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Honolulu Notes...

t
torta basilica Feb 8, 2007 07:02 AM

Arrived home 3 lbs heavier after 3 nights, so obviously had a great time!

1st stop - Mitch's Sushi - See recent review

Hanohano Room - recent reviews indicated new and exciting food. We crashed a Grey Goose party (hey, they gave us VIP wristbands when we exited the elevator - who were we to argue with free drinks?) The free food didn't look all that exciting, so sat at the bar & shared a dinner. Bar staff very friendly, but didn't seem used to serving food there, although we were led to believe it's a popular drink and grazing place... App & entree served at the same time, which didn't thrill me... Escargot in garlic with macadamia nuts instead of breadcrumbs was nothing ground-breaking, but pretty tasty. Biggest complaint was that the rolls served with it were awful - disintegrated into the sauce before you could swipe a butter/garlic infused bite. What a let-down - they really need to rethink that bread. Chilean seabass in lobster cream sauce was good - slightly overcooked by about 30 secs, but that may have been a function of being served at the same time as the app. On a bed of mashed potatoes... when is that trend ever going to end? Nice sauteed vegs. Felt the wine list was very expensive for what was offered - not too much by the glass of interest at all. The view IS spectacular - would recommend going up for a drink, but probably won't return for the food.

Tamura's Fine Wines - read about this place in Kaimuku somewhere & was determined to find another place than Foodland to purchase wine! Was a little concerned upon entering that is was just another Asian food & sundries market, but upon closer examination... some great gourmet sauces, a HUGE poke bar - really want to get back & sample that!, small but interesting cheese selections, 2 kinds of French & 1 Italian butter, creme fraiche, Devonshire double cream, and other very upscale grocery selections. Got very excited when I realized the other half of the store was devoted to wine - incredible selection AND prices (rare for Hawaii). Frank Family Chard was $22.45 - I often pay $35 here in California! All kinds of excellent wines on special - very blown away by the depth and International offerings. Then, were invited into the special wine room - Penfolds Grange, some nice Barbarescos, Rameys,... Could spend hours just hanging out here! Anyway, well worth the drive.

3660 on the Rise - Have never eaten here - always seems to be overshadowed by AW's & Mavro's. Pretty restaurant - not stuffy, but airy & very friendly staff. Decided to have a drink at the bar - huge martini list & my lychee with vodka & champagne was delicious. Bartendress was so nice, we decided to forgo the table & stay there. Huge quandry over the menu - everything sounds absolutely delicious, so let her steer us... 3 Apps, 1 entree & 1 dessert... Yummy bread, Crispy garlic shrimp with fried spinach & green onions was one of the best dishes I've ever had - big juicy shrimp over crispy spinach & garlic shards - spectacular! Ahi sashimi special - 4oz of gorgeous buttery ahi slices for $10 - excellent! Foie gras 2 ways - seared with orange marmelade - very good, nothing ground-breaking. Cold torchon 'Napolean style' with lilikoi gelee slices inbetween - WOW! would have preferred more foie & less gelee (always!), but this was truly delicious. I especially appreciated the $8 3oz pour of Beerenauslese to accompany & not having to buy a bottle of Sauternes at 10 times or more the price. Only complaint was rice blini or whatever it was served on was inedible, but that didn't matter - just one less thing to get in the way of the foie... BTW, excellent wine list - both by the glass & bottle. Had an great Australian Zin, but am spacing on the maker. Panseared New York steak in better & garlic was delicious - crisy onions on the side could have used my umph - salt or something, but all in all, a great dish. Famous chocolate lava cake with ice cream & mocha sauce for dessert, accompanied by an excellent cup of coffee. What a meal - can't wait to return.

Pineapple Room - Lunch - got to admit, we weren't all that hungry after the night before... Had a somewhat unfriendly waitress - probably a function of us eating at 2:15... Husband had a deconstructed shrimp & crab Caesar - didn't look like much and I don't think he was all that impressed. I had the calamari salad, which was very good. That great foccacia with pepper aoili was good as usual. Had the mini haupia tapioca with shave ice & assorted fruits - wasn't as exciting as I remembered... Will order differently next time...

