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Feeling Doubts About Going to Alan Wong Tomorrow

beantowntitletown May 1, 2012 10:20 PM

We'll be in Honolulu for 3 nights starting tomorrow and have a reservation at Alan Wong tomorrow night. We've learned that he and his main staff are in Maui for the new restaurant opening. Wanted to ask the regular diners at Alan Wong if they've been there when he wasn't in the kitchen and if there was a dropoff in execution on that visit. Just read a blog post about a recent disappointing meal by a longtime diner there, who was told that Chef Wong was in Maui. Maybe I'm needlessly anxious, but it'll be our first visit and I want to reduce chances of disappointment. Thanks.

  1. beantowntitletown May 7, 2012 11:33 AM

    We showed up at AWR a half hour before our reservation after a sunset mai tai at HWAK, but hostesses didn’t miss a beat and we were at our lanai table after a 10 minute wait. Had 5 course tasting with wine pairings. The pairings were among the best I’ve had (champagne, French rose, Kabinett Riesling, Beaujolais, Sauternes), really enhancing each dish. To borrow from KaimukiMan, AWR didn’t bat a thousand, but we enjoyed it a lot. Service was superb (Yuki was our server) and platings (except 1 course) were gorgeous. I don’t think the 5 course menu has changed in quite some time, so I’ll just hit highlights.

    Warm, crusty and airy roll required a lot of self-control not to inhale.

    1st: Ahi tartare was a little overpowered by the rice chip it sat in; mango ceviche delightful, tomato soup and kalua/foie gras/mozz sandwich outstanding, especially the tomato soup which was the star of the night. Kitchen very gracious about wife’s dislike of raw ahi and subbed seafood cake.

    2nd: Seafood lasagna full of clean flavors. Minor quibble with pasta being chewy near the edges.

    3rd: Onaga perfectly cooked, corn and mushrooms ideal complement. Miso sesame vinaigrette very harmonious and was lick-your-plate good. Onaga a little salty, just enough to be noticeable.

    4th: The one whiff of the night. All elements extremely well-prepared except overdone zucchini spears. Wife’s short rib had large vein of fat running through it. The disparate elements on the plate---a gorgeous shrimp on top of a kalbi-style boneless short rib, one broccoli floret, one cauliflower floret, and two zucchini spears---with a little bowl of white rice on the side, had no cohesiveness, and the dish was a letdown as the final savory.

    5th: presentation of mini-coconut was fabulous and we ate it all even though we were full.

    All in all, a lovely dinner and a nice introduction to AWR. We need to return to Honolulu soon.

    6 Replies
    1. re: beantowntitletown
      j
      Joebob May 7, 2012 12:32 PM

      Glad you (mostly) liked it, and thanks for reporting back. We try not to steer people wrong, but, in matters of taste, one never knows...

      1. re: beantowntitletown
        Bill Hunt May 7, 2012 07:46 PM

        Great news and mahalo for reporting.

        We have dined at AW's King St. several times, when Chef Wong was not in-house, but have not done so, when he (and maybe other staff members?) were opening a new restaurant, so that could have an impact. Still, even without Chef Wong, the house ran perfectly, and the food was excellent. Have not had that sort of experience at some other restaurants - when "the cat's away, the mice will play... " Never so at AW's.

        I agree with that "coconut." Though I am not much of a dessert fan, I just cannot resist on that one dish.

        Aloha,

        Hunt

        1. re: beantowntitletown
          beantowntitletown May 8, 2012 09:16 PM

          Without a doubt, Joebob, the feedback here was valuable. Unless there was an overwhelmingly negative response from the fine dining posters here, we weren’t gonna pass up dinner at AWR. Dinner wasn’t perfect, but yeah, Hunt, that coconut was a knockout. Our subsequent meals there must end with the coconut.

          1. re: beantowntitletown
            indelibledotink May 22, 2012 03:47 PM

            how was the coconut prepared?

