Best Romantic Dinner for 2 in Honolulu!
Need local wisdom and knowledge fast! A week from today I'll be in Honolulu for a special dinner. Here's the deal: I want amazing food and ambience and being a landlocked mainlander, prefer oceanside. While it seems that the consensus is that AW and Mavro are indeed the best and it's all about the food of course, they are not oceanside....I read about Bali by the Sea and have been to Halekulani Hotel last year. Does anyone have any other suggestions for a top notch local fusion restaurant for a very special occasion that has oceanside tables in the Honolulu area? Are all the oceanside places in hotels and will I end up getting hotel cuisine? And....if it comes down to AW or Mavro, which is the better?
I tried to post this below Bill's excellent comments, but my browser is not cooperating. Anyway, a possible explanation for the Bali by the Sea dullness is that they lost their very outstanding young chef (he moved back to the mainland to be closer to family) and budget issues seem to be an ongoing problem. They have a new chef in place, but I cannot recommend Bali (as I usually do) until I get a chance to go see if they are actually putting some money into the program and if the new chef is inspiring the kitchen.
One spot that gets scant attention here is Michel's at the Colony Surf. I've only ever been there for Sunday brunch (highly recommended for view, $5 bloody mary bar and better than adequate brunch fare), but a few of the young chefs I know choose it for romantic dinners on nights off. The fare is not fusion though, it is more classic Continental.
As always, thank you for the update. It makes sense to me. As you know, I have always (well not ALWAYS, but for the last 20 years) been a fan of Bali. Last trip was a heartbreaker. Tomorrow, I will complete my reviews and post them in detail.
As for Michel's, about three years ago, we had dinner there and were disappointed. Lovely venue, OK food, and really lackadasical service. I did a full review then, and did give them some latitude as they had a +/- 14 person wedding party in the same area. Still, we had such poor wine and food service, that we left with big frowns. On that particular trip, AW's, Bali and La Mer were the big standouts, with Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana doing pretty well. We also enjoyed the Pineapple Room, but it was for a special event, so that really did not count.
I've been trying to get the scoop on Bali, but my sources are not talking. I think that some change might be afoot. If you hear anything, please let me know.
Been sitting on my reviews of several of these for too long, but have been traveling too much. I'll do an abstract on them, because of your time frame:
Did AW, Mariposa, Chef Mavro, Sarento's Atop the I, and Bali by the Sea. With the exception of Mariposa, and a single trip to Sarento's under a different name decades ago, we had dined at each of the others many times.
Previous visit found AW's (King St) and Chef Mavro in a dead heat for #1. Wife gave slight nod to CM's and I to AW's. We did Chef's Counter & tasting menus at both, with sommelier's wine pairings. Bali had been very good, as always.
This trip yielded different results. AW's (Chef's Counter/sommelier's pairings) was great, as always. Chef Mavro's (tasting menu/sommelier's pairings) was just OK (details to follow in the full post). Bali was tired - nothing sizzled. I felt that it was about to be closed and re-done, maybe as a leased space. I have no info to indicate this, but it was how it felt. Their wine list had been dessimated completey. Service was good, but food was totally uninspired. The sleeper for me was Mariposa (Ala Moana Shopping Center - overlooking the Ala Wai Harbor). The setting was very good, the food was up near AW's, and the wine, though limited, was well-paired for the cuisine. Sarento's was the big disappointment in all respects, except for the service.
One more spot that I must add, La Mer. We had a disappointing wine service on the previous visit, and wife refused to include them in this last trip. Still, with that one exception, they have always been one of my top spots. For your dining, I'd strongly consider them, and request the ocean-side tables.
As for Orchids, I have only done the Sunday Brunch there, so I cannot comment, other than that it is in a lovely venue. I'd guess that the food is quite good.
Sorry that I have not done my duty, as the full reviews will have much more detail. Also, I highly rate restaurants on their wine list, their wine service and especially on any sommelier's pairings, that we do. If that is not a biggie for you, even our disappointing visit to La Mer would be excellent.