A February 2006 trip
to Oahu by jenandfrank
Quote: This island should not be discounted as a stop-over. Come see the sights, enjoy the culture, and ask yourself why you didn't come here sooner.
Orchids – 2199 Kalia Rd (Halekulani Hotel) Honolulu, (808) 923-2311Located in an open space within the Halekulani Hotel, towards the back (with ocean views). The tables are set apart allowing private conversation in a very tropical yet upscale environment. Everything is crisp white with views of Diamond Head. We were immediately greeted by last name and sat as if they had nothing to do that evening but serve us. We received a pumpkin cream cheese spread with bread flats and rolls as soon as we ordered. Orchids offers a 4 course chef selection; salad, soup of the day, a choice of filet mignon or onaga and a dessert. The cost of the chef selection is $53.00. This is a great value considering the quality and service. The salad included avocado, tomatoes and a tarragon vinaigrette – simple and fresh. The soup of the day was spinach and crab consume. Both very delicious. For dinner I chose the Onaga which is a local fish that is line-caught. It is Orchid’s signature dish and has been so for the last 20 years. It was served over a mix of Asian greens with a ginger sauce and white rice. SO delicious. Choice of dessert for the chef selection included; coconut cake, Tahitian crème brûlée, frozen nugget, goat cheese cake and sorbets.
The meal also included coffee or tea–it’s like they are giving the gourmet food away. The coconut cake is truly like nothing I have ever tasted before. Fluffy yet filling, sweet but not over-kill, just absolutely positively delicious.. and of course their specialty dessert. We actually debated going back for dinner a second night because the dam cake was so good. The regular menu offered such appetizer options as; oysters, crab cakes and kahlua pork with foie gras. Some entrée options were; veal, chicken, surf and turf, lobster of the day and scallops. My husband chose the kahlua pork (of course) and the rack of lamb. They call the lamb a "chop" but it was a rack. For $36 the entrée was served with red bliss potatoes, asparagus and butternut squash all in a merlot reduction sauce. He was quite happy.
The Kahlua pork was served almost like a dumpling with pieces of foie gras on the sides of the plate. Really good. They had an extensive wine, coffee and tea list. The service was top notch and we were spoken to all evening with "Mr./Mrs…" . Our total bill was $121 and that included two appetizers, one soup, two entrees, one dessert, one bottle of Fiji water, and one glass of wine. All well worth the price as this was a memorable meal. Overall the menu is focused on fresh seafood – but you are in Hawaii so did you expect differently? Reservations required dressy-casual attire. Accepts all major credit cards. Open daily for breakfast and lunch; Sunday brunch is supposedly quite a treat here. Very Highly RecommendedAlan Wong’s Restaurant - 1857 S. King St., third floor, Oahu.
(808)949-2526 or www.alanwongs.comServing regional Hawaiian cuisine, this is a place you’d never find unless you were looking for it. Located on the 3rd floor of an office building with virtually no outdoor signs. This restaurant is popular with the locals and tourists (deservedly so) and it’s not uncommon for lines to form for the elevator. With a loud crowd and an open kitchen, this place does not disappoint. For appetizers we had two salads. The arugula salad was served with goat cheese, tomatoes, marinated beets and a balsamic vinegar paste dressing. The Caesar was Maui romaine lettuce displayed in a Parmesan cheese shell and it had shredded pork as decoration on the sides of the plate. Both were pretty basic but very good. Other options that night was; sushi, duck nachos and foie gras. Prices for appetizers ranged from $11 to $20.
For dinner we had the veggie layer cake and the NY strip steak. The layer cake was layers of grilled vegetables; zucchini, eggplant, Maui onions and tomato with a goat cheese and lemongrass dressing. Hard to imagine, even harder to explain but the presentation alone was exquisite and it was a perfect choice for a vegetarian (which I am ironically not). The NY strip was a special that night and was served with Parmesan-mashed potatoes. The cut was huge and the steak was cooked exactly how we asked. Other entrees were; onaga (which is a Hawaiian fish that is "line caught"), seafood paella, short ribs and mahi-mahi. Entrees were priced between $25 and $40. They offer 17 coffees; all 100% single estate and all served french press.
Each coffee is listed with a vintage and are from the Hawaiian Islands only. The dessert menu was almost as extensive with 10 choices. Items like kona coffee cheesecake, the banana split and the five spoon crème brûlée sampler only give you an idea of the decadence. We chose the "Wong Way Banana Split Ice Cream Cone" which was not your mama’s banana split I can tell you that for sure. It was a fancy (homemade cone) filled with 3 scoops of (homemade) ice cream, fresh fruit, hot chocolate, macadamia nuts and fresh whip cream. It was as delicious as it was beautiful. I had to take a picture just to prove my point–see below. Desserts ranged from $7 to 10.50 each and coffee ran from $5 to $7. There is a five and seven course Chef’s tasting menu which is available every evening. They price was $65 and $85 respectively and the menu changes every day. The service was excellent and our waiter even had his own business card. That was a first for me. Valet is $3 and it was a 5-minute drive from Waikiki beach. Dressy casual attire, reservations required. All major credit cards accepted. The menu changes often so it’s better if you are not a picky eater. Highly Recommended. Please Mr. Wong open a restaurant in NYC!
