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Fine Dining in Honolulu


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#1 Schneier

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 06:04 AM

My wife and I were in Honolulu last week, and have three dinners to report.

Alan Wong's: K and I had been there a couple of years previously, and while the restaurant was redecorated the food hadn't changed much. We had just arrived, and were tired, so we only shared four appetizers. Everyting was good. Best was the local abalone, served with lobster and mushrooms.

Chef Mavro: The besty\ thing about Chef Mavro (that's the name of the restaurant) is their approach to wine. Instead of a normal wine list, they have wines by the glass associated with each menu item. Basically, their sommelier makes ten wine choices for each menu item. Then the staff and knowledgeable friends of the restaurant have a blind tasting of the wine with the food, and choose one wine --sometimes two -- to serve with the dish. And they were good pairings, mostly European. Wine pairings are so often uninteresting; this is the best wine-list idea ever.

They offer two tasting menus -- a four course and six course -- and they are happy to accommodate different people at the table doing different things. We shared one four-course menu and one six-course menu, giving us ten dishes and ten wines in all.

Looking back over the menu, there were some excellent dishes and some okay dishes. The foie gras with oysters and cabbage was delicious. The mushroom salad with watercress, salsify, and white truffle oil was only okay. The beef was delicious; the lamb was okay. Still, it was the best meal of the three.

Hoku's: This was the only disappointment. Located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel -- a considerable drive from Waikiki -- it was billed as an Asian restaurant. While there were Asian elements, the whole thing seemed forced -- and downmarket considering the price. For example, the Forest Mushroom Pizza wasn't bad with tomatoes, watercress, and cheese, but felt like something you'd find in a bistro. Same with the "Symphony of Ahi": four different ahi dishes that were all good, but informal. The sauteed snails with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms was okay. The best dish was the Portobello Mushroom Carpaccio Salad with Warm Kona Maine Lobster, Golden Baby Beets, Quail Egg, and Black Truffle Vinaigrette.

Here again, we only ordered those appetizers. We were too full for anything else.

The first two were a short - $10 - taxi ride from our hotel on Waikiki Beach.

#2 ulterior epicure

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 01:50 PM

Thanks for the "aloha" update...

A BIG yes to Alan Wong's... Chef Mavro's also pleased...

U.E.
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#3 gmi3804

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Posted 27 December 2005 - 06:57 PM

Is there a preferred dining area at Alan Wongs, i.e., window or lanai?

How 'bout Chef Mavro?

#4 ulterior epicure

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Posted 27 December 2005 - 07:55 PM

gmi3904 (may i call you george?)

well, if you're dining alone, as i was, i would HIGHLY recommend sitting at the "chef's table" at alan wong's - that's the "bar" right at the pass. i got to speak with the chef de cuisine and see all of the kitchen action. of course, that wouldn't be ideal for a family/party/intimate meal...

as for chef mavro's - i particularly liked the booth as opposed to the tables.

can't help much. can't say that chef mavro's or alan wong's were particularly stellar on atmosophere. mavro's was very quiet and muted. alan wong's much more 'party room' upbeat.

have a blast! let me know how it goes!
cheers.
u.e.
“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”
Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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#5 mikeycook

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 09:28 PM

Based on recommendations in this forum, we chose Chef Mavro over Alan Wong as our big dining experience on Oahu and thought I would report back.

My wife had the four course and I had the six course, which was nice since a lot of restaurants (particularly in New York) require everyone do the same tasting menu (at least in terms of number of courses). This allowed us to share and try ten different dishes and a number of wines.

I particularly liked the wine paring approach, not only for the selections, but because the volume of wine served is reasonable (4oz per course for the 4 course and 2.5 oz per course for the 6 course). My last tasting menu with wine turned into a bit of a drunken embarassment due to a heavy-handed sommelier.

Regarding the seating, we had a table for two, not a booth. It was very comfortable, but I think in the future we would ask for the booth seating.

Anyway, here is what we had. My wife wasn't up for too much wine, so she just had a single glass, while I had the wines paired with mine.

