best restaurant in honolulu
Last week my husband and I decided to spend 48 hours in Honolulu. I had such a blast with Hella Rothwell on New Years Eve 2017, visiting again seemed a good idea. Because apart from changing planes in Honolulu, my husband, believe it or not, has never been to the city. He has never visited Pearl Harbor. While I have toured all of the islands, he hasn’t. On top of which, it is good for him to see a bustling city like Honolulu is only 40 minutes away by plane. We can get to Honolulu from Kona faster than, say, from Sacramento to San Francisco.
With carry-on and TSA, we can walk the short distance from the parking lot and whip through security and be at the gate in under 10 minutes. Pre-reserving a cab through Charley’s Taxi is $29 from the airport to hotel. Oceanfront Rainbow Tower at Hawaiian Hilton is half the price of other hotels in Waikiki. Our room, unbelievably, was ready at noon when we arrived.
First stop was the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Charles Reed Bishop built the lava-rock building and museum in memory of his wife, Bernice. Bernice was the last heir of the Hawaiian royal family and a descendent of the Kamehameha dynasty. You may recognize the name Charles Bishop because he founded the Kamehameha Schools and the First Hawaiian Bank.
The Hawaiian Hall features cultural artifacts and royal heirlooms. I also read somewhere the koa wood used to construct much of the cabinets is worth more than the building itself. This building underwent a $21 million renovation. The interior is as interesting and fascinating as the objects housed. If you want to know more about Hawaiian history and culture, this is a good place to start. Although, you can’t really see it all in one afternoon.
With only 48 hours in Honolulu, we tried to cram as much activity as possible into our agenda. Starting with food. Good food is high on our priority list. And I knew the perfect place for dinner. Halekulani’s Le Mer Restaurant. I discovered this restaurant when I stopped in Honolulu to bridge the trips between the island of Lanai and my visit to the islands of Vanuatu. Le Mer means the sea in French.
If you’ve got only 48 hours in Honolulu, you cannot go wrong by finagling a reservation at Le Mer. It’s a little difficult to find, even when you’ve been there before. I recall the last time I required an escort to find the place. It’s in the middle of the hotel up back stairs without signage. A nice fellow in the hall, most likely a guest, noticed we were lost and directed us. What the hell, you only live once, so the 7-course tasting menu it was.
This dish, as you can imagine, was delightful. The first course featured pieces of squared cocoa gelatin, which only whet the appetite for the caviar in the second. Although, I found it really hard to cut the through the thin envelope of cuttlefish and into the scallop. Didn’t matter. I simply scooped it all into one lump and spooned the seafood into my mouth.
Our third course sounds tastier than it was but that’s only because I don’t much care for chorizo with my poached lobster. I asked how the chef drew those circles, because if you can draw a perfect circle, you are an extraordinary artist. Well, shattered my illusions. He drew it with a machine.
Tender, richly satisfying and mouth melting beef. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this dish? You might be tempted to pop the potato balloons like me. Which of course I popped. I can’t help but play with my food. For this dish, I settled on a wine from Bandol, a blend of grapes. Grenache and Mourvédre.
We did not order the wine pairing with this menu because a) it was another $350 on top of our tasting menu pricing, and b) we had to get up early in the morning. Seemed like 7 glasses of wine was a bit too much for one evening. There is only so much gluttony and splurging one can do, you know. I’d like to think, even if it’s ridiculous, that I possess some part of common sense in my makeup. Yes, the following day we had a tour arranged to visit Pearl Harbor . . . more to come tomorrow.