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Honolulu (mostly Waikiki) trip report March 2015- oh, Sasabune :(

elizabells | Mar 12, 201509:22 PM

Just returned from a week in Waikiki with our toddler - any missing meals were in our condo - breakfast out is so frequently disappointing and husband caught some fish

Dinner #1 - Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin - I thought I hated tonkatsu. I do not. We got their signature thick-cut loin and it was juicy and delicious. Their miso soup is unusual, with various veggies (yams?), and husband liked it much better than I did. Their finely shredded cabbage with Japanese ginger dressing (we were also offered French, which... no) was like crack to me.

Breakfast # 1 - Hula Grill. I have another thread about where to go with my 1 year old for brunch - I ultimately chickened out on Orchids, even though I managed to get a reservation. Of course my daughter was an absolute ANGEL during this breakfast and would have done perfectly, but I went with the safe option. Surprisingly delicious pineapple coconut pancakes with whipped mascarpone. I didn't even touch the syrup, which is very unusual for a sweet tooth as large as mine. Wonderful fresh-squeezed pineapple juice. They were great about making food for my baby, too, and didn't even blink when I asked for an egg scrambled in olive oil instead of butter (the kid's allergic to cow dairy). I was hugely surprised by how good this meal was; my expectations were incredibly low.

Lunch #1 - Nakamura Ramen - Oddly half-empty at 2pm on Sunday. The lady was (totally understandably) hesitant about letting me in with my kid in a stroller, but she did and it was... good. Tonkotsu Char Shiu with an egg. Yum yum, nothing extraordinary. Kid freaked out at the end, so I'm not sure if the lady actually took forever to pick up my check or if it just felt that way.

Dinner #2 - Dukes. Yeah, I know, but we were meeting a friend who just moved to the island and... I don't know. It just happened. My ahi poke was all right, fish chunks too big, but whatever, it was fine. Husband's burger was a burger. Hula pie is what it is, huge and disgusting and delicious, with never enough hot fudge for the amount of ice cream (also free, thanks to a coupon on the back of our in-flight magazine). The drinks, though, were surprisingly good. I had something like a virgin Lava Flow that tasted like a strawberry milkshake. Husband had a coconut mojito, which he almost sent back when it came out blended, but it was amazing. Kind of like the best grasshopper ever.

Lunch #2 - Food court in Shirokiya department store in Ala Moana center - Ramen heaven! I confess I forget which stands we visited, but I doubt you could go wrong. One, which was my favorite, also offers Italian preparations using ramen noodles. Ice cream at a stand in the central hub of the 2nd floor was delicious, far better than Lappert's, which I think is wildly overrated. Coconut and chocolate for me and strawberry and chocolate for the husband.

Dinner # 3- Kickin Kajun. Oh lord. This was against my better judgment, but sometimes I let husband run with a crazy idea. The experience was not helped by the fact that our kid was getting ragged out with the time change and I had to keep taking her outside, but this wasn't my thing. I guess it wasn't BAD, exactly, but they were out of probably half the items, the shrimp was wildly overcooked, the potato was inedible, and we get perfectly delicious dungeoness crab at home in the Bay Area. The clams were pretty good, though both of our bellies were unhappy the next morning.

Lunch #3 - Tropics at Hilton Hawaiian Village - just didn't want to walk too far from our beach chairs, honestly. It was pretty meh. Kalua pork nachos with not enough cheese and a weirdly sweet pineapple salsa and average ahi poke.

Dinner #4 - Sasabune for omakase. This made me so, so sad. We've been to Sasabune twice previously, and it was magical. SO good. We got a babysitter (obviously), which is a big deal for me after a bad prior experience with a sitter who let my baby hurt herself really badly, so we were really looking forward to this. And it was awful. The fish was bland, the rice was hot (and I like warm rice with my sushi, but this was literally hot), everything was gooped in sauce, which is hilariously ironic given the mystique of the Sushi Nazi. Their signature scraped toro was frozen. Frozen. Froooooozeeeeeen. They claimed it was intentional but it's never been like that before. The broiled lobster tail was suspiciously fishy. We never cry uncle before the end of a tasting menu, but we forwent the last dish, as we could see that it would be tamago, which isn't either of our favorites on a good day. The fact that it was 2/3 empty at 7:30pm on a Thursday should have been a pretty ominous sign, looking back. My heart cried a little as I watched them slice dozens of nigiri portions of fish and layer them in tubs, presumably for the next day's service. Even our beloved local Oakland joint cuts the fish to order. Thank god we had a $100 OpenTable check.

Lunch #4 - Goma Tei Ramen in the Ala Moana center. Worth it for the fact that neither of us had had Tan Tan Ramen before, but way too salty, and the char shiu, which was a rolled slice of loin, was really fatty.

Dinner #5 - Yakiniku Hiroshi - both got the Platinum course, with the pork option (instead of beef tongue). Another dinner dampened by a cranky little one, but even adjusting for that I thought it was just okay. Meat was tasty but fatty (as opposed to marbled) and the portions were fairly small for the price point. I know, Wagyu and Kobe and blah bleep bloop, but based on some recent articles I've seen I'm *deeply* skeptical of Japanese meat labeling. We were hungry enough to demolish a sundae at Lappert's afterwards.

Lunch #5 - Ono Seafood. Our favorite poke spot. We were starving this time because we were coming from hiking Diamond Head, and the sprog fell asleep in the backpack halfway down, so we'd been sitting at the base for an hour and a half waiting for her to wake up so we could go to lunch. I had miso ahi and Hawaii style ahi - delicious. Husband had shoyu ahi and Hawaii style tako, also delicious. Brought home a little container of kukui nut to try my hand at a more authentic poke.

Dinner # 6 - Japengo, in the Hyatt. The kid's just a wreck by this point in the trip, so this meal was spent taking turns eating and walking her around outside, at least until her food came. I ordered a 3 course menu and my husband a 6 course, which they brought in pairs to match the pacing. Baby's food didn't come until after we'd started the final course of our meal, which is like basic restaurant service 101. Our server was nice, though a bit fumbling (he admitted he'd forgotten to fire the baby's order until we'd gotten our first course) and told us that Japengo is scheduled to close in August because it's not making any money. I had a salad with local shrimp, which was divine, a seafood "bouillabaisse" which was a very nice stew but nothing like bouillabaisse, and a small filet with foie and a mushroom rice. I didn't care for the rice at all, but I'm a freak who hates truffles. The coconut creme brulee was surprisingly nice.

Lunch # 6 - Airport bar/grill pesto chicken pizza. Shockingly good. Airplane chicken teriyaki. Possibly the worst thing I've ever eaten, and I tried a tarantula in Cambodia once.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin,
Hula Grill Waikiki,
Orchids,
Lappert's Hawaii,
Kickin Kajun,
Sushi Sasabune,
Goma Tei Ramen Ala Moana,
Ono Seafood Products
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