This is a long overdue review from my honeymoon at Hawaii from December 2013 to January 2014. Hawaii is not particularly known for fine dining, whilst there is a growing number of fancy and hip restaurants, most of the dining places are still very laid back and homely. Enter Alan Wong, one of the 12 founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, which pretty much means he’s one of the co-founders of fine dining in Hawaii.
I made a reservation at his flagship restaurant on King Street, and played the old honeymoon trick; adding a note that I was there for my honeymoon and hoping to get some preferential treatment. How was the experience? Very pleasant! Though the food was a little disappointing.
My wife and I were seated by the window, and received a beautiful view as we dined. The restaurant itself is a cozy space accommodating about 30 tables. Decor, like most places in Hawaii was rustic, retro, but very comfortable. We were received warmly and showered with congratulations from every server that served our table. It was quite amusing because our main server would basically start and end every conversation with “Congratulations!”.
We were presented with a special menu that had our names printed and congratulated, as well as signatures from the entire staff. Awesome! We then went the YOLO way, and ordered the Prix Fixe given the occasion and opportunity. This was what we had.
House bread rolls were warm and fresh, very tasty with the butter. We were offered more bread between every course, but we resisted, knowing how portions in the US are humongous.
“Soup and Sandwich”
It was a foie gras, kalua (local pork) pig sandwich with local goat mozzarella cheese, served with a gazpacho styled tomato soup, made again with local tomatoes.
The sandwich was rich, but really quite heavy and greasy on the palate. Thankfully the tangy tomato soup helped balance that abit, and washed the grease down. The parmesan wafer didn’t add much to the dish other than a presentation gimmick. 6/10
“Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack”
This was actually served together with the first starter on the same plate. Not a fan of raw tuna, again, wasn’t wowed by this dish. A few pieces of the tuna were actually quite chewy/sinewy. 5/10
“Butter poached kona lobster”
I had been looking forward to eating a restaurant cooked butter poached lobster ever since watching it on Masterchef. Also earlier in the vacation, I bought and butter poached 3 lobster tails, which turned out quite tasty without any prior restaurant tasting.
Unfortunately, the butter poached lobster at Alan Wong’s was superbly, greasy. As if poaching the lobster in butter wasn’t enough, they had to douse it in a spring onion oil emulsion. It was really rich, too rich. Lobster was borderline cooked, but because of the oil, I couldn’t taste any sweetness in the flesh. It simply tasted of spring onions, oil and… oil. My wife felt a little uneasy at this point, and by uneasy, i mean, like she was pregnant. 6/10
“Ginger crusted onaga, long-tail red snapper”
This is Alan Wong’s signature dish at this restaurant. Thankfully it lived up to its name. Beautiful balanced flavours that were sweet, tangy and rich. It went well with the perfectly cooked fish, which tasted clean and was very tender. Presentation was beautiful, and we were introduced for the first time to corn shoots, which tasted very interesting; tasted bland and slightly bitter, but leaves a corny aftertaste. If this came before the lobster, we would’ve enjoyed it more. But unfortunately, we were already a little greased out. Maybe it’s a American vs Asian palate kinda thing. 9/10
“Twice cooked short rib, soy braised and grilled kalbi”
Basically a BBQ short rib with a very nice ginger-spring onion seasoned shrimp. As you would imagine, BBQ ribs at this point was really overkill. That said, I still managed to logically judge this dish; It was tender, tasted sweet and flavourful. The meat came apart easily with the fork, again, another dish that I probably would have enjoyed if I had it on it’s own. Shrimp was crisp and fresh. Interesting pairing with the ginger-scallion ‘salsa’ that we are used to having with chicken. 7/10
This was the highlight of the dinner. A beautiful coconut sorbet dressed up as a coconut, with an assortment of local fruits. The presentation itself deserved a 10, and the tasted further enforced that 10. Unlike the usual desserts in the US, this wasn’t overly sweet, and was a nice cleansing end to the meal. 10/10
All in all, we left feeling very bloated, in a rather uncomfortable way. The food was actually competently cooked, but I think there are some issues with the pairing, or perhaps tweaking the dishes to be less heavy would improve the prix fixe menu better.
Service is top notch, and deserving of the restaurants fame. The food however leaves much to be desired.
Try it once just to say I’ve eaten at Alan Wong’s, but go elsewhere for an expensive tasty meal.