Preview: The Good Table 2014

kupunaMany of you come to this website to read about and plan your outings to the latest restaurants around town. Here’s a chance for you to do that, plus do good for a nonprofit that feeds our kupuna.

For the last six years, Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program has put on a different kind of fundraiser: Restaurants around town create a menu for this one event and donate at least one table for four to the cause. Lanakila then puts the table up for sale. On one specific night — this year it’s Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. — everyone who has purchased their tables go to their respective restaurants and have dinner at the same time. You can see what everyone else is eating at the other restaurants by following the hashtag #TheGoodTable.

You can buy a table at various price points, from Zippy’s and Big City Diner all the way up to Alan Wong’s; you can even get a truck from Street Grindz or a build-your-own poke bar from Ruger Market. There are crazy fans who wait for the site to go live every year, so they can get the restaurant they want (Hank’s Haute Dogs always sells out immediately). All proceeds benefit Lanakila’s Meals on Wheels program, which feeds needy senior citizens year round. To see the whole list, click here.

I hope I never have to use this charitable program. I hope you never have to, either. But for those who are not able to afford or access a hot meal daily, this is a source of nutrition, comfort, and in many cases, company. Ed Morita and I have supported the program since the beginning, and he was even a featured chef at Hank’s Haute Dogs in 2012. Here’s a quick preview of two of the restaurants, JJ’s Bistro and French Pastry, and Haili’s Hawaiian Food.

JJ's Bistro & French Pastry

Each year, participating restaurants set aside at least one table for Lanakila Pacific. Owner/chef JJ Luangkhot has generously donated 10 tables of four. That's right, he's feeding 40 people a special fixed menu, with all proceeds benefiting The Good Table. The tables are $350 each, which comes out to $88 per person.

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This year, anyone who buys a table is entered to win a Maui vacation for two. Lanakila is also partnering with Uber for the event to make it convenient for those who want to enjoy wine with dinner or just don’t want to fight for parking anywhere.

Lanakila Pacific’s The Good Table
October 2, 6 p.m.
To see past event coverage, click here

Hidden gem: Il Buco

DSC03482I know locals very rarely want to venture into Waikiki — traffic can be bad, parking is expensive, and the crowds can be maddening. But you know, you’ll find that in Chinatown, too. It was so refreshing to find a hidden bar in Waikiki that’s reasonable, mellow, and has free parking.

Two months ago, Salvatore Agresti and Darko Vidak opened a little wine bar in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel. The two already have other business ventures together, including a yacht service and a spa in the hotel, so they figured they’d try this out when the opportunity became available.

The venue is tiny, as is the food menu. But the wine selection is pretty extensive, and the per-glass prices run from $8 to about $14, which is on par with any other typical wine bar in Honolulu. The food is about $14 to $29, “all Mediterranean-style dishes with Italian influence,” according to Vidak.

One thing I liked about the place was Vidak’s excellent memory, making it typical of a neighborhood bar. He remembered me immediately on my second visit, and remembered what I had ordered on my previous visit. He also recognized my eating companion Sean Morris, who had met him many years before. Other than that, the vibe is super mellow, which is a nice way to unwind at the end of a long day.

Il Buco

You'll find Il Buco in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel, tucked away at the back by the pool (where Gaan Sushi and Zen Dining used to be).

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By the way, the parking is valet-only, but free. You don’t even get a claim ticket; simply drive up and tell the valet you’re going to the bar. When you leave, just tip him.

Il Buco
Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel
2375 Ala Wai Blvd.

Good eats at Holoholo Bar & Grill

I had been meaning to blog about this neighborhood bar for a while, but I wanted to go a few times before I did. The hard thing with Holoholo Bar & Grill is, their portions are pretty big, so you need to get a big group and/or big eaters together to do an extensive review. This is a good thing!

One of the best things about Holoholo is its location: right in town, across Moiliili Longs and next to the Japanese Cultural Center. Another advantage they have over other similar bars: They have ample free parking. As you approach Holoholo, slow down, turn in to the driveway after the restaurant, and you’ll see the big lot.

