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HNL: Local, upscale casual in Waikiki (maybe an alternative to Town?)

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Hi all,

We'll be in Waikiki for 2 nights, but only for one dinner, in late August. This will be followed by 5 nights in Kauai and 7 nights on the Big Island. We're agonizing over our meals in HNL. Might be taking the Hawaii Food Tour, which would take care of lunch (and much of breakfast). But I wanted to focus on dinner.

We were deciding between Alan Wong and Chef Mavro, but decided we don't think we want to spend the money and would like to have drinks and appetizers at House Without a Key. So, a big fancy dinner probably doesn't make sense.

What we'd like is something upscale casual and local. Town seemed like a good option, but we will be without a car.

Any similar suggestions or other upscale casual and local (i.e. locally sourced food) establishments you'd recommend in Waikiki? We're staying at the Marriott.

Alternatively, if you think there's anything we need to eat in HNL that we simply won't find on Kauai or the Big Island, please let me know.

Thanks,
David

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

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

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  1. The buffet dinner in the Sheraton Wakiki is quite wonderful-I forgot the name but just go there and make a reservation. Aint no ghetto buffet either-its filled w many local dishes and something for everyone. Dress is pretty casual or as fancy as you want. They have entertainment as well which is pretty good too. I thinks place is called Kau Market or something like that. Faces the ocean and you can sit inside or out.

    1 Reply
    1. re: UES Mayor

      Kai Market ($50 pp)

      We like Azure @ the Royal Hawaiian for Oceanfront dining. ($69-pp for Chef's Tasting menu).
      We normally start off at Rumfire for Pau Hana (happy hour) @ 5p and walk next door to Azure.

      -----
      Royal Hawaiian
      2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

    2. check out the Halekulani (hotel) has two casual yet very high quality restaurants, Orchids or House without a Key, really amazing ambiance, casual, great service, great food. I highly recommend!

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

      18 Replies
      1. re: Taterbugruns

        From my personal experiences, I'd opt for Orchids, and reserve HWOAK for drinks and light fare, prior to dining. The venue is great, and the drinks excellent (wine list is brief and not up to the general standards of Halekulani, set by La Mer). The food, however, does leave too much to be desired for us.

        Now, not IN Waikiki, but close by, look to 3660 On The Rise. Short cab ride, and well worth it. They are in the Roy's class, regarding the mood and setting, and the food sings.

        Enjoy,

        Hunt

        -----
        La Mer
        2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

        Halekulani
        2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          yes, town and 3660 are within 2 blocks of each other, not far from waikiki. also in that area are Salt, the newest hot spot in Honolulu, as well as 12th ave grill and cafe miro to name a few. closer to waikiki and a local favorite are either of the side street in's, uncle bo's, Of course at the higher end are Mavro, Alan Wongs. Upscale casual and local IN waikiki would probably be Roys Waikiki. If you want to go lower end there is always Rainbow Drive-In, Just out of Waikiki. L&L is in waikiki but I am not a fan of their food at all. Or head over to ward and check out Kakaako Kitchen.

          At ala moana there is the Pineapple Room by Alan Wong in Macy's, Mariposa at Neiman Marcus, and Longhi's (which has never impressed me, but a lot of people speak very highly of)

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

          Rainbow Drive-In
          3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

          Kakaako Kitchen
          1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            The burgers are quite nice at Mai Tai Bar. Also Nordstrom has their restaurant although I'm not a fan of waiting in line with a tray for relatively higher end cafe food and then having someone bring it to the table and serve water.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Mahalo on Salt. I am unfamiliar with it.

              Just booked our Sept trip, with much on the North Shore, and then only four nights on the Waikiki side. All restaurants are "old favs" of ours, due to the short stay, and also golf on both sides of O`ahu. Maybe we can force in a lunch?

              Appreciated,

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                If you are here the last weekend of Sept. Roy and Alan are co-chairing a big food/wine event with lots of chefs from all over the world and lots of wine and some great master sommelier. My friend Larry Stone will be here for that.

                1. re: manomin

                  For us, it's just post Labor Day and 6th thru 17th. Will talk to Chef Wong about that event. Still trying to get Leigh Ito to PHX, when Chef Wong plays in the culinary golf event, but have not succeeded.

