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Sunday Dinner in Waikiki

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Hi All,

I'll be in Honolulu for less then 24-hours next Sunday (Sept. 30th) and am looking for a wonderful dining experience with my boyfriend.

We are going to be staying at the Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki located at 175 Paoakalani Ave.

After doing a little research I've come across a few restaurants. In particular I'm interested in your opinions of Sansei Seafood and Sushi Restaurant. It's walking distance to our hotel and the sushi/seafood sounds wonderful.

We are interested in being on the beach or something with a beautiful view. We will have been traveling since 6am from the East Coast so something relaxing and casual would be great.

Other places I have some across are Banyan Veranda, Hula Grill, Ocean House Restaurant, and Prince Court. Any opinions?

We don't want to blow the bank or have to get dressed up either but $30-40/person is ok.

Thanks!!!

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  1. The Shogun Buffet is nice in Waikiki.

    http://travel.yahoo.com/p-reviews-282...

    1. It's been years (many) since I was there, but the Ha'u Tree Lanai at the (then Kama'aina, now New Otani) always had a great view, especially around sunset.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MobyRichard

        While I have missed it on the last three trips, but it was always very good, and beach-side table on San Souci Beach is wonderful. It has gotten mixed reviews, as of late, but we always had wonderful food and service. It is not really within walking distance of Waikiki (though we've done it a few times), but is very close.

        Sansei has gotten some good reviews here. Might want to search this board for "sushi," as a thread about 6 mo. ago mentioned them.

        For more up-scale dining, with an Ocean/sunset view, I really like Bali by the Sea, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Many decades ago, I had my problems with them, but much has changed, and they are about #3 on my Honolulu list. It's not inexpensive, but is worth the $. Great chef, servers and sommelier. Do not be put off, that it is within the HHV Resort. It is worth it, and an ocean-side table is as romantic, as it gets.

        The only two shops that rate above it are AW's on King St., and Chef Mavro's, also on King St - however, no view at either. La Mer usually edges out Bali, but after the last trip, they fall below it, and are $$$$$, so it will be out of the question, unless you take out a second mortgage.

        Enjoy,
        Hunt

      2. The buffet at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel should cover all your needs-very good selection and u sit under canopied restaurant-call ahead to make reservation so at least u have something secured but usually will have room if u dont have reservation.Its right on the beach where u can watch the sunset as well.

        6 Replies
        1. re: UES Mayor

          I'm actually trying to avoid a buffet. Not a huge fan of them and after a looooooong day of traveling I think it would be nice to sit down and just have a waiter bring us the food (I hope that doesn't sound snobby in any way because I certainly don't mean it that way). But thanks for the suggestion.

          So no one has an opinion on Sansei?

          1. re: Elyssa

            I love to eat there, everything I've ever had was really good. They always have a featured item and a special drink which are great values. More often than not you will be greeted and or seated by the nicest lady in Hawaii, "Mom" Kodama, the owner's mother she's the best!

            1. re: manomin

              While we didn't end up at Sansai (although I wish they were open for lunch because their menu looked excellent) we did stop by and look at their menu.

              They have a listing for a $500 Spam dish. Does anyone have a clue what this is and why it costs so much? I actually believe it was written as "spam" so perhaps its not actually spam from a can but something else. But still...$500!!!???

              1. re: Elyssa

                Whoa, I've done Ch. Latour dinners in that price range, but there was no Spam, or spam, on the menu. I'm interested to find out exactly what this one is about, as I cannot fathom US$500 for dinner, without world-class wines and Guy Savoy at the stove, but am willing to learn. Even with excellent wines, our tab at Chef Mavro's and La Mer barely reach that high for two.

                Hunt, curiously waiting for more info

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Well I certainly can imagine $500 for dinner in the US. My parents recently spend about $100-$200 over that at a dinner at Alinea in Chicago, but their meal didn't come anywhere close to containing Spam or even a take on Spam.

