It