Restaurants Thread (2018-)

Thread about Restaurants in Hawai’i.

I heard Cafe Laufer is closing, which is a bummer. But Mitchell said they’re moving downtown, so that’s good news. I also heard that Agnes’s Bakery closed as well, which caught me off guard. Just when I my enjoyment of their malasadas starting growing, they close down. 🙁

On another note, this is an interesting concept, that looks good:

59 thoughts on “Restaurants Thread (2018-)

  1. What I said was that the chef-owner already had plans for a new place Downtown. I have no idea if they were plans for a similar eatery or if this is something completely new.

  2. I took that to mean a new physical space, not a new restaurant. I read something recently that made it sound like the restaurant will be completely different. Bummer.

  3. Do you guys know that the guy who ran the food truck near Damien is the new owner of New Diner’s? He brought his menu over there. So they have the old New Diner’s menu and a new New Diner’s menu. Some of my friends have shared photos and they look great. I tried to eat there last weekend, but if the guy isn’t in, you can’t order off the new menu. Annoying, but whatever. Just thought I’d pass it along in case you didn’t know. I guess I’ve known about it for quite a while but never thought to actually check it out.

  4. I heard about that. The food truck looked pretty good, but the menu seemed limited. For example, unless you wanted a cheap steak, there didn’t seem much that interested me.

    Was the New Diner’s menu interesting (before the guy took over)?

  5. Well. It was basically the old Diner’s menu until Sorabol bought it, which kind of refined it a little (actually, just added to it). But the new guy has a whole separate menu in addition to the old old stuff. It looks (by names, anyway) like stuff you’d see at Kakaako Kitchen or Kahai Street, at least upon first glance.

  6. What you said intrigued me, so I went to check out the menu and pictures at yelp. To me, the main thing that stood out was the steak. Then again, is the quality of the regular items the same as the old diners? (If so, I wouldn’t be that interested.)

  7. If the quality of the regular items is the same as before, but the quality of the new menu items is fantastic, you’re still not that interested? That’s an interesting position.

    I did try to order a steak the one time I went and was denied. A friend posted a nice photo of the surf and turf with a side of ahi katsu, which kind of inspired the trip.

    I was annoyed, and I’m not in a hurry to go back now that I know I can’t necessarily order what’s on the menu. But if I do I’ll let you know what I think.

  8. If the quality of the regular items is the same as before, but the quality of the new menu items is fantastic, you’re still not that interested?

    If I’m only really interested in one of the new menu items, does that seem less confusing? I guess if the other items were among the best of its kind, I’d be interested, but I haven’t read anything that gives me that impression. Plus, in general, the stuff on the new menu is either too pricey or too heavy for something I’d want to eat on a regular basis.

    I did try to order a steak the one time I went and was denied.

    Because the new owner wasn’t there? If so, that is super annoying and lame. I’d be hesitant to go back, too. What the heck?

  9. Gyu-kaku has a $35 all-you-can-eat deal. The quality of meats they offered (limited selection) was really good, far better than other yakiniku/Korean bbq places I’ve been to recently (e.g., Gen, Yakiniku Shillawon, Camellia). Granted, Gen and Camellia are significantly cheaper, but I wouldn’t want to go back there, and I would want to go back to Gyu-kaku. There are also appetizers, vegetables and ice cream or smores options. The dipping sauces were also good, especially the yuzu. What I liked was how the sauce didn’t overpower the meat.

  10. I’ve been walking past Restaurant Do-Ne for a couple of years. It’s on Kalakaua sorta near Frog House, if you’re familiar with that little stretch of stores between Kapiolani and King.

    Finally walked past when there was no wait for a table, so that’s where I dined. The menu looks good, authentically Japanese. I kinda didn’t want to order my old standby, katsudon, but honestly it was the thing that most appealed to me, so I had the katsudon set (with miso soup and a few tsukemono things and a green salad). I also ordered the sashimi of the day, which was maguro.

    The waitresses all spoke Japanese and all had Japanese accents when speaking in English, so you know I was already kind of won over.

    It was good. Solid. Katsudon set $13; sashimi of the day $10.

  11. Seems like a pretty decent deal, but what I really want to know–have you ever eaten at the Frog House? That place has been them forever, it seems like, and I have to believe they must be decent at least.

  12. Laufer has reopened with the same ownership in the same spot with a new name: Kaimuki Cafe. Same menu, but lower prices.

