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Anniversary recs in Honolulu

wliu Apr 11, 2011 12:00 AM

Aloha all,

Hubby and I will be in town during the first week of June to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We have no dietary restrictions. We are coming from San Francisco and we'd like to find a really good Hawaiian restaurant. Basically we'd like to find a place that offers cuisine that can't be found in San Francisco. We kinda want to stay away from the touristy resort style places but we'll consider it if that's where the best Hawaiian restaurants are. We are staying at a hotel near the zoo and we have no car.

Mahalo!

  1. Bill Hunt Apr 13, 2011 09:14 PM

    Well, we dine in SF often, and are at Michael Mina's and Restaurant Gary Danko next week.

    We both love Alan Wong's (King St), and usually choose the Chef's Counter for most of our visits.

    We had some uneven dinners at Chef Mavro's, but the last visit was very close to perfect. Some others here, have had less than stellar experiences, and we did have one, two years ago, that was less than what we have come to expect. Still, it was good to very good, just not what we know it can (and should) be.

    I am also a fan of La Mer, at the Halekulani, and Chef Granier never has failed us. Only weak performance was due to the previous sommelier's lack of attention. He is gone.

    As all are up-scale, you will probably want to zero in on only one, for the anniversary event.

    Not too far from the Zoo, there is a nice, albeit slightly touristy, Hau Tree Lanai. We have had many lovely meals there, and even when filled, they have not disappointed us. If you are staying along Sans Souci Beach (my guess), they are well within walking distance. The others will be a short cab ride, unless one loves to walk to the Halekulani (we do it often, but some might find it too far).

    Most of all, happy anniversary and enjoy!

    Hunt

    -----
    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

    Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
    2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

    Halekulani
    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

    12 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt
      KaimukiMan Apr 14, 2011 12:13 AM

      bill,

      i agree that Alan Wongs, Roys, etc are excellent, but in this day and age do they have anything you won't find in San Francisco, LA, or probably Tokyo?

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

      1. re: KaimukiMan
        Bill Hunt Apr 14, 2011 09:54 PM

        I am not sure. We dine around the globe, and enjoy ourselves, but when in Hawai`i, greatly enjoy the restaurants there. Are they THAT different? To us, they do seem to be.

        I field similar questions, regarding some restaurants in New Orleans. One of my favorites, Stella! is often cited as "not something that you cannot get in NYC." Maybe, but it is chef-driven, and to me, is unique. It would be like saying that Restaurant Daniel is not something that one cannot find in Las Vegas, or that Gordon Ramsay's Petrus is not something that one could not get in NYC. To me, each is unique, and I appreciate each as such.

        Now, speaking of Roy's, I now feel that our location (different restaurant groups) in Phoenix is better than some of the Hawai`i locations. That should not be, but to me, it is. The only issue that I have had with Roy's in Hawai`i, has been the noise and the patrons. The loud crowd seems to flock there, and they are not my choice of dining companions.

        To me, AW is unique, and I am a big fan-boy, as I love the cuisine, and chef's treatment of the food.

        In our "global world," I am not sure that truly unique is possible any more. Still, I will always give props to the chefs, who make my palate sing, regardless of where they might be located.

        Hunt

        1. re: Bill Hunt
          b
          baseballfan Apr 16, 2011 10:19 AM

          Last fall we dined at the Roy's in Waikiki. Due to a change in plans we arrived without a reservation. They were able to seat us immediately on the outside patio. The large picture windows allowed us to view the small wedding reception going on inside. We watched with amazement the large amount of drinks that this small party of 10 ingested.
          As the drink total spiraled so did the yelling and cheering which we could hear through the window. It culminated in the drunken bride falling down on the floor with hysterics to follow.

          Needless to say, we were happy to have been seated outside. We found the whole thing to be surreal and really hysterically funny. My husband said "Who knew we would have dinner and a show?".