Kyo-Ya—2057 Kalakaua Ave. Honolulu, (808)947-3911Located 5 minutes from Waikiki Beach/The Halekulani Hotel. Kyo-yo is widely considered the best Japanese restaurant (Tokyo style) in Honolulu. Chef Shizuo Tsubata has been in the kitchen 30 of the restaurant’s 32 years and has taught many of Honolulu’s other top Japanese chefs. The menu is extensive with many Kaikeke dinner options (complete dinner with many courses). All selections were listed in Japanese and English. However, unless you are an aficionado you will need some sort of an explanation because nothing had a description below it. Needless to say we became best friends with the waitress; we really needed her help. This was not Benihanna's.
After being seated we were served cold towels, tofu, marinated cabbage and Chinese pickles – all in mini dishes. We ordered two Kaikeke dinners which included salad, miso soup and an entrée and dessert. The food was fine; I think the experience was more exciting than the actual meal. It felt like we were really in Japan though. The salad was good but there wasn’t much of it (small portion) and the miso soup was your average Japanese-restaurant portion. The chicken (the name of which escapes me) was boneless dark meat with skin (predominately thighs) battered and deep fried. It was a heart attack on a plate and was served with rice, macaroni and potato salad mix and a BBQ dipping sauce on the side. The Kaikeke dinners ranged from chicken $23–beef $28.
The meal came with a choice of ice cream; green tea, red bean, vanilla or sherbet. I mean red bean ice cream… are you getting the picture yet? Cups of green tea were also served as part of the package at the end of the meal. Chops sticks are on the table but silverware was available upon request. Very casual dining, with all locals and kids (we were the only non-Japanese people eating that evening). Wine is not really an option here but there was an extensive sake menu. Reservations requested but certainly not required. The wait staff is very helpful and friendly here, dressed in traditional garb. Choice of 5 Japanese beers and the liters were $7.50 each. Valet parking available. Recommended but not as good as the hype.Hau Tree Lanai—New Otani Hotel, 2863 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu. (808)921-7066 or http://www.kaimana.com/dining/hautree-menu.htmlLocated in the back of the hotel, facing the beach under a huge Hau Tree – the same tree made famous for sheltering Robert Louis Stevenson. Very quiet and peaceful and such a nice place to relax while having lunch. The tree itself was incredible and nothing like I have ever seen before. It didn’t attract bugs; it gave us a great breeze and made for a romantic atmosphere. The tables were wrought iron, painted white, covered with green linens (although I think they change to pink for dinner) and a piece of glass on top. We were served poi rolls when we first sat and although I like poi, these were terrible. We went for lunch and the options were typical items like burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and pizzas.
For an appetizer, my husband and I shared the Thai chicken fingers. They probably would have been really good if they hadn’t been exceedingly over-cooked. Moving on...I had the taco salad served in a taco shell which could easily have fed 2 people. Filled to the brim with veggies and covered with a sesame-soy vinaigrette dressing, it was good. The cheeseburger was over-cooked but all of the toppings made it edible. This was far from a gourmet meal as it was more about the atmosphere. Service was very friendly and laid back. Many Japanese beers were available, which was a nice change. Our bill was $41 for one beer, one appetizer and 2 lunch entrees. I thought that was rather expensive considering the food was barely so-so. All credit cards accepted. Breakfast served 7 to 11am, lunch from 11:30am to 2pm (except Sundays, when it starts at 12), and dinner from 5:30 to 9pm. The dinner menu was more extensive than the lunch menu. Not Recommended for food but a great place to relax and have a drink.Leonard's Bakery—933 Kapahulu Ave., HonoluluBeginning in 1878 and continuing on for a decade, Hawaii solicited immigrant workers from Portugal. They brought malassadas with them. Malassadas are Portuguese doughnuts that are made with eggs, butter and milk. Deep-fried, then coated with plain sugar. They are incredible! In 1952, Frank Leonard Rego founded Leonard's Bakery in Hawaii. It was the first commercial offering of malassadas. Hawaiians spell Malassadas with a single "s", probably because the word was spelled incorrectly on the Leonard’s bakery sign back in the fifties. Needless to say at Leonard’s you will find lines of people waiting for the best piece of fried dough you’ve ever had. Malassadas are found all over Honolulu but Leonard’s is the best. The store itself is in major need of renovation – right down to the old sign out front, but the staff is friendly and fast and the baked goods can not be beat. Other items sold are cookies, pastries and bread – all average bakery prices. Parking in front of the store, located off a major road. Recommended.Kua Aina—66-214 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa. (808)637-6067This is basically a burger joint. Boasting "the island’s best burger", but referred to as a sandwich shop. Offering only beef patties and assorted sandwiches and salads in an order-at-the-counter type of atmosphere. Very fast-food-esq with the service equally as bored to see you. All burgers can be ordered with bacon, cheese and avocado - among other options. I ordered "fresh turkey" with lettuce and mayo. The turkey was terrible; veins, fat, dry, etc., so I ended up eating more bread than turkey. My husband had a burger and said it was alright. Indoor and outdoor seating, with the napkins being a roll of paper towels on each table. Outdoor seating comes complete with swarms of bugs (ironically which we didn’t find anywhere else on the island). The French fries are shredded and extremely oily – not a fan at all. This place does HUGE business, I’m guessing because it’s the only place of its kind on the North Shore. (It’s not because the food is so great) It also happens to be a big surfer hangout. Some parking in the back, red building set back from the street. If you are not looking for this place, you will most likely pass it as we did three times. Open 11am to 8pm daily. Cash only. Not Recommended.
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