Town - Cute restaurant reminds me of somewhere in W Hollywood, but can't think of where. Friendly service. Limited, but interesting wine selections. Shitake salad good, lemon shrimp & fennel fritti less so - not a lot of flavor from the fennel, nice bread, split the famous bread chicken, which was very good, but not the 'best chicken dish guests have ever eaten in their lives,' as touted. Pretty hip & trendy and I'd go back to check out breakfast & lunch, but can't say I was blown away by dinner.

Still, a great trip with some awesome food moments...

  1. onolust Feb 9, 2007 03:10 PM

    did you try the new g.g. vodka they were celebrating at hanohano? the pear? it was divine!

    1. Debbie M Feb 11, 2007 01:30 PM

      I'm hoping to hit 3660 on the Rise this year, so I'm glad to hear you liked it. And since I'll be solo, also glad to hear that you can eat at the bar. Am I correct in assuming Chef Mavro is all table seating?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Debbie M
        t
        torta basilica Feb 12, 2007 09:39 AM

        Yes, he has remodeled since I was there, but I don't remember a bar. But you'll definitely feel comfortable at Alan Wong's & 3660!

      2. Bill Hunt Feb 12, 2007 04:32 PM

        3660 has been a mainstay for us for about 12 years now. We missed it last trip, just due to time constraints. We've always had great food and service, but have never dined at the bar.

        Do you have an address for Tamura's Fine Wine? Other than Costco (Honolulu usually has a better selection, than the one near Schofield Barracks) and Foodland, the only other wine shop, that we have found, is in the back of the Ward Center. It has been hit-n-miss, as some trips will find good esoteric selection, some times not, and the prices are pretty much in line with Honolulu. Still, we'll pick up a few btls. of FR white and maybe a semi-cult Zin, and just not look at the price. I'd love to find Tamura's.

        Thanks for the report and do agree that Debbie M would be well treated as a single at AW's Chef's Counter. Sorry that the PR wasn't what it should be.

        Some years back, we were doing a late lunch at Indigo, Chinatown, and were in for a surprise. Most of the manhole covers in Downtown Honolulu were blown into the sky and most streets were closed. Well, we called from the cab, and arrived about 2:00PM. We settled in with a bottle of Meursault and expected to be told that only a limited menu would be available - not so. The server encouraged us to do the full lunch. During the afternoon, most of the serving staff were being fed, but at no time were we ignored. There was always a staff member nearby, should we need anything. Everything came to the table top-notch, as usual. When we left, we had a reception-line of all of the servers, thanking us for braving the exploding sewers and dining with them.

        I do know that AW's staff reads this board, so I do not think your comment will go un-noticed. A diner should be embraced, no matter the time. It is amazing how much goodwill can be lost, just because of the position of the hands of the clock.

        Thanks for the report, as always,
        Hunt

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt
          Debbie M Feb 13, 2007 06:10 PM

          I've been to AW Chef's Counter several times (luckily, should be able to hit it twice this year!), and love it.

          1. re: Bill Hunt
            c
            cloudy03 Mar 28, 2007 08:01 PM

            Tamura's address: 1216 10th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

            Also for the wine fans, it's worth finding Fujioka's Wine & Spirts (only about 3 miles from Tamura's). There's a wine bar next door owned by the same owner named Formaggio that's worth going to just for the cheese plates. Yum.
            2919 Kapiolani Blvd
            Honolulu, Hawaii 96826

            1. re: cloudy03
              KaimukiMan Jun 6, 2007 02:28 PM

              Tamura's is at the corner of 10th and Waialae. Fujiokas is in lower portion (back) of Market City shopping center (glorified strip mall) at the intersection of S. King and Kapiolani. Can get to it a little easier from the Kaimuki Ave entrance, right across from Kaimuki High School.