                  Please e-mail me at info AT huntphoto DOT com (should be easy to figure out), as we are trying to hook up with K'man on that trip and would love nothing better than doing the same with you. Just list "Chowhound" in the Subject Line Header, so that MailWasher does not trash the e-mail.

                  Mahalo,

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    When you are here you should try the Heeia Pier just for fun. There is a new deli/cafe there that serves up great burgers and when fishermen bring them fish amazing fish dishes. It's strictly picnic table but a great view and good old time fun. I sent you the information on the festival. You have a nice chunk of time planned here! Alan's new book is really wonderful, The Blue Tomato, you should get a copy. Oh, BTW the beef is from the Big Island, Kuahiwi Ranch and the buns are custom made at Kaneohe Bakery deliciously grilled with butter! I also had fries.

                     
                     
                     
                    1. re: manomin

                      Is this the place: http://www.yelp.com/biz/heeia-pier-ge... ?

                      We have great friends in Kane`ohe, and hope to dine with them one night, plus play a round of golf. I'll share this with them.

                      Mahalo,

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Yes it is. I live in Kaneohe too. Where do they live? I hardly go there but Haleiwa Joe's is down the road from my house. It was a fun lunch that Sunday. Wednesday I was there and he was doing fresh fish but I didn't have time to eat as I was going on a tour of Coconut Island and had lunch there. Maybe your friends have gone to the pier. I want to try one o f his breakfast specials sometime.

                        1. re: manomin

                          Well, not exactly Kane`ohe, but on Kaihone, in Kailua. When one is a Mainlander, they play fast and loose with specific geography. If we can hook up on the Sept. trip, I will ask them. They still owe me the location of their great little wine shop!

                          Mahalo,

                          Hunt

                      2. re: manomin

                        i don't think we should let manomin post any more, its not good for my diet plan. (Just Kidding) I hear only good things about Heeia Pier. I need to find a project on that part of the island so I have a reason to be there once or twice a week.

                        (note to self: do not read manomin's posts more than 2 hours after eating)

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          You are funny K-Man! I just got back from a swim and am eating leftover roast pork that I slathered with grilled peaches simmered in bourbon and ginger with polenta! I took notice that Panda's was pretty busy it's near the Safeway and I have to admit liking their food. The Heeia Pier sign on the highway was tempting!

                          1. re: manomin

                            Hey, if you add a good Riesling, I think that you have covered the full "food pyramid," except for the very top - foie gras!

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I don't like foie gras! I did enjoy it only once after having some of the best chefs on the planet serve it. It was a "peanut butter & jelly" sandwich made by Jason Peel @Roy's Waikiki especially for us one afternoon. It was beyond description, truly wonderful. Normally if I get it I take it home for the dogs, they love it!

                              1. re: manomin

                                Oh my gosh. I have got to get you to Phoenix (easier than London, Mayfair), and will get you foie gras, that is to truly "die for."

                                I have had good, at La Mer, but it would probably fall to about # 10 on my foie gras scale.

                                Hunt

                                -----
                                La Mer
                                2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Don't think he does foie gras but I'd come to Phoenix to eat at Tarbell's anyday!

                                  1. re: manomin

                                    I've dined with Chef Mark many times, but also do not recall any foie gras dish. Perhaps I missed it.

                                    Mark is great, and we love his restaurant, and I have only complained about the noise, for business dinners. Even the "quiet room" is too loud for real business, so we go elsewhere, but it has NEVER been about the food.

                                    Hunt

                2. re: KaimukiMan

                  If you mean Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar by 3660 on the Rise, I am not sure that helps the OP looking to walk from Waikiki, but that whole Waialae Ave & Koko Head Ave area has so many great places to eat at now it is worth a trip.

            2. As long as you are at the Halekulani, why not eat at Orchids? It is less formal than La Mer, but the food is great.

              I an think of a place like Town because Waikiki is not where a lot of locals eat.

              There is Roy's right across the street and Nobu too.

              Azure is good, but I would pass on Kai.

              Gyu Kaku on Lewers for yakiniku or Okonomiyaki Chibo Restaurant in the Royal Hawaiian Center.