            1. re: indelibledotink
              a
              akq May 22, 2012 04:56 PM

              It's AW's signature dessert - Haupia Sorbet in a Chocolate Shell, Tropical Fruits and Lilikoi Sauce. It looks like you've been served half a coconut, but it's sorbet with the chocolate shell. Very fun.

              1. re: akq
                Bill Hunt May 23, 2012 09:10 PM

                I am less a dessert person, than most, but the "AW Coconut" is one, that I will make exceptions for.

                Normally, I will do do a cheese dish, and then taste wife's dessert, and she knows that she will get 90% for herself - but, there ARE exceptions.

                Hunt

        2. j
          Joebob May 2, 2012 08:26 PM

          Can someone please give me contact info for the Maui AW? TIA

          4 Replies
          1. re: Joebob
            beantowntitletown May 3, 2012 01:53 AM

            Call the Grand Wailea and they'll direct you to AMASIA. Found out tonight that the soft opening started a week ago. The menu is supposed to be tapas oriented. Chef Wong is in NY right now for a James Beard Foundation event and will go to Maui when he leaves NY to prep for the grand opening of AMASIA in about 4 weeks.

            1. re: beantowntitletown
              j
              Joebob May 3, 2012 06:33 PM

              Thanks for the info. Any idea if AW will be in Amasia Saturday?

              1. re: beantowntitletown
                j
                Joebob May 3, 2012 07:37 PM

                I just called Amasia (875-1234x4900); was told AW will be in for Memorial Day weekend (5/23-24?). So where near Lahaina should we eat instead? Mamma's?

              2. re: Joebob
                manomin May 4, 2012 01:45 PM

                Alan will be at LCC for L'ulu.

              3. russkar May 2, 2012 07:39 AM

                You also might want to consider Le Bistro (15 mins from Waikiki) along with Manomin's excellent Waikiki suggestions

                1. manomin May 1, 2012 10:52 PM

                  I just saw Alan on Sunday. He has an excellent staff manning the helm at the original. I would not be concerned that he has just opened another establishment. You should definitely go and enjoy yourself. He has the kitchen in the very capable hands, his staff is hand picked and trained, They know the "Wong Way" and I recommend that you keep your reservation. I would also say that you should try Roy's in Waikiki. They have the 'classics' on the menu pages and a special page for the chef which features some amazing choices. Should you be vegan (I'm not but the vegan items which can be requested are amazing). I would also suggest if you drive to Kailua and are there at dinner 5:00 and later to try Prima. They have many new and delicious items on the menu and remain high on their mark and vision to feed the local community a menu dedicated to locally sourced ingredients and also a desire to have our visitors from around the world enjoy the bounty of Hawaii and their vast talents in the kitchen.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: manomin
                    beantowntitletown May 1, 2012 11:56 PM

                    Thanks, manomin. The hostess tonight said he was on Maui indefinitely so I got worried. We're taking a little side trip from Kaua'i cuz we haven't been to Honolulu in 15 years. Got an open dinner on Thur or Fri, so Roy's Waikiki might fit the bill, especially if it includes items not found at the restaurants outside Honolulu. Was also thinking about 3660 on the Rise and 12th Ave Grill.

                    1. re: beantowntitletown
                      manomin May 2, 2012 12:15 AM

                      Well then definitely consider Hirosho at Waterfront Row or sister restaurant Vino. I saw Alan at the recent "Taste of the Nation." GO to Roy's Wakiki!

                      1. re: beantowntitletown
                        manomin May 2, 2012 11:35 AM

                        Of the other two I'd vote for 12th Ave.

                        1. re: manomin
                          KaimukiMan May 2, 2012 06:32 PM

                          interesting how some lean toward 12th and others to 3660. My last two experiences at 12th avenue grill were less than good, but i know others who say the same about 3660, where I've always been pleased. nobody bats a thousand

                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                            russkar May 3, 2012 12:24 AM

                            Exactly

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