                  Anyone in Waikiki know what the deal is with this dish?

                2. re: Elyssa

                  I'm pretty sure the $500 Spam dish on Sansei's menu is a joke. At least that was my interpretation when I saw it on the menu. It's local humor. It's hard to grow up in Hawaii without eating Spam...at least in my experience.

          2. Since you're going to be in Hawaii I would recommend eating at one of the local restaurants to get a sense of the combination of flavors and cultures in the islands. You will have a hard time finding truly 'local kine food' anywhere else. For finer dining restaurants, look to Sam Choy or Alan Wong. Look at HawaiiRestaurants.com for some good recommendations!

            7 Replies
            1. re: Hanads

              I will gladly second that rec. I happen to be a big fan of AW's, and less so, Sam Choy's, but that is just the differences in my tastes vs. those of many others. I need to try SC's again, as it has been quite some time.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I echo AW over SC... disappointed too many times at SC. It's an awful lot of money to spend on a disappointing meal. Mavro should also be considered - but not his new place downtown. The new Roy's in Waikiki is getting mostly good reviews as well, but you can do Roy's on the mainland. Chai's is also a good choice, but not as upscale as AW, SC or Mavro.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Yes, I've seen some pretty critical reviews for Chef Mavro's new spot. I still find it difficult to believe, but the reviews came for respected folk. It's just that his eponymous spot is SO-O good. I plan on trying the new spot (just cannot recall the name at this moment), to see for myself - lunch probably, provided that they are open.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    the place is called Cassis. We ate there in June. Definately not for local foods or tastes. We are from LA and try all the hot places after they cool down. Cassis would be great in LA and a little much for casual hawaain dining.

                    1. re: spang

                      you are the first person who said they had a good experience - glad that someone did, but several people I know who won't be going back have plenty of experience dining outside of Hawaii. Hope to hear more good things, but not holding my breath.

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  We wish we could have gone to Alan Wong's but it was pretty far from our hotel and we were already sticker shocked by the $40 cab ride from the airport. Maybe next time because I hear its great!

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Wow, we've done AW's via cab (when we're likely to do too much wine) and the fare to/from Hilton Hawaiian Village was only about US$12, each direction with tip.

                    Do consider AW's for next trip, and if you are "into food," the Chef's Counter is worth the effort. Space is slightly cramped, and you will be tempted by everything that crosses in front of you, it's unbelievablely good. I'd go with the "sommelier's pairing," as the courses keep coming and it's impossible to pick a "quintessential wine," or two, or three, to match with them. The normal b-t-g selections are a bit short, so I always rely on the sommelier to do the real work for this. I cannot recommend AW's (King St.) too highly. You MUST do it!

                    Hunt

              2. I live in Hawaii...Sansei is a good choice. Alan Wongs is rated best restaurant every year, but is pricey (entrees are 35$).Skip Sam Choys. Prince Court has an excellent dinner and luncheon buffet (lunch is abour 25 and dinner is 40). Prince is one of my favorites. Hau Tree Lanai is hotel food, but the outdoor seating is nice. Halekulani Hotel, Orchids is a great place. For casual medium price place, I recommend is Duke's Waikiki Restaurant in Outrigger Hotel..they dont take reservations, and busy every night. All the restaurants at Aloha Tower are bad, except for Chais Island Bistro. The best kept secret and one of the best restaurants is on the other side of the island, at the Ihilani Hotel ...Azul's. Enjoy!

                4 Replies
                1. re: hawaiisrfn

                  Did Scott's at the Aloha Tower close? It was at the end, Diamondhead side. We had two lunches there, some years back, and I was surprised at how good it was for that sort of location.

                  Thanks for the rec. on Azul's. We were thinking of trying for a few rounds of golf at Ko Olina, and the last time we were out there, nothing seemed that good. As we were not staying, and only doing a day trip, it is not fair for me make comments, even if they are 3 years old. Nothing had that interesting a menu, back then. We'll give it a try, if our plans fall into place.

