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Jan 27, 2009 02:09 PM

Mini report on Waikiki restaurants

Just returned from four days in Waikiki and we had some memorable meals and some not so memorable:

Our best meal by far was Sunday brunch at Orchids in the Halekulani. We had top notch service and the food was excellent. There was a variety of fresh sashimi and assorted fish poke, a whole kalua (sp?) pig, eggs benedict over crab hash and wonderful salads, desserts etc. We ordered a bottle of champagne and lingered over bunch in a breathtaking setting. Unfortunately, one of our less memorable meals was also at the Halekulani in the House Without a Key. There were six of us for dinner, the service was poor and the food not great. The prime rib meals looked like they had been plated in a cafeteria (picture an ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes and somewhat greyish meat) and overall the food was unattractive and basic. The atmosphere and music was lovely but the service and food left a lot to be desired. It is hard to believe that the two restaurants were in the same hotel.

We stayed at the Westin Moana Surfrider and had a couple of lovely breakfasts at the Veranda restaurant. They have a simple buffet each morning and a'la carte items such as macadamia almond struesel waffles which were very nice. Our best mai tais were also to be had at the Moana and we tried our best to compare them to as many other beachfront bars as we could! They have a Valentine's Day dinner menu out that looks fantastic.

We rented a car one day and drove to the Turtle Bay Resort on the northern tip of Oahu. Had lunch at Ola which was very nice but it didn't quite live up to the reviews we had read prior to booking. We were disappointed with the kalua pork sandwich which turned out to be fairly bland shredded meat with a Bullseye type barbecue sauce on a hamburger bun. The service was very good though and they also make a mean mai tai!

Last but not least, we had decent meals at Duke's and at the Cheesecake Factory. Normally we try to stay away from chain restaurants while on vacation but the rest of our party wanted to eat there and I have to say that they were two of our better dinners out.

Sorry to leave Waikiki but looking forward to returning one day and trying out some of the other Chowhound recs.

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  1. Your Halekulani reports mirror ours - Orchids' Sunday Brunch = outstanding. HWAK, not so good. I'd recommend doing the pu`pus and the drinks, and just enjoying the setting and music.

    Sorry about Ola. With one major mistep (rectified quickly and graciously), our evening meal was very good to excellent. Just wish that we'd gotten two of the crabcakes, that I tasted, and not the one that my wife got. Still, in an instant, it was replaced, and the bill corrected to reflect 0 crabcakes. Sounds like lunch is not their strong suit. Nice to know, as wife wants to go back to TBR.

    Nice to know about the Moana Surfrider. I love the property, but have never dined there. Seems that we've done a few glasses of wine out on the property, but no food. Still - just love that property!

    I've heard good and bad, re: Duke's. Never dined there, so nice to know that it's OK.

    You comments are appreciated. If we go back to TBR, as planned, I will do one lunch at Ola, and see what the heck is going on. IIRC, we only did breakfasts, then evening meals around there. Can not recall a lunch at any restaurant near-by. Maybe it was because of our stash of white Burgs, and the "fruit of the day," that was always waiting in our cottage - only time that I have eaten durian.



    2 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      I would also give Ola another chance because the only thing we had to complain about was the pork sandwich, which unfortunately 3 out of our group of 6 ordered. If and when we make it back to Oahu, I'd like to stay somewhere on the North shore and try out more of the restaurants in that area.


      1. re: Food focused

        That *should* have a good bet, all things considered. If a Hawaiian restaurant cannot do good pork, well maybe something is amiss.

        Because we love O`ahu, and usually stay for a bit in the Honolulu Area, we also like to kick back on the North Shore. Last trip, we were impressed with the restaurants at the TBR, as they were never good, in days gone by. Even their main restaurant impressed us (name eludes me at this moment, but it is in my review), but we did the menu, NOT the buffet. The staff was overjoyed, because we were the first diners in weeks, who were not there for the buffet. Maybe that showed in our meal.

