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Oahu and Big Island trip report

vinouspleasure | Aug 21, 201509:58 PM

my wife and two of our teens were in Oahu for four days, the big island for five. In order of consumption:

Oahu
side street - The laid back decor, great service, mix of locals/visitors, huge portions and fair prices made this my favorite meal of the trip. In some ways, reminded me of red farm in nyc at 1/2 the price and double the portions:
- ahi ono: our first taste of ono, absolutely delicious, in a soy sauce with fresh garlic and herbs.
- garlic chicken: wow, this was good, perfectly crisp with some nice sweetness.
- pork chops: lightly breaded, perfectly fried, cut into bite size pieces on the bone, this was delicious but maybe too similar to the chicken. In retrospect, the kalbi would have provided a nice contrast.
- the works fried rice: with Char Siu, Portuguese Sausage & Bacon, Peas & Carrots, Green Onions, Lup Cheong and Kim Chee. Huge portion, we couldn't finish, wonderful flavors.
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Royal Hawaiian Breakfast - Breakfast was included in our package, while I'd never walk in and pay menu prices, the food was inventive and excellent. My favorite was the kalua pork hash, poached eggs and champagne mustard hollandaise. Kids and wife loved the banana-macadamia nut stuffed french toast.
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Ono Seafood - we had an assortment of combo ono bowls, favorites were the spicy and hawaiian. $7.50 (i think) for a regular size bowl and drink, must be the best deal on the island (though I certainly didn't eat at enough places to make that assertion.)
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The Pig and the Lady - My wife called this one of her top fifty meals (I've lost count of the number of meals in my wife's top fifty!) and it was great:

Laotian Fried Chicken - crispy, big chicken wing drumettes, served with peanuts and lemon wedges, a great appetizer but $1 more than the huge dish of chicken we enjoyed at the side street.

kabocha and green papaya salad - while the ingredients were fresh and the kabocha an innovative addition to papaya salad, we'd have liked a little more heat.

deluxe pho - I don't know from great pho as nyc is weak in vietnamese food but I'll put this down as the best pho I've ever had. It was a mix of smoked bacon, 12 hr roast brisket, rare beef, fried shallots, tokyo negi and a soft egg. Given the ingredients, it seemed closer to ramen but the broth was all vietnamese. I added some of their house roasted chilis for heat and it was perfect.

french dip bahn mi and manilla clams - this is the dish my wife (and I) loved, I have a smoker at home and I see brisket bahn mi our future. the brisket was perfect: tender and full of flavor. I'm guessing they bake their own bread and they got it just right.

crab fat curry - we saw this on a lot of tables, like a huge crab curry pot pie, generous portion of crab but the ratio of puff pastry to filling was off.
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Musubi Cafe Iyasume - my daughter somehow got in her mind that she wanted to try masubi so I brought her here for a snack. small cafe in a hotel, order at the counter, 4 tables, most people were taking out. we both loved the spam masubi w bacon and avacado, fried chicken masubi was good, we wouldn't order the spcy tuna or salmon again.
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Town - Couldn't get a reservation at Mud Hen Water so we decided on town. The restaurant wouldn't seem out of place in nyc, it was very good but despite their commitment to local sourcing, the food somehow seemed less Hawaiian than our other meals.

black mussels - one of the best dishes of the trip, plump mussels in a delicious broth.

opah - Locally sourced fish, a little dry, would have liked a crisper crust, good sauce.
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In retrospect, another day to attend the big farmer's market and take another hike would have been great. My wife and I were thinking we could easily have spent the whole vacation in Oahu. We never got to leonards or shaved ice :^(
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Big Island

pine tree cafe - stopped here for lunch after flight, top notch Hawaiian lunch plates. Korean fried chicken and katsu dip were the favorites.
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fairmont orchid breakfast - average high-end hotel buffet, some of the dim sum was good, definitely opt for cooked to order eggs over the stuff in the hot trays. good filled mini-malasadas.
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blue dragon (Kamuela) - farm to table, about a 15 minute drive from the hotel, we paid $10/pp too sit in the main part of the dining area to hear live music. There's no roof, so we sat close to the mist sprayers which helped keep us cool. The music was great.