                  Mahalo,
                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    The restaurant in the clubhouse that used to be Niblick is now a Roy's. I've had some good lunches and dinners there. I also liked the Japanese restaurant in the hotel. If you ever stay there avoid the rooms over the pool, they are loud and noisy from all the yelling and screaming in the pool and at night from all the rowdy drinkers in the bar overlooking the pool. We couldn't deal with the noise and got upgraded to the suite next to the Presidential suite which was an awesome room with fabulous views.

                    1. re: manomin

                      Just so I'm sure that I'm following the thread, Niblick's was at the clubhouse at Ko Olina, right? And it's now a Roy's? Actually, the best Roy's in some years has been the one at the Inn on Spanish Bay, CA, at Pebble Beach. We were impressed by it, but then it's often in the exec. chef at each Roy's location.

                      Thanks,
                      Hunt

                  2. re: hawaiisrfn

                    I'm driving over to spend a few days at Ihilani this month and have never eaten at Azul - a couple of the times we've stayed there they were closed. I want to try the brunch have you been to that?

                  3. you have come and gone but next time try Le Mer at the Halekulani(or anyone of the restaurants there)

                    1. If you've never been in Hawaii very often, a wonderful place is the House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel. It's outside, casual patio atmosphere, and there is a trio with hula dancing right in front of you as you face towards the oceand and area to dance in between. Get there about a half hour before sunset---5:30-6:00 this time of year. I'm not sure whether they take reservations for the outside area---there is a covered, more restaurant area but it's further away from the entertainment/dancing area. Dress is casual---shorts on up. I usually go for the pu-pus---they're a bit pricier than they used to be but you can easily make a meal out of 3-4 orders for 2 people, and they're good; you can order more dinner-like food if you wish. Altogether, an outstanding experience---we always try to take newcomers there on their first visit.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Big1daddy

                        Recent thread on HWAK: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/444803 with pictures of the seating areas, plus a few menu comments. For me, the music is the real draw, but then we usually do upstairs at La Mer, and have never done one of the "other" venues at HWAK. Still do not know how the menu might differ from the slightly more formal dining area v the pupus around the pool. Big1daddy is correct, that the less formal seating is closer to the stage - and the music is always great!

                        Hunt

                      2. My favorite Waikiki restaurant is Hula Grill. It's above Duke's so it has the same stunning views, but it's not a party atmosphere. You can't go wrong with the mahi and their desserts are always good.

                        I also really like Nobu in the Waikiki Parc hotel, but it's pretty expensive (about $100/person for dinner and drinks).

                        1. Niblick's is gone, it is now a Roy's but a more casual menu than the other Roy's restaurant. Caters to the golfers. I would skip the Roy's in Ko Olina. And by the way, did I say that Azul's at Ihilani has an awesome Sunday Brunch? Love it. While staying at the Ihilani, check out their spa...was once featured on the show Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous. I actually prefer staying away from Waikiki, too touristy. But if you do Waikiki, Nobu's is at the old Parc Hotel...but be prepared to pay alot for little portions..but the food is excellent.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hawaiisrfn

                            Glad you could echo my post of 10/2 regarding Niblick no longer being there.

                          2. Hi folks! So I'm back from my wonderful week in Hawaii.

                            For Sunday night dinner we originally had a reservation for Sansei but my boyfriend decided he wanted to take me to Roy's. I was a little hesitant at first since I knew it was a chain and also available on the main land (although from what I hear it is much, much better in HI) but we went to the one in Waikiki anyway.

                            The food was INCREDIBLE!!! Some of the best we had the entire time in Hawaii. The 2 of us were starving after a long day of traveling so we jumped right in with the raw ahi appetizer with cajun spices served with a spicy mustard sauce and beurre blanc dipping sauce. This appetizer was delicious---very, very spicy though.

