was perfect to bring everything to that golf ball texture we all love. Not worth it.

                                      On an excursion to Haleiwa we stopped off at Jameson's By The Sea. The view is very pretty. The service was very friendly but excruciatingly slow. The calamari appetizer was one of those magical calamari that is 3/8 of an inch thick and about three inches wide and eight inches long. It is a pity that I didn't ask, but if I had known I was getting a deep fried calamari "steak" I would have passed. This processed and reconstituted hunk of calamari paste had spent a bit too much time in the deep fryer. Can you say rubber? I had a caesar salad with blackened ahi. Unfortunately, no anchovies died in the making of the dressing. The ahi was not only blackened, it had been cooked to within a nanometer of its life, and very dry. It really was a horrible thing to do to a lovely fish. The others who joined me were equally uninspired by their choices. Why Frommers recommends this place is a mystery. Perhaps I caught them on a bad day.

                                      My thanks as always to those who posted some of the recommendations that we were able to follow up on. I hope that the additions are useful to someone down the road.