Wife and I just spent 3 nights in Honolulu, staying in Waikiki. We followed a well-worn chow path in our short trip, but wanted to jot down some thoughts to help someone else plan a future visit.
Nico’s Pier 38 – stopped here on our way from the airport to Outrigger Waikiki. Saw the old space on TV only, but new space is large and very attractive. Had fried ahi belly, wife had fish n chips. Fish n chips were fish n chips, but fish tasted great, and fries nicely crispy. Two pieces of fish in ahi belly plate, smaller piece was very tender but had a fair amount of cartilage. Larger piece had the firm texture of ahi from elsewhere on the fish. Tomato salsa was very good, mac salad was very bland with too much mayo. A little disappointing.
HWAK – had a mai tai at sunset here before going to dinner. The setting was magical, and the mai tai was one of the best we’ve had.
Alan Wong’s – report on this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847211
Helena’s Hawaiian Food – I think my favorite meal. Got there at about 2:30, only waited about 10 mnutes. We had:
opihi – the best; tastes like the ocean, perfectly toothy
luau squid – taro leaves and squid cooked in coconut milk; I could eat this 3 times a week
fried butterfish collar – worth the trip by itself; crispy skin and tender, luscious meat
kalua & cabbage – deep smoky flavor from an imu; cabbage sautéed to just the right crunch
pipikaula – just like on TV. I thought they were a little tough, but I need to do more research
Mai Tai Bar – met a friend who moved from Kaua’i last year at Ala Moana Center after lunch, just in time for happy hour. A big and popular covered, open-air bar at the top of Ala Moana Center with a terrific happy hour. We just drank and talked, but the pupus going by looked and smelled great.
Roy’s Waikiki – we followed manomin’s recommendation and went for a late dinner. We were still a little full from lunch and happy hour so we opted for pupus at the bar. Randomly picked a malbec by the glass, and it paired really well with our food.
chicken spring rolls – crispy and flavorful like a spring roll should be; nice dipping sauce
tomato salad – local peeled tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, goat cheese, goat cheese panna cotta, wasabi vinaigrette. Wonderfully composed, beautifully plated, bright flavors.
manila clams – I’ve always preferred soft shell clams as steamers, but these wok-fired clams in a black bean soy nage were succulent, and the nage was addictive. Three sticky rice balls that brought back memories of Thai street food were perched on the rim of the bowl for sopping up sauce. After they were gone, I started drinking the sauce out of empty shells.
Alicia’s Market – another local friend picked up plate lunches there and we had lunch in Kapiolani Park. Roast beef, shoyu poke, smoked brisket, potato salad, and kimchi. Beautiful smoke ring on the brisket. It would hold its own against some of the best Texas brisket. Excellent roast beef, poke, kimchi, and potato salad. I’d like to sample a lot of their other meats.
Top of Waikiki – after a post-lunch hike up Diamondhead, we did happy hour here on our last night. My wife’s charm scored us a table in the bar, and it was in perfect position to catch the full panorama of the Waikiki strip in the setting sunlight and for us to see the sky turn color as the sun dipped to the horizon. I’d been talking up Side Street on Kapahulu for the last week but the hike up Diamondhead made her tired instead of hungry, so we elected to have happy hour pupus here. The only memorable pupus were the calamari and the bbq pork sliders. Calamari included rings and tentacles, which is my favorite part; light, crunchy batter, perfectly fried, a nice sweetish remoulade; delicious. Slider had a terrific warm, slightly toasty bun, nice smoky shredded pork, and a great creamy coleslaw. Furikake fries were soggy.
Ono Hawaiian Food – we had a few hours to kill after checking out of the hotel, so we got laulau, sweet potato, and haupia to go and ate it in the hotel lobby area. I liked that Ono left the laulau bundled in the ti leaf so it could steep until we were ready to eat. Best laulau I’ve had so far.
Turns out our friend who got us lunch at Alicia’s is a food nut, so he’s volunteered to do a food tour for us next visit, which, with any luck, will happen next year.