Tour de Eats: Take in Honolulu While You Eat at Three (or Four) Restaurants a Night
Food crawl around Honolulu with Kalapawai Cafe, Saeng’s Thai, Formaggio Grill, Yakiniku Don-Day, Sushi ii, City Cafe, Jinroku, L’Aperitif and Ailana Shave Ice.
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13. TAKOYAKI; 14. L'APERITIF; 15-16. AILANA SHAVE ICE.
PHOTOS: MARTHA CHENG
Teppan grill at Jinroku.
photo: martha cheng
I find some of the most authentic Japanese food in Waikiki. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I find terrific okonomiyaki in a little eatery tucked into a hotel, on a side street that we are wandering down, looking for our next course. Sit at the bar to watch the three griddle cooks, working with a flat-top and spatula, cook everything in front of you.
The okonomiyaki, a cross between an omelet and savory pancake, can take 20 minutes to cook, but it’s worth the wait. The mochi shiso okonomiyaki arrives topped with a sweet and savory sauce reminiscent of Worcestershire and shaved bonito, fluttering from the heat of the pancake. Mochi offers chewiness, cabbage crunchiness. The pickled ginger and shiso add enough bite and herby intrigue to keep the okonomiyaki interesting to the end.
Order takoyaki while you’re waiting, little doughy pancake balls crisp on the outside and filled with chopped octopus.
Ailana Shave Ice
Waikiki is like a choose-your-own dining adventure. There are endless ways to fill your stomach, whether you want to eat a little, or eat a lot, spend a little, or spend a lot. Dessert illustrates this: we end up at Ailana Shave Ice, hidden in the basement food court of Waikiki Shopping Plaza. Another night, another shave ice? Yes, for the nights have been hot and humid and walking (especially for my husband in his L’Aperitif-appropriate attire) has necessitated a cool-down. Relief comes in the form of Ailana’s homemade syrups and special bowls such as the Tropical Trio, with mango, papaya and haupia syrups, a scoop of ice cream buried in the middle and the whole thing drizzled with condensed milk. The mochi is also made in-house—discs the size of dimes adorning the Uji Kintoki bowl, ice drenched in green tea syrup, covered in azuki beans, like lava flowing down a volcano (a volcano with an ice-cream center, that is).
I am full, but I can’t help flipping back the pages in our choose-your-own-adventure wondering what I have missed: popovers at BLT Steak, soba at Matsugen, bananas Foster at Hy’s. Next time.
Total: L’Aperitif: $41.88 + Jinroku: $43.98 + Ailana: $5.24 = $96.34
L’Aperitif, inside La Mer in the Halekulani, (808) 923-2311, halekulani.com.
Jinroku, 2427 Kuhio Ave., (808) 926-8955.
Ailana Shave Ice, Waikiki Shopping Plaza, 2250 Kalakaua Ave., (808) 349-9827.