Just returned from a couple of days in the big city, where we ate at Alan Wong's and Padovani's Grill. The first was fabulous, the second, pitiful.
We have been to Wong's 3 times a year for the past 12 years and have always found it to be good value for the money. In the last year or so, it seemed that the menu changed little and I felt like I'd had everything on it multiple times. On March 9, however, we got a super surprise. The tasting menu totally changed and had some spectacular dishes. My favorite new item was ahi & shrimp poke, a title which does little to describe it. It was a soy milk panna cotta topped with ahi and shrimp, but also ikura, and tiny pieces of emerald long beans. It was a joy to look at and super delicious. My second favorite new listing was pan-steamed onaga in coconut kim chee curry broth. The fish, as usual at Wong's, was cooked to perfection and the spicy, complex broth was not too overpowering, but very zesty.
We also went to Padovani's, mostly because I had read a very positive review by John Heckathorn. The restaurant is very pleasant and the staff almost overly attentive, but the food was substandard for a supposedly fine-dining restaurant. I chose an interesting-sounding salad to start, which was supposed to have papaya, mango, hearts of palm, and macadamia nuts. What it was was a green salad heavily doused with oily dressing with no perceptible mango, papaya, or palm—just a couple of pieces of minced nuts. We had a risotto second, which was pretty good but nothing outstanding. We had just begun our risotto when the waiter arrived to say, "Sorry folks, your main course is here and we'll have to move the risotto to the side." This might—might—be forgiven if the restaurant were very busy and the kitchen got out of kilter. However, we were the first table seated and there were only two other tables taken by the time we got the main course. What was worse was how terrible it was. We'd ordered the veal chop. It was the toughest veal I think I have ever eaten.....I mean tasted (because I decided not to eat it and filled up with bread instead).
Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826