Waikiki Trip Report 11/26-12/7 long
As promised, my trip report. So I found out something about my traveling companion (TC) that I was not previously aware of. She seems to have an affinity for chain resaurants. I suspect this is due partially because of where she lives and partially because of where she works. I was a bit surprised by the number of chain restos in Honolulu and did not expect to see that. Consequently, to allow her to stay in her comfort zone, where she was reluctant to leave, we visited many more chains than I care to admit to. The high end chains are the better option if one must go the chain route. However, this is about my chow experiences. I will not go into much detail about some of the chains we ate at since they are pretty much the same everywhere and I do not want this report placed on the "chains" board by the mods.
We stopped at Dukes for their "famous mai tai." The food we saw did not look promising and so we did not order any. The place was packed to the rafters, the bartender somewhat rude and obviously tired of the tourists. My only observation about this is that if you do not like dealing with the tourists, then find another job instead of putting a black mark on yourself and the business you work for. Having said that, the drink was expensive for the cheap HFCS it was made from. Not my scene and would not return. I tried to get the TC to go to House Without a Key after and we stopped there, but she was not interested and I was a bit sad after reading all the suggestions for the place.
The Yardhouse - they have a very nice happy hour and good value. The chicken lettuce wraps were very good and drinks resonable. The crab cakes were deep friend, pan fried would have been better, but I understand the time constraints of this. They had an awesome beer selection. This particular chain is not in my area and I had never heard of it before. We went there twice and it was totally packed both times. On a second visit we had the chicken lettuce wraps again, garlic noodles also good, and pastrami sliders.
Had garlic shrimp from Gilligan's Beach Shack truck one day for lunch while at the beach. The shrimp were larger than expected, plump, juicy, garlicky, and cooked perfectly. They were everything I would expect them to be. Served with fries - what, no rice, and a thimble full of coleslaw. Double the shrimp, dump the fries, and give more than two forkfuls of coleslaw and that would be a good lunch, even though the coleslaw was standard KFC variety.
The next place was a real gem and not a chain, near where we stayed, and with food so good that we went there three times. Goofy Cafe and Dine. GO NOW! Apparently they have only been open a month and are located where The Fat Greek was on Ala Moana. The last time we ate there they were starting to serve dinner too and one of the specials listed on the sandwich board was Kona abalone risotto. Sad that I missed that one. Most all of their ingredients are locally sourced from the islands unless otherwise noted. The menu is fairly small. On our first vist, we shared the green pasta and shrimp with lilikoi soda. Wow! Bursting with flavor. The second visit we shared the kalua pork eggs benny served with purple potato home fries and a lightly dressed kale salad. The hollandaise was devine and we both wanted to lick the plate clean. On the third visit, we shared the loco moco and a cobb salad (meat $4 extra). The gravy on the loco moco was very good and obviously not from a packet. The burgers (yes two) had a nice char and good flavor. The cobb salad was good too with the Maui onion dressing, but the tomatoes were not the ripe garden variety and the avacado was brown/icky/mushy in places and not ripe (hard) in others.
Thanksgiving. We did not want to eat a $60 turkey dinner, which seemed to be the going rate at many places. My TC suggested we go to Ala Moana shopping center as all the restaurants would be open. I was skeptical and correct. Not much was open before 8. We ended up having dim sum at Jade Dynasty. We mostly had dumplings and veg. It was adequate and I'll leave it at that.
One day we took the bus to Sunset Beach to watch the Van's surfing competition. Took the bus on to Haleiwa for a pit stop to wander around town and had lunch at Breakers. We had a squash soup, homemade, that was a good rendition and the teri chicken plate that was also very good. They said the make their own teri sauce. It was served with a curried potato salad that I did not care for, but then the only potato salad I like is my mom's, so take that with a grain of salt. For dinner that evening we wandered over to the Chart House. We had the happy hour pork chop, fried shrimp special, mashed potatoes, and the spinach salad. The pork chop was cooked perfectly and had good flavor. The spinach salad was covered with a ton of real bacon crumbles, a good dressing (onion I believe), and obviously packaged parmesan.
The next day we had lunch at Kincaid's after ending up at Ward Center. We split the miso/soy glazed butterfish lunch special that was served with pickled Japanese veg, and rice. MMM...butterfish, which was cooked perfectly. That evening after a long day and not wanting to wander too far we ended up back at the Chart House. We had the prime rib sandwich, spinach salad (again just as good), and stuffed mushrooms. The mushrooms were meh. A shout out to Jerry, one of their long time bartenders. Very funny guy. The Chart House also has a very good happy hour and daily specials.