            2. re: Bill Hunt
              h
              HIeats Sep 4, 2007 04:08 AM

              There are so many wine stores here. My faves are The Wine Stop (1809 S. King St., 946-3707) and R. Field, a gourmet shop inside Foodland on Beretania St. (1460 S. Beretania, 946-4654).
              In the past six months a slew of new restaurants have opened:
              Chef Jon Matsubara's Stage (he's an alum of Alan Wong's, Tabla and Bouley)
              Elua, a joint venture by chefs Philippe Padovani and Donato Loperfido
              Epic, Chinatown's first upscale restaurant
              Downtown@HiSAM, a new cafe by the guys behind Town (Ed Kenney and David Caldiero) in the Hawaii State Art Museum...serving delectables such as duck confit sandwich and lamb lasagna. A real winner.
              Nobu opened in the Waikiki Park Hotel, across the street from Halekulani
              Chef Keith Endo moved over from the closed Vino on Maui to head the kitchen at Vino Honolulu, and he's making a bunch of specials every night worth trying, and having master sommelier Chuck Furuya pair wines for you.
              Hiroshi Fukui is having fun with his sous vide machine at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas...and I'm enjoying the fruits of his fun. Try baby abalone from the Big Island with two kinds of seaweed and housemade tsukemono. So ono.

            3. manomin Feb 12, 2007 06:11 PM

              I've not been to Indigo for quite some time, I am having lunch there this week and
              will report back. It's Roy's "flagship" for dinner Saturday and I am quite anxious.
              It takes a lot to get me out of the house and over to the other side!

              2 Replies
              1. re: manomin
                Bill Hunt Feb 13, 2007 06:58 AM

                Please give us an update on both. We have missed Indigo on the last two trips, because of time constraints, and with all of the positives that I see re: Hawai`i Kai Roy's, it's about time that I gave them another try.

                My biggest problem is that there are just too many great restaurants in the Honolulu Area, and we love to spend some time on other sides and on other islands. I feel like my next trip should be about 60 days in duration, though I do not think I could afford all new clothes to accommodate my added girth!

                Don't forget the updates, please.

                Mahalo,
                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  alex8alot Feb 13, 2007 09:10 AM

                  men can wear muumuus, can't they? ;)

              2. russkar Feb 13, 2007 08:12 AM

                We had the Prixe Fixe (29-) at Pineapple Room TWICE last week and it was great!
                Caesar Salad w/Kahlua Pork, Monchong(deep water sea bass) covered in Miso Thai Sauce (killer), amazing Lilikoi Cheesecake. Langenstein Kona Coffee(press). Did a complete Repeat three days later. Good Service. (15- corkage)

                1. e
                  elinw Jun 5, 2007 09:14 PM

                  Town is worth another look. It is one of my favorite restaurants here -- has an organic/local ethos, a creative and changing menu, and a lot of charm. And excellent duck.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: elinw
                    h
                    HIeats Sep 4, 2007 04:10 AM

                    I agree! The duck in its jus reduction and farro salad dotted with fenlel and carrots...I could eat it every night.

                    1. re: HIeats
                      c
                      csauce Apr 12, 2008 01:56 PM

                      We have a 3 hour layover in Honolulu on our way to the big island. Are there any places to eat near the airport that are worth checking out and easily in/out quickly?

                      1. re: csauce
                        KaimukiMan Apr 12, 2008 06:59 PM

                        All 3 of these are within a few blocks of the airport. You could walk it, but a cab might be a better choice.

                        Mitch's sushi bar has been getting some good comments, it is within a few blocks of the airpport, open from 11:30am-7:30pm 524 Ohohia St.

                        Byron's Drive-In is one of the oldest "plate lunch" style eateries in Honolulu. If you are into "da kine grindz", you might enjoy it. At the intersection of Koapaka and Paiea St. Open 24/7

                        Big Kahuna has moved even close to the airport. It is at 550 Paiea St. Great pizza, and their BBQ Beef and Kalua Pork sandwiches are fantastic. Get an order of the Garlic Cheese Balls (donut hole size bread, baked fresh covered in melted cheese and garlic...ohh so good. Open for lunch and dinner.

                  2. Bill Hunt Apr 12, 2008 07:46 PM

                    Torta,

                    Thanks, as always, for the reviews. Glad that you got to do 3660 on the Rise. We usually find a way to fit it in, about every other, or three, trips. We have never been dissapointed. I do agree about their wine list. It is not all that deep, but they understand wine with their food. The BA by the glass is a great touch. That was my biggest complaint with the Canoe House (Big Island), in that they expected me to buy a full bottle of Sauternes at US$1600 for one glass with my foie gras - no other wines offered. Same for two (2) glasses of Port for my wife, and me, after the meal. Full bottle at US$900 - $1800, and I had better houses and vintages represented in my own cellar!

