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Anniversary in Hawaii

Parents are marking 50 years of marriage in Hawaii and the family is assembling in December to celebrate. Dad was born in Kahuku but left many, many years ago.

So, I've done a bit of research on my own, but I am interested to know which restaurants are best able to handle largish parties. We are 11 adults and 2 children. We will eat anything not tied down and some things that are.

Most of us are some significant portion of Japanese, though Pops is the only one who is 100%. I say this because we are particularly fond of Asian food: Sushi, Izakaya style, Ramen, your various Chinese cuisines esp. Dim Sum, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, etc. And of course we are all looking for some outstanding plate lunch with Lau Lau and/or Poke…maybe a good breakfast diner with Spam and Eggs.

We’re on the eastside, so things near Kaneohe would be nice, but we’ll travel for food.

So, I need a little help. Where is the best place to order a big sushi/sashimi platter for a home dinner party? How about the best lau lau? Spam and eggs? Saimin? Also fond of Spanish style tapas, but not expecting that in Hawaii.

Thinking about visiting some of the below? How would they do with 11 adults and 2 kids? Which ones should I skip? What am I missing? Where would you take 10 of your best friends? Any help would be appreciated!

Dim Sum:
Mei Sum
Fook Lam
Char Hut Sung (for Takeout)

Pa Ke
<Any others in Honolulu?
Any of the above Dim Sum places do good dinner?>

Korean BBQ:
Ah Lang
Gina’ BBQ
<What else? Prefer AYCE buffet and/or place with large tables>

Shrimp Truck:
Mike’s Huli Huli
<Any new trucks?>

Pho Bistro 2 in Honolulu
<Got to be more…Anything on Kaneohe side?>

Sushi Izakaya Gaku
<Any decent sushi for large parties? Ramen?>

Markets/Poke/Plate lunch:
Tamura (Market)
Ono Hawaiian Food
Ruger Market
Dean’s Drive In
Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas
Highway Inn
Windward Mall Farmer’s Market
Hukilau Cafe

Shave Ice:
Shimazu Store

Nice Restaurant:
Haleiwa Joe’s (Kaneohe location)
<Where else for a nice sit down dinner, big party, 2 kids?>

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  1. instead of ramen, try hawaiian saimin, easily found at any zippys, but palace saimin in kalihi is the best imo. jane's fountain in liliha is also very good. both are hole in the wall places, but worth it. you can eat in shifts if other patrons are there.

    if you want ramen, i would skip ezogiku, i'm always disappointed when i eat there. tons of ramen places in waikiki but i haven't tried them. my BIL's aunt owns ramen-ya, they're pretty good, have a huge bowl for a reasonable price, but every time i eat ramen at a restaurant, i leave craving saimin.

    instead of ono's, try helena's, peoples cafe, haile's. i really dislike ono's. the food isn't authentic and tastes weird, not like the food i've eaten at luaus or other places (imo, at least. they do a ton of business), portions are miniscule and expensive.

    for dim sum, mei sum is great, so is legends. my family likes nice day in liliha near chinatown, but others disagree.

    if you go to pake's, you won't be disappointed. kin wah nearby used to be good years ago, i have not been recently. all the chinese places can accomodate your party easily.

    camelia has gotten a bad rap lately, i have not eaten there in a long time.

    there are a ton of korean restaurants. off the cuff i'd say million or sorabol for late night, cho dang if you can find parking; restaurant is small. han yang for yakiniku. they have kobe beef and are about $2 cheaper than most yakiniku places. they've just added soft flank steak. check these links someone posted for me: http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/storie... and http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/eating... i've been to only a few of these.

    there are three big contenders for best malasadas: leonard's, agnes, and champion. i love all three, and you have to try each of them. agnes is in kailua, champion is on beretania in town, and leonards is on kapahulu. call champion in advance. leonard's has become hugely popular, good luck with parking.

    i like gyotaku for japanese, but no one else here does. maybe you would want to try a cheap sushi place like genki or kuru kuru where the dishes circle the room on a belt and you grab what you like and pay per plate. fun experience and they make funky local style sushi. definitely not fine dining. kid friendly like hot dog sushi.

    local breakfast can be had anywhere, l&l, zippys, liliha bakery, even mcdonalds.

