Waikiki with a baby and toddler (or, how far can one really go with a stroller?)
We are a few days into our trip here. My husband is off at a conference so I have the baby and her big sister during the day. I thought I would post a review of where we have been so far. Normally I would be pretty adventurous about eating, but we do not have a car and the co-eaters have limited attention span. So far, we've been to the Shorebird Restaurant, Roy's, Chibo Okonomiyaki, Kani Ka Pila Grille, and Tai Pan. I will post each review as replies
Staying at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel, we are eating breakfast here at the Shorebird every morning (though after reading Bill Hunt's review of Wailana Coffee Shop, we definitely have to venture over there). Perusing the Tripadvisor reviews, I was not expecting much and have been pleasantly surprised by the buffet. I never though I would appreciate a canned fruit array, but it works for the two year old, especially the lychees. High points: carved ham and turkey, lots of pineapple and papaya, vegetable fried rice (surprisingly good), mahi mahi (this has varied in quality, some mornings it is tender, others tough), chocolate macadamia nut muffins. The view is lovely though one has to be ready to leap to grab an available table.
Lunch buffet at the Shorebird: Decent. I liked the salmon lomi lomi and the cucumber salad. The Hawaiian food was otherwise uninspired.
Bar Menu at the Shorebird: Excellent fried fish in the fish and chips and a giant portion to boot. My husband likes the Ahi tacos quite a bit, but I thought the wasabi sauce was a bit strong. When we ordered a grilled cheese of the children's menu, they graciously substituted fruit for the fries.
Very friendly service.
Okay, confession, I love dim sum. In the course of doing research for this trip, I came across the blog, A Passion for Food, with a detailed and mouth-watering post on Tai Pan. It stuck in my head, and I became determined to go there.
So, Tuesday morning, I consulted with the concierge and headed over to Kuhio Avenue, baby strapped to my chest and toddler in the collapsible stroller. We caught the B bus over to Chinatown, an epic journey on a crowded bus with a squirmy talkative two-year old and a baby who woke up with an urgent need for food. Luckily, my fellow riders were kind and helpful, but it was socially harrowing in a way that driving in a car is simply not.
Got off on Beretania St., and wended our way into the Plaza. Tai Pan is at the back. I was surprised at how small it is, but I loved how we could see all the steamers going in the kitchen. We procured a table and high chair in short order. The waitresses and fellow patrons were very kind which was very welcome at that point. There is something about going out to eat solo with small children that can be monumentally exhausting.
I ordered har gau, steamed pork buns, steamed chicken buns, egg tarts, mango pudding, shrimp chive dumplings, and chicken with black mushrooms over rice. I ordered the last by accident, pointing to another table's food. I think I was trying to get XLB but was misunderstood. It didn't look good, little cartilaginous pieces of chicken and random greens, when it arrived. But it was delicious, chicken, choi sum, and shitakes. It had the virtue of a pure flavored sauce and excellent balance of flavors. My daughter recognized this and demanded all of the chicken.
The steamed buns were on the small side with subtly inflected fillings. The pork wasn't monumentally sticky sweet and the chicken had a nice amount of ginger. Har gau was tasty and juicy. The chive shrimp dumplings had an interesting mustard flavor.
I normally love mango pudding, but this was not my favorite. No chunks of mango and a bit too sweet. Still, a generous portion and very creamy, so this is personal preference.
The egg tarts. Holy moly, these suckers are amazing. Flaky pastry and a filling that reminded me of the very best creme brulee. Not at all yolky.
All of this stuff? $24. I left a generous tip for the excellent and kind service. (cash only by the way)
I brought back steamed buns, har gau, egg tarts, and chive dumplings. My husband enjoyed it so much, even in its refrigerated, eight-hours old state, that we are ditching the Shorebird tomorrow for Tai Pan.
They were bringing out a lot of good looking stuff on our way out. I hope to try the XLB tomorrow, so look for Tai Pan Part II review.
In summary, this place is amazing and I will always come back here whenever I go to HI. I wish it were in Northern California.