Big Island burger - my daughter was in the mood for a burger came w Pineapple Guacamole, Kimchee Pickles, Mayo & Fresh Cut Furikake Fries, meat was full of flavor, we have great burgers in nyc but this might be the one burger to rule them all.

Hawaiian hogs pork chop - big, meaty competently grilled pork chop bizarrely marred by a guava/white honey glaze. the glaze was too sweet, with notes of bubble gum.

opah - fresh fish of the day, moist, perfectly prepared, on a bed of sriracha mashed potatoes. sriracha mashed potatoes, where have you been all my life?

fruit bowl - the waiter told us a local pastry chef had created a dessert for them, it was absolutely fantastic, with fresh local fruit, macadamia nut crunch, whipped cream (or maybe it was ice cream) and some sort of peanut butter in the bottom. I'm not doing it justice, it was a great mix of flavors and textures. this is a must.

sorbet trio - a trio of homemade sorbet, each achingly sweeter than the last, good fruit but wouldn't order again.
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foodland farms - around noon we decided to ignore weather.com forecasts and head to vnp for the afternoon/evening. stopped for lunch at this grocery store, 4-5 varieties of fried chicken in the deli looked really good, my kids had the korean fried chicken and loved it. My wife and I split a couple of decent sandwiches.
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pineapples (hilo) - by the time we hiked across the Kilauea Iki crater, viewed the erupting volcano and got back to hilo it was close to 9pm so our choices were limited. I was outvoted 3-1 on Ken's so we opted for pineapples grill, daughter decided to try another burger and this one may have been better than blue dragons. The rest of us had delicious ahi sandwiches with home made slaw. The singer was so good my wife thought he was lipsynching(!).
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original big island shaved ice (Kamuela) - so, as my daughter was wont to remind us, we needed to rectify missing shaved ice on Oahu. My wife and I decided to split a halohalo with fresh coconut custard on top, the kids followed suit. OK, I've nothing to compare it with, but this was crazy good, a huge serving of shaved ice with sweet potato ice cream, coconut custard, beans, tapioca balls and lots of other goodies.
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tommy bahamas at Mauna Lani (happy hour) - we had drinks and appetizers at tommy bahamas, mojito and wine were very good, appetizers while good and reasonably priced, were small.
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The Blue Room at The Shops at Mauna Lani - No one loved their meal here, the food was fresh, quality ingredients, but the flavors were bland.

salad nicoise - I didn't care for the dressing, the tuna was nicely seared but unseasoned.

moco loco - good ingredients but the gravy lacked punch and the meat lacked seasoning.

steak au poivre - nice piece of steak but the sauce didn't do it.
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browns at the fairmont - for our last meal. we wanted a memorable, splash out dinner. Beautiful setting, very good food, silly prices, dessert was weak, wine by the glass was reasonable but my first glass was oxidized.
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Under the Bodhi Tree at Mauna Lani - we all wanted to try an acai bowl before leaving hawaii, this was a stunning bowl of fresh, tropical fruit, homemade granola and yogurt. I saw some very good looking sandwiches coming out of the kitchen as well, this is a must if staying in the area.
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final thoughts:

in the end, we ran out of time in Oahu and our schedule on the big island was dictated more by our activities (hiking, exploring, working out, tennis,snorkeling, etc.) than our stomachs. I suppose that's a good thing as somehow I managed to lose 5 pounds on the trip.

I was really taken with the "aloha spirit" of so many of the Hawaiians we met. I always thought one of my advantages in business was my ability to emote positive feelings. Well, here's a whole island of people that are better at it than me!

sincere thanks to chowhound members Sushi Otaku and Kathryn for getting us pointed to so many great places!

Re-reading this, I see I'm one short of five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind (we miss you terry pratchett). If you made it this far, hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed eating it!

Char Siu House,
Musubi & Bento IYASUME,
Mud Hen Water
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