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Dec 22, 2008 02:25 PM

Oahu - update

We just returned from a trip to Oahu. I had originally made reservations at quite a few high-end restaurants (Chef Mavro and La Mer), but canceled them in favor of a wonderful Japanese soba noodle restaurant Matsugen. At lunch, you get an incredible deal for $13.80.

Other finds and thoughts:

3660 On The Rise - chef driven restaurant with wonderful food - portion size huge - you can easily split courses

Mitch's Sushi Bar - a perfect place to go right from the airport. Must make reservations. BYO only, but there is a liquor store around the block.

Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas - super wine list and perfect food to share

Alan Wong's - I was disappointed and next time I would not do a tasting menu, but order a la carte instead. Portion size also huge.

Hee Hing - the worst dim sum I have ever had

Elua - OK

Pictures and full descriptions here:

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  1. Lizziee,

    Mahalo for the report. I've only done two of these, but enjoyed them both very much.

    Out of curiosity, what was wrong at AW's? I've been a patron, since he opened the King Street restaurant, and have been back almost once per year. What happened on your visit? I know that members fo Chef Wong's staff do read CH, so you might be able to help them to do things better next time.


    9 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill, they couldn't have been nicer so my criticism has more to do with the tasting menu and how it was conceived. The portion size was huge, for me. Plus the balance was off - why have so many heavy dishes at the beginning of a meal? On my 3600 On The Rise post, I stated my personal preferences re tasting menus so I am not criticizing Alan Wong's for execution, but more for what I consider balance in a meal. The chefs at Alan Wong's are tasting one bite of a dish. I wish one of the chefs would sit at the chef's counter and eat a full tasting menu and then evaluate it - is it a symphony?

      1. re: lizziee

        Oh I do agree that it *should* be a symphony, and it always has been for us. Not sure what went wrong on your visit, but I hope that it was a "one-off" instance. I have found that their portions were just about perfect for us, and the heft of each dish went from light-n-airy, to some with more substance. Same with the paired wines.

        I do agree with you on portion size. I have found too many restaurants that are choosing quantity over quality. I just cannot Imagine AW going that route.

        Again, thanks for posting,


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Every time we do the tasting menu at AW (the 5 or the 7) we leave STUFFED to the gills. It's my fault, really - the food is so good I eat all of it and I love their bread and chili aoli, so I also eat a couple of rolls...If I had self control of steel I could maybe take a few less bites of each dish...but it seems like such a crime not to finish such excellent food.

          This last trip we decided against the tasting menu (they only do the 5 during the holiday season and the menu wasn't all that exciting) and instead ordered ala carte for an excellent meal. We had:

          my SO's caesar salad was tasty, but my hamakua tomato, hearts of palm, cucumber, beets and avocado salad with li hing mui vinagrette was to die for (and also huge).

          SO had a foie gras special that was excellent, but I don't remember the specifics.
          I had the soup and sandwich - it's not on the ala carte menu, but they'll do it if you ask and they only charge $4.50 (yes, really) so it's the best deal in town.

          SO had the one pound Maui ribeye with hamakua mushrooms, which was excellent, but HUGE (I mean, come on, a pound???). Garlic mashed potatoes were so-so and really heavy on the cream.
          I had opakapaka in truffle butter with chinese veggies and ginger, topped with pork hash. To die for.

          I had a alcoholic coffee drink (coconut something) that was tasty but very strong, with coffee jello (love this stuff).
          So had the coconut. Excellent as always.

          1. re: akq

            Wow, sounds like the right choices. I am always torn between the tasting menu and the regular. Last three trips, I have fallen victim to the tasting menu, but with no regrets, other than one watches some excellent looking dishes cross the counter - I want to taste each of those too!

            Yeah, if I had resolve of steel, my cardiologist would be out of work! Life is short, and fine-dining is finite. I must sample it all, prior to my demise...

            Thanks for the mini-review. Wish I had been there with you'all.


      2. re: Bill Hunt

        hey lizziee and bill, ive read both of your posts on Hawaii and thought either or both of you could help me out...Seeing Bill you seem to have eaten nearly everywhere !!!! and Lizziee a couple of the places, namely mitch's sushi and 3660, really caught my attention.

        im going to be staying at Waikiki for 8 days from next week. id really love some suggestions. So far im thinking Alan Wongs, Mitchs and 3660 but could do with some more help. i eat enough at fine diners so im looking for smaller produce driven places. fresh local seafood and any other local specialties that i wont find without being helped!
        Bill id love to know where i can get some more obscure American wines, again, id love to try some smaller boutique producers that i cant and wont ever find down here in Australia.
        thanks, any help would be greatly appreciated!!
        ps. thanks for all your previous posts, ive read them all (or at least most!!) and can't wait to try some of your suggestions

        1. re: brunelleschi


          My main recs. for Waikiki, and its environs, are more toward fine-dining. Others will have to fill you in on other spots.

          Still, my main list is now, as follows:

          AW - King Street
          Chef Mavro's - King Street
          La Mer - Halekulani
          Mariposa - Neiman Marcus/Ala Moana
          Bali by the Sea - Hilton Hawaiian Village (bit of a let-down last trip, but still OK)
          3660 on the Rise - free standing an out of Waikiki a short drive (worth it!)

          I also like Indigo in Chinatown for fusion cuisine.

          As for wine, outside of restaurants, on O`ahu, I just got a tip from friends on the Windward Side, for a Japanese owned wine shop. Seems that they have severl O`ahu locations, but I do not have the name handy - one on the Windward side for sure. My friend sang their praises on both the selections and the prices. He said they were better than Costco and much higher-end (this is Costco Hawai`i, as in AZ their list goes up to 1er Cru Bdx.). By the time I get the name, I'm sure that others will chime in and refresh my memory.

          On Maui, I was impressed by Mr. Wine in Laihaina off of Laihainaluna St. I picked up some nice FR Montrachet, a few Central Coast/Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs and a handful of Turley Zinfandels. I'm on the list for Turley and some of these were not even allocated to me.

          For wine programs at restaurants, I'd go with La Mer (though that part of our last meal was lacking), Chef Mavro (again, not up to their standards on last trip) and AW - a bit more limited, but always pairs well with the food. Their (AW's) pairings are always right-on by my palate.

          Indigo Eurasian Cuisine
          1121 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96817

          Alan Wong's Restaurant
          1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

          Chef Mavro restaurant
          1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

          La Mer
          2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

          Bali By the Sea
          2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

          1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 2101, Honolulu, HI

          3660 On the Rise
          3660 Waialae Ave Unit Frnt, Honolulu, HI 96816

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            There are two very good (ok, by Hawaii standards) wine stores in Honolulu, both have stores in the Kaimuki area (within about 3 miles of waikiki). Tamuras is located on Waialae Ave, not far from "Town" and "3660". Fujiokas, now owned by Times Supermarket but still operated by the same crew, is located in the lower level of Market City shopping center, across from Kaimuki High School.

            For fresh fish in an informal atmosphere try Nicos at pier 38 (i think) and Mitches for sushi is in an industrial area by the airport. Town in Kaimuki, and Downtown in the old YMCA building are both local driven restaurants with excellent reputaitons. Alan Wongs nd Roy's are both "Hawaii Born and Hawaii driven restaurants, as is Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch and Crab (on Nimitz highway, just west (ewa) of downtown).

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I KNEW that you'd come through. Yes, it is Tamura's, that I was trying to think of. You beat my e-mail requests by some hours.



              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Thanks guys, i was kind of sailing blind! Now really looking forward to my trip!