We had a little trouble locating the bus stop, but eventually found it. Had to refuel the baby and the toddler fell asleep which made exiting the bus challenging. Again, my fellow riders were unfailingly kind. Funnily enough, as I was waiting to board the bus, another woman with a young child muttered to me, "You have to watch out for these older people, they're really aggressive!"
Tai Pan Dim Sum
100 N Beretania St # 167, Honolulu, HI
glad to know Tai Pan was good. if you feel the need for dim sum again, Royal Garden at the Ala Moana Hotel (at the east/diamond head end of ala moana shopping center) does good dim sum at lunch time. a much less arduous journey, almost walking distance depending on everyones stamina, a short and easy bus ride otherwise.
Kani Ka Pila Grille: Located right next to the swimming pool here at the Outrigger, it is a nice food option. Not particularly cheap (burgers for $13, apps for $7-14), though their children's menu is a flat $6, very reasonable. There are also 10% off coupons in the coupon books which helps. They also provide the room service.
So far, I've tried the poke nachos (excellent ahi on wanton chips), pulled pork sandwich (I was dubious, but the waiter said it was good and was right), chinese chicken salad, chocolate haupia pie, and banana lumpia.
The chicken salad was good, grilled sliced chicken atop greens, rather than all choppped up. Carmelized almonds were a nice touch. The pork sandwich was really tasty, a soft bun, lots of juicy pork, thinly sliced sweet onions, crunchy fries.
The pie was tasty, but kind of dense. For some reason, I was expecting something fluffier/creamier. The lumpia is a good dessert with pineapple icecream and pineapple garnish.
I appreciate how this place is not just phoning it in. It's maybe not the most inspired bar menu ever, but fresh, high quality ingredients and care go a long long way.
Oh, my husband did find a random (cooked) chicken drumlet in his salsa cup. Upon bringing it to our server's attention, the waiter apologized, brought new salsa, and alerted the manager who came over, apologized and explained how the kitchen layout had led to that mistake. Good to find unordered food in the salsa? No, but very well handled.
Also, they have live music every night, with a rotating lineup of very good musicians. Again, someone is putting some care and thought into it and it shows. It is a great bonus for those staying at the hotel.
Okonomiyaki Chibo: Dang, it is some good stuff! I have had okonomiyaki infrequently since I lived in Japan and was eager to revisit that savory pancake. I will say, it was a stressful meal , but if your youngest dining companion didn't constantly require a bottle in her mouth and your oldest wasn't trying to climb out of the booster seat, it would be quite pleasant. The restaurant is on the third floor of the Royal Hawaiian shopping mall, very upscale. Apparently it shares the floor with a shooting club, denoted by these amazing posters featuring a very groomed asian woman in a stripey little blouse, pulled back hair (think Office Lady), big smile, shooting googles, and upheld fancy steel revolver. Wow. Ahem, anyway, back to the review.
I ordered miso soup, cold tofu, and okonomiyaki with pork and vegetables (pumpkin (kuri squash) and potato). Miso soup was good, though the two year old got most of it. Also, those narrow bottomed bowls are far too tippy for toddlers! Our waitress did bring a wide shallow bowl and child's fork and spoon, but attempts to relocate the soup were shrieked down. The cold tofu was excellent, a little grated ginger and lots of katsuoboshi. I would have liked even more green onion, but that is a personal preference.
The okonomiyaki was great: tender, succulent, ample, crispy edges, lots of kuri, and toothsome pork. They default to adding mayonaise, so let them know if you don't like mayo. I only got to eat a little bit, but our waitress packed it up and it tasted fantastic cold back in the hotel room.
I hope to make it back there, if only for takeout.
Okonomiyaki Chibo Restaurant
2201 Kalakaua Ave # 305, Honolulu, HI
My friend goes here every month or so when he goes to Oahu. He raves about it and I have been meaning to go. I am glad you liked it and am hoping to get there in May- I have a lot of places on the list, so we'll see how it all works out! I just wish you made your own okonomiyaki at the table, like most restaurants in Japan. Probably better that way...