              If you want to go really light you could slurp noodles at Ezogiku or Ramen Nakamura.

              -----
              La Mer
              2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Ramen Nakamura
              2141 Kalakaua Ave # 1, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Okonomiyaki Chibo Restaurant
              2201 Kalakaua Ave Ste 305, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Halekulani
              2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

              22 Replies
              1. re: scottca075

                I was there in April. My husband is a Roys fan so we always eat there. Gyu Kaku is lots of fun and they remodeled in the spring.

                Alan Wong runs the restaurant at Macys in Ala Moana and is really good.

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

                1. re: suburban_mom

                  We just got a Gyu Kaku here in Kaneohe at the Windward Mall, it looks really nice inside! I have to get there sometime, I see a banner advertising happy hour there. I am a huge fan of Roy's myself, love the one in Waikiki and go there a few times a year. In fact I'll be dining there twice this month!

                  1. re: suburban_mom

                    Yes, the Pineapple Room, or is it Alan Wong's Pineapple Room, in either case my mother likes Mariposa at Nieman's better because she is a sucker for their popovers.

                    -----
                    Mariposa
                    1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 2101, Honolulu, HI

                    1. re: scottca075

                      And the demi tasse of consomme' as well!

                      1. re: manomin

                        i agree on both the popovers and consomme... alas i had one friend who said, it's just bread and chicken broth, what's the big deal?

                        referring to another post, have to agree with manomin on pate... it still tastes like liver to me, not a pleasant taste.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          KMan and I disagree once more! I'm with Hunt on this one. Foie gras is to liver what Le Montrachet is to white wine. I made myself sick once eating at a restaurant in France that specialized in foie gras, even in the desserts.

                          Am I too late to get in on this group graze I've heard about? If not, email j.bobich@tcu.edu Who will bring the foie gras?

                          1. re: Joebob

                            @ joebob: I can bring the Foie Gras (seared) it will not taste Liverish. Or I can do a Foie Gras Terrine.
                            Several of the Foie Gras's we've had in France were Gamey tasting because they're Goose not Duck like here in the USA. Big Difference.
                            My e-mail is russkarla@yahoo.com. Waikiki is homebase...

                            1. re: russkar

                              This is getting to be quite a group! Anyone eaten at Uahi Grill in Kailua? I see it moved and was wondering what it's like. My usual if it were Wed/Sat would be Camille's on Wheels but she's not there on Thursday.
                              Maybe I'll just get the drink at Lanikai Juice with the beets and apple juice and I think also it has pineapple.

                              1. re: russkar

                                Talking to various "foie gras" chefs, each has shared that the velvety textures come from judicious use of the chinos, on the livers - duck, or goose. All of the top 10, for me have been goose (in the US, I believe all have been Hudson Valley, but might have missed one), on both continents, though I have had some good duck foie gras in a few restaurants. Just had Tennessee duck foie gras, that was very good, but managed to not crack that "top 10." For me, the penultimate were The Greenhouse, Mayfair, London, and was seared, plus apple-infused, with a Canadian Late Harvest Apple Cider, and then the "Drunken Huckleberry Infused Seared Foie Gras" (several wines, including a '90 Ch. D'Yquem Sauternes) by Chef Chris Curtiss at NOCA in Phoenix, AZ (several times).

                                One trip to NOLA yielded 8 foie gras dishes for the 8 nights. Unfortunately, I needed a physical, upon return, and my Dr. was very mad, but then he did not get to taste those wonderful foie gras dishes.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  @ Hunt: The Foie Gras you've had in the USA has been Duck not Goose, there is a huge difference.
                                  Goose is typically found in Europe and is grainy and gamey compared.
                                  Below is from the Hudson Valley Website:
                                  About Hudson Valley Foie Gras
                                  What is Foie Gras?
                                  Foie gras (pronounced fwah grah) is the fattened liver of a waterfowl (either duck or goose, but in our case, only duck) .
                                  Eight nights of Foie Gras sounds great and I just happen to know how to make it 8 different ways, thanks to French Cooking Classes 30 yrs ago.
                                  Hopefully you'll plan your next trip to Honolulu with 8 days of Foie Gras w/ Island Fruits and Reductions. aloha, Russ (favorite D' Yquem is 75' in Mag, hint, hint.)