Four Courses

Seared Bigeye Ahi, Eggplant Fritter, bouquet of Sumida Farm watercress, cured black olive relish
Classic seared tuna with the eggplant fritter and watercress providing a nice contrast

Fillet of Day-Boat Catch, Slow baked, garlic-saffron sauce, English pea puree, bacon and Maui Onion crouton
The catch was sea bass. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauce and puree worked together very well

Coriander-Black Salt Crusted Strip Loin, "natural" Painted Hills beef, broccolini, curried roasted fingerling potatoes, mouse dried mushroom-tea sauce
The coriander and the curry together gave this dish a little kick. The loin was very tender.

Lilikoi Malasadas, guave coulis, pineapple-coconut ice cream
Wasn't sure was this was from the description, but apparently Lilikoi Malasadas are little donuts, like high-quality sugared Dunkin' Munchkins. A wonderful, fun dessert.

My wife had the "rare selection" wine served with the beef as her only wine, a 2002 Veraison Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard. She loved every sip.

On to my meal, which was Six Courses

Hudson Valley Foie Gras "Au Torchon", wrapped in nori, winter melon kanten, honey crisp, ume sauce
2003 Donnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spatlese
I love foie gras, particularly au torchon, although I had never had one wrapped in nori. The winter melon, honey crisp and ume sauce (plum sauce, apparently) provided sweet, acidic, and bitter contrasts that were perfect for foie gras. The riesling was sweet, but not overly so (something like a Sauternes would, in my opinion, have overwhelmed the dish).

Onaga "Lau Lau Style", garlic shoots, fresh water chestnuts, fennel-basil emulsion
2003 Verget Chablis "Terroirs de Chablis"
This was red snapper wrapped in a large green ti leaf. The basil in the emulsion provided a bright-green contrast to the darker green leaf and the fennel and garlic shoots were great with the perfectly-cooked fish.

Keahole Lobster, Braised Leeks, Wasabi Celery Root, Star Anise Crustacean Essense
2002 Domaine Henri Clerc & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres
Not knowing what Keahole lobster was, I assume it was a typical warm water lobster without claws, which I am not typically fond of. However, it was actually Maine lobster that is brought to the islands when young and farmed in tanks, pumping cold water up to the tanks to allow them to survive. The lobster was excellent. The wasabi celery root had just the right amount of spice (I am considering making this as a future side dish). The Puligny-Montrachet was the "rare selection" (a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay being the standard selection) and was drinking very well.

Roasted "Mountain Meadow" Lamb Chateau, fricasee of honshemeji mushrooms, savory scented fava beans, rosemary jus
1999 Chateau Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol
Although this is how the dish was listed on the menu, the waiter stated that they were using flagolet beans rather than favas. They were an excellent accompaniment to the lamb, although a little toothy. What is not mentioned is the confit of cherry tomatoes that came on the plate as well, which provided a nice acidic kick to what otherwise would have been a more standard lamb dish (the lamb was excellent). The Le Bon Pasteur was also a "rare selection", with a 2001 L'Hermitage de Chasse-Spleen as the standard. (Really, how can you turn down a Pomerol on a tasting menu.)

Big Island Goat Cheese "Tatin", li hing mui caramelized apples, brioche crust, upcountry baby greens.
2004 Bricco Quaglia Moscato D'Asti
Not really reading closely enough, I was expecting a cheese course, but what arrived was really more of a dessert course. It was a small, classic tarte-tatin with a goat cheese mousse on top. It was delicious and light (not as heavy as a traditional goat cheese tart) with the Moscato D'Asti's sparkling nature providing nice contrast.

White and Dark Chocolate Marquise, caramelized pistachios, green tea cappuchino, chocolate tuile
2003 Les Clos De Paulilles Banyuls Rimage
The marquis had three layers of chocolate of contrasting color and texture and the green tea cappuchino was a nice contrasting flavor to something that would otherwise have been all chocolate. On thing I will say is that, contrary to reputation, I do not find Banyuls to be a particularly good pairing for chocolate. Not that I know of a better pairing, but I think Banyuls has been paired with chocolate because nothing else really goes. Although I enjoyed the Banyuls, in the future I would not drink wine of any sort with chocolate.

Of all the wines, I liked the Puligny-Montrachet the best, but all were good and well-paired with the dishes (with the exception of the Banyuls for the reason noted above).

