Hawaii Honeymoon Report
First of all, thank you so much for your help! We had a wonderful 2 weeks and we really appreciate your help!
Our first meal, thank to your advice, was at Ono Hawaiin foods. Wow. What delicious food! Neither of us had experienced Hawaiin food (as it is not commonly found in NYC) and what a treat. After numerous warnings about how difficult poi would be to stomach but we found it delicious. Bland yes, but appropriately so given the salt and richness of the dishes that it accompanies. It was especially delicious with the Khalua pork (sp?). Also, the staff was so welcoming and seemed sincerely eager to show us great Hawaiin food. After seeing that we devoured our poi, one of the owners even brought out a dish of aged poi so we could compare and taste the difference. A great meal. I recommend the sampler platter and some extra pork in whatever form it comes in. Wonderful.
We enjoyed dim sum at what many consider to be the best in Chinatown. I can't remember the name but it was close to NYC dim sum if not a little better. Very authentic and not expensive.
Our last night in Honolulu, we made a reservation at Town. This was superb. As an actor, I see a lot of stars but seeing one of the stars of Lost was really a treat! The salad was one of the best I've had anywhere in the world. Greens just bitter enough and unbelievably fresh. We also enjoyed a tuna tartare. Great but not noticeably better than the superb poke we ate throughout our trip. The steak was delicious. If you look at my other posts, you can see my transition fro m blissful foodie to blissful foodie with a new awareness of responsibly produced food.' The beef at Town is entirely grass fed and it's among the best grass fed beef we'd ever tasted. Rich beyond any steakhouse cut. In fact, our only criticism of the dish was that the blue cheese sauce on top seemed to clutter the flavor of the beef. Sauces that intense are for proteins that can't stand on their own I think and this steak was nearly perfect by itself. Fries were wonderful.
Next we were off to Kauai. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt and went to the Smith Luau for the first night. While some of the dishes were the same as those we had at Ono, it's the only Luau I've ever been to so I don't have much to compare it to. Every bite was delicious but it might have been because we became hooked on Hawaiin food. Drinks didn't hurt either.
Our next meal was at Tidepool's at the Hyatt. This meal was delicious. The view was stunning and the fish was incredibly fresh. Tidepool's is one of those restaurants that somehow manages to be elegant and refined but also lip smakingly delicious. Their pork buns were some of the best I've had and the steamed fish was so pure and balanced. I'm still thinking about our meal there. The hotel also comped us a full bottle of Champagne in honor of our honeymoon. Very nice.
Our last night in Kauai we ate at Roy's. I apologize in advance for being the dissenter on this board but the meal was not good. I'm not talking about unreasonable expectations, I'm talking about a truly mediocre dining experience. Our table was nice although the restaurant is located in a strange plaza/strip mall with some tables looking out into the hallway. The waiter was frantic but very nice. He explained how many of the ingredients were local and how the chef brought his own flair to Roy's dishes. After such a great experience with the beef at Town, we were tempted to order beef again. I asked if the beef was raising in Hawaii. "You wouldn't want to eat that stuff. It's too gamy to eat." My wife responded "Oh, we like that flavor. Hawaiin beef has been delicious" In what was one of the oddest interactions I've ever seen in a restaurant, the waiter turned abruptly and left. No 'I'll be back later.' Nothing. He just left. Oh well. We ordered the app sampler as well as a duo of 2 fish dishes. The sashimi on the sampler looked great but unfortunately a bug crawled out of the first slice. I don't mean a fly landed on the fish. I also don't care about finding an occasional bug in a bag of lettuce. It's nature after all. But this was a slow moving bug. We called the waiter over who cleared it away and brought another one and apologized. Our fish was good. Not spectacular but really good. I'm not sure Hawaiin flavors need quite so many traditional French sauces to come out. It almost seemed too rich. I know people have different expectations at higher end restaurants but we were surprised to see that the charge for the Sashimi had been left on. At $30, it was pricey and would have been comped at most of the nicer restaurants I've eaten at. In NYC, LA, and most places I ate at growing up in New England, dishes are often comped if they're not to the customers' liking. They would certainly be comped if a bug was found. This may not be the case everywhere and I understand completely if this is not the norm in HI but I've never been to a restaurant where dinner for 2 can cost $150-$200 where they would not have comped the dish. Oh well. I spoke to the manager on the way out when he asked about the meal and he was shocked to hear that the dish hadn't been taken off the bill. He apologized and finally took the charge off and asked us to try Roy's in Manhattan.
Next we were off to the Big Island.
For 4 nights, we stayed in a house we rented and we shopped at the markets and cooked. If you want recipes, I can post them but otherwise, I'll stick to restaurants. Let's just say that the ingredients were better than anything I can get here in NY unless I go to the Farmer's market at 7 AM and shop with Mario Batali and Eric Ripert. For those of you who cook, I definitely recommend taking a few days to shop the markets and see what comes about.
One of our best meals was actually at a road side tent selling pork and poi. I'm not sure of the address but we found it heading south on 130 from Hilo to Pahoa; right before mile marker 9 on the left. This was pork like we've never tasted before. There is really no place to sit so plan on eating in the car but this was some serious cooking.
In Kona, we ate at Teshima's (in your recc). This was a great place. The sashimi, teryaki, miso soup, cucumbers and sake made for a meal that I could eat many times a week. In fact, we ended up returning the next day at 11 for lunch! Thank you guys so much for a great suggestion!
Our last night in HI, we ate at Merriman's. After Roy's we started to think that maybe it was better to enjoy the superb ingredients and just cook at home. I'm glad we went out. The first course was Gaspacho made from such fresh tomatoes that we wondered why they weren't simply served plain with some salt. Wonderful though. We ordered the beef and lamb entrees and were blown away by both. The lamb did come with a slightly awkward pineapple sauce that just wasn't necessary on lamb if that quality. The beef was also served with blackened local greens that my wife and I are still talking about. The wine list and service were also great. What a fun and special meal.
When we travel, we usually know at least something about the food. For this trip, we really relied solely on you guys and a friend of my wife's who is a journalist in Honolulu. We were so excited to learn about a new cuisine and the food was so delicious (and new to us.).
Thank you all. What a wonderfully delicious honeymoon.
Thanks for your very detailed report, I'm sure it will be a great help to others traveling to Hawaii. Congratulations on your honeymoon as well.
Glad you made your way over to Ono's. I've been noticing quite a few visitors going there in the last few years as well as locals, which is great for their business. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed your meals at Teshima's on the Big Island too.