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Meal Pacing in Hawaii

c
ChemWork Jul 23, 2008 08:59 AM

I first want to thank all of the contributors to this board who have provided such in-depth reviews of restaurants in Hawaii. A friend and I just got back from two weeks in Hawaii (five days on Oahu and nine days on the Big Island). We had four dinners at high end restaurants: Roy's Waikiki Beach Walk, 3660 On the Rise, Alan Wong's at the Four Seasons, and Merrimans. The food at all four restaurants was generally excellent, although the desserts at all of the places did not measure up to the appetizers or entrees. We had a variety of seafood, beef, and lamb appetizers and entrees and all of those were excellent. None of the desserts really measured up to the other courses and we were disappointed by that. At Roy's we ordered a bottle of wine, but at 3660 and Merriman's we asked the server to pair wines for us. We did the tasting menu at Alan Wong with the wine pairings. The wine service at 3660 was outstanding. Neither of us really knows a lot about wine and the server was very helpful. When the appetizers and entrees arrived, he arrived as well with two different wines for each of us. He brought me a spoon specifically to taste the sauce and then try the wine. He was careful to explain why he had selected the wines and what the difference was between them. In contrast, at Merriman's the server suggested the same wine for both of our dishes (one steak and the other lamb). While we enjoyed the wine, it did not seem that the server had put as much thought into the selection as the server did at 3660. We certainly enjoyed the wine pairings at Alan Wong's and the server was very helpful in explaining the particular pairings. The one problem we had at all four restaurants was the pacing of the meals--everything arrived too quickly. At Roy's the appetizers were cleared as the entrees arrived. I thought that was an anomaly and that things would be different at 3660. I even remarked to my friend as the appetizer plates were cleared that there was no way the entrees would be arriving as fast as they did at Roy's. Unfortunately, right after I said that the entrees did arrive. I didn't even have time to finish my wine from the first course (as a review earlier noted, 3660 serves a lot of wine in one glass!) Before we started the tasting menu at Alan Wong's, I explained to the server the problem that we had had at the previous two restaurants and he assured me that the pacing would be leisurely. However, we still felt quite rushed through the courses. I forgot to say something at Merriman's and the second course arrived immediately after the first. I did ask the server to delay dessert and even gave her a time (15 minutes later) to submit our dessert order to the kitchen. The dessert still came out earlier that requested. I should point out that none of the restaurants were full and no one was waiting for tables. Furthermore, all of the meals started between 6 and 7 o'clock so I doubt they were in a hurry to close the restaurant. My friend and I enjoy talking about the food and recapping courses and we never really got the chance in the restaurant. We've never really had this experience at other high end restaurants around the world. Was our experience unusual? When I go back do I need to ask the server for a 10-15 minute break between courses? Thanks for all of your help.

  1. a
    akq Jul 23, 2008 02:13 PM

    Do you mean that you want a 10-15 minute break between the time that one course is cleared and the next one appears? I'd say that's unusual.

    4 Replies
    1. re: akq
      manomin Jul 23, 2008 02:55 PM

      I agree. We've never had a problem with pace and we've been to the above places and many others. The server always asks "would you like me to put your order in for ________now or would you like to enjoy your _______drinks_______
      " or whatever it is even if just to reflect more on the menu. We always get excellent wine service/suggestions at Roy's. This pacing of 1-15 minutes request is curious to me as well.

      1. re: manomin
        c
        ChemWork Jul 24, 2008 09:15 AM

        Manomin:

        I'm glad to hear that you have had good experiences at those restaurants. It would have been terrific if we were asked if we would like our order put in. I guess 15 minutes may be too long, but I'm a little surprised that you and akq find it unusual to expect a 10 minute break between courses. I just spent a year in Melbourne, AUS eating at many of the fine dining establishments in that city and 10 minutes between courses was not unusual. I have had similar pacing in Chicago and New York City. If I have lingered over my appetizer and the entree arrives immediately after, I would be worried that the entree may have been sitting around the kitchen. The dishes we had clearly took some time and a great deal of care to put together which was reflected in the presentation and flavor.

