Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > U.S. Elsewhere Archive >
Mar 26, 2007 02:09 AM

Semi-dressy on Oahu

I asked this same question on the board last year about LA and got some excellent advice. We ended up at Spago and I had some great food while my 15 YO daughter got to style in "The Dress"...

Be on Oahu this June and now there is another "The Dress" she will want to wear to dinner. Having lived in HI I know the dress code fairly well, but I'm more of a t-shirt and sandals guy. So, where on Oahu would be a good place for me to get some good food while she poses? From what I've seen on the board, maybe 3660?

Please don't tell me she's spoiled, 'cause you'll be preaching to the choir... :)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lucky for you, one of our local papers did an article about this exact topic. The writer is the fashion editor and restaurant critc, and while I don't always agree with her opinions food wise, this list is pretty good. From the list I would personally recommend Shokudo (very stylish particularly at dinner), Indigo and town as all having better than average food and a stylish clientle. Avoid La Mer and P.F. Chang's. Here is the article:

    6 Replies
    1. re: Yoshio

      Interesting list. I do not know Shokudo, so I cannot comment on it, but have made a note. I still need to do Mariposa - maybe this Fall.

      For a dress-up location, I would add the Sunday Brunch at the Halekalani (home of La Mer). It is an "Easter Parade," and also a good, albeit overwhelming brunch.

      Though I had a less than stellar experience at La Mer, on the last visit, I would respectfully disagree. I think that I hit them on a really bad night. I have had, otherwise, nothing but wonderful meals, service and experiences there over the last few decades. For a dress-up, La Mer would be near the top of my list, unless they drop the ball again.

      Now, you also have to understand that we travel with "dining clothes," even to Hawai`i, and always "dress for dinner," or brunch, or whatever.

      While I can offer many fine-dining destinations, if one wishes to "pose," there are but a few locations that offer that opportunity. I'll stick to the two spots at the Halekalani, for now. Most of the others, AW's, Chef Mavro's, Aaron's, etc. do not offer the OP's daughter the opportunity to make an "entrance," and most, while offering great food, are a bit dark to show off her "style."

      Yoshio, I hope that I do not have to eat my recs. for La Mer, but will be posting another review before the end of the year - hoping that it is another good one!

      Thanks for the article,

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        I must respectfully disagree on La Mer if only because the crowd that OP's daughter would be looking to impress don't go to a fuddy-duddy French spot that costs a fortune. The other reason is that the food is simply awful - this comes from me, three chef friends and spouses and a food editor who refuses to lower the La Mer rating despite terrible meals there for three years running - I can't even begin to explain why that is! Brunch at Orchids (the Halekulani spot you are thinking of) is an excellent idea.

        1. re: Yoshio

          Gee, Yoshio, don't sugar coat it. Tell me what you really think about La Mer. :)

          1. re: Yoshio

            Out of curiosity, when was the last time that you dined at La Mer? In the last five years, we’ve been there six times, and about seven visits prior, spread out over the decades. All of the meals that I have had, have been very good, to excellent. My recent poor experience was more related to the wine service, than to the food. For me, fine-dining is rather like a symphony. The exec. chef is the composer, the maître-d’hôtel the conductor, the sous-chef the first violin, the sommelier the second violin, and the rest of the staff are the full orchestra. On our last trip, the second violin was totally pre-occupied, and this put the entire evening off. Considering my past experiences at La Mer, I do not expect this sort of thing to happen. I gladly pay the price for the full evening, with all that it should offer. When something is amiss, I call it.

            As for the food, it was excellent. There had been some poor reviews on the Foie Gras, just before we left, but I could not fault anything about it. Maybe I just appreciate French cuisine. I really enjoy a local chef’s take on his native French with strong Southwest influences. I also grew up with French influenced Creole/New Orleans cuisine, so it might well be just a matter of palate.

            I cannot believe that, with 13 dinners there, that I have missed all the bad food. If so, I need to buy a Lottery ticket.

            Yes, it’s expensive, but not even close to the most expensive meals that I’ve had. Yes, they are not perfect, as a sommelier should always find a way to make sure that his/her guests are accommodated, especially those who place wine near the top of their fine-dining list. That’s another matter, and while it detracted from the total experience, and was reflected in my review, did not influence my appreciation of the food, albeit sometimes without wine, or a proper wine.

            What do you, and your acquaintances not like about the food?


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I fear we are veering a bit off topic here, but I will briefly expand on my earlier comments and provide a link a bit later.

              I do not doubt that you have spent more money on meals than you have a La Mer. However, here in Honolulu it is without doubt the most expensive restaurant in town. Create a basic three-course or five-course menu with appropriate wines at any of the fine-dining spots in Honolulu, and La Mer will be the most costly.

              It is also entirely possible that I don't appreciate French cuisine to the same degree that you do. That is why I sought input from not one, not two, but three of the best chef de cuisines cooking in Honolulu and inquired about their dining experiences at La Mer. Their experiences were the same as mine, and these are people who have serious culinary credentials who do know French haute cuisine. When I told the editor that the meal was seriously inferior and I couldn't possibly write anything positive, he/she responded thusly, "I had the first good meal I've had there in X number of years recently, so I'll write something."

              Briefly referring back to my notes from the nine-course tasting menu, I jotted the words "tired" and "uninspired" next to a number of dishes. A few specifics: duo of fresh and smoked salmon - fish was not fresh and accompanying greens limp (not wilted). Wine pairing with the pork dish created the effect of drinking a "salt bomb". Pastry wrapper on savory appetizer was rubbery and grease-laden. Etc., etc.

              Here is the link I promised:

              1. re: Yoshio

                Appreciate the link. Other than La Mer, and a bit on AW's, I agree with the writer. Oh well, guess that I should go get that Lottery ticket! Glad that I was not there that night, or on the nights that some other reviewers on this, and a few other boards, dined. That said, I might well join your ranks, after my next meal there in October - though I certainly hope not.


      2. Thanks to you both. I and the Princess of All Things appreciate your help!

        1. I didn't see anyone mention Hoku's (at the Kahala) which we really enjoyed and found dressier than most places in HI. We sat at a table next to Chris Cornell and his wife (I assume) the last time we were there. Apparently, he & his then band, Audioslave, were staying there - we saw them at the pool that afternoon as well. Maybe I'm showing my age & a 15 y.o. wouldn't care about this.... but I figured I'd throw it out there!

          2 Replies
          1. re: food_for_thought

            Unfortunately, I have not been. It was great, when it was the Maile Room, years ago, seemed to be more casual w/ mediocre food, as Cabanas, and now, I hear it has gotten back on track.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              We've eaten there numerous times, but while it was still the Kahala Mandarin Oriental. I have heard that the hotel, now that it's just the Kahala, isn't quite as good, but that Hoku's is unchanged. We really love it. Eat there every time we're in Oahu.

          2. There are several places that you can go for that semi-dressy atmosphere...

            Mariposa (If you time it right and get good seats), you can get a great view of the sunset and then if you stay long enough you get the fireworks from Hilton Hawaiian Village
            Pineapple Room
            12th Ave grill, it does get a little load in there though
            Orchids, also a great sunset place

            1 Reply
            1. re: da_seuss

              Fireworks are only on Friday to help your planning!

            2. what about hy's steakhouse?