on April 8, 2007
This tiny eatery located in the northeast corner of Honolulu, around two miles from Waikiki, is well-known to locals as one of the only true "locals'" restaurants in Honolulu. The small, unimposing exterior with its signature green awning beckons the customer into its small interior, which features a few tables strewn together, with just enough space in between to walk by. The walls are adorned with Hawaiian memorabilia, and the sounds of the islands play on the stereo (or the football game, depending on the day). There is usually a lineup here, so you may find yourself waiting for a table for up to an hour - phone beforehand for a reservation.Upon arriving, the Hawaiian staff will seat you at a small table and bring you complementary ice water while they explain their native Hawaiian dishes to you in detail. The specialties here are the traditional meals, which include a choice of either lau lau (steamed pork wrapped in taro leaves) or kalua pig (pulled pork, marinated in a light vinegar-chili sauce). The meals are accompanied by a series of small plates - lomilomi salmon (a sort of salmon-based salsa), chopped onion, coarse sea salt, puhi beef jerky, and Haupia (coconut jello), along with a bowl of either rice or poi (mashed sour taro root).I ordered the kalua pig plate, which was $11.99. I was very disappointed to see the portion size, which was about the amount of a kids' meal in any other restaurant. The kalua pig was tasty, doused liberally with vinegar-chili sauce. The onions were to be eaten separately, the waiter told me, dipped lightly in the salt before eating. They were delicious. The lomilomi salmon was excellent, much like a fine salmon tartar, but more strongly flavored. The only disgusting, inedible portion of my meal was the poi, which was almost impossible to eat. The texture was of paint, and the flavor was sour and tingled the tongue. I ate two spoonfuls before leaving it be on the table. The Haupia was delicious, and a good way to end the otherwise disappointing meal.For those who want to branch out with their tastes a bit more, the restaurant offers standard plate lunches of loco moco (two eggs atop two hamburger patties, smothered in gravy, served with rice and macaroni salad), along with saimin (noodle soup), and many typical, standard diner dishes like hamburgers.Prices are expensive, so be prepared. Dinner for two will easily set you back $35 with dessert and drinks. It's not a fancy place, but it is pricey for what you get. The portions are unbelievably small (so small I had to get an actual dinner from another restaurant right after). The food is well-prepared and authentic, and you won't find a better locals' restaurant on all of Oahu.To get to Ono's from Waikiki, take Kalakaua Avenue east to the Kapahulu Ave. intersection. Take Kapahulu north. The restaurant is about 2 miles up the road, on the left.
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