Fine dining + vacay + kids = usually a no-go and/or we need to stop by a drive-thru afterwards. However, as they are growing older (too fast I might add), their palates are improving (even my son!). Hence, we decided to make a reservation at Alan Wong's as it represented a somewhat casual fine-dining experience on our visit to Hawaii. Well, apparently other people thought it was a good idea too as there were quite a few kiddies in attendance.
I decided to go for the Tasting Menu which started with a plate consisting of the Soup & Sandwich (chilled vine-ripened tomato soup, Grilled Hawaii island goat dairy mozzarella cheese, foie gras, kalua pig sandwich) and Chopped Ahi Sashimi & Avocado Stack (crispy wonton, spicy aioli and wasabi soy). I thought the light and airy soup had enough tang and brightness to balance out the salty and savory sandwich (which was crispy, decadent and meaty). As for the stack, it was texturally on point with buttery tuna and soft avocado counteracted by the crunchy wonton and puffed rice. It was aggressively seasoned, but was not overwhelming with a slight spice.
Next, I was served the Keahole Lobster Lasagna with crab cioppino sauce and a Parm Hollandaise. With firm ribbons of pasta, the buttery and bouncy pieces of lobster were bathed in a buttery and cheesy concoction. Hence, this was truly decadent where the lobster was still the star of the show. I thought the crab cioppino was a brilliant addition as it added a subtle background seafood essence. Moving onto the Ginger Crusted Onaga (Long-Tail Red Snapper), it seemed to be topped with a familiar Hainanese chicken condiment. Underneath, there was a miso sesame vinaigrette with mushrooms and corn. I thought the fish was a little overdone, yet it was still flaky and moist. With the ginger and scallion condiment on top, the fish was aromatic and fully seasoned. I was amazed that the ginger was not sharp at all, in fact, it was rather sweet. The burst of fresh sweet corn was nicely balanced by the salty and aromatic vinaigrette.
Even though at this point I was already stuffed, I was presented with the Twice Cooked Short Rib, Soy Braised and Grilled "Kalbi" Style. This was accompanied by chili lemongrass goat cheese and mushroom peanut salsa. My son had devoured his half-portion willingly and I could see why at the meat was fork tender and required very little chewing. It was on the sweeter side though (as with any kalbi style type dish), but did exhibit some spice. The short rib was so sweet on its own, the only thing I noticed about the salsa was the peanut and slight pungency of the goat cheese (despite all the aforementioned ingredients).
For dessert, I was presented with the whimsical Coconut with haupia sorbet in a chocolate shell, tropical fruits and lilikoi sauce. I enjoyed the sorbet as it was only purposefully sweet while being super creamy and rich. It really did capture the essence of a haupia dessert (coconut pudding similar to the Chinese version). The chocolate shell was super thin and nicely aromatic with toasted coconut. Add some sweet tang was the passion fruit sauce as well as the fruit.
Viv didn't go for the tasting menu and ordered a la carte. For her appie, she had the Poki Pines with crispy wonton wrapped ahi poke balls, avocado and wasabi sauce. These very large manifestations featured crunchy wonton "needles". Inside the main pocket was fully cooked ahi tuna that resembled the texture of ground pork. It was full-flavored with white onion, green onion and wasabi. This was a filling, if not unrefined dish. She found it a bit clumsy to eat as well.
For her entree, she went for the Surf n' Turf featuring Misoyaki Farm-raised tilapia, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, unagi short rib roulade. The whole dish could be summed up in one word - sweet. Yes, there was a lot of sugar going around. With that being said, there was also a lot of good things going on too. Although tilapia can often be mushy, this one was expertly prepared with some flakiness. With sweet caramelization, the foie was buttery and properly prepped. Finally, the roulade featured melt-in-our-mouth tender short ribs spiked with sweet unagi.
As mentioned, my son had the half-portion of the Short Ribs which was prepared a bit differently than mine. It did not have the accompanying salsa. Also, there was a single grilled prawn topped with the same ginger scallion condiment as my snapper. As mentioned, he dusted this off with his side of rice. For my daughter, she had something less adventurous (yah, go figure) and had the Buttery Noodles. Despite being a kid's dish, the pasta was al dente while being quite mild. I would've liked to see more salt added, but she ate it happily anyways. Overall, we enjoyed out meal at Alan Wong's even though some of the items were a bit too sweet. Would I say it is a must-visit in Honolulu? Depends on your mood for spending money...
- Enjoyable eats
- Outstanding service
- Casual, yet elegant
- Some items too sweet
- Enjoyable, but not outstanding