    you MUST try liliha bakery for the coco puffs, pastry filled with choc pudding and topped with sweet chantilly dollup. their other baked goods vary in quality from great (chantilly cake) to bleh (cheesecake squares, pig in blanket type pastry). the diner section has the best waffles in town and great local and regular diner food. their combo specials are almost all rice, but the normal menu is a good value. it's alway s crowded now, mostly due to yelp. i don't see how a party that large would get seating on the counter, so order takeout. tourists come by the busload.

    vietnamese restaurants with good pho are all over. there's one near el mariachi in kaneohe.

    if you want prime rib at haleiwa joes, come as opening time. they don't seat utnil your whole party is there. it's not fancy, but the food is great. you should call ahead and have them set up the tables.

    happy eating

    1. Happy Day or Mandalay for Chinese
      but start with Pahke's first

      Nice sit down dinner: 3660 on the Rise and 12th Ave. Grill.

      Dean's Drive In is really a tiny place; I don't think it could handle 11 adults and 2 kids.

      3 Replies
      1. re: honu2

        happy days has the same owners as nice day. i haven't been to happy days.

        big city diner does a lot of dishes well, it's a fun place with several locations.

        burgers try kua aina.

        1. re: indelibledotink

          You are correct that Happy Day and Nice Day have the same owners. However, the facilities are different and Happy Day is much more suitable for a large group, unless the table of 11 adults and 2 kids is ok with being squished by the bathroom.

          1. re: indelibledotink

            same owners, but different cooks. makes all the difference in the world.

        2. various food trucks :http://www.streetgrindz.com/main/

          call camile's on wheels to cater a party, she makes ONO food, so much that she retired her truck and just does private events.

          1 Reply
          1. re: indelibledotink

            Yes, by all means call Camille! She does amazing food. She has been busy catering commercial shoots and spends much of her time as a chef at a club. Last Wednesday she was in Kailua by Hardware Hawaii her old haunt serving it up. She also was Heidi Klum's chef when she was here on vacation last spring. I have had her do a party for me and it was simply amazing! Rave reviews!

            1. Gaku is pretty small. I would confirm they can even take a party that large.

              1. Ah Lang - too small, you would take up practically the whole restaurant
                Gina's - takeout korean, large portions/pretty good food
                If it has to be AYCE yakiniku then Shillawon or Sikdorak instead of Camellia.

                My relatives have gotten sushi platters from Sushi King or Yanagi Sushi before, but it's much more expensive than takeout sushi joints. I tend to go to Sushi Company for affordable takeout sushi platters.
                Mitch's should be able to handle a group your size if you are looking at dining in for sushi. So can Yanagi Sushi. Will be pricey though.
                Gaku may be difficult for a party that size. You could look at other izakayas like Nonbei, Gazen, Tokkuri Tei, or Imanas which would have no problems fitting your group.

                Shave ice at Shimazu, Waiola, Ailana are all good. Easiest parking at Ailana, then Waiola, difficult at Shimazu.

                1. for a large group for dim sum either legends or happy day, the others will have difficulty with a group that large.

                  I love ginas for korean bbq, but no way 11 people can sit down in there. sorabol isn't my favorite, but its not bad food and can accommodate a large group. don't know if they take reservations. you might also check with choi's garden, highly recommended by some hounds here. Camilia changed owners recently, its truly awful.

                  If you don't at least include Poke Stop on the list of possibilities for poke joebob is gonna have a fit. but it really is good poke.

                  Haleiwas Joe's is nice, but its not in the same class as Orchids or Roys. For a nice restaurant in addition to those listed you might give the newly relocated 12th avenue grill a try, town might be able to accommodate you on the lanai/patio, and 3660 is worth a try. Plumeria Cafe downstairs at the Kahala Hotel is nice too. In the same general price tag as Orchids or Roy's is Azure. They have an alcove near the front door that is very nice for a group that size, but it is expensive.

                  I would add Nico's to your list for a nice but not elegant meal, although some people prefer Uncle's.

                  For plate lunch there is the ever popular Rainbow Drive Inn, Grace's Inn, L&L (which i am not a fan of), or my favorite Sugoi's - but only open till around 2. Great bento lunches there too. Another good bento is from St. Louis Drive In. If you want Hawaiian Plate Lunch then I'd suggest Young's Fish Market in City Square off Dillingham - although seating would be an issue.

                  Gyotaku is fine for Japanese, and they can take a large group no problem. I like Yamagen too, but its "rustic" sitting out on the 'lanai' but good for a family gathering (picnic tables on gravel under a plastic roof.) I don't know if they take reservations, but I'd call ahead.