  13. Limon (Ka Makana Ali’i Shopping Center, Kapolei)

    This is a new South American (Peruvian?) restaurant. We tried the paella and a fried fish (sole) dish. The latter was really good. The batter wasn’t heavy or oily, and was a pretty good size. It also came with some seafood (calamari, shrimp) in a tomato-based sauce, and some rice ($22).

    The paella tasted like rice pilaf with seafood. I wouldn’t get this again.

  14. Wait, you went to Limon and didn’t get the chicken? I thought they were known for their chicken. But how good can rotisserie chicken be right?

  15. But how good can rotisserie chicken be right?

    Relative to Sam’s and Costco–yes, that was my thought exactly. Larri’s friend tried, but we couldn’t get feedback from her, so I went with something else.

  16. Sam’s and Costco chicken is terrific, but the price is a factor. Is either better than a real huli-huli chicken with huli-huli sauce right off the flames? I say no. And I would totally order that in a restaurant.

  17. The key question is, is the Limon’s chicken significantly better? Worth paying more for? I might like huli-huli chicken more than Sam’s/Costco, but if I had to pay $9 for it, I don’t think that would be worth it.

  18. I went to Baikohken in Waikiki Yokocho. It was my second visit to Yokocho. I went to Bario a few months ago (photo later).

    I had miso ramen with extra bean sprouts and gyoza.

    The broth was good but not awesome. I added a few splashes of vinegar and it was much better. The charsiu was good but not great.

    So, kinda pricey ($16 or so for ramen; $8 for gyoza). Not really worth it but I don’t regret anything. I feel there must be awesome things in Yokocho but I haven’t discovered them yet.

  19. Did you write about Bario? I don’t remember what you thought of. I thought it was pretty good, but Don seems to think it was much better than that. You’ll be the tie-breaker.

  20. Pioneer Saloon

    I finally tried this place (or maybe I tried it once, when it first opened, but I doubt it). I kinda liked it, and I like their menu, although the value (cost relative to portion) seems a bit iffy. (I’m kinda surprised that Don likes this place.)

    I tried to the spicy ahi (tataki-ish style). Also, got a spicy, garlic steak and chicken katsu. The food was well-made. I’d go back and try other items. (They have a fairly extensive menu.)

  21. Sweet E’s Cafe

    Had this restaurant been around ten or twenty years ago, I would might have been excited. Given the other available breakfast/brunch options, the menu here is rather plain. One of their popular items, the blueberry creamcheese french toast–seems rather ordinary now. It was good, but not something that makes me want to come back again and again. We also got a meat-lovers type of omelet, which was fine, but a little dry.

    By the way, I’m not sure I mentioned it, but for french toast, I really like the strawberry cheescake french toast at Button-up Cafe in Pearl City (located in the old Diego’s and Antonio’s Pizza spot). The place is small and with zero ambiance, but the food is solid. (They use fresh corned beef for their corned beef hash.)

    I also like the strawberry (cream cheese?) french toast at Scratch, but I’m not sure they still serve this.

  22. Re Pioneer Saloon
    Haven’t been here in a while, but checked their website and the prices are fairly the same. Most chicken is $10 or under (by the way, hard to get a meal that’s not fast food under $10), beef close to $15, and pork and fish sort of in between. The portions are okay, not the best, I agree, but the taste of the food makes it worth it. For Japanese food, where can you get a better deal?

    Re Sweet E’s
    Reid is pretty on-point with his review of this place. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either. I’m surprised to hear the dry omelet remark though. They give pretty good portions for the price from what I recall. But yes not a place I’m dying to go. FWIW, if I go to any place that has fancier breakfasts, I’m often left thinking I can be just as happy or happier with portugese sausage, eggs, and rice or a good fried rice. Reid, you tried Moke’s in Kailua? They have some unusual stuffs like rabbit on their menu. Not worth the wait, though.

  23. For Japanese food, where can you get a better deal?

    Is it really Japanese food, though? I feel like it’s more Japanese cook doing plate lunches. There aren’t many places like this–the only other one that comes to mind is the one in Palolo Valley–My Kitchen, or something, but I don’t know if it’s still in business. In any event, I think the quality was good, but I was a little surprised at your enthusiasm given the portions and price.

    Reid, you tried Moke’s in Kailua? They have some unusual stuffs like rabbit on their menu. Not worth the wait, though.

    No, I haven’t been. And the main reason is that the menu never looked all that interesting. (I don’t recall seeing rabbit, so maybe they’ve changed their menu.) If I go there I feel like I’m going to react like I did to Cafe Kaila–a restaurant that really puzzles me in terms of the amount of love they get.