        1. re: ChemWork
          a
          akq Jul 24, 2008 04:54 PM

          I think you're certainly right that there's the other end of the spectrum - if my next course is served as the previous course is cleared, that's too fast. But I guess 10-15 minutes seems like a very long time to me (but then, I live my life in 6 minute billing increments...). I'd expect that once my current course is done, it would be cleared, my water glass would be re-filled, any new silverware would be brought out, my next wine would be poured and explained a bit, then the next course would come out. Maybe 5 mins. I think 15 mins would be to long for me.

          1. re: akq
            Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:34 PM

            akq,

            That sounds like good pacing and is about what I expect when indulging in fine-dining too. Most top restaurants monitor the table, so that this sort of pacing takes place. I talk a lot (especially if we have dining guests, and also eat slowly), so I am almost always the last one finished. I appreciate it, when the servers pick up on this. I'll often tell the servers, that this is likely to happen. I do not mind if my course is being cleared, just as the other diners, in my group, are being served their next, but do not like to have a "pregnant pause," between courses. Same for the wine course deliveries. I do not want to be through my course X, and THEN have wine X served. Get it right. It is not rocket-science.

            Good comments,

            Hunt

    2. Bill Hunt Jul 23, 2008 09:59 PM

      Thank you for your inclusive and informative reviews. I usually hear the opposite - that pacing is too slow. I usually comment "Island time... " I am surprised by your experiences, as we normally find the pacing to be just about right. We are slow diners, and indulge in a lot of conversation. An evening meal for us is about 3 - 4 hours, and most of the higer-end places in Hawai`i fit that pacing into the service. We often open and then close most restaurants, and this is not about spending an hour over decaf.

      I hate to be rushed, and feel your pain.

      I also hate a "sommelier's pairing," that is by the numbers, or from the b-t-g list, with no real thought. Heck, I can do that in my sleep. I want something that will show some time and effort, plus pair with the kitchen that night. Bad form on their part.

      Thanks for taking the time to put this together,

      Hunt

      1. ibstatguy Jul 23, 2008 10:26 PM

        ate at Alan Wong's about 3 years ago and the meal was far from rushed but as I say, that was 3 years ago. am giving thought to going back when we are on the big island in a couple of weeks. with regards to Merriman's and the wine, I think a bit more explanation is called for; perhaps more importantly, what was the wine that was selected and did both of you not enjoy it or...?

        setting aside the foregoing, I hate being rushed through a meal, particularly at a fine restaurant.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ibstatguy
          manomin Jul 24, 2008 01:02 PM

          The one thing I've always liked about Merriman's (actually some others do this as well) is that some specials are limited in quantity and they'll tell you that when you are presented with the menu. Then if you are going to select one of said specials they tell the kitchen and one is held. One of the times at Merriman's a post-it note was used to signify a hold on the lamb rack for me.
          This sort of thing has happened elsewhere. I remember at the L'Uraku they'd only get in 5 Kona cold lobsters and if I knew I was dining there that evening I'd call ahead and reserve one for myself and they always kept one on the side until I came in.

          1. re: manomin
            ibstatguy Jul 24, 2008 03:41 PM

            Merriman's has, in fact, done this for me

            1. re: manomin
              Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:48 PM

              Manomin,

              That is a good way to do it, and is considerate of the kitchen. Too bad that more diners do not take that initiative. Many times, when presented with limited quantities, I order those early. Cannot tell the number of times, that I have gotten the last foie gras dish, only to hear other diners grouse about not having any. If my server tells me that something is limited, and I want it, I order it. "Nuf said.