                  For Vietnamese I'd suggest Hale Vietnam in Kaimuki for a large group, but do get reservations. Thai I would consider Champa Thai or To Thai For, both in Kaimuki. Cafe Siam on Nimitz also gets great reviews. I used to like Bangkok Chef, but after a bad experience at the Nimitz location I am loathe to return. I'd also suggest visiting Himalayan Kitchen for Indian Food, also in Kaimuki. The service is slow, but the food is wonderful and they can usually seat a large group. Just don't go if you are in a hurry.

                  And if you are at Ala Moana someday at mealtime, then check out the japanese food court upstairs at Shirokiya. Just don't expect to all be able to sit together. It's rather a mad house sometimes. Grab the food and go for a little walk across the boulevard and eat in Ala Moana Park.

                  My biggest suggestion is to just keep skimming the Hawaii board, going back as much as a year ago and see what pops out.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    choi's garden and shillawon are great choices.

                    bangkok chef in nuuanu is still tasty, they have a lot of seating.

                    good poke abounds. even foodland supermarket poke is pretty ono.

                  2. Pho 1 on Kapiolani near Ala Moana should be able to handle a group of your size for Vietnamese.

                    For a very good Japanese meal, you may be able to reserve the twin tatami room at Imana's on King...should be able to squeeze in 11 adults and two kids if the kids are younger, but reserve way ahead.

                    Zippy's at Kahala has a sushi bar...the owners have some connection to a wholesale fish business, so that might be worth checking. There may be other Zippy's with sushi bars, but I'm not sure....others here may be able to say.

                    I'd add Little Village in Chinatown for good Chinese, and they can easily handle groups, but reservations a must.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: macaraca

                      Zippy's Pearl City also has sushi, but only those two at this time. And it is good sushi. If you want AYCE sushi I'm pretty sure Katz Sushi on S. King is still your best bet.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        kats or kat's
                        phone book says kats
                        internets have it both ways

                    2. If you're on the windward side, you might consider Ichiriki, located next to Longs in the Windward Bay Shopping Center (the shopping center across from Macy's) as a fun resto to have lunch or dinner. It's a Japanese shabu-shabu place, and has some private rooms, the kind where there's a well for your legs, as well as tables they could pull together for your group. The lunch is very reasonable at $11.95 per with beer at happy hour prices. Of course you do your own cooking so there's no blaming the cook!

                      1. Wow. Some great advice. I will keep reading up on the Hawaii board and let you all know where we go.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: thirtyeyes

                          if you have more specific questions don't hesitate to ask. who knows what kind of answers you'll get. LOL

                        2. Dim Sum
                          Lots of good places, I personally like Fook Lam. If you go, make sure to order the custard bao and eat it while it's still warm. When friends visit from the mainland, if they are turned off by how dirty Chinatown can be, Royal Garden at Ala Moana is a nice, clean, and safe choice.

                          Pa-ke's is the best Chinese restaurant in Kaneohe. I live in Honoulu and enjoy going to Kirin restaurant and Asia Manoa. Little Village and Happy Day are also solid choices.

                          Don't go to Ah Lang. The food there is good, but that place is known as "The Angry Korean Lady" place, because there is only one woman who both cooks the food and waits on the tables. If you bring a large party there, you will wait forever. Choi's Garden is the most authentic general Korean restaurant I can think of. Gina's is good, but it's a local plate lunch takeout kinda place.

                          If you guys like beer, you might want to check out Shirokiya department store at Ala Moana Shopping center. They have a Beer Garden with a lot of different little Japanese food stalls. The food is mediocre, but you can get $1 beer and the kids can run around.

                          I like Gyotaku for Japanese. I'm also a fan of Ichiriki for nabe.

                          ugh... too many restaurants to list, I'll edit this post later.

                          1. For a splash out celebration meal with a large group, I would think about one of the high end buffets in or around Waikiki. Hakone, Prince Court, and Orchids Sunday brunch are all good, if a bit spendy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Quince

                              I thought the Orchids buffet brunch to be only OK for $57pp. Birds poking at your food if you leave the table (yuck). Juice wasn't freshly squeezed (weird to drink canned brown pineapple juice). Avoid the dried out popovers and waffles; poke was sort of bland. We didn't feel like the value was there.