  24. Pioneer Saloon is definitely Japanesey. They have wafu hamburger steak, and just Japanese flair over everything they do. I guess not like the traditional Ezogiku-type Japanese, but more café type Japanese. I’m think My Kitchen is still open, but that place the price to quantity ratio is worse, I’m pretty sure (or at least to my memory). It must have been the choices you got. I saw pictures of the salmon katsu and there was three good size pieces. That’s decent for like $14ish or whatever it costs.

    I only went to Moke’s and Café Kaila once each (I think), but I think Moke’s is better. But I think you right outside of the rabbit, pretty standard fare. They have a lilikoi pancake that seems extremely similar to the coconut pancake from Boots, but I don’t know if it’s worth going there for it. I remember it being a better deal than the Boots pancake though, but my memory isn’t great on that part.

  25. Pioneer Saloon is definitely Japanesey.

    Right that’s basically what I meant by Japanese cook doing plate lunch. When you say “Japanese food,” I’m thinking teishoku or bentos from Shirokiya or Don Quixote.

    It must have been the choices you got.

    Well we got three plates. I got the ahi–which was understandably the smallest portion, but I’d say it was less than the picture; chicken katsu, which seemed kinda skimpy for katsu; and a beef dish, which had quite a bit, if I recall. I think the price seemed to match the portion on that. Actually, I can see you finding the value worth it because of the quality of the food.

  26. There’s a ramen spot in Waikiki Yokocho way in the back. I kind of avoided it because its decor was garish and it was always full. However, since I’d already tried Bario and Baikohken, I thought I might as well try the other ramen options. There’s only one left now — Tsujita.

    Kazan Ramen (or Volcano Ramen) was blessedly pretty close to empty when I went Wednesday night at about 7:30.

    They seem to have tonkotsu broths and regular broths. I went for the Kazan Karamiso ramen, the tonkotsu broth with miso. I think it was $18. I also ordered gyoza, and with the 15% “service fee” (what the heck?) my bill came out to about $35.

    There’s a gimmick. They bring a stone bowl to your table. It has the noodles and toppings inside. The broth is brought separately, in a glass carafe. They pour half the broth into the bowl, then place a lid on the bowl with an opening on top, to let the noodles and veggies cook for one minute. They remove the top, add the rest of the broth, and invite you to ladle your noodles and broth into a separate bowl.

    It looks for all the world like just a novelty to me, but whatever. At least the stone bowl kept everything hot while I ate smaller servings out of the smaller bowl.

    I’ve read negative things about the gyoza, but I thought it was one of the better gyozas I’ve had. Porky, and not overwhelmingly gingery.

    The noodles were on the thicker side for ramen, but the flavor and texture were really good. The broth was delicious. I took one sip from my soup spoon and just said aloud, “We have a winner.”

    I’m concerned that maybe I’m spoiled for tonkotsu broths. I don’t want this to be true, but the other two ramen places I’ve tried in Yokocho, with more traditional broths, were just pretty good. This one was delicious.

    They also serve a small bowl of rice, so you can have soup-rice when the noodles are gone. A nice plus. I walked out of there bloated as heck but super happy.

    I didn’t like that I had to ask to have my water glass filled, or that they seated me at the counter when there was hardly anyone else in there. For once, I actually asserted myself and asked, after placing my order, if I could move to one of the two-seater tables. I don’t mind counters much, but their counter is right under these stereo speakers that blast current pop music, and I just couldn’t take it.

    Could have been happier with a slightly lower price, but I can’t complain about the quality of the food. Better than Bario and better than Baikohken. You’re up next, Tsujita!

    Interior, which I thought was garish but kind of grew on me:

    Stone bowl, volcano lid, carafe:

    Overpriced but yummy gyoza:

    Ready for serving into my smaller bowl. Look at that sizzle around the edges of the stone bowl:

  27. The strawberry cream cheese French toast at Button-Up is very good, but man, it’s a bit much. It’s one of those times when it must be nice to have someone to dine with. You can split that with someone else and split a short rib loco. Because just the French toast is yummy but filling, yet strangely unsatisfying. Like you’re totally full and can’t eat anymore, but wish you could have some bacon or sausage, too.

  28. Kanzan Ramen sounds good–I want to try it, but man, what’s with the price? Would you say it’s one of the best tonkotsu shirus? I don’t like going to Waikiki, but I make make the effort to try that place. Is it right next to Bario?

    Because just the French toast is yummy but filling, yet strangely unsatisfying.