              Good comments,

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt
                manomin Jul 24, 2008 09:36 PM

                Oh Bill, without you what would our forum be? You always add great comments and sage advice! Personally I am perplexed at this whole issue because it just never happens to us and we completely enjoy everything about our meal from the martini to the appetizer to whatever comes next in a leisurely relaxed pace. Sometimes I find that the restaurant sets our leisure by bringing out several complimentary items and letting us just go along and enjoy. You are right about ordering what you want when you know quantity is limited. I only wish I could concur about ordering foie gras for some reason I can't get behind it no matter who has prepared it and I've witnessed some of the best. I know you'll drop your jaw when you hear that if it comes on a plate I don't ask to have it removed I take it home for my beloved dogs Manele & Koele and before them the queen Maggie. I think this has been a fun thread and I thank ChemWork for starting it! Nice reports on ChemWork's part as well! Good detail! a hui hou!

                1. re: manomin
                  Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 09:45 PM

                  Manomin,

                  If you are dining, the 2nd course is foie gras, and there is an old dude, with a white beard and a blazer at a near-by table - just sent your portion over. I WILL reciprocate, sometime in the meal...

                  As we are Mainlanders, we do not usually do any doggie-bags, though our Bulldog twins, back in AZ, would probably love it.

                  Maybe that's one reason, that we love tasting menus, with smaller portions - no "home," and no "pups" to take anything over to.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    manomin Jul 24, 2008 10:11 PM

                    I understand and we too like a tasting menu. If I ever come across you in a restaurant I'll send it your way! The thing is, I for over 12
                    years have made my dog's food and sometimes scraps add some tasty flavor. If it's spiced or something similar I rinse it off and add it to the first stage of the process which is North Shore Cattle Company beef, veggies (most all from local farmers). Anyway you get the point! I even went to a class with Micheal Ginor owner of Hudson Valley Farms and bought his book called "Foie Gras" as it's a beautiful book with great sauces and ideas but still didn't eat the foie at the luncheon after! I'll be on the lookout for you in the future!

                    1. re: manomin
                      Bill Hunt Jul 25, 2008 07:50 PM

                      Even at home, we cannot feed our Bulldogs any "people food," no matter how much they think they need it. They are on special diets, and our housesitter is under threat of death, to NOT feed them any people food.

                      Now, I do not mind leftovers, and often have them the next day at lunch, however, we usually have some form of suite (not a full condo), when traveling, so even a kitchenette is not really a possibility. A few exceptions can be made, but not many.

                      Keep your eyes open, as I'm the old guy with the grey hair and beard, scoffing down all of the foie gras in the joint! (so long as my caridologist is not in our party... )

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        manomin Jul 25, 2008 07:58 PM

                        That's a good one - every time we order and eat things that are rich or calorie laden or just simply decadent we always say "here's one for you Dr. Adams" our Dr.

                        Tomorrow I am going to Town for dinner I don't think you've been there but it's a nice place although it can be loud. We are going when dinner st arts at 5:30 as we hate driving home late over the hill. They always have some yummy specials and unusual things the last time it was wild boar.

                        1. re: manomin
                          Bill Hunt Jul 25, 2008 09:12 PM

                          Now, was that some of the feral pig/wild boar, that was being removed from the Big Island? With the "clean up," there should be a lot of wild boar on Hawaiian menus. It still amazes me how quickly domestic pigs can become "wild," in a year, or two.

                          To "wild boar," I find that the taste of the meat is so very different, even if they were domestic pigs, not THAT long ago. Amazing!

                          Enjoy, and do not let Dr Adams know. I'll also make sure that he's not dining, when/where I am, as he'd come unhinged in a hurry, and I'm not even his patient.

                          Hunt

            2. re: ibstatguy
              Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:45 PM

              We've probably done the Chef's Counter at AW 6-8 times. Yes, the counter is frenetic, but that is part of the charm, for both me, and my wife. We also want a bit of time to talk to the various staff members, whether kitchen, or service, to find out what THAT is, and to savor a bit of the pace.

              In our experiences, the pacing has been perfect, even when we'ver indulged in conversation with other staff members, who we have come to know. The wines are always arriving just before that next course. I really appreciate that.