                            Oh also they start you off with edamame (a personal favorite) instead of bread which I thought was a great touch.

                            For a main course I ordered the delicious opa but the real winner of the night was my boyfriend butterfish. I grew up outside of Boston in a fishing community and I've rarely tasted fish this delicious. It literally felt like silk on your tongue and the buerre blanc sauce was not too heavy or overpowering...it was perfect. A really beautiful dish which I could have eaten for dinner the next 8 nights I was there. :)

                            To finish off the meal we had the wonderful pineapple upside down cake. Overall the meal was fantastic, our server was excellent as well. My only complaint was that the food seemed to come out at a rapid speed. We were looking forward to dining and taking a little time to enjoy the atmosphere but about 3-5 minutes after we finished our appetizer, out came out entree. It just seemed oddly timed but still, the taste of the food was what stood out.

                            The next day we wanted to have a relaxing lunch and some drinks so we chose to hang out at the wonderful patio/bar area at the Westin Hotel. Man do I wish we could have stayed there. We had a great day just lounging near the beach, enjoying fruity drinks and their mahi mahi wrap wasn't half bad. Our server was a sweetie as well. It was a good call to hang out there and enjoy the view for a few hours before having to catch a flight to Kauai.

                            Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I hope to return in the future to try some of your other wonderful restaurants!!! Mahalo

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: Elyssa

                              Excellent report! I am very glad you had such a wonderful time. We've been to Roy's many times since their mock dinner last April and like to go for lunch. One of my; favorites is indeed the butterfish with said sauce. The Westin is a great hotel with lots of history and a fabulous place just to kick back. Thanks for the reports and let us know how you liked Kauai!

                              1. re: manomin

                                Loved, loved, loved Kauai!

                                I'm going to have to go back and look at my notes to make sure I got all the restaurants down. In all honesty the food wasn't spectacular but pretty good.

                                A lot of my meals were at the Marriott resort in Lihue since that's where my brother's wedding was and where we were staying. Not bad at all for resort food. (Except JJ's near the hotel where we had lunch...it was awful).

                                We went to Duke's for the girl's night out party and I thought the food was good. My Mom said lunch there was not good at all but they have fresh fish nightly prepared a number of ways and I got the opa "Duke's Style" it was great.

                                For lunch I ate a lot at the pool. If you stay there don't order from the wandering waitresses but go to the sit down restaurant Kukuis and order from the bar. The crab melt sandwich and the chicken sandwich (can't remember the name) are the best. And they have awsome fries!!!

                                Our last night there my boyfriend and I enjoyed a romantic dinner at Cafe Portofino's. The food was actually quite good Italian and the view out on the porch area is beautiful and very romantic. The service was a little slow and spotty but I really enjoyed my chicken marsala.

                                My favorite meal was actually from a place where we got catered for our Friday Night Luau. It's called Mark's and the food was out of this world. They cater but apparently it is also a nearby hole in the wall place where you can get take out. The food was the most authentic Hawaiian food I had all week (not Pan-Asian or Pacific Rim but clearly island food) and full of flavor. I think I had about 3 servings of the various courses...my boyfriend had somewhere around 4 or 5 heaping plates full!

                                We also really enjoyed the vegan cafe, Lotus Root Juice Bar, in Kap'a. We originally drove out there because my bf read about the Blossoming Lotus (the cafe's sister restaurant) in our guide book. Unfortunatly our guide book was a little outdated and The Blossoming Lotus is no longer open for lunch. But the Juice Bar was great. I'm not usually into vegan food but their cornbread was out of this world.

                                We also ate at Bubba (the same day as the vegan restaurant...it was the deal I made with my bf. I'll try his vegan place if I can get a burger) Awesome burger! Great taste and not too huge so it's a nice snack. Kap'a in general is very charming and I wish we could have stayed longer. I hear there is a great sushi restaurant there.