Previously we had popped up to Sarento's for dessert one evening. A mocha coffe creme brulee and I forget what else so apparently is was not that memorable. The creme brulee was good. We also had dinner there one night. We had the stuffed pork chop, mashed potatoes, and brussel sprouts. The pork chop was very tasty. We had the greek salad - tomato, avacado, shrimp, feta, and dressing. It was odd without lettuce or greens of some sort. We also tried that $5 filet meatball slider. What a waste of $5. Small, fell apart as you ate it, and not worth $1 let alone $5.
For lunch one day we went to the Harbor Pub after the beach and had the chef's salad and ordered a large pizza bianca. Good crust with lots of awesome cheese flavor - ricotta, gogonzola, parmesan, and lots of pepper on the bottom of the crust. I liked this pizza, but know that pizza is an individual thing. The salad was pedestrian and about what I expected. We also went there for breakfast one morning and split the biscuits and gravy. Nothing special, but filling comfort food.
We went to Ruth's Chris twice. I told you the TC was into the chains. First they have home made chips to munch on at the bar. The first time they were cooked perfectly and the second time a bit overcooked. The crab stuffed mushrooms were meh. Where was the crab? Just four pathetic mushrooms in a dish, no garnish, nothing. The lychee martini was good both times and a lot better than the one I had at the Top of Waikiki. We also had the carpaccio - outstanding and the toasts served with it were mighty tasty on their own. The BBQ shrimp were quite tasty and very large. The oysters Rockefeller arrived with quite the show - flaming and were tasty.
Off we went to the Chart House again (it was close by what can I say). This time we had the garlic chicken. I've had better. The fried rice was better as left overs the next day with some portuguese sausage and eggs for breakfast. Had the spinach salad again, not as good. Less spinach, less bacon, less, less... Must have been a different cook. The bartenders were also different and the drinks not as generous.
One day at luch we tried Shirokiya. We had takoyaki, pickled veg, an unagi bowl with rice, and off course the cheap beer. What a trip that place was. We had just finished watching the daily hula shows and the male hula dancers all sat at the table next to us for their after show beers. It was pretty funny seeing them in street clothes so soon after the show.
Our expensive meal was the prix fixe at The Rainbow Room. The decor was not as fancy as I was expecting. Our intentions were to do the three course early bird special that was advertised on their web site as Mon-Thurs from 5-7. I made reservations for 6:30 and incorrectly assumed the web site was accurate without confirming when I made the reservation. My bad. Apparently, the early bird prix fixe is 5-6. Additionally, the menu on line was not the same menu available that evening, even for the early bird. I mentioned this to the waitress, but the manager declined to accommodate us. They did redeem themselves somewhat later. So we ended up ordering the five course with wine and of course spent quite a bit more than we had intended. In general, the wines paired very well with the food. The port served with the dessert course was divine. The highlights of the meal were the goat cheese served with the tomato/watermelon salad, the butterfish (yes again), the little mac nut cookie/brownie things, and the port. They redeemed themselves by serving us a full serving of the butterfish according the the wait person as opposed to the partial serving usually plated for the prix fixe.
Note to restaurant managers/owners - Keep your web site UPDATED! It is little things like this that leave a not so pleasant taste in patron's mouths. Also, if you have a happy hour, put it online - it may bring in more patrons.
So thank you very much to the board for all of your suggestions. I wish I had been able to utilize more of them, but to keep harmony with the TC it is what it was. We had an awesome trip overall and ate some good food. I was able to eat a bunch of poke and portuguese sausage from Foodland.
KaimukiMan - I enjoy reporting back both to help others in the future and as a way of saying thanks to the board for suggestions. Yes, we ate well for the most part. The funny thing is when she visited me last summer for a week we did not eat at one chain so I was a bit taken aback at her reluctance to do so in Honolulu, but chose not to push the issue. Perhaps it was because I was familiar with the restos we went to in my home town and had no familiarity with restos in Honolulu.
I think that's a good point. In spite of information you may have gotten from yelp, or urban spoon, and of course chowhound you can't tell someone "oh, I love this place, it's going to blow you away." At some point we've all been mislead by reviews that for some reason or other missed the mark for us.
I was slightly amused by your comments about the greek salad. Many years ago when I was in greece we were fed that salad virtually every day we were in the country, and not once do I ever remember it having any greens at all. Almost always cucumber, tomato, olives and feta. Sometimes more than one kind of olive, sometimes carrots, sometimes bell peppers of varying colors, occasionally a secondary cheese, almost always onion (usually purple). But never any "salad greens."
Agreed. I actually prefer Trip Advisor to Yelp or Urban Spoon. There seems to be less "all or nothing/five star - no star" critiquing.
The greek salad just struck me as odd, but perhaps it truly was greek. I belive the owner is greek.
I often make similar salads myself, but was expecting a "salad" not a salad.