                                  1. re: russkar

                                    Actually, most of it has been goose. I know that there is a major contingent, in California, that campaigns against goose, but in those particular cases, they have lost their campaigns. There are some Mainland chefs, who do not care what California wants, and some, who thumb their noses towards CA.

                                    While I have had the Californicated foie gras, it has not shined.

                                    Just had two nights of goose foie gras at Blackberry Farm, in Walland, TN, and the geese are not force-fed. Guess that they work to get Purina Goose Chow, or similar, but the foie gras was up near the top. In the case of Blackberry Farm, the chinois was the secret to a velvet-like foie gras, all from goose.

                                    Each restaurant has been very specific, as has been the chef - they use goose, and only as noted, duck. The force-feeding is another issue, entirely.

                                    Now, did the chefs, and the restaurants lie to me? I cannot tell you, but when pressed with questions, they quickly came forward with full details, so I have to trust them. Since Blackberry Farms sources the best in the world, I question why they would fabricate anything for me. If they tell me that the blackberries were harvested from Tom Simmons' patch, I have no reason to question them. They could be telling me a big story, but then I have met many of their suppliers over the years, and they tell me the same story.

                                    Mahalo,

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: russkar

                                      several years ago I went to a class/demo with Michael Ginor of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm. It was a most amazing afternoon and I learned a lot. I tried each dish and while I was not so enamored of them I had a deep appreciation for them after the seminar. I even bought the book which is a beautiful volume. He'll be here for the festival in September.

                                      1. re: manomin

                                        @Manomin: We went to a lunch with Michael Ginor at the Masters of F&W in Carmel 10+ yrs ago.
                                        I just bought tix for Sept 29th Morimoto's and Oct 1st HHV for the F&W Event in Waikiki.
                                        The event on Sept 30th is at Halekulani $1000- ea and you have to dress up, which isn't my favorite thing to do nowadays.

                                        www.hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com

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

                                        1. re: russkar

                                          @Russkar-I just got my tickets for 10/1. The 9/30 event is sold out. Had a most amazing meal at Roy's Waikiki Saturday! Jason just pulled it all out! The 2 things he sent out first were amazing and one even had foam. The foam itself never dissipated it was truly a work of art. Also had the most amazing "mac and cheese" - gnocchi and cheese actually, so good they gave me 2 bowls instead of one! I should post pictures of the food it was awesome.

                                          1. re: manomin

                                            @ Manomin: See you @ HHV 10/1. One of my favorite Chef's and Friend is the owner of Providence, Michael.

                                      2. re: russkar

                                        Russkar,

                                        Thanks for the link. Though I had seen Hudson Valley many times, I have to admit that I had never gone to their site.

                                        Your response and that link’s info, caused a lot of confusion. I tried to reconcile a few discussions about a few chef’s foie gras, and how they got them so creamy. I also had discussed duck vs goose foie with at least two. Along the way, I knew that one had Hudson Valley on their menu, and things just did not make sense to me. I was very confused.

                                        I e-mailed two, and called two. One was fly fishing in Montana, but took my call. I asked this chef to help me out, and recounted several conversations with him, on his foie gras. Once more, he shared that his secret was 2 - 3 trips through the chinois. That, he claimed, gave his version its creamy and smooth texture. I asked about him using goose liver foie gras, but that Hudson Valley appeared on the menu. He pointed out that there were usually two foie gras dishes on the menu. One, the standard WAS Hudson Valley, but, like his specialty foie gras, was run through the chinois several times. For his specialty foie gras, he used goose foie gras, usually from a company called Fauchon, or very similar.

                                        The next chef allowed as how he only used goose livers, and that he bought them de-veined, but still processed them through the chinois. He allowed that, from time to time, and depending on sources, he did use duck livers, and often Rougié, which he preferred to Hudson Valley. For his goose, he choose to not disclose his source, but cited several restaurants in France, that relied heavily on those particular products.

                                        The other chef, e-mailed that most of his foie gras dishes were mostly duck from Hudson Valley, but that, from time to time, he also sourced goose livers, which were locally produced, but refused to disclose his source, due to protests from PETA.

