Mr. Bachi and I just got back from a week in Oahu.
Overall comment: bread continues to be mediocre in Hawaii. In the entire week, only one restaurant had decent bread (I think it was Alan Wongs, I'm forgetting now). Note to self: just skip the bread next time and save the calories for the other food.
And now the restaurants -- YMMV as usual:
Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu - far eastern end Waikiki). Nice,stylish room on the 2nd floor of the W Hotel with a view of Diamond Head. Food was good but not great -- best description would be uneven. They did say they had a new chef so that might be part of it. Service was pleasant.
However I can wholeheartedly recommend their bar. The best deal (if I ate there again) would be to sit at their great bar and make a meal out of their snackier food. They had a mint drink (kind of a mojito variant) that was delicious. I had two.
Food near Pearl Harbor: it goes without saying that the food at PH itself is marginal (burgers etc). However, just 5-10 min further down the road is the Dixie Grill, which is open all day and has good southern style food. Good place to take kids. To reach it - get back on the road where you turned off to park at Pearl Harbor. This road will lead you past the stadium; just past it, start looking on your right, the restaurant comes up on you awfully fast, take a right into the parking lot.
House Without A Key (Waikiki, Halekulani hotel): I was under the impression that this was a drinks-only place, but are a full restaurant. This is probably a good place for fish (mine was excellent) but OK-to-poor for other dishes (Mr. Bachi's pasta was mediocre). But the view over the beach at sunset is very nice, and they have live music.
La Mer and Orchids are the two high-end restaurants in the Halekulani. We looked at their menus but they seemed rather french-style traditional and both heavy on the seafood, with not a lot of other entrees. We decided to take a pass. We had the same reaction to Bali at the Sea over at the Hilton.
Assagio's: we ate at the location in Kailua at the Koko Marina shopping center (apparently there's another location back in Honolulu). Open for lunch and dinner, I think all day. A good place if you're driving to/from the east side of Oahu. Nice place with cloth tablecloths etc but not so upscale that you can't wear shorts and a t-shirt (like we did; after you climb Diamond Head, you need a good meal).
Food was quite good but definitely different from what I'm used to as California/Bay Area Italian. Hard to describe exactly the difference, but it kind of reminded me of some CalItalian places I've been to that have an Asian flavor to the dishes.
Golden Dragon (Waikiki, in the Hilton complex): this place got a high zagat score and is also recced in a number of the guidebooks, but I really don't see why. The food seemed competent at best, mediocre at worst. And it's expensive, and there was a wait to get in. I don't understand it. Maybe my standards are high coming from the CA Bay area which has a lot of good Chinese restaurants, but my suggestion would be to skip this place. Even if you're staying at the Hilton, it's just a short walk to the main street where you have other options close at hand, including...
Singa Thai (Waikiki). The food was excellent! In addition to the usual Thai standards, they have creative-type "international" specialities, and both types cuisines were very good. Mr. Bachi got one of the typical Thai curries, and I splurged on one of the "specialties" (steak with mushroom sauce). This was one of the best meals that we had on Oahu. They have a Thai dancer for entertainment at night.
One of the best things is that you can eat cheap or eat expensive here; we saw people having a beer with pad thai, and people having big multi-course fancy dinners. And there wasn't a wait; plenty of tables. Strongly recommend this place.
Pizza Bob's (north shore, Hale'iwa). Food was Ok but not great. Salads, pizzas, etc. Pizza was quite thick, like it was dreaming of growing up to become a full deep-dish one day. Crust had that crunch that you get with cornmeal crust, but I don't think it *was* cornmeal. It was ok but not good enough to bring me back; I'd try one of the other places. The restaurants are all on this one strip of road, so it's easy to drive back and forth and pick a place.
Alan Wongs (Honolulu). Great food in very stylish surroundings. This is a place you want to look nice for. On the 2nd floor (Mr. Bachi and I decided that all nice restaurants in Oahu are located on the 2nd floor to get something of a view, either of ocean or hills). Food and cocktails both were great. I had a wonderful abalone-and-lobster appetizer, incredibly fresh, best I've ever had of either. Range of items on the menu so you're not stuck with seafood. Not that far from Waikiki if you need to take a taxi.
The Pineapple Room (in Honolulu, Macy's at Ala Moana Shopping Center). Definitely a wait at mealtime, as the locals hit this place hard. Strangely enough for a mall/store restaurant, it is not open continuously all day. You can sit at the "diner" style bar, it looked like they served the full menu there, or you can takeaway. They also have a great bakery and desserts deli takeaway.
Service was mediocre but this is a bustling type of place, not somewhere to linger and get pampered. Food was Ok, regional Hawaiian dishes or regionalized variants of American standbys. Mr. Bachi had the kalua pork sandwich which was very good; I had the hamburger which was OK.
This place was interesting but you might as well eat quickly at the bar, get some of the wonderful desserts for takeout, and not bother with the full table experience. Although this is another Alan Wong place, it is IN NO WAY a substitute for his main restaurant experience.
Side Street Inn (Waikiki). We were interested in this place since it's reportedly where local chefs go for their meals. HOWEVER note that at lunch (when we went) they only serve a few dishes from the buffet line; you eat what they have. Food was OK (local specialities, most of them some version of meat with a thick sauce on top) but I wish we'd gone for dinner instead and had our pick of the whole menu. This is a hole-in-the-wall place, and parking is very limited, although I saw a placard that said they had valet parking in the evening. Close to Waikiki, taxi-able.
Roy's Restaurant (Hawaii Kai, east of Honolulu): we found the food to be as good as Alan Wong's but the atmosphere was much more bustling and informal. It's on the 2nd floor (big surprise there) with a nice view over the beach and the water. Great place for dinner to watch the sun going down. It's just a short drive out from Honolulu / Waikiki so very easy to drive out and back for dinner. Kinda far/expensive for a taxi.
And that's all she wrote!
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