Review: Búho’s Elevated Take on Mexican Cuisine
On a Waikīkī rooftop, the owners of Shokudo Japanese Restaurant bring you Búho Mexican Cocina and Cantina.
Photos: Steve Czerniak
On a Waikīkī rooftop, the owners of Shokudo Japanese Restaurant bring you Búho Mexican Cocina and Cantina. Which sounds about as incongruous as bread and ice cream for dessert, Shokudo’s claim to fame. So, like that dish, don’t knock the concept before you try it.
If Búho had arrived a few years ago, when the refrain “There’s no good Mexican food in Honolulu” wafted through the city, we might have all swarmed Búho in desperation. In recent years, though, with the opening of Cocina, Zaratez and Serg’s, we’ve been too busy stuffing our faces with carnitas, cotija cheese and corn tortillas that don’t suck to pay much attention to a new Mexican restaurant in Waikīkī.
But Búho is also an answer to another Honolulu lament: There are too few outdoor restaurants. And it’s the chic and relaxed open-air setting, done up with wood and lounge-y nooks and a long bar, calling to mind a poolside lānai (minus the pool) that draws me to Búho like a hipster to Mexican Coke.
During lunchtime, you’ll wish there were a pool; it gets so hot you wonder if this is the reason an outdoor rooftop restaurant never existed before. The evening is the best time to dine, when it’s cooler and the sunset brings out the neighboring Royal Hawaiian’s best pinks. It’s an oasis in the middle of bustling Waikīkī … but maybe too quiet—the times we have gone, there have only been a handful of other people in the 12,000-square-foot restaurant.
At Búho, the elevated Mexican cuisine, as the servers describe the menu (also a cheeky reference to its location five stories up) leans heavy on gussied-up street food: tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. The tacos deliver fresh, light flavors, such as the tender, smoky brisket paired with tangy red cabbage and pickled jalapeños; and the fried fish dressed with mango pico de gallo and chipotle aioli. The tacos, however, may be the smallest and most expensive (around $13 for three) you’ll ever have. Best to treat them as an appetizer, not a meal. Get those with the prosciutto-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with carnitas. Yeah, they’re as good as they sound.
Strangely, the enchiladas, for the same price as the tacos, come with beans and rice and are big enough for an entrée. They’re also worth ordering, especially the shrimp ones—crispy, fried corn tortillas folded around shrimp so succulent and sweet they almost taste like lobster, the whole thing doused in a bright salsa verde.
The vibrancy starts to falter with the larger plates, like the carne asada fajitas ($32), which is about what you’d expect—sizzling sliced steak and onions, but with little flavor. And when Búho set out to elevate Mexican cuisine, it seems to have left the desserts behind: Its version of tres leches cake ($9.95) is missing the tres leches and is instead dried-out ladyfingers with whipped cream and canned peaches.
Can Búho replicate Shokudo’s success? So far, it looks like a slow start, but I’m hoping for a day when I go to Búho and it’s as boisterous as a Cinco de Mayo party—like tequila, the space is made for fun times.
Smoked brisket tacos
Appetizers $8.95 to $14.95
Entrées $13.95 to $38.95
2250 Kalākaua Ave., Suite 525, buhocantina.com