The staff is a group of family and friends, so when you walk in you feel like you’re coming to someone’s house. They’re super friendly and make solid recommendations on the menu as if they were telling their own friends what to order. And the menu! As mentioned, the portions are big, so be ready to eat family style. The dishes are all full of local flavors, from fried rice to smoked meat, with a few wild cards thrown in: The poached apple salad was totally unexpected, and the Monte Cristo benedict seems like something my cousin Patrick would have invented when he was still playing football.

Here’s what we liked at Holoholo. (Prices that have two options indicate half portion and whole portions.) Next time, I gotta go back with a bigger group!

Holoholo Bar & Grill

Whether you sit on the bar or grill side, there's lots of elbow room. There's a good mix of people there, from families with kids to twentysomethings hanging out. The bar is probably the better spot to sit if you want to watch sports, though.

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Holoholo Bar & Grill
2494 S. Beretania St.
808-369-7297

Low tea at Stage

Low tea at Stage

Orange china at Stage matches the building’s exterior.

It seems like I’ve been taking in a lot of tea services lately, from the Moana Surfrider to The Monarch Tea Room. My latest caffeinated adventure was at Stage Restaurant, in the Lime Lounge (the bar area with lime-colored chairs) of the Honolulu Design Center (HDC)

Michele Henry Sorensen, who owns Tea at 1024, is also now married to HDC owner Thomas Sorensen. He suggested she start a tea service in his venue, but had one request: The china needed to be orange, to match the building. It took her about a year to find it, but she did eventually find her Shelley bone china tea service and started the program in May. It is now every Wednesday afternoon with seatings starting at 2:30 p.m.

At low tea with Michele Henry Sorensen and the ladies of Lanakila Pacific.

At low tea with Michele Henry Sorensen and the ladies of Lanakila Pacific.

The terms “high tea” and “low tea” are often confused. High tea or “meat tea” referred to dinner: During the Victorian Period, working class families ate a substantial evening meal, with tea, and called it “high” tea because it was eaten at a high, proper dining table.

Afternoon tea was called “low tea” because it was usually taken in a sitting room or drawing room with low tables placed near sofas or chairs. Low tea wasn’t a meal, but more of an afternoon snack to stave off hunger, so finger foods were, and still are, the fare you’ll find.

Here you’ll find the usual finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts, but one bite and you’ll know you’re at a different kind of tea service. Since it’s at Stage, featuring the talents of executive chef Ron de Guzman and pastry chef Canin Sabey, the food is definitely elevated a few notches. Don’t eat lunch, because you’ll want to eat everything.

Low tea at Stage

As with traditional afternoon tea, you get tiered plates with sweets and savories. Don't worry about eating things "in order" — many people start with the scones at the top because they are served warm, fresh from the oven.

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Low tea at Stage
1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
808-237-5429
Wednesdays starting at 2:30 p.m.
38.95 Low tea; 54.95 Tea Royale (includes glass of Taittinger Champagne)

Brunching at The Nook

DSC01991All of a sudden, Honolulu became big on breakfast. Just this year so far, seven new breakfast/brunch restaurants have opened in the city, and they all command chic-looking weekend crowds. When did breakfast become the most stylish meal of the day?

Whatever the case, The Nook Neighborhood Bistro (in Puck’s Alley, where Kiss My Grits used to be) is one of those new morning hotspots. You’ll find your usual breakfast/brunch favorites, like benedicts, waffles and pancakes, but with a contemporary local twist. Chicken and waffles gets a local touch with mochiko flour instead of regular flour; the breakfast sandwich uses a malasada for a bun instead of regular bread. (Click here to see the full menu and more photos.)

If you go, try to do it on a weekday so you can avoid the crowds (that is, unless you want to see and be seen). And since it’s open in the morning, Puck’s Alley parking is wide open. One last tip: you’ll probably want to order the haupia oatmeal, as we did, but plan ahead and order it while you decide on other things to eat — it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to make since it’s done from scratch. Here are some things we did eat:

The Nook

On any given day, you should see co-owners Hailey Berkey and Anicea Campanale in The Nook.

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The Nook Neighborhood Bistro
1035 University Ave.
808-942-2222