A Month of Paradise on Oahu -- May 2012
Well, the month has come and gone and here I am back home in Brooklyn, NY trying to remember everything about the month and coming to the realization that, as much as I like to write, no way am I going to do a comprehensive write-up of everywhere we went. Especially since we never cooked and had a tendency to eat more than once a day. So, let me start by thanking everyone at the Diamond Head Tennis Courts off Paki (Kapiolani Park area) for ensuring that I ran around the court enough that I didn't gain weight on the trip. As always, the players were gracious enough to invite me in to their games and their Thursday bbqs as well. And thank you to the weather gods who only managed to put out a cumulative 1/2 hour or so of rain the entire trip & putting out a full month of great sunsets.
So... some comments on the food (I'll try to keep it down... feel free to write to me directly if more is desired/needed):
- Alan Wong's remains our favorite place and our dinner at the counter this trip was even better than I remember from (several) previous visits. The wine pairings were better as well. Hau Tree Lanai's food was, once again, good enough to be worth going mainly for the view/serenity and the overall feel of the place. And it fronts the best beach in the area.
- Helena's remains my favorite lunch place and, although AW and Helena's are, in many ways, night and day, there's a certain genuineness in the food at both places that I find irresistible and highly enjoyable. Love the squid with greens.
- HWAK is just so perfect (well, May sunsets aren't visible from the seats but close enough) that we found ourselves there 3 or 4 times. Could easily return another 3 or 4, but certainly not for the food. Great drinks, music and ambience.
- For folks that don't cook, Shorebird was more than fine for us as well. Location, location, location. And, of course, drinks. And the burgers are high quality steak scraps & very tasty, even with me doing the cooking. Dukes wasn't so bad either.... actually decent fish, prepared without doing any harm.
- We went back to Town twice. I think its actually gotten better than it was 3 years ago, when we first visited and went twice in a week. I'd be a regular there if it were nearby. We also went to 12 Ave Grill twice and loved it both times. And their other place Salt as well (eat at the bar... the restaurant's upstairs dining area is too isolated). These accounted for 5 excellent meals, all highly recommended. More New Yawkish than any other places we went to but Hawaiian enough in feel and content that we could spend more time there and be very happy.
- La Mariana is the tiki bar of collective memory and was worth every minute of eating fried food to watch sunset over the yachts, listen to the piano player and drink... well, tiki drinks.
- Irifuni wasn't as good as I'd hoped (fish somewhat dried out) but the fried tofu was excellent and I'd go back eventually. I think our re-visit to Side St. Inn (the original, not the one "on da strip") cured me of ever having to return. And, although I really liked the vibe at Ono's, the food didn't do anything for me. Maybe I'm just spoiled by Helena's, which I find to be much better. Too bad.
- Finally made it to Nico's, now in their new digs and with live music. We really liked it, especially the mixed poke (I live on that stuff while in town, and make it to Tamashiro's, etc to stock up our refrigerator). Someone want to explain to me why Nico's gets all the press, while Uncle's (right next to it) is virtually unknown to everyone other than locals? We went there as well and I missed Nico's ambience but loved the greater fresh fish choices at Uncles. I think it's more than worth a visit or two.
- Overall, I'm still an advocate for dim sum at Tai Pan (in the Cultural Center). I'm sure lots of other places are just as good, but it hits my spots pretty well every time. Communication is a little difficult, as just about no one working there is fluent in English, but smiles and pointing has always worked for me. Try the carrot mochi.
- Went to Yaganaki Sushi with some Japanese friends and had a very nice dinner at a very nice price. As someone who is almost completely ignorant on this topic, I have no idea if I'm "correct" in appreciating and recommending it.
Not much else to say (wasn't that more than enough?). Good music at the Marriott on Thursday eves when the family & friends of the late Genoa Keawe (who we went to hear and met several times) perform. More good music at The Venue when Popa Chubby (blues guitarist) was in town performing (we know him from back here where he performs regularly at our local bar). And lots more good stuff. A great month. I miss the smell and feel of the place already. At least Hawaiian Air is now starting non stop flights from JFK and we won't have to trek to Newark to take United. Mahalo all. See you again soon.
re: Bill Hunt
Thanks. Starting with the mid-80s, we're kind of unusual for East Coasters, as we've visited Oahu at least 7 times (every 3 years or so?). But we've never been to Mavro's. I'm not sure what about it (or him) makes me decide not to go, even though we always intend to (& we even have a friend back here in NYC who worked for him years ago). It just seems well, too much about him and not about the patrons or the enjoyment of food. Maybe it's just me? I mean, it's not like we haven't been to very chef centric places here in NYC and liked them. Cant put my finger on it.
One of these days, we'll all be there around the same time.
That was one of the draws for us, as we had dined with Chef Mavro, at La Mer, way back when.
Fairly recently, we dined with him, and did hid "retrospective tasting menu." While we recalled a few of the dishes, from way back when, some were new to us. We greatly enjoyed the experience, and especially as a few dishes were "a trip down memory lane."
Sorry that you missed him, but then, there is always the next trip.
I think your comments on most of this are right on target. Especially your add-on comments about mavro.
when uncles and nico's first opened there was quite a price gap between the two, as well as a difference in atmosphere. Nico's made it on low price high quality, decent quantity breakfast and lunch mostly for local people who worked in the area. Uncles was more oriented towards sit down in air conditioning lunch and usually also took longer. The differences are no longer as pronounced.