We were fortunate enough to land reservations Friday night during the opening week of Senia. A restaurant that specializes in farm to table cuisine leveraging the culinary skills of Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush, former chefs at Per Se, a restaurant by Thomas Keller. I should also add that Anthony had worked at the French Laundry before Per Se. So once I found this out I was eagerly awaiting a wonderful feast. And I have to say, they did not disappoint.
The menu was a little confusing having a section on snacks, plates, and sharing. Thankfully, the staff was super helpful describing what to order and how much we should order for a party of six. The snacks were just that, small portions for tasting. The plates were meant to be shared though one person could easily finish it off for a light meal. We wanted to taste more of the menu and only had a couple of orders where we ordered two for the table. Those were the bone marrow and the lasagna. A move we weren’t going to regret after tasting the lasagna. The share menu items were portioned for three to five people. Again, allowing a group like ours to sample more than one item.
Once we ordered, the courses came out at a steady pace with the staff being very responsive. And it wasn’t like only our server was helping out. It felt like everyone on the floor was helping each other clear tables and refill glasses. That’s a great way to run things.
Overall I was very impressed. Even more so that it was opening week where most restaurants take several months to get things in order for both food and wait staff. This place had it down. I’m looking forward to revisiting Senia in the future!
Note: I had to use my camera phone. So the images won’t be up to bar with my other photos. Sorry.
75 N King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
+1 (808) 200-5412
Verdict: A must go for finer dining and creative takes with locally sourced ingredients.
A quick drive out of Waikiki, you can find Sushi Izakaya Gaku. A place that has been serving up creative dishes for izakaya while also providing some elaborate sushi. We happen to come here primarily for the izakaya. Not to say we didn’t sample some of that wonderful fish. But mainly we wanted a festive night of drinking as we feasted.
We arrived at the restaurant around 8pm and put our name on the list. The wait time was about an hour for our group, a party of seven.
While this place takes reservations, they do not take them after 7pm. Why? My only guess is that it’s a true izakaya where there’s no such thing as a time limit. With that in mind, it’s really difficult to keep any reservations in order when people have a good time and continue ordering more. And going into the evening hours, that becomes more and more difficult. I mean, take us for example. By the time we left, we were the only party there. And looking around the restaurant, they had already started cleaning up.
Thanks for letting us stay to finish our drinks… I mean food.
Our table was in the back where they had sunken seating in a semi private enclosure. The server helped us order the right items explaining each of the dishes. The only thing they ran out of was the duck. No problem. We had over fifteen dishes to go through. Several of them being spectacular so I’m okay with missing one of the dishes. Having a party our size let us try out about half of the menu if you don’t include the sushi. As for the service, it was very attentive. Our drink glasses remained full and every dish came out in good time. We couldn’t have asked for more than that. Well, except maybe to try that duck. Anyways, it was still a memorable meal.
Sushi Izakaya Gaku
1329 S King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
+1 (808) 589-1329
Verdict: Get yourself out of Waikiki and get dinner here. You won’t regret it.
When it comes to food, the first thing people tell me about the Big Island was that I had to visit Da Poke Shack. A small place located in a set of condominiums that served fresh poke. Of course, they branched out to another location, but we wanted to try the original. Not to mention, it was on our way to the airport. Our last chance on this trip to try it.
We got there right when it opened and there was no one but us there. There would soon be a trickle of patrons but it was still too early for the lunch crowds. The place works more like an order to go. There’s basically communal seating on the two picnic tables set outside. I figure on hot days, it’s preferable to eat it somewhere else. We chose to eat it there.
The price to the amount of poke you get was quite high. Our bowls which included two scoops from the lower shelf (where the poke is located) and one scoop from the top ran us over $13, depending if you want brown or white rice. The platter on the other hand ran over $20. This was all market price so I’m sure it fluctuates over the year. But who knows, there’s a poke trend in California that may keep prices high. Only time will tell.
Overall, every piece of tuna here was pristine. No chewy bits of cartilage, just straight up proteins. I see why people have been recommending this place to us.
Da Poke Shack
Oceanfront Kona Bali Kai Condos
76-6246 Alii Drive #101
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
+1 (808) 329-7653
Verdict: Portions are small, but the fresh cuts of fish are worth it.
With over 30 varieties, Cafe 100 has been an institution for this iconic local favorite, the loco moco. It’s a dish composed of four simple building blocks, rice, hamburger patty or patties, gravy (lots of it) and a fried egg on top. Though most historical records indicate, the fried egg was introduced after the original concoction. I won’t dispute that. If the egg was an evolutionary step, so be it. It’s a magical combination. And at Cafe 100, they have that and are constantly trying out new combinations.
It’s sort of a drive-in where you park, order at the window, get your food, pick a table outside and pig out. Prices are very modest and although we got the “traditional” sizes, you can go for the original smaller sizes. That way you can try more. Food comes out pretty quick, so get that table ready. We had a decent size group and could have tried more varieties. But since it was our first time there, we had to go for the popular stuff. That worked out perfectly as it was more than enough food for us.
969 Kilauea Avenue
Hilo, HI 96720
Verdict: Must try for your loco moco fix!
Not to be confused with the original Umeke’s, Umeke’s Fishmarket Bar and Grill is the full restaurant with a bar. Plenty of room here to meet up with friends to eat and drink. With all of Sunday dedicated to happy hour why wouldn’t anyone want to spend it here. Well, that’s if of course you were tired of the beach. But I digress. We wanted a glimpse of the Hawaiian food here in Kailua-Kona. This place kept coming up in our research so why not give it a try.
It’s a just a bit outside of downtown Kona along the same road you’d find Kona Brewing. Once you get in you’ll know you’re there. Plenty of people waiting for a seat. Plenty of souvenirs to buy along the wall. But not too much room to sit and wait. There’s a bar, but they don’t want people standing around there. It does make sense because you’ll end up crowding the tables near by.
For us, we were lucky a few seats opened up at the bar. Though it took 30 minutes for us to get seated.
Think of a sports bar slash restaurant and you have the vibe here figured out minus all the TVs. The place is lively though not at all loud. We needed to flag down the staff a few times as they tended other tables, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Our food came out in good time. Appetizers. Then the main courses. We ordered the heavier dishes and only included a couple orders of what they’re known for, the poke. I didn’t have any myself, so unfortunately I don’t have it in this write up. No worries, I will have this place again when I revisit the Big Island.
Umeke’s Fishmarket Bar and Grill
74-5563 Kaiwi Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
+1 (808) 238-0571
Verdict: A great spot for Hawaiian food with it’s own personal touch.