                                I know we also had my birthday dinner at The Beach House (or Beach Front?). Beautiful restaurant. You will want to make your reservation early so you are there at sunset. The service was great and the food was pretty good. (I think it was around this time I was begining to get mahi-mahied out...but still tasty). The best was the raw ahi appetizer sampler and my Mother got the wasabi crusted ahi tuna which was great...not as spicey as it sounds. The place is romantic and charming. The food isn't out of this world but certainly worth it for the view. The best pictures we took the whole trip was at sunset at this restaurant outside (everyone rushes outside...quite funny).

                                There was one more restaurant near Lihue that I really loved...can't remember the name. I'll check my guide book and get back to you on that one.

                                1. re: Elyssa

                                  once you get that, you may want to post the entire thing under a new heading. chances of finding this treasure trove of info about Kauai is slim for someone seeing the heading about dinner in waikiki (although that was how it all started)

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    I agree completely, as so many folk limit their searches a bit, and to find great recs. for Kaua`i is a real plus.

                                    We all need to think about the folk, who might be interested in cuisine on other islands a year from now.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      I already cut and pasted my Kauai report on another thread.

                              2. re: Elyssa

                                Thanks for the report. Was this the Roy's at Ko Olina, or the Hawai i Kai location (original, or at least the oldest in the network)? As I understand from Chef Yamaguchi, his restaurants in Hawai`i & Japan are his, while the mainland restaurants are part of a co-op with Outback Steakhouses. He has "consulting chef" responsibilites, but things ARE different.

                                I'm curious, as we might be in Ko Olina for a few days of golf and I'd like to know the options out there.

                                Thanks,
                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I'm staying out at Ihilani Fri-Mon this weekend, I'll let you know, we've enjoyed the Roy's there in the past, their chef Mike Leslie is very good. I'm also hoping to go to Azul for brunch.

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    The Roy's I went to was on Waikiki Beach. It wasn't the original. We were going to go to that one but didn't want to travel that far when we were only a few blocks from the Waikiki Beach one. It was delicious though.

                                    My Mom and her relatives went to the one in Kauai though and really enjoyed and she went again with my Dad on the Big Island and enjoyed it again.

                                    From what I hear the Roy's (various locations) in Hawaii are quite good while the ones on the main land fail in comparison. My bf went to the one in Boca Raton a few times before it closed and said it never even came close to what we ate in Waikiki.

                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                      So far, I have not been to the Waikiki, the Ko Olina or the Kaua`i locations, but thought that the Hawai`i Kai restaurant was a weak sister to other Hawai`i locations. We've got two in the Phoenix Metro Area (one moved from PHX to N. Scottsdale basically), which have been quite good. The Mainland location at Pebble Beach was a very nice surprise, as it reminded me more of the old Waikoloa location, which I used to rate as #1. At one time, the exec. chef for each restaurant had quite a bit of latitude in the implementation of Roy Yamaguchi's menus. I do not know if that is still part of the policy. I rather like that, as I appreciate his work, but like the different "takes" on it. Otherwise, one might as well dine at a McDonalds, if they want an extreme case of sameness. That is why I am not a fan of the Ruth's Chris Steakhouses and the Mortons. I liken these to "adult McDonald's happy meals."

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Hmmmmmm, "might as well dine at McDonald's" well if that's the case
                                        it would be a lot cheaper, that you can mention that with Roy's in the same line is really quite amusing probably not the right word as I'm kind of taken aback by this post!

                                        1. re: manomin

                                          I'm not sure what part of my post is offensive. If you would be kind enough to articulate exactly where I went wrong, I'll be glad to try and clarify my comments. Maybe I forgot some punctuation, or just hit the wrong keys.

                                          Sorry for the problem in my communication,
                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            Life's too short to ponder it, if you feel that dining at Roy's is like a McDonald's then that is fine. I really like the restaurants on Oahu and even in Chicago so everyone is entitled to their opinion. I always think you have good posts so let's just not grind the point. I will always remain true in my opinion that the "flagship" is completely fabulous and offers the flavor of the presiding executive chef and Roy's flavors as well and are not to be missed.

