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Stuff We Ate in Honolulu

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Stuff we ate in Honolulu. Background: We stayed at the Halekulani. We’ve stayed there once a year for at least the past 15+ years. We didn’t rent a car this trip except for one day so we mostly ate within walking distance.

Wednesday
Lunch at House Without a Key – Joy’s Special (i.e. crab salad sandwich with bacon and avocado). They serve it on a brioche bun now rather than toast like before. Also with a small salad rather than chips. Tasty but nothing out of this world. Location adds a lot though. So did the gin Rickey.
Manager’s Reception – Had some pupus and drinks. Not as good as in past years but hey, they’re free. Veal spring rolls, various roll sushi, strange potato bacon croquettes, fruit and cheese. Can’t turn down free food and drinks. It was held in the living room area outside of Orchids since they’re remodeling the upstairs area above HWOK where they usually hold it.
Drinks at House Without a Key – Watched the hula and had more drinks and coconut shrimp.

Thursday
Breakfast at Orchids – American breakfast (eggs, choice of meat, strangely mediocre potatoes, toast, choice of fruit, pastry basket, coffee). High quality food, excellent service, wonderful location.
Dinner at Alan Wong’s – We had the 7 course tasting menu. There was an amuse but damned if I can remember what it was.
First course was a cold seafood salad (crab, lobster and abalone on edamame tofu panna cotta with little cubes of ponzu gelee). The edamame panna cotta can best be described as just plain nasty. Honestly I tried to like it but couldn’t. The best thing about it was it was a relatively thin layer at the bottom of the plate and was hard enough that when eating the rest, you didn’t accidentally get some on your chopsticks. The seafood itself was quite delicious with the gelee.
Next course was “soup and sandwich”. It was a kalua pig, foie gras, grilled mozzarella sandwich with a cold tomato soup. The sandwich was an A+. Foie gras and kalua pig is a good thing. Soup was okay.
Third course was “mini loco moco”. There was mochi crusted meatloaf, topped with seared foie gras with a fried quail egg on top. Amazingly rich dish. The sauce was a bit sweet but I’m not complaining. We both quite enjoyed this.
Fourth course was steamed moi with shrimp/pork hash and a truffle sauce. I think this was my favorite dish of the evening. The moi was perfectly cooked. The truffle sauce was surprisingly not too heavy.
Fifth course was lobster poached in coconut butter. Sauce had glanga and lemongrass. Also mushrooms. I was starting to get full by this point. A very rich course.
Sixth was the beef dish. Strip loin with tomato curry chutney, foie gras coulis, and potato goat cheese croquette. I think there was some kind of veg on the plate too. Quite frankly, I was stuffed by this point and just ate the steak (it was small) and tasted the rest. The courses here are relatively large for a tasting menu. I can imagine enjoying this one more if I wasn’t so full.
We each got dessert samplers. Mine had tropical fruit tapioca, cheesecake, a chocolate thing, and a strawberry thing. My wife’s had ice cream instead of the tapioca and the rest the same. I liked the tapioca and chocolate thing. My wife liked the strawberry thing.
All in all, it was an excellent meal except for the edamame panna cotta. The portions really are quite generous for a tasting menu so be warned. One thing though. My wife ordered the wine pairings with her meal. She really didn’t like the pairings.

Friday
Breakfast at Orchids again.
For lunch, I had a burger by the pool. It was big.
Dinner at Roy’s on Lewers across from the Halekulani. We both ordered the prix fixe menu. In fact we both ordered the same things. Appetizer plate which had a lumpia, a rib, and some seared ahi; mac nut crusted fish for mains; and chocolate soufflé for dessert. I can’t remember what the other choices were other than they’re different from what’s listed on the Roy’s website. I think it was $40 and $55 with wine. It was a pretty standard Roy’s meal. Friendly surfer dude servers. Good if somewhat familiar food.
Drinks at Lewer’s Lounge in the Halekulani. This is really great place to have drinks. It’s dark, there’s a jazz duo, and they serve pistachios and almonds.