Roy's: Located right across the street, it was very easy to get to from our hotel. As mentioned in other reviews, the services was gracious. One flaw, when I asked the waiter about how they source their fish and choose for sustainability, he didn't really know, mumbling something about them all being farmed. Hmm...
Spicy edamamae started the evening. I ordered a Guavalicious (I believe this was its name) cocktail, which I rather regretted. Peach and raspberry schnapps overpowered any taste of guava, and it ended up being generally sweet and tasting of artificial flavors. I think this is the kind of place that should check out the artisanal drinks movement in NY and SF, and revamp their drink menu accordingly.
Entrees were rich. I got shrimp over cauliflower puree, w/brussel sprout and pancetta, and what tasted like a tamarind sauce (though I don't think it was). My husband got seared ahi with a seriously hot wasabi sauce and a citrus butter sauce. Very nice quality fish. I regret not taking advantage of their prix fixe and trying appetizers and dessert too. Good food, nicely plated, but a little too heavily reliant on salt and fat for my taste.
The kiddo got pasta from the keiki menu, crudite and a truly enormous bowl of linguini with cheese and butter. It was fine. They were also kind enough to make some eda mamae sans spice. She finished with a sundae, vanilla ice cream with oreo crumbles and whipped cream. Small peeve, the cream was frozen and gummy. It would have been much better fresh.
Overall, a decent dinner and good service. Expensive and for close to $100, I expected a bit more from the food. So, I certainly wouldn't turn down dinner at Roy's if someone else were buying, but I wouldn't hurry back on my own dollar.
Actually, Shorebird Broiler (or whatever it might have morphed into) holds a soft spot in our hearts. One the first trip to Hawai`i, that I could fit my lovely wife into, we dined there on our fist night. We started in their bar, and as the wine list was non-existant, did a few Margaritas, which were good, and not that expensive. We were then seated at the railing at sunset and both chose the ahi from the fishmonger's menu. I char-grilled the tuna with just a few of the condiments, sauces and elements, provided. Maybe I got lucky, as I did not know the grill at all, but we both ended up with some great tuna. The service was good, and the folk helped us with what we were supposed to do, regarding the compliments to the meal, and also the full set of "rules." Fun, romantic (how could it be otherwise with my lovely wife?), not too expensive, and our meal was excellent, thanks to Chef Billy on the grill. We have dined there a few more times, and it's been good, but we could not quite capture "lightening in a bottle," like that first visit. I've mentioned it in some appropriate threads, and usually get "euh-h-h, that's at the Outrigger and is a 'tourist trap.' You expect us Chowhounds to go there?" Hey, unless one of my mutual funds happens to have invested in the Outrigger Resorts, it's not any big deal to me. We've never done anything but casual dinners there, so I cannot comment on anything else. Also, it's been many years, since we were last there. Still, over about 15 years, we did it another 6-7 times, at sunset and enjoyed it. Last decade has led to fewer nights, and also to more high-end dining, so they have not made the cut. Still, I remember that first night, with my wife on her first visit to Hawai`i, and that meal of grilled ahi. Considering the memories, and the cost, they were one of the best "deals" on Earth.
Glad to hear that they can still provide a good meal and that a family (with "young-uns") can enjoy.
Thanks for the report. It brought back a few dozen great memories.
re: Bill Hunt
Oh, how lovely to hear about your special dinner. I think I know where we should eat tomorrow evening now! I'll see if we can replicate your wonderful ahi with kiddos in tow.
I agree, I wouldn't normally go out of my way to eat at a place like the Shorebird, but really, I've been pretty pleased. Generally the food at the hotel, including the bar food, has been very solid and high quality. Plus, I appreciate a variety of reviews, not just the obviously chowish places.
I hope that you were successful. I have yet to be, but still have fond memories - my lovely wife does, as well. It was probably planetary alignment that contributed, but it was as good as it gets, and I did the "work."
We need to give them another try, as it has been some years, and many trips, since we were last there.