    I kinda feel that way about any sweet breakfast food. For example, I’ll rarely be content if I just something sweet, without having something savory and meaty as well.

  29. I can’t say it’s one of the best because in my heart, nothing competes with Golden Pork, which I know you weren’t impressed by. So take that for what it’s worth. I wouldn’t put it up there with Tenkaippin either. However, I’ll say that I do like the miso flavor in a tonkotsu broth, which I don’t think I’ve had. Yum.

    One of my usual everyday breakfasts is Greek yogurt with frozen berries and granola, and that usually leaves me pretty satisfied, although it seldom holds me over until lunch). I actually have it for dinner too, once in a while, if I had a late or large lunch.

  30. I can barely remember Golden Pork. I need to go back and try it again. By the way, which do you think is better, Tenkaippin or Golden Pork?

    I used to eat a similar breakfast, but it can be kinda high in calories.

  31. Golden Pork is my current #1, where it has been for the past year or so. Tenkaippin (based on ramen alone) is my #2, and Jun Puu is my #3, although I realize there are a lot of places I haven’t tried yet.

  32. OK, thanks. That makes me want to try Golden Pork again. Which one did you get when you went there? (I can’t even remember which one I got.) By the way, which ramen do you like at Junpuu? I like their tan-tan.

    I have a desire to try that volcano ramen, but I have a feeling it’s mainly going to be a gimmick.

  33. Bario. I ate here December 15. The menu looked interesting, but I think I just had a regular miso ramem, whatever the item was that had egg and extra char siu.

    The soup was fine, and I always like getting an egg in my food. I don’t remember the gyoza being especially good or bad. I do remember the char siu being ridiculously salty. I have a super high tolerance for salty, but this was way too salty for me. I’m hoping I got a bad batch or something because I would try it again, especially since everyone on Hawaii social media seeems to love it here. However, a friend confided in me that she doesn’t get why everyone loves it so much; she thinks it’s just okay.

    Put me in that same club.

    1. Did you try it with their chili pepper (which wasn’t that hot)? To me, it’s a crucial part of the dish. It made the shiru a lot tastier (even though I don’t think the shiru is super good). I also liked the raw garlic.

  34. I did try the chili pepper, late into the meal, and it didn’t leave an impression on me either way. The garlic just looks like raw garlic so I didn’t even bother. Perhaps next time. I was so put off by the saltiness of the charsiu that it’s all I can really remember.

  35. I’m not sure the chili pepper (or garlic) would make a big enough difference to be worth trying again. I thought both enhanced the meal, but I still don’t have a strong desire to go back.

  36. Yeah, that was my feeling until I looked at my own photo before sharing it here. All I could think was, “Dang, that broth looks good.”

  37. Second trip to Golden Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Bar.

    I asked Mitchell which broth he liked, and he mentioned the black sesame and red miso, saying he slightly preferred the former. Earlier, MItchell said this was the second best (or favorite) tonkotsu broth. My reaction: I agree with everything Mitchell said! Indeed, I’m curious to re-try the Tenkaippin shiru–because I might like the Golden Pork shiru better.

    We also tried the regular tonkotsu broth–which was fine, but not something I’d come back for.

    I also got the gyoza–because Todd said this was the best gyoza he’s had, saying that the filling was really good. I vaguely not thinking much of the sides, so this comment puzzled me. I was curious enough to try it again. The verdict: It was fairly pedestrian. I believe Todd said that the filling didn’t have too much ginger. While that may be true, it wasn’t like it had a lot more meat than ginger, either. I don’t get it. (For what it’s worth, my brother didn’t care for the gyoza here, either.)

    If I’m in the mood for tonkotsu, I’d go here.

    Oh, we also got the semi-wide noodles. It’s was solid, much better than the thinner noodles they serve, which reminds me of won ton min noodles at Chinese restaurants. Meh. The extra noodles is a good deal, too. (It was actually too much.)

  38. I think you mean black garlic, but same thing really. I like the thinner noodles, and I have never asked for extra noodles because (a) I’ve heard it’s extra noodles but the same amount of broth, and (b) I’m having fun working my way through the sides.

    Glad you liked it. Now I’m jonesing. Too bad I’m trying to limit myself to ramen like once or twice a month.

  39. Oh OK, black garlic.

    With the extra noodles, the total amount was quite a bit. I also didn’t think it disrupted the shiru-to-noodle ratio, either, but you may disagree. We decided we might order just two bowls with extra noodles and split it among four.

