First Look: Urban Bistro in Honolulu Serves American Classics With a Twist
The first restaurant in the 808 Center opens its doors.
Caprese sliders and Moroccan Pizza.
Photos: Kawehi Haug
It’s been a bit of a slow rise, but the new building known as the 808 Center on Sheridan Street behind Walmart is now mostly built, and the first of a number of slated restaurants has quietly opened its doors.
Urban Bistro is pretty much what it sounds like it would be: a modern space with urban industrial accents that tips its hat to such American cities as Boston and New York City. The dining area is a long, narrow shotgun space with an open galley kitchen. In general, we’re all for open kitchens. We like seeing where our food is being made. But not at the expense of eating it in a tolerably cool room. Urban Bistro is downright hot, which dampens the fun of dining out. We don’t want to have to dine and dash because we can’t take the heat.
Urban Bistro’s menu is eclectic, with a distinct neo-classic American bent, offering modern twists on food we all know and like, such as tacos, pizza, sliders and chicken wings. Our server hinted that the menu might not yet be finalized. The chef is still trying various dishes and preparations to see what works and what doesn’t.
We liked the caprese sliders, little three-bite sammies filled with melted mozzarella, tomato, arugula and a crisp Parmesan frico that added a nice crunch to the sandwiches. Not exactly a traditional caprese, but we’re totally OK with it.
Bo’Urban Chicken Wings.
The Bo’Urban Chicken Wings, fried and tossed in a bourbon apple sauce, didn’t work for us. We expect our fried wings to have crispy skin, and the applesauce coating was just too soft and squishy for us—a textural letdown. We tried the Moroccan pizza, and, after amending our expectations when a flat bread, not a pizza, came to the table, the lamb-, beef- and hummus-topped crust made a nice, shareable appetizer. Like many of the dishes, the pizza suffers a bit from a lack of focus. It was labeled as “Moroccan,” so we expected the sweet and spicy flavors that make Moroccan food so distinct. What we got was something much more Greek, with its lamb topping and tzatziki drizzle.
Despite the slight lack of precision where the food is concerned, Urban Bistro gets a lot of things right. The service is attentive and friendly, and the chef’s best accomplishment is nailing the roasted garlic crème brûlée—a classic crème brûlée, with a perfectly glassy sugar crust, topped with fried garlic chips. The creamy custard and the caramelized sugar are the unlikeliest, perfect match for the sweet, toasted garlic. Here’s hoping the dish makes it from occasional special to menu mainstay.
Urban Bistro, 808 Sheridan St. (on the corner of Rycroft and Sheridan streets, behind Walmart), apps and salads $7–$13, main dishes $10–$20, desserts $3–$7, street parking (building parking lot is still under construction), BYOB, 369-7000.
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