          1. re: baseballfan
            Bill Hunt Apr 16, 2011 06:09 PM

            Yes, when it comes to "events," whether it's a wedding, a convention, or even some smaller celebrations, it appears that many feel the need to "share." I share, but not while dinning. Sorry that you had to witness this.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt
              wliu Apr 16, 2011 06:33 PM

              I concur!
              That's why I would hope that patrons would have the courtesy and foresight to book a private room that's separate from the main dining area. Like if I'm celebrating my birthday with a bunch of rowdy people I know there's gonna be chaos. I mean I'm all for having fun and enjoying yourselves but please not at the expense of other people's sanity.

              1. re: wliu
                b
                baseballfan Apr 16, 2011 06:35 PM

                I agree! The only thing that made our experience sort of amusing instead of horrifying was the window separating us from the wedding party. Had we had the misfortune to be seated near them, it would have been a deal breaker.

                1. re: baseballfan
                  wliu Apr 16, 2011 06:43 PM

                  ok note to self:
                  Stay away from Roy's.

                  I've actually been to the Roy's in SF. I don't remember it being particularly loud or anything but I think the servers tried to sell us a bunch of exotic drinks and I got so drunk that I had a brownout on the sidewalk.

                  ugh.

                  1. re: wliu
                    b
                    baseballfan Apr 16, 2011 07:05 PM

                    Hate it when that happens! I live in the SF area (east bay) and on some nights in SF you would have fit right in with rest of the crowd.

            2. re: baseballfan
              KaimukiMan Apr 17, 2011 07:48 PM

              if i remember right, the patio is on the first floor, along with a space they use as a more or less private dining room, with the main dining room upstairs. it has always been a very "live" space acoustically, ie... noise bounces a lot in there. very 80s

              1. re: KaimukiMan
                Bill Hunt Apr 17, 2011 08:36 PM

                I find that many restaurant designers go for the "live surfaces," in hopes of creating a "happening place." To me, a lovely venue, great food and good service, plus a serviceable wine list, make a restaurant "happening" for me. I do not need noise, and when I encounter too much, wonder what they are hiding, or trying to. Same for places that are as dark as a cavern. Some call it "romantic," but as I am not planning on having sex in the restaurant, wonder what they are hiding. If I have to pan a flashlight over my food, to observe the presentation, I worry that I might well be missing something that I do not wish to eat.

                In decades past, I found most Roy's in Hawai`i to be good restaurants, with a very pleasant atmosphere. The Hawai`i Kai location was a "least favorite," but was still more than adequate for dining. Now, they seem to have gone for the "drunken pool hall" crowd, with screams and shouts.

                Have not dined at Roy's Waikiki, so have no direct comments on that venue.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  russkar Apr 17, 2011 10:13 PM

                  @ Hunt: Couldn't have said it better.
                  Roy only owns the Hawaii Kai and Waikiki restaurant which is our regular favorite.
                  Roy opened Tavern in Kauai (Princeville) recently and we'll be there for dinner this Sat, report to follow.
                  It's tough flying for 30 mins between Islands and having to risk good wine in the baggage compartment. aloha

                  1. re: russkar
                    Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 06:53 PM

                    Mahalo for the tip on Tavern on Kaua`i. The Princeville Area needs some new restaurant blood. Hope that this infuses that!

                    Please do report, as that part of Kaua`i does not get the culinary love, and possibly with good reason - however, it is a wonderful area, and not to be missed, but Kapa`a is too far to drive, just to dine.

                    Travel safely,

                    Hunt

      2. KaimukiMan Apr 12, 2011 12:55 PM

        UES Mayor is on target. There are only a few places that serve authentic Hawaiian food. Hawaiian food includes things like poi, squid or chicken luau, poke, lau lau, kalua pig, sweet potato, sea urchin, dried or fresh fish, raw crab, and coconut pudding (haupia) etc. Post contact Hawaiian food will include things like lomi salmon (salmon is not native to hawaii), chicken long rice (celophane noodles), rice, and similar items that were not part of the native diet, but have been incorporated so long that no one looks twice at a luau when they show up. More recent additions include teriyaki meats, musubi and sushi, potato and or macaroni salad, kal-bi ribs, and other ethnic foods.

        Helenas, Haili's, People's Cafe, Ono's, and Highway Inn are among the best known and more authentic places to go for endemic/authentic/real Hawaiian food, including some of the more common 'additions." None of them are going to be a fine dining experience, its just out of character with the cuisine.

