Alan Wong’s, Honolulu
February 1, 2008
In almost anyone’s ratings Alan Wong’s vies with Chef Mavro as the best restaurant in Hawaii. (Aside from the purely classic French La Mer.) While Mavro is French-Hawaiian, Wong says that his cuisine is Regional Hawaiian. So we were eager to compare the two. On January 30, 2008, the night after our fine meal at Chef Mavro, we went to Alan Wong’s with Galen and Timothy.
One immediately sees the difference on entering. Wong’s is less formal, more boisterous and bigger. At first glance, it seems to be a successful Chinese restaurant with a varied clientele, including families with children. There is an open kitchen along the back wall. We were seated at a corner table on the lanai, which was a bit quieter.
We ordered aperitifs and discussed whether to order from the intriguing à la carte menu or have the five-course ($75) or seven-course ($95 )menu. We decided on the last and ordered a bottle of the 2005 Alan Wong Cuvee, au Bon Climat, Pinot Noir. The meal unrolled as follows:
“SOUP AND SANDWICH”
Chilled Vine Ripened Hamakua Springs Tomato Soup with Grilled Mozarella Cheese, Foie Gras, Kalua Pig Sandwich
This course was not easy for me to eat, but Linda had no trouble. The “grilled” mozarella was what I would have called a mozarella tile. The contrast of textures went very well. Each flavor was good by itself and in the combination. The luscious combined richness of the pork and foie gras contrasted with the crispness of the other two ingredients.
The foie gras was not at all my idea of “en torchon,” which is a whole raw foie gras wrapped in a cloth and steamed or poached. This foie gras was a disappointing light mousse formed in the same shape as a firm foie gras en torchon. The toasted brioche was good though. There was more of the chutney than we needed.
There was a lot of ginger to enhance the lobster. Excellent.
This was very pretty, but the flavors didn’t seem to come through for me. The others liked it more.
I thought this was very good. Clams and bacon (or any pork product) always seem to be a good combination. They enhanced the white fish.
One could smell the truffle oil as they served this dish, which started it off well. The beef was tender with a nice flavor, but the dish was merely good and not out of the ordinary.
There was a lot going on here. Fortunately I like coconut as there was coconut cream as the faux meat in the faux coconut with the dark chocolate shell and in the ice cream.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but I thought that the cuisine disappointingly inconsistent in view of Alan Wong’s very high ratings. I am glad that we had the tasting menu; it let us see the wide range offered by this kitchen. It would have been too bad not to have ordered one of the very good ones as a main course.
My preference is Chef Mavro, but it is a close call.