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Jun 26, 2008 01:22 AM

Epic Restaurant (Honolulu, Oahu)

We all know its hard to find good restaurants in touristy places... you usually get lots of noise (certain restauranteurs dominate the tourist marketing machines)... you often have locals that have better things to do than obsess over restaurants etc., so you really have to work hard to find the local favorites. My impression is that Honolulu / Oahu is certainly this way...

I hate to demean Honolulu's dining scene by "holding it to Mainland standards"... I am sure its freaking annoying for locals to constantly hear whether something is good as LA, SF, NY, CHI etc., so I don't want to go there but my review is useless to locals who already know about Epic.... and whom would yawn with my "discovery"... so for the annoying outsiders this review is for you.

Epic serves fusion cuisine that is heavy on French technique with Asian accents (wow unheard of in Hawaii right?)... except.. .this is some serious dining (the wine list is limited etc.,) but the food I had would generate fans in any of the well regarded dining cities of the mainland.

I had an excellent mezclun salad... nothing unusual just extremely fresh ingredietns, perfectly dressed & seasoned. Then I had the Duet Canard... wow this was good. Duck Confit & a seared Breast... in a garlicky, Chinese 5 spice - butter sauce... sitting on a pile of delectable poi.

Very good espresso & some berries to crown the evening. Prices are extremely reasonable by mainland standards (the generous $25 duck entree would have easily been $35 in my neck of the woods)... the salad was only $7.

I have read several times of the disappointment by new arrivals over the Honolulu dining scene... I am starting to wonder if they know what they are talking about.... Oahu has some seriously good eats to go around (earlier in the day I had some solid Pho at a rundown blue collar place by the airport... and on another day... some solid sushi at a strip mall location).

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  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed it someday I'll venture down there. The chef used to work
    at Roy's in Hawaii Kai as a sous chef.

    4 Replies
    1. re: manomin

      Well... they did a good job despite the fact he worked at a Roy's =)

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        your point? I didn't get your post.

        1. re: manomin

          Meaning I have never had a good experience at any Roy's... seems like a bad tourist trap chain to me.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            Having eaten at most Roy's in the US (Mainland and HI), I have to admit that some are better, than are others. Also, some do fluctuate wildly from year to year. Most of this change seems to be based on the exec. chef at that particular location. Depending on which one(s), you've dined at, you may wish to not give all a pass.


    2. Do not know of, nor have I heard of Epic. Sounds interesting.

      That said, we dine around the globe, and always rate the best of Honolulu with all but the ultimate restaurant elsewhere - geography never a factor. In MY reviews, they compete with the best in Bordeaux, Paris, London, SF, NOLA, Chicago, DC and any place elsewhere. They always do well.

      Thanks for the mention of Epic. Next trip to O`ahu, we'll definitely do it.


      3 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Bill, I've seen (and appreciated) many of your reviews, so I wanted to say this: I like Epic, I've been there both for lunch (twice) and dinner (twice). To me, it seemed more Asian than French or anything else.

        But I wouldn't go out of my way to get there. It's fine if you are in the neighborhood, but so is Indigo next door, which has better service (the one at Epic has always been slow as molasses for lunch) and you may be able to eat outside to boot. Epic is certainly less expensive and more Asian.

        I hope this helps.

        1. re: residenthawaii

          No... the technique is very European.. but the flavors are Asian... and I thank this what should be compelling to mainlanders. It is definitely more Asian influenced than say California cuisine... and I think that is good, its a strenght. Besides, you drop Epic in the middle of Shanghai, Bangkock, Tokyo or Beijing and I really don't people there would think of it as Asian... I could bet $100 they would say its "Western Food"

          1. re: residenthawaii


            Though Indigo has been a go-to for years, I am not adverse to trying new spots. Normally, we attempt to add about 3/trip.

            Unfortunately, next trip to HI in Dec will have to be Maui only. Still, we nearly always do a week on O`ahu, regardless of which other Islands, or sides we do. Wife needs a trip back to North Shore, so O`ahu (and Honolulu) will be in the cards soon. Besides, her previous CEO just retired and move to Windward, so we need to toast his new home...

            Thanks for the info.


        2. I looked at their website and the photos looked awfully familiar - did this restaurant use to be called something like Black Orchid or similar?

          14 Replies
          1. re: torta basilica

            It was called Epic something now shortened I think. Black Orchid was from
            1987 when Tom Selleck was a partner with others the primary being Randy
            Shoch of the Ruth's Chris franchises. I ate at the BO once it was at Restaurant Row on Ala Moana where Vino/Hiroshi shares the spot. Glad to see you posting Torta! I just came back from summer camp for adults, the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival where things were crazy fabulous and tons of fun! Have you ever been?

            1. re: manomin

              Have always wanted to, but never made it :( I was there something like the week before one of their first ones & that made me crazy not to be able to go. I rarely get to Maui anymore - it just got too crazy, so mainly Oahu or the Big Island. I'm jonesing to be taken along on a business trip towards the end of summer - so many new places to try!!