Thanks to all who recommended Chef Mavro. We had an excellent time. We will definitely try Alan Wong's on the next visit, but would love to visit Chef Mavro again.
"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
~ Fernand Point

#6 ulterior epicure

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 05:52 AM

mikeycook

great to hear you had a good time at chef mavro. next time, do go for a booth.

wow, not much has changed on the menu - i was there over two years ago and i think your menu looks nearly identical to mine (well, the meats are the same, but the preparations perhaps slightly different).

cheers.
u.e.
“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”
Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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#7 gmi3804

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 07:32 PM

Anyone care to chime in on any of the following?

Sam Choy's Diamondhead

Mariposa

The Pineapple Room

Mariposa and The Pineapple room certainly sound wonderful, but am I being snobby for being skeptical about going on vacation and eating in a department store? I need a casual place for dinner on our first of three nights. We'll be staying at Halekulani, and will probably not be up to La Mer after a nine-hour flight, and we've dined at Orchids several times in the past. The next two nights will be at Chef Mavro and Alan Wong's.

#8 ulterior epicure

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 07:49 PM

George.

1. I think most people who know the Hawaiian dining scene will agree with me that eating in department stores/hotels in Hawaii is not like doing so on the continent (well, perhaps N.Y., S.F., and Chicago on the hotels).

2. I believe you're going to get a more refined "haute" hawaiian service, atmosphere and food at the two department stores. sam choy's has more of a local hearty approach to food. On atmosphere and view alone, I'd go for Mariposa over Pineapple Room - besides, you'll be at A.W.'s later - why not try something different?

3. Another suggestion: 3660 on the rise (http://www.3660.com/)

Cheers!
U.E.
“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”
Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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#9 glossyp

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 08:37 PM

I personally like the food at the Pineapple Room better than Mariposa. And, it really bears no resemblance to the food at Alan Wong's so it's not like a less expensive version of AW food, it's completely different. They do a great riff on Cobb salad called Thai Cobb salad (not sure if they intended a baseball pun??) using green papaya and lemongrass-basil dressing along with some of the usual ingredients. The meatloaf is excellent as well.

OT - but whether you decide on Mariposa or Pineapple Room, don't miss a visit to Harry Winston's new jewelry salon there are Ala Moana!
"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

#10 mikeycook

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 09:07 PM

The waiter at Chef Mavro specifically recommended Mariposa when we asked about other places to go (he also recommended Alan Wong's). Unfortunately, we ran out of time.
"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
~ Fernand Point

#11 oneidaone

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 11:04 PM

Aloha! I do not find Mariposa interesting nor up to expectations for dinner service. I HIGHLY
suggest going for lunch. There you will get the famous popovers with their Hawaiian inspired
butter, the consomme and a gorgeous view. Dinner was dark and dank in my opinion and not
worth the price compared to other establishments. Lunch however is never a disappointment and
I can drool as I write about the Lobster Club, whatever salad of the day would be, the ahi caesar
and although not on the menu as for and they will serve half tobacco onions and their fabulous
fries. Also the Neiman Marcus Martini is a joy with the sake/vodka, cucumber and ginger. They
also have a large burger that is delicioous. I go there with the IL's and Dad has an appetite that
is to reach notches unknown but very picky oddly enough. He is always more than satisfied and
full. Reservations should be a must but you can always get in as they give you a beeper and if
it's like now it's fun to look at all the "Last Call" sale items. A lovely setting, great food, emphasis
on local ingredients, popovers & consomme (which are not offered at dinner :sad: Make lunch
a must for locals and visitors alike. Thank god for Mariposa in the recent addition of a Macaroni
Grill at Ala Moana and a few other national chains (Ruby Tuesday) I weep for the future, by all
means support Doug Lum's kitchen and have a fabulous time! And, if you're lazy like me and
don't want to have your car in the sun while shopping go to the NM valet area, for a tip most
likely Greggson will park your car and he is friendly and fun. This is a good idea as well if you're
parcel laden you can stash your packages in the car and not worry about possible theft in the
general lot, you gotta love valet parking! I know my funky old CRV with the Grateful
Dead stickers is a fine addition to the Rolls, BMW's and Mercedes, etc! A hui hou :smile:
"You can't miss with a ham 'n' egger......"
Ervin D. Williams 9/1/1921 - 6/8/2004