        We're planning another O`ahu trip, with maybe Ko`olina added in for a few days. Maybe we'll be able to add more new spots to our rotation.

        Again, mahalo,


    2. I agree about the outstanding brunch at Orchids, excellent selection of well prepared food in a beautiful setting overlooking Waikiki Beach. I'd go more often if it wasn't so expensive, but it's a great special occasion splurge for us.

      1. I cannot agree with you any less!!!! I always enjoy Bruch at Orchids but House without a key absolutely SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!! I made a stern complaint to manager about quality of food and service and he thankfully took care of us. For such a highly regarded institution-Halekulani should do something about this situation-bad-bad bad!!!!

        9 Replies
        1. re: UES Mayor

          who are you disagreeing with? everyone said Orchids yes HWAK no.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            Sorry for any confusion-u said it perfectly.

          2. re: UES Mayor

            UES Mayor,

            Either I misread your post, or you misread the OP's. Could be my error, but please look again. The review was very good to glowing for Orchids, and was way down of HWAK. These were my personal observations, as well.

            HWAK needs to redefine itself, if they are going to offer a full menu. If it's just pu`pus and drinks on the pool deck, then kill the full menu, as it is a real problem, especially with regards to La Mer and Orchids.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I'm not disagreeing with anything you said-which btw after reading this I contacted the General Manager at the Halekulani-I will post his response. I thought it was very kind of him to respond and hopefully things will improve for the better-I hate taking people and raving about a place only to be dissappointed. Here's the response I got: I want to thank you for writing and advising me about the less than enjoyable experiences you have had with House Without A Key lately regarding the menu and the food quality. I also appreciate the attached link to Chowhound.

              Our new Executive Chef has been hard at work revitalizing the menus for this restaurant. We have implemented a new Bar-B-Que menu for Tuesday and Thursday nights and we have also renewed our daily breakfast buffet in this area. Soon the luncheon and dinner menus will be changed. I think you will find them appetizing and enjoyable. Please come back and give them a try. Please be sure to let me know how you feel about our efforts in this regard.

              Again, thank you for taking the time to share your comments with me.


              Gerald Glennon

              1. re: UES Mayor

                Thank you for sharing. It appeared that I was piling on, and I did not mean to do that. I think that posts were flying about in Cyberspace at about the same time.

                I hope that they are successful in revamping the menu (and their wine list), at HWAK. The venue is great, and other restaurants on the property are excellent. They just need to decide what the mission of HWAK is, and follow that.



                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    House Without a Key

                    still trying to get the places link to work... so far no luck... i'll get it.

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Just a couple of NYC long time chowhounds checking in on this. We're heading back to Oahu the first 2 weeks in May and we always watch the sunset while drinking and listening to the music at HWAK at least 2-3 nights while in Waikiki. The place is magical. However, over the last 12 years or so (5-6 visits), we havent ever had dinner there but have sat with others who have, tourists and locals.... no one has ever said anything about the food that surpassed mediocre. Hopefully, we'll see an upgrade in May... maybe we'll even order something that doesnt have an umbrella stuck in it. Anyone want to join a couple of 50-something year old jaded Brooklynites for drinks in May, just let me know.

                      1. re: Steve R

                        Steve R,

                        I think that your use of HWAK is the perfect one, IMO. The venue is lovely and the entertainment has always been top-notch. Now, we're not drinkers, beyond wine, but think I'd opt for something other than their wine list. Considering how good La Mer's is, we have found HWAK's to be horribly weak, and it has not improved over the years.

                        With the good food from both La Mer and Orchids', I do not know why they fall so far behind. Should not be that difficult, but we've never been impressed. As you stated, nothing has ever "surpassed mediocre."

                        If we were going to be on O`ahu, we'd gladly join you for the music and the CH-company. I like the music so much, that I choose the seating in La Mer, that overlooks HWAK, rather than the Pacific. Didn't even know that there was seating overlooking the Pacific, until someone on CH mentioned it. The music rules!