                                            1. re: manomin

                                              I hate to interrupt, but i think Hunt said that Ruth Chris' or Morton's is like eating at McDonalds (ie, you know exactly what to expect no matter where in the world it is). He liked Roy's because the head chef at each branch had some leeway, so it was not McDonald's like.

                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                Thanks, as that is exactly the point that I was attempting to make, but I must not have communicated it well. IMO, Roy's is excellent food. I find that his restaurants have become a bit more noisy and crowded (maybe a testiment to his popularity), as of late. With some latitude to the exec. chef's interpretation of Roy Yamaguchi's menus, I find much more interest - otherwise, they would be exactly the same everywhere [the point that I seem to have failed on earlier].

                                                There are several new locations (two on O`ahu, for instance), that we have not tried, and I've always missed the one in Poipu (either because of Iniki, or too full a dining schedule), so I cannot comment on any of those. Otherwise, we've dined at about all the spots in Hawai`i, and many on the Mainland, from AZ to CA. We've only been disappointed at the Hawai`i Kai location, but maybe hit them on a bad night.

                                                No, I really enjoy the cuisine, and appreciate the differences between each restaurant, though the menus look rather the same. Also, last year Roy Yamaguchi donated all of the food for one of our big charity events from his N. Scottsdale location - a great big MAHALO for that support.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Hawaii Kai is the first one I was at, and have been there more. Perhaps I am not as discerning as you, but I always enjoyed it there - although it has to be the nosiest restaurant I have ever been in. I still remember the first time I went, had the lamb... with the most amazing sauce... I'll have to assume you hit it on an off night.

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    In our case, we had dined at several on the Mainland, and had just spent a week on the Big Island @ Waikoloa. Roy had a young female chef there, with a strong background in Southwest cooking. She was from NM, IIRC, and the SW influence came thru, though in a subtle way. We dined there three times (1 lunch & 2 dinners) and loved it. Flew to O`ahu and did AW's, Sam Choy's (Kapahulu), La Mer and Bali, before going to Hawai`i Kai. Nothing seemed to be clicking with anything, especially after Waikoloa. Maybe it was not a fair test, but after Big Island, we had to try it. Do not recall much noise that time, however next time back in Waikoloa, the lady-chef was gone, the food was less inspired and the noise level had gone up by 25db. We did two meals and both were OK, but we could not carry on a conversation at a 2-top! The crowds were overflowing and the wait, even with a reservation was ~ 1 hr. Not worth the effort. That trip we did both of the two (then) Mau`i locations and food was OK, but noise and crowds marred the meal.

                                                    In AZ, the old Phoenix location was perfect, but it moved to N. Scottsdale. The other Scottsdale location is also very loud, but that's Scottsdale. People are more concerned with being "seen and heard," than with dining. Maybe that is why we loved the Pebble Beach location so much - really good food, and everyone was intent on a nice dining experience. There were no drunks. There were no "look at me!" diners, just ladies and gentlemen enjoying Roy Yamaguchi's menus. It wasn't quite "club" quiet, but nearly so and this was both lunch and dinner.

                                                    I love his food and appreciate the tweaks that each chef can bring to it, but dislike heavy crowds and loud people. I'd guess that this is much more a sign of the times, than an indictment on Roy's restaurants. AW's King St., is not a quiet venue, but the diners seem to be able to have fun and enjoy great food, without shouthing and screaming. Even dining at the Chef's Counter, where one has the noise from the kitchen, plus from the servers gathering orders, is quiet, compared to Waikoloa (last two trips) and the Mau`i locations.

                                                    Having followed some of your posts, I need to pack my earplugs, and give the food another try at Hawai`i Kai. If you liked the food, then I must have hit them on that one bad night.

                                                    Mahalo,
                                                    Hunt