    Too bad I’m trying to limit myself to ramen like once or twice a month.

    I like ramen, but I need to limit my intake as well.

  40. We went to Black Sheep Cream Co. again. It was less crowded and the service was way faster (basically normal for an ice cream place). I got the black sesame and pistachio, which came with pistachio brittle. To my surprise, the black sesame had way too much sesame. The flavor was too strong and the ice cream was gritty with the seeds. The pistachio was pretty good, but it got less enjoyable as I ate it.

    We also tried the honeydew melon, which had an intense flavor, almost too intense.

    The ice cream is gooey and sticky like Dave’s, but I feel like they putt a little too much buttercream or whatever fatty substance they use. It’s a little too rich. Still, I’d go back here.

  41. Frolic Hawai’i has a list of new and upcoming restaurants. I’m glad to hear that Texas Smokehouse will be opening a brick and mortar in Wahiawa.

  42. I made it to Yokocho to try the last of the ramen spots, Tsujita. Turns out I saved the best for last. They have tsukemen and ramen, and of course I went for the ramen. Only three items on the list, all of them straight tonkotsu broths differing only in their toppings (regular, charsiu, and green onions, I think). I went for the charsiu.

    The broth doesn’t exactly make you go wow, the way the karamiso does at Volcano Ramen (or whatever it’s called), but it is delicious, fatty and creamy and deeply flavored. The noodles are almost vermicelli-thinness, so Reid will probably not approve, but I definitely prefer thinner noodles in my ramen, the way I prefer them in my Italian pasta dishes. The menu encourages you to order the noodles cooked to your liking: hard, medium, or soft, recommending hard. I ordered mine hard, and they are basically al dente. Perfect.

    The charsiu is made from those cuts that are like half fat and half lean, and it’s sliced very thin. Delicious!

    There are the usual toppings. I didn’t notice if they have bean sprouts as a topping, but since my order didn’t come with any, I’ll ask for some if they’re on the menu. There was no vinegar on the table. When I asked the server if they have vinegar, she was surprised that I didn’t have any and did a quick look at nearby tables to see that none of them had vinegar. They do have it; it just wasn’t on the tables last night for some reason.

    There aren’t any sides (except rice for like $.75)! I can’t decide if this is cooler (our tsukemen and ramen is so good you don’t need sides!) or disappointing. But really, I didn’t need sides. The ramen was so good and so filling, I was happy with what I had.

    The menu also says that if you still have broth when you’re done, you can ask for more noodles at no extra charge. I only really had room to finish my broth by itself so no extra noodles for me.

    The charsiu ramen is $15. I tipped it up to $20.

    I’m planning to go back to Bario for one more try, but as of now my rankings of the ramen at Yokocho are Tsujita, Volcano, Baikohken, and Bario, with the first two a big step up from the second two.

  43. Is this the place across from Bario? If so, I tried the tsukemen here, and I was not thrilled, although that’s probably because I just don’t care for tsukemen.

  44. Why did you order it if you don’t care for it?

    I think it is across Bario. Bario’s on the right; Tsujita’s on the left.

  45. Because I still believed that I liked tsukemen at the time. Indeed, I think it was after that experience that I started thinking that I just don’t like tsukemen. (I still like the concept, and I’m tempted to try again; but I suspect I’ll be disappointed.)

    1. I haven’t eaten somen like that in a long time, but I doubt I wouldn’t like it now. I think the problem with tsukemen is that I’m expecting the broth to be hot, but it’s not. With somen, I don’t have that expectation. I’m thinking I might like tsukemen better if they served it cold, but maybe it wouldn’t be tsukemen then. Said in another way: If the tsukemen shiru could be really hot that the cold/tepid noodles don’t really cool it down much, I might like tsukemen a lot more. That’s my current hypothesis, anyway.

      1. Or they blanch the noodles in hot water before bringing it out to the table so the noodles are hot. That or as you said making the shiru super hot would make it better for me.

  46. I knew I was getting the Volcano Ramen place name wrong, so I’m correcting myself here. It’s actually Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen, but the only part of the signage that’s in English says Volcano Ramen. Confusing.

  47. Mama Manoas (next to Serg’s in Manoa)

    This an pizza/sandwich place run by the owner of Serg’s. They have half-off on all items with meatball, so I wanted to try their meatball sandwich. Unfortunately, the meatballs really disappointed me–they were mushy, crumbly, and bland. We also tried some other things like a pizza with carne asada. That, along with the lasagna, were the best items to me, but this is not a place I’m dying to go back to.

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