Monday, December 22, 2008

On the first day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me...Alan Wong's!

In celebration of the holidays, I decided to do my own version of the "12 days of Christmas" as the "12 days of Hawaii" as that would be my ultimate Christmas gift (a trip... or rather an extended stay in Hawaii!). But, as always, as the holidays approached, life became busier, and my "12 days of Hawaii" have now shrunk to "5 days of Hawaii." Originally I was going to end this on Christmas Day, but figured why not add an extra day?

So, here is the kickoff! I can think of no better way to kick off my "5 days of Hawaii" than with an entry about my favorite restaurant in the world - Alan Wong's. I never thought I could pinpoint one particular restaurant as my favorite in the world, but after many repeat visits to Alan Wong's, I think I can safely say that I've found my number 1. Located on the third floor of non-descript building in Honolulu, from the moment you step into the restaurant, you feel welcomed. Perhaps it is the aloha spirit or just the "Wong Way," but you just know that it is going to be a good evening once you enter. I've yet to encounter an unfriendly staff member at Alan Wong's - from the hostesses to the servers, everyone is there to make you feel right at home.

I've also yet to encounter a restaurant where nearly everything on the menu makes my mouth water. I've done meals of solely appetizers -- a medley of Hawaiian/Asian flavors ("Hawaiian Regional Cuisine"), with sizeable portions where even just two appetizers satisfies your hunger (everyone seems to have their favorite -- mine is the "Chinatown Roast Duck Nacho," my dad's is the "Da Bag" -- steamed clams with kalua pig, shiitake mushrooms in a foil bag, and my mom's the "soup and sandwich" -- Foie Gras and Kalua Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich w/Yellow and Red Tomato Soup). I've done your typical three course meal.

And most recently, I've been coming back to the five course meal time and time again. The five course consists of:
  • Appetizer Duo : the "Soup and Sandwich" and "Poki-Pines" (Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls on Avocado with Wasabi Sauce)

  • Ginger Crusted Onaga with Organically Grown Hamakua Mushrooms and Corn, Miso Sesame Vinaigrette (My favorite dish at Alan Wong's, I love every ingredient in it!!)
  • Butter Poached Kona Lobster with Nagaimo Potato Cake, Green Onion Oil

  • Twice Cooked Shortrib, Soy Braised and Grilled "Kalbi" style with gingered shrimp and Ko Choo Jang Sauce
  • Dessert Duet : Chocolate "Crunch Bars' (my favorite dessert -- for you Washingtonians, similar (but betterrr) than Michel Richard's Kit Kat bar) and Coconut Tapioca

We've celebrated many events at Alan Wong's from birthdays to anniversaries, and most recently, our honeymoon! It's such a small detail, but I loved the "Congratulations" dessert and the personalized copy of the menu, titled with our names and signed by all of the Alan Wong staff.

Maybe that's what I love so much about Alan Wong's -- all the little details that add up into an amazing experience. It's the chili aioli accompanying the warm bread. It's the smiling servers, happy to answer your questions. It's Chef Wong himself coming around to say hello to his guests and making them feel welcomed. It's the food, the drinks, the atmosphere.

Alan Wong's isn't a stuffy, over the top restaurant -- instead, it is a place that you can and WANT to come back to time and time again, where although the menu may be infused with some new dishes, you know that the experience itself will live up to the last time you were there and the time before that and the time before that. I know that I often speak positively about the restaurants I try, but Alan Wong's is a place that I simply love and would urge you to try.

And in case you don't want to take my word for it, perhaps several accolades will help :) Alan Wong's Restaurant was listed on Food & Wine Magazine's Go List 2008, listed as #8 in Gourmet Magazine's America's Top 50 Restaurants in 2006, named as "2008 Best of the Best Winner" Best Pacific Rim Food by the Honolulu Advertiser Annual People's Choice Award, and received multiple times the Best Restaurant 'Ilima Award.

Simply 'ono-licious.

Alan Wong's, 1857 S. King Street, Third Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826, (808) 949-2526

(Btw, if you don't have time to try out Alan Wong's, perhaps stop by his slightly more casual outpost at the Ala Moana Mall - The Pineapple Room. Some of the same dishes are offered there, plus, my favorite, Maui onion soup with kalua pig and gruyere cheese. That soup by itself could be a whole meal.)

No comments: