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Oct 20, 2008 10:34 PM

In Waikiki w/ 5yo and hubby, restaurant round-up

First off, a huge mahalo to everyone for your recommendations. We had so many yummy meals and not a single loser in the bunch. A couple of quick notes: we had low key breakfasts (yogurt, fruit, etc.), so I don't have any breakfast reports. Also, my husband and I decided to hire the sitter our son adores and mostly have dinner on our own. Our son was happiest w/ pizza or Subway and an early bedtime, given the time change. So here we go:

Day 1:
Dinner: On the way from the airport to the hotel, stopped at Hank's Haute Dogs. My DH and I got the Chicago dog, my son got a plain dog, and we shared an order of onion rings. DH had a frozen pineapple drink, and I had yummy lemonade. The dogs were super tasty. The special that day was the lobster dog, and I'm a bit sad I didn't try it, but we were loopy after dealing w/ the airports and the flight -- next time. The onion rings were so freakin' tasty. Maui onions are so sweet, which I already knew, but I had never had them in the form of onion rings.

Day 2: (mostly copying and pasting from post on original thread): Lunch today at Teddy's Bigger Burger was phenomenal. Seriously the top burger meal I've had in that price range. Whatever is in their special sauce was super yummy. My son and I had original burgers and my husband had the cajun. The fries were just right -- the outside shattered and the inside was light and tasty. For dinner we went to 3660 on the Rise and had a wonderful meal. I had the ahi katsu (um, hello; that is a seriously delicious dish) and the lacquered salmon. My husband had a special ahi sashimi starter and the duck breast (my son said his spaghetti was very nice, too) . Everything was perfection -- well except the service, which was friendly but nowhere near on par with the food. We also had a bottle of the 2006 Peay Vinyards Pomeranian (?) Pinot Noir, which I highly recommend if you enjoy a Pinot with lots of structure and finesse -- not a fruit bomb that looks and tastes more like a Syrah (nothing against Syrah, mind you -- it's just that if I want Syrah I'll order Syrah). We were too full for dessert. A big thanks to KaimukiMan, as well, for the 3660 rec!

Day 3: Lunch was a total bust, but only because I had to eat at the resort where another family was staying. A friend of my son's from kindergarten was at the Kahala, and her family invited our son to go to the keiki club that morning until 1:00. After dropping him off, snorkling with my DH, and dropping said DH off at his meeting across town, I didn't have time to get lunch before picking up my son. I was starved when I got there and then had the distinct pleasure of waiting about 30 minutes and paying $19 (plus tax and 17% mandatory gratuity) for an ahi summer roll with chili dipping sauce. The fish was fresh, and the whole thing tasted fine, but $19? For something I could easily replicate at home? Grrr...
Dinner, on the other hand, was sublime. Went to Chef Mavro (without our son). we did the four course menu. Amuse bouche was a shot glass filled with a lovely cold lemongrass soup, tiny tapioca pearls, and a swirl of basil puree. It was everything an amuse bouche should be -- our mouths were definitely happy! The elements came together beautifully. Nothing seemed gratuitous. First course was grilled hamakua mushrooms. They had excellent flavor, and unfortunately I cannot remember what else was on the plate other than we loved the dish. Next we had the crispy fillet of flounder, coated in a rice flake crust. The crust was truly crispy and so light. We did feel that the tamarind sauce covering the plate overpowered the fish, both in terms of quantity and taste. The taste was nice, if a bit on the sweet side, but it was definitely a case of less would have been more in my opinion. For the third course, my DH had the mountain meadow lamb loin with a chick-pea crust, bulghur wheat, dates, up-country vegetables, and yogurt-garlic sauce. It was out of this world. I could not resist trying corned short ribs and ordered the wagyu beef and corned short ribs
that came with a fricassée of swiss chard, mustard crème fraiche, raïto sauce, and a little cracker of some sort. The carroway seeds in the chard were perfection. I kept taking little pieces of the cracker, some corned short rib, mustard creme fraiche, and chard and making the most amazing tiny corned beef sandwiches ever. The wagyu beef was so tender I could cut pieces with my fork (ordered medium rare). Ya, it was that good. As for the lilikoi malasadas dessert with guava coulis, pineapple-coconut ice cream? Dang. I mean dah-yung! All my favorite tropical flavors in the form of ice cream with a coulis and light-as-air donut holes? Are you kidding me? Total bliss.

Okay, I'm going to post this, take a break, and write about the next two days in a minute.

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  1. My mouth is watering reliving these meals!

    Okay. Now I think you all are going to be a bit disappointed with me on this next meal, but my husband really wanted to go (and, to be honest, I didn't put up much of a fight).
    Day 4: Lunch at Puka Dog. My son adored watching the process of making a Puka Dog. I had pineapple relish and coconut relish, plus the special sauce (spicy) and lilikoi mustard. My husband had the sauce (regular), mustard, and pineapple relish. My son had his plain (clear theme emerging). At first, these bizarre concoctions were delicious. About 2/3 of the way through, mine became a bit cloying. My DH loved his all the way through. I have to say, though, that I would probably get one again and skip the lilikoi mustard. As much as I love both lilikoi and mustard, I didn't really taste mustard (seemed more mayonaise-like) and it was applied to the dog like whipped cream on a sundae. My first bite was almost all lilikoi mustard.

    For dinner, my husband and I hit Town. We had three starters, the clams (out of mussles) in Cinzano sauce; the pear, gorgonzola and honey flatbread; and the arugula, strawberry, goat cheese, almond, mint, and balsamic salad. Each was delicious, and we drank the leftover Cinzano sauce like soup. Mmm! For his main course, my Dh got the roast chicken with grapes, tatsoi, and croutins. He thought it was well-prepared and loved the flavor combo. I had the gnocchi with kabocha squash. I tend to love gnocchi and am addicted to winter squash, but I think I am still being objective when I say that this dish was transcendent. The gnocchi were rediculously fluffy and light. I kept expecting them to float away.

    Day 5: Cake Noodles at Fatty's. At first I ordered a noodle cake, and I thought the woman at the counter was going to kick me out on my tourist booty. She kept acting like she had no idea what I was talking about until a nice man behind me informed her that I probably meant the cake noodle. I got it with bok choy, and it was yummy, though a bit greasy -- I guess you expect that with deep fried noodles, though. The crispy cake noodles were delicious and the serving was enormous. Both my son and I ate until we were full and still had leftovers for my husband when he returned from work. He was a pretty happy guy to have such a tasty afternoon snack. We then followed it up with Waiola Shave Ice. I had mine w/ azuki beans and lychee and coconut flavors. My son just had a scoop of ice cream. Husband had azuki beans and pineapple flavor 'cause he's a pineapple fiend. Yum.

    For dinner, my DH and I went to Tokkuri-Tei, the only place on this list we had been on our previous trip. The rainbow rolls, sashimi, and nigiri were, again, so fresh and delicious. We also tried a bata dish -- the mushrooms starting with the letter "T." They were so yummy. We had grilled hakuru (?) corn -- tasty but a bit too chewy, and shrimp and veggie tempura. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, just until they were no longer raw and not a second longer -- melted in your mouth. The tempura shiso leaf was a work of art. The batter is so light and not at all greasy. We think we had something else but the sake clouded our brains. We finished with mochi wrapped in cherry leaves. I have to say that I love Tokkuri-Tei. I think I'll have to go every time I'm in the area -- that and Teddy's. Then we can rotate our more white tablecloth type meals amongst Alan Wong, 3660, Chef Mavro, Town, and any other places that pop up. We were so very pleased with our meals and about 10 lbs heavier by the end of our trip -- well worth it, though. I cannot express my gratitude enough for everyone's suggestions, and I cannot wait to try all the places we did not have time on our next trip out. Happy eating to you all!!!

    12 Replies
    1. re: pickles210

      what a great report pickles. I live about 6 blocks from Tokkuri-Tei, now I'm gonna have to try it.

      1. re: KaimukiMan

        Thanks, KaimukiMan. You shoud definitely check out Tokkuri-Tei. The menu is huge, which usually scares me (how can one kitchen excel at so many items?), and we have had the rare miss on our two trips (the grilled corn, for example, did not live up to our admittedly sky-high expectations), but we've had many successes. From our last trip, the cucumber sticks w/ some sort of dipping sauce and the spider rolls were also excellent (my husband is a huge spider roll fan and relatively discriminating when it comes to them), They have a huge and excellent sake selection as well. As an extra bonus, the prices seem quite fair, at least compared to here in SF, and do not seem to have a tourist mark-up. The service is very friendly and helpful. My only service complaint was that a bunch of items came out of the kitchen all at once, meaning that we were forced to eat the cooked items first so that they would stay warm. Better pacing would be nice. If you go, please let me know what you think. If it's not up to your standards, Lordy knows I want to try a place that is! Sushi, sashimi, and I think Japanese food in general are much better in Hawaii than on the mainland.

        Thanks again for your excellent restaurant suggestions!

      2. re: pickles210

        Great report. I agree that the broth is amazing as a soup @ Town.

        I just got a notice that Hank's is going to start serving duck fat fries beginning this Saturday
        on weekends only. This I must try! His friend from Chicago was the inspiration at Hot Doug's.

        You certainly had a wonderful time eating! Good for you! I find the gnocchi at Town really good.
        Must be what the squash and cinnamon was for that I smelled in the kitchen the other day when I was there for lunch. The kitchen you might know from being there is close to the bathrooms
        in the hallway. The door seems to be always partly open and you can always smell amazing things cooking. Glad you had a good time! A hui hou!

        1. re: manomin

          Hi Manomin,
          Duck fat fries are all the rage here in SF. The duck fat seems to create a really nice fry. I'm sure you're right about what you smelled at lunch being for the dish I had at Town. Again, thanks so much for your recs. A hui hou! (the sooner the better!)

          1. re: pickles210

            Though it may have started in SF, duck-fat fries are are the "rage" in many other areas of the Mainland too. Great taste!


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Hence my reference to Hot Doug's in Chicago.

              1. re: manomin

                Ah, so it started in Chicago?


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Hot Doug's (unfortunately I've never had time to go when I'm there) is now an
                  institution. Check out and youc an read about
                  Hank and his friend Doug. Funny, to get to try these fries I have to travel
                  seemingly just as just kidding although it's a big deal to go across the mountain for any reason, I have to make a whole day of it but these fries are
                  certainly meriting consideration! I really like the chicken dog with the mango relish and german type mustard that one is a winner! Duck and chicken hmmmm
                  a connection for my next foray to Hank's?

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Hi Bill -- no idea where the trend started (they are tasty, though). It's just funny how trendy things get sometimes. One day you turn around and half the places in SF have duck fat fries. I remember back in the mid-'90s when you couldn't order any kind of meat or foul without it being sliced and fanned over something. It's actually kind of laughable how trendy certain items get in SF. One year every mid-to-high-end restaurant is competing over artisan butters to go with the bread and the next each is talking about which exotic salt is on each appetizer. Then it's farro, and next it's speck. About 10 years ago, it was ravioli filled w/ nettles. I love the food scene here in SF, but sometimes you just have to laugh!

                    1. re: pickles210

                      about 6 years ago visiting LA, every single restaurant had minced olives to spread on bread. the next year when I went back, narry an olive anywhere to be seen.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I don't see the correlation. Duck fat is extremely expensive for one thing. What I am seeing is the return or start (at least here anyway) of Belgian style frites
                        that being twice fried to attain that incredible crispness and luscious interior.
                        Now that I wouldn't mind seeing in "every single" restaurant that serves fries.
                        Add deep fried herbs sprinkled on top ala TOWN and that is heaven on a plate!

                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      From my understanding, Duck Fries have been available in France & Belgium for many decades.