                                        I have not received a return e-mail from the chef in London, but will report, when I do.

                                        Now, I see why I was confused. Apparently, I had not asked all of the questions, but am anything but a seasoned reporter, and just enter into conversation with the chefs. I usually compliment them, if the dish warrants, and ask about it.

                                        I now know to pry a bit more, and to not limit myself to just the dish that I have enjoyed, but to other similar dishes on the menu.

                                        Thanks for asking the question,

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          @ Hunt: Nice Detective work. Being a fan of Foie Gras I normally "cross examine" the waiter or Chef anytime I order it.
                                          Goose Foie Gras is normally obtained in the USA on the Black Mkt because the FDA doesn't allow it to be imported.
                                          Most of the times I've had Goose FG is in Europe and it's typically more gamey than Duck depending on the preparation of course. Here in Hawaii it's normally just Hudson Valley. aloha

                                          1. re: russkar

                                            Considering some of the "evasion," that I received, I agree completely. Some of these folk I know, beyond just being a patron, but they look over their shoulders, and start to whisper, when I ask certain questions. I never have a "need to know," and take things, for what they are worth. Sometimes, that does lead to confusion (mine), and that is perfectly fine.

                                            Thank you for your details, though they did get me to thinking and asking. Sometimes, one needs that!

                                            Mahalo,

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              @ Hunt: Because I like the WHOLE Lobe Roasted we generally stick with the HV Foie Gras which works best. Then you slice and go through all 1 1/4 lbs as an intermezzo. Not for the faint of heart.
                                              First time we had it was @ French Laundry 10+ yrs ago. A mere $170- add on but worth it...

                                  2. re: Joebob

                                    Joebob,

                                    There will be such an event, and hopefully in the Spring. We would be honored, if you could join us. We need an Hawai`ian Chow-down.

                                    Our Sept. trip was something that i had to pry into my wife's travel schedule, and will be short. There are too many great contributors here, that we MUST do an even on O`ahu.

                                    I really related to the "Montrachet" analogy. I only wish that I could have come up with something like that, as it covers so many bases.

                                    Now, I am more of a "seared foie gras" fan, than the various terrines and pates, that I have sampled, but that is just me. Just had a seared version, that the chef had run through the chinos three times, and it was divine - one of the best, and I am an avowed foie gras "hound," much to the consternation of my cardiologist.

                                    We WILL do the "get together," and I will be honored to the max.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Hunt,
                                      A propos seared foie gras: we had it pan fried in the best French butter with the best asparagus I've ever had at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg before they got their third Michelin star. Obviously, though simply done, a very memorable dish. Wish you could have been there, but should be possible to recreate it in Phoenix with the right ingredients. Back then, the giant store chain Mamouth (sp?) offered perfectly silky-smooth foie gras for 300 NF/kg. We had it as often as we could, of course.

                                      Now I need to sign off and go swim for an hour. Just thinking about foie gras probably adds to my weight.

                                      Mahalo,

                                      JoeBob

                              2. re: scottca075

                                We more often do Mariposa, but that is likely because we do AW's King St.

                                Hunt

                                -----
                                Mariposa
                                1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 2101, Honolulu, HI

                          2. You have gotten some great recs already, but I also just wanted to point out that Alan Wong's isn't super expensive if you don't go for the all out tasting menu. The ala carte options are very reasonable for the quality and there's even a smaller tasting menu that is also quite reasonable. They will do any dish on the tasting menus ala carte. Just sayin'.

                            Unless it's on your tour, if you are interested in Hawaiian food, you might consider Ono Hawaiian which is just outside of Waikiki. Actual Hawaiian food is harder to come by than you'd think.

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

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: akq

                              For the first time in many years, and many visits, we are dining in the main area, and not the Chef's Counter. While we may still do the tasting menu, we might go a la carte too. We will decide, when we get there.

                              Hunt

                              PS - a very few have alluded to our getting "special treatment" at the Chef's Counter, so I want to dine away from that, just to be sure.

                            2. Hi Everyone,

                              Wanted to revive this thread as we are looking for something similar to Town as well (in terms of tastiness level and price point)… though a few more options might be helpful, as we will be 10 people.

                              Many thanks!