Saturday
Yet another Orchids breakfast. I had haupia french toast with grilled pineapple. Very good.
Lunch was an order of fries and drinks.
Dinner at La Mer – First amuse was a popover filled with smoked salmon cream cheese. Also a “welcome” taste of champagne. I seem to recall it being a larger pour before.
Second amuse was more of that same smoked salmon cream cheese. Quite a bit of it in fact but only one toast to go with it.
We started with the assortment of appetizers for two. It was tuna tartare, smoked salmon, a sautéed shrimp, white anchovies, sautéed foie gras, smoked duck, beef tartare with quail egg, scallop risotto, mussel soup and lobster bisque. The two tartares were somewhat bland. The mussel soup was way too salty. The lobster bisque was good if not exceptional. The foie gras, duck and scallops were exceptional. This course was a PITA to eat though. Although it’s meant for two, they don’t serve two of everything. There was one shrimp, one piece of foie gras, one cup of mussel soup, and one cup of bisque which meant swapping of cups and cutting up of things. Also there’s a $36 up charge for this course (total, not each). If I had it to do over, I’d just order the scallop risotto and something else instead for the price.
My wife ordered the deconstructed bouillabaisse for her main. It comes out as a pot of the broth covered with puff pastry. The waiter then assembles the dish by removing the puff pastry and spooning the brother over a bowl of seafood. Four or five types of white fish plus shrimp and scallops I think. It’s also served with small toasts and garlic aioli. She enjoyed this dish quite a bit.
I had the crispy skin onaga. It was served on a piece of potato/bacon terrine with a truffle jus. It also came with pureed (i.e. mashed) potatoes, and a little tower of vegetable slices. There was a deep fried zucchini blossom poking too. The onaga was perfectly cooked with a nice crispy skin. The potato/bacon terrine was good as well. The zucchini blossom tasted like it had been fried a long time ago. Definitely not freshly fried.
For dessert we each had soufflés. Wife had grand marnier and I had lilikoi. Both were served with a little bowl of fresh raspberries and crème anglais. They were good.
I have mixed feelings about La Mer. The room and service are top notch. The food for the most part is done well. But there were a few things that were just off. The first amuse was filled with the same smoked salmon mousse as the second amuse. Plus it seemed like the second amused had been plated and refrigerated a long time ago. No funky taste to it, but it was rock hard cold. The fried zucchini blossom tasted like it had been fried many hours ago. And the appetizer plate was just a real PITA for two to share.
We went to Lewers Lounge to listen to music and have a nightcap.

Sunday
Had brunch at Orchids - Food here is really just so much better than any Vegas buffet like Wynn or Bellagio. I love the crispy skin from the kalua pig. One change from previous years is that they now have little individual cakes for many of the desserts rather than slices of big cakes.
Bloody Mary wasn’t that great though.
Wolfgang Steakhouse – That would be Wolfgang Zweiner, not Puck. Allegedly this place is supposed to be a close facsimile of Peter Luger at least food wise. Nice room on the third floor of the Royal Hawaiian shopping center overlooking Kalakaua. Tall blond hostess with very short skirt. Service was good if somewhat unpolished (why did they take my bread plate after our appetizer?) Started with a crab cocktail. It was just a large pile of crab meat with a cocktail sauce based on their steak sauce I believe. Not sure what kind of crab it was but definitely not Dungeness. It was good enough though. Next we split a Caesar. It was okay. The dressing wasn’t really what I’d call a Caesar being more like a vinaigrette. Several days of big eating were catching up to us so we just ordered a single rib-eye. The steak came pre-sliced and perhaps closer to rare than med-rare but that was okay with us. It was tasty and had a good crust. For sides we had asparagus (note to kitchen: trim the damn woody ends) which came with a hollandaise which I didn’t try. Also had a gigantic plate of excellent steak fries.
We saw other tables that had ordered the Porterhouse for two. It was gigantic. There was no way we would have come close to finishing it. The rib eye wasn’t proportionally gigantic but was enough for us that evening. They’re definitely a step above a Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s type of place but below someplace like Cut. Allegedly they have a great happy hour. We didn’t get dessert.

Monday
A final Orchid’s breakfast and then we left for the airport.

Random Thoughts
Beard Papa is gone and replaced by Red Mango.
If you rent a car from Dollar on Kalakaua, be prepared to wait. Horrendous line, two clerks, and half the renters are from Japan so it takes extra long to process them. Also, when you return the car, you have to wait in line again to finalize your rental.

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  1. Thanks for the report, zippyh. I agree with you about La Mer's apparent slow decline and AW's sometimes peculiar creative failures.