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Restaurants & Bars

Oahu report

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Restaurants & Bars 2

Oahu report

Ruth Lafler | Jun 22, 2003 03:05 PM

Just got back from a week on Oahu and had a few comments.

We had a couple of high end meals at Roy's and Sam Choy's.

Roy's was good, although not quite up to equivalent restaurants in San Francisco. The good: service was both friendly and professional -- the perfect combination. Some of the dishes made it to excellent, but there were some false steps, some of the fusion combinations didn't work, and there was a real clinker (my appetizer, unfortunately). For example, the ono in my entree was perfect, but the poblano chile sauce didn't add much to it -- it was either too mild or needed to be poured over the fish rather than spread under it. The fried potato patty looked delicious but was tasteless. One of my companions thought his scallops were tasteless -- in fact, I thought overall the flavors could have been bolder. A couple of winners were the signature Poketini with perfect cubes of glistening fresh Ahi, and my creme brulee, with floral notes from the Tahitian vanilla and lilikoi (passion fruit?) and a unique presentation: three half-egg shaped dollops glazed with brulee.

The clinker was the crispy squid and Asian glass noodle salad which failed in almost every way: the squid was too fishy, the crumb breading was too coarse and absorbed too much oil, and the balance of the dish was wrong: there was too much squid and almost no glass noodles, and there were salad greens on one side of the plate that never integrated with the rest of the dish. In addition, the portion was way too big for an appetizer, especially one the waitress had described as "light" -- I don't consider a huge plate of fried squid with a few noodles and lettuce leaves "light." It would have been too heavy for an entree in a multicourse meal, let alone an appetizer. No one inquired as to why literally half of it was uneaten when they removed the plates, either.

Sam Choy's also suffered from a lack of flavor -- the food looked great -- beautiful presentations -- but it didn't taste as good as it looked. Again, I had a dish (a side of stir fried veggies) with poor quality ingredients (a green stem vegetable that was too fiberous to eat -- I chewed but couldn't swallow two pieces before I gave up). I thought the entree prices were high, too, for the quality of the food and the atmosphere, although the appetizer and dessert prices seemed more reasonable.

The best food experience of the week was a shrimp wagon in Kahuku. Our guide was going to take us to the famous Kahuku white shrimp wagon, but when we got there the wait was 45-60 minutes, and we didn't have the time, so we headed down the road and spotted another white shrimp wagon -- no name, sign in Korean -- that our guide said was new. With my taco-truck-hunting chow senses on alert I had to try it. Although the lemon-coconut shrimp looked wonderful, we stuck with the classic garlic shrimp: you can trust Koreans to know their garlic. They were perfect: crisp, sweet shrimp sparkling fresh from the nearby commercial shrimp ponds, partially peeled and sauteed with gobs of garlic cooked to the perfect stage. While the rest of my friends were daintily peeling them I was crunching them with the shells on, leaving just the end of the shell and the tail, so as not to lose a drop of garlic. The rest of the sauce got mixed with the rice (everything in Hawaii comes with rice, which in this case was a "good thing"). The guide proclaimed it better than the famous wagon, especially when he found out our lunches came with macaroni salad, while the other wagon's don't (I don't eat macaroni salad, but this looked pretty good). Shrimp wagons are definitely a chow experience not to be missed.

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