              I am with you, on being rushed. We dine at a pace, and the it's not that slow, but any restaurant needs to respect that. Even in Europe, we've opened restaurants, that we have then closed, without lingering over anything. Maybe it's from having grown up in the shadow of New Orleans, where dining is a way of life. A 3-4 hr. evening meal, with multiple courses is not at all uncommon. We both savor every bite and evey sip of wine (maybe wines from previous courses, as well). I do not tolerate being rushed, but I also do not linger. When done, we pay and leave.

              Looking forward to hearing about Merriman's.

              Hunt

            3. b
              Beach Chick Jul 23, 2008 10:56 PM

              Turning tables is the name of the game, and you really have to state up front your desire of having 10-15 minute breaks in between courses..
              I hate being rushed in a fine dining establishment and let my displeasure be known immediately if I did not state it to the wait staff..without the kitchen staff in the back of the house having a field day with my entree..
              The art of seduction with the food and wine is a lost art that I am personally trying to bring back into my life and others around me when dining out and cooking for myself and others..

              Mahalo

              8 Replies
              1. re: Beach Chick
                c
                ChemWork Jul 24, 2008 09:21 AM

                Beach Chick:

                Thank you for the phrase "art of seduction with the food and wine". I think it perfectly captures what we could have experienced in those restaurants if we had a little more time to relive the previous course and anticipate the next one. I probably should have said something, but the servers were all such pleasant people. I will need to devise a suitable phrase to convey my desire to have a leisurely meal the next time I get to eat at a fine dining establishment.

                1. re: ChemWork
                  b
                  Beach Chick Jul 24, 2008 04:03 PM

                  Your welcome ChemWork..with some time between courses you do learn the art of seduction with the food and wine..
                  I usually have to ask the wait staff to not fire the next course and I try and state it so it doesn't seem like I am going to be there till closing, just that I want to savor my courses..I cringe when I am finishing one dish and the waiter is bringing the next course..
                  You went to some of the best restaurants Hawaii has to offer and I really enjoyed your report.
                  All the best to you!

                  1. re: ChemWork
                    Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:57 PM

                    I also agree with that wonderful wording. Though I'm a guy, with a great deal of testosterone in his veins, I understand the need for “fore-play” in dining. It is like a dance, and should follow a beat and a pattern. A good house should be able to get it right. I appreciate it, when they do.

                    Well said, and well noted,

                    Hunt

                  2. re: Beach Chick
                    Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:53 PM

                    You are correct in all too many instances. Some diners wolf it all down, and never taste a bite. Others, want to look at the dish, smell the dish, and then taste every forkful.

                    I have more problems with wine services, and usually have a private chat with our sommelier, or server, to let them know what I expect, especially if I am hosting a dinner. I want time to exhale, but not have to wait an inordinate time, between courses. Do not rush me, but do not let me, and my guests ,wonder what the heck is happening.

                    One local restaurant uses closed-circuit cameras on every table, to make sure that the kitchen gets the pacing down perfectly. Yeah, it's a bit like being in London,with all of the CVVTV cameras, but I appreciate the results.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                      e
                      easily amused Jul 24, 2008 08:49 PM

                      As a rule , one should not clear any dish from a table (course) before every diner has completed his meal..appetizer..entree...etc..It is considered poor taste to do so... Most establishments will not lift a plate until all are done, as to not Rush the final diner. We, of course practice this in our home as well. Etiquette..

                      1. re: easily amused
                        Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 09:48 PM

                        I agree completely. I also find that too many servers/bussers want to clear wine glasses, when they are partially full. I like to keep previous selections, to see how they do, with later courses.

                        Good call,

                        Hunt

                      2. re: Bill Hunt
                        b
                        Beach Chick Jul 25, 2008 07:42 PM

                        Thanks Bill..
                        Love your posts and of course your gravitas!

                        1. re: Beach Chick
                          Bill Hunt Jul 25, 2008 07:51 PM

                          Beach Chick,

                          I am honored, and do not feel that I deserve such kind words, but thanks anyway.

                          Hunt

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