We have (fairly) recently returned from a 3 week holiday in Hawaii, where we visited Oahu, Hawaii and Kauai. We used chowhound a lot for our research on where to eat during our holiday (thank you chowhounds!) and so I wanted to report back on our dining experiences.
This is my last summary, of our dining highlights on Oahu.
All but 2 spots mentioned are in Honolulu. We visited in May and June 2012.
First up is the list of restaurants we enjoyed.
* SIDE STREET INN - Hopaka St.
We went twice for dinner and never had to wait long for a table. We were impressed on both occasions with the food and the service. Loved their pork chop! Also we still fondly recall the special fried rice.
* TOWN (Kaimuki)
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here. My main of monchong fish, limu and veg was excellent and was my stand out dish for the whole trip. All the food we tried was great, the wine list was interesting and the service was very professional and informed. The restaurant had a fun vibe too (we dined around 8pm on a Saturday night, with a booking). I liked the mix of modern mediterranean and hawaiian produce. I would really love to be able to visit again, often.
* ALAN WONG
We had a late booking on a Saturday night. The place was full but not too noisy. We went for the Chef's tasting menu with the wine match as it was our last big night in Hawaii. The food was excellent. Stand outs were the Crab "Tofu" Agedashi, Scallops and the Kona Lobster. The Pink Snapper and Kula Strawberry Romanoff were memorable too. The wine matches was excellent. We did have a few minor complaints, mostly to do with service. We were asked for photo ID at the bar where we were having a drink whilst we waited for our table (we haven't been asked for ID for almost 20 years???!!!!). The cutlery was repeatedly replenished for the upcoming whilst we were in the middle of a course. We were given wine which we were told would go very well with the next course (which was described) and then when the food arrived, it wasn't what had been previously described. Overall, these were minor quibbles and we had a very enjoyable night.
Great food. Somewhat haphazard service. Our hot starters (abalone was tasty) came out before the sashimi. Next course came out whilst we were still working on the previous. Its a casual spot with great interior design but we thought it was a bit pricey for the casual service.
Great spots for lunch:
* DOWNTOWN (Honolulu Academy of Arts) - My fave lunch. Really fresh and tasty food. Great ice tea. Fast service. Not too pricey. Its location between Iolani Palace and Chinatown makes it a good spot to stop for lunch when you're sightseeing around downtown, even if you're not planning to see any art. Turns out its related to TOWN (above).
* NEIMAN MARCUS - nice view from the balcony. We enjoyed their light but tasty salad options.
Bars we enjoyed in Honolulu:
* MAI TAI BAR at the Royal Hawaiian. We visited about 4 times and decided their Scratch Mai Tais were the very best! They had live music earlier in the evening and the view of waikiki and diamond head is great.
* HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY (HWAK) - a beautiful setting right by the beach, and with great drinks and food. We went twice and enjoyed the live music and hula (with a recent former Miss Hawaii) for no cover charge.
* LA MARIANA - this was a hike (actually a rather expensive cab fare) from Waikiki but was worth it. The service as good as were their Zombies and Mai Tais. We tried the Hawaiian pupu platter and it was delicious (and huge!). The live music duo that was playing in the bar on the night we went were good fun. Its a good idea to get to this spot before it gets dark so that you can see the view of the marina for a while at least.
'Cheap and Cheerful' Casual Dining we liked:
* ACAI BOWLS - a nice cool breakfast or snack. We enjoyed the one from VINTAGE ISLAND COFFEE the best out of the ones we tried.
* DUKE'S WAIKIKI - Good value breakfast buffet with super friendly service. The juice isn't fresh but they do make omelettes to order and the view of Waikiki is fun.
* RAMEN NAKAMURA (2141 Kalakaua Ave). We had the oxtail broth specialty ramen. Tasty! We were lucky we didn't have to wait for a seat but we ate quite late that night. We walked past plenty of other times when the queue had at least 15 people waiting for a spot to sit.
Out of Honolulu:
* MATSUMOTO SHAVE ICE - we thought the texture was so light. Good flavours!
* SHRIMP SHACK (53-360 Kamehameha Highway, Hauula by Ching's Store) - go for the speciality garlic shrimp that's pan fried. Truly DELICIOUS! And so what if your hands get so messy, it all adds to the experience!