Originally, we had other lunch plans on our second day in Honolulu. However, things changed as we were sweaty and tired from our hike up Diamondhead. That's what almost 100 degree weather can do to you I suppose. Don't think it was ever that hot last time we were here! So rather than getting takeout from Yama's, we headed over to Helena's instead. With a bunch of awards including a James Beard, there was some lofty expectations to live up to.
After waiting for over 30 minutes for a table (which wasn't that long anyways), we got down to ordering. After a short wait, everything came at once and filled the table. I gave the Fried Butterfish Collar first and it was money. Fried until lightly crispy, the entire thing could be eaten including all parts of the bone. Inside, the fish was still buttery and flaky while well-seasoned. Interestingly, my son has suddenly developed a liking for Kalua Pork, especially with a sprinkle of pink salt. He ate practically the whole dish with his rice. This version was good with lots of natural meat flavour and was sufficiently moist, but there were some stringy portions.
For myself, the best item were the Short Ribs Pipikala Style. Although the overall texture was firm, the ribs were meaty and tender. These were dry on purpose due to the cooking technique involved (which requires the meat to be brined and air dried). The flavorings penetrated the meat as they were an appealing salty sweet. We also got one order each of the Beef and Tripe Stew. Both bathed in the same rich and slightly tart tomato sauce, the stews were flavourful with depth. The beef was sufficiently tender while the tripe was buttery soft while maintaining a slight chew.
Viv thought the Lomi Salmon was rather ordinary as it lacked strong flavours except for a bit of the white onion. In fact, she thought the dish was fishy even though the salmon seemed on point. On the other hand, the Ahi Poke appeared fresh with a nice sheen and in fact was sweet and buttery. We were able to customize our own mix of chili and soy which meant we made it spicier! Creamy and mild, the Mac Salad featured soft pasta which made us yearn for the one we had at Mike's Huli Huli Chicken. Lastly, we had the Poi which had the classic wallpaper paste texture. On it's own, there was a background sweetness while strangely tart. It tasted much better when eaten with a protein of some sort. We ended off the meal with an order Haupia which was mildly sweet and plenty coconutty. A nice way to end a pleasant Hawaiian meal that didn't cost us an arm and a leg.
- Inexpensive and great to share
- Sincere service
- Great short ribs
- Usually a long wait outside where it is hot
- A/C is a bit weak