              How much did I date myself with that Black Orchid comment? ;-) I do remember the Tom Selleck connection & a not so memorable meal.

              I will look up next year's and maybe...

              1. re: torta basilica


                This may be of interest to you then! Hope you are well. I'm off to the newly remodeled Roy's in Hawaii Kai tonight. Taking the long haul over the hill and back! A hui hou!

                1. re: manomin

                  That's pretty funny - I love the ill-fitting tuxes from Sears in July part! And the photo...

                  How was Roy's?


                  1. re: torta basilica

                    Great! Thanks for asking. They remodel is really nice. There are some improvements to the noise level with different carpeting and ceiling modifications. The Naoki gyotaku is simply stunning at the staircase just unbelievable matches/rivals the multi panel Naoki in Waikiki Roy's. The food was great. I had a couple newer things like the salad sampler, 3 salads on one long rectangular plate in mini dishes a great way to try more than one. We had shrimp with a wasabi spaetzle, the 3 signature fish sampler, a lovely monchong enteree, scallops dusted with procsiutto with a warm potato salad. A wonderful bottle of Au Bon Climat (although not as rare and fabulous as the ones we had at the Kapalua W&FF winemaker dinner with Jim clendenen at the Pineapple Grill.) But his wines always rock and go so well with the flavors and style of Roy's. Dessert was the chocolate souffle, a mango cheesecake, potatoes au gratin and some lovely Banyuls and a port. Between the new decor and some added new focus on the menu it's as great as ever! It was truly special as our friends brought along a bottle of Dom Perignon 1995 which was the year Jerry Garcia died and we all convened that night in August - we decided to drink it before dinner (they offered it as a gift to us) which was a fun way to start.

                  2. re: manomin

                    Interesting bit of history. Normally, I do travel with a tux, and a white dinner jacket, but NOT when going to Hawai`i. Had I been there, I'd have had to rent too. I guess that my invitation was lost in the mail...

                    I'd love to find a good book on the culinary history of Hawai`i, with many of the, now long gone, restaurants. That would be a part of pop-culture, that I'd buy, unlike most.

                    Mahalo for sharing the link,


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Bill - you should look for "The New Cuisine of Hawaii - Recipes From the Twelve Celebrated Chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine"
                      by Janice Wald Henderson. A terrific resource and the only book of it's kind. Great recipes and a history of the 12 founding chefs.
                      Pub. 1994.

                      I am going to a soft opening with a Hawaiian blessing this morning of another Hank's Haute Dogs this one in Waikiki. I look forward to the food after! I really like his dogs and his drinks.
                      The official opening is 7/21. There is nothing like the snap of the skin upon first bite!

                      1. re: manomin

                        Yippee!! Where is it? Now I REALLY need to hitch along on that August trip!

                        1. re: torta basilica

                          Hank's Haute Dogs is in the International Marketplace on the left
                          side behind the waterfall that everyone stands in line for to get a picture taken in front of. It is a cute little storefront/stand that will initially have an edited version of the original Coral Street location. We were served the original Chicago dogs with all the trimmings after an amazing beautiful Hawaiian blessing. The dogs were as fabulous as ever. I took two visiting friends and all they did was rave that they'd never eaten a hot dog in their entire lives until they had Hank's (meaning they'd eaten hot dogs but none this great.) It was a fun morning and eventually they will have the other dogs (Kobe, lobster, chili, etc.) Again like Kakaakako it's cash only.

                        2. re: manomin

                          Wow, how could we have missed this one? We'll not be near our normal bookstores on O`ahu, this next trip, but will find it. I'd rather buy in the Islands, than Amazon, but will not hesitate.

                          Mahalo for the rec. It WILL be in our library. My guess would be that this is a book (circa is a clue), that was part of the PBS series, Great Chefs of Hawai`i, but cannot be sure.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            No it wasn't but Janice was the coordinator and host of "Cuisines of the Sun" for the 13 years it was held. She's a fabulous writer and editor of Chocolatier magazine. She has a great website.

                            She really knows her food and had a big impact with the HRC
                            as well.

                            I was at Roy's Waikiki last night and seemingly ate most of the menu it was hopping and just fabulous.

                            1. re: manomin

                              I assume that this was the Beachwalk/Lewer's St. location. We attempted to dine there, but our timing was all wrong.

                              Just had a wonderful Roy's meal in Phoenix, at his Desert Ridge restaurant. It took both of us back to Hawai`i, and that is good.

                              We hope to try the Waikiki shop on our next O`ahu visit.


                    2. re: torta basilica


                      Fess up. Your mother told you about the Black Orchid It came and went, while you were in diapers! Do not try to fool the CH group.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Ha - I might have been there when it was Rex's Black Orchid, but it was the early 90's & I wasn't a spring chicken then, either... But, thank you. I just look & act immature :)