        This is food you are not going to find in SF. The places there that claim to serve "Hawaiian" food are mostly serving bad plate lunch kind of food, a whole different subset of local eating.

        -----
        Highway Inn
        94-226 Leoku St, Waipahu, HI 96797

        5 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan
          wliu Apr 12, 2011 01:21 PM

          Thanks K-Man and U-Mayor. I know items like loco moco can't possibly be authentic but heck it's comfort food just like fortune cookies and walnut shrimp is NOT authentic Chinese food. It's a shame what americanization has done isn't it?

          I hope some of the places you mentioned are going to be near our itinerary.

          1. re: wliu
            KaimukiMan Apr 13, 2011 01:54 PM

            Walnut Shrimp is not traditional, but it (apparently) was invented in Hong Kong. It's one of those grey areas...hahaha

            There have been previous discussions on Loco Moco. Rainbow drive in is close to Waikiki and is one of the most 'authentic.'

            Helena's, Ono's, and Haili's all should be easy to get to. People's cafe is downtown, but Highway Inn is probably not going to work for you.

            -----
            Highway Inn
            94-226 Leoku St, Waipahu, HI 96797

          2. re: KaimukiMan
            Bill Hunt Apr 13, 2011 09:17 PM

            K'man,

            You, and UES Mayor are correct. Hawai`ian cuisine is not THAT common, but Hawai`ian influenced cuisine is much more common - I think Alan Wong's, and similar here.

            The exact criteria for the OP might need to be resolved. I am thinking "Hawai`ian influenced," but could be horribly wrong. If so, then I will take my lashes from the board... [Grin]

            Hunt

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

            1. re: Bill Hunt
              wliu Apr 13, 2011 09:39 PM

              Thanks Bill!

              Yeah Hawai'ian influenced is the word! Essentially we want a unique dining experience but doesn't need to be all that fancy or expensive. Something that can't be experienced in freezing cold SF. I'm figuring that being able to eat outside near the water in the warmth and gorgeousness will suffice in and of itself.

              Main reason for wanting to stay away from the touristy areas is to be away from loud party drunk rudeness. But if such dining establishments are among the company of civil people then we'll consider the resort areas. I dunno, we'll have to see and walk around there and see for ourselves.

              My husband has his eyes set on Nobu.

              What do y'all think of Nobu?

              1. re: wliu
                Bill Hunt Apr 14, 2011 09:34 PM

                Have not done Nobu's on Hawai`i, but have done so elsewhere, and the food was great.

                I am with you on "loud." Roy's on Big Island was a fav., but the crowd went to the "screamers, and shouters," and we quit dining there. I do not mind if the patrons are from elsewhere, as I am too. I just do not want them loud and in my face. Same when I dine anywhere. Ladies and gentlemen should enjoy their meals, but not not make me painfully aware of their enjoyment.

                Unless I flag a rec. as loud, my places are anything but. On that note, I want to be able to talk, in calm voice, with my dining companion. I do not care about the lives of other diners, and do not wish to share their pains, or their joys. I wish for them to keep it to themselves, but then, I am very old-school, and want to enjoy my evening with my wife, or my guests, and not everyone else in the restaurant.

                As for "resorts," that will depend. Halekulani (La Mer), will be an exception, or over the decades, it has been.

                Going back many years, I dined with the CEO of the Ritz-Carlton chain, just after his group won their first Malcomb Baldridge Service Award. I asked him about that award, and he shared his credo - "we are all ladies and gentlemen, helping ladies and gentlemen." Those words should apply to dining, IMHO, and I seek out venues, that support that.

                Enjoy,

                Hunt

                -----
                Halekulani
                2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

          3. u
            UES Mayor Apr 11, 2011 05:33 AM

            please clarify Hawaiian-is that Hawaiian cuisine or a restaurant located in Hawaii.

            2 Replies
            1. re: UES Mayor
              wliu Apr 11, 2011 10:25 AM

              Hawaiian cuisine.

              1. re: wliu
                u
                UES Mayor Apr 12, 2011 04:40 AM

                in a word-Helena's! Very casual and dont forget to try the pipikaula short ribs. The have a day or so they are closed so call ahead.

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