                    When we did Pineapple Room (not for an AW event), we also dined late lunch/very early dinner, and the service was good, though not great. About the same as your experience.

                    As an aside, on that same trip, we had lunch reservations at Indigo, on the day that the sewers exploded. We were almost 2 hours late for our time, but kept them informed via cell phone. We finally got there about 2:00PM, and were the only diners, except for a few "3-Martini" lunch folk. We had full service, even though the servers were finally getting to eat. They did not miss a beat, and even made sure that all of the "specials" were available to us, even with the late seating. Great service, and food. I will always think fondly of them for that. They did not miss a beat.

                    Have not done "Town," and also spend far more time in other CA cities, so W. Hollywood would not register with me. I've heard good things about Town, and hope to try it soon.

                    Keep the reviews coming, as I always learn a few new spots from your posts.

                    Mahalo and aloha,
                    Hunt

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                      t
                      torta basilica Apr 14, 2008 10:24 PM

                      Aloha Hunt!

                      Can't believe I did that review just over a year ago... seems like ages more. I've had lunch at Indigo too, but that really has been years - loved the service & remember liking the food. Have no idea when I'll be back on Oahu, but hopefully, soon. Husband gets there every month or more, but with building a house, a 17 year old & a beagle at home... I am dying to try Hank's, though - esp. the lobster dog!!!

                    2. p
                      pjhlee Sep 5, 2008 11:26 AM

                      Hi, your experience was exactly like mine at Pineapple room 1.5 years later, but maybe declining? Lots of little things not executed well, and service atypically rude for Hawaii. I grew up in Hawaii, moved to SF, and have loved taking my mom and guests to the Pineapple Room for the past many years since it replaced my beloved Garden Court at Libert House. My favorite dishes in the past were the kalua pork benedict, kal bi, and reuben with kimchee. This time (2 pm, Sep 4, 2008) here are the nitpicky things that left me not wanting to return:
                      * Initial phone guy who picked up the phone was very tired sounding and pert when we called about reservations. Follow up lady was more typically nice.
                      *Watermelon soda was delicious, but with chunks of watermelon too big to actually pass through a straw. Needed finer chunks or boba straw. My Plantation Iced Tea was warm. When I mentioned that to the waiter, he didn't say anything--that was the theme--people didn't seem to care or feel empowered to act. When we asked for water, they only brought one glass.
                      *Bread with aioli--still the same--great.
                      *Mahi mahi in soy broth and vegetables--fish was good, but broth way too salty.
                      *Reuben with kimchee--almost as good as I remembered it--I used to think it was really clever, but somehow it was off balance? Too much cheese?

                      It used to be that the Pineapple Room was impeccable, and beyond expectations. The perfect place to take your mom or iced tea sort of group to lunch--specifically because of the wonderful service. I'd say it has slid in the last two years, particularly in service, and slightly in the small food touches that used to make it great. I do hope Alan Wong's staff reads this and talks with the surly staff.

                      1. KaimukiMan Sep 7, 2008 01:09 PM

                        Torta,

                        Have some friends visiting from LA, after reading your post decided to take them to 3660, thanks a great recommendation. There were 5 of us and we started with two of the appetizer sampler platter, all of it very good. Then while we waited for our main course (we didn't decide what to order till half way through the appetizers) we snuck in an order of the ahi katsu, again excellent - the LA guys were using the taro rolls to get all the wonderful sauce. For main courses I had a really wonderful grass fed new york steak cooked just past rare. The other orders were the steamed snapper, the seafood linguine, and a 3660 medly (not the tasting menu). One of the guys had eaten a very late lunch, he was happy with a few of the appetizers and a taste here and there of pretty much everything else. The server was great about that, and brought him a small plate to make his sampling easier. For dessert we all shared one of the "symphony of desserts", an order of creme brulee, and the tropical ananas. After about an hour and a half we all waddled happily out. The total bill including tip came to just over $300, had the 5th person ordered an entree would have been closer to $325. We only had one bottle of wine with the appetizers, I had a glass of excellent cabernet with my steak, and there was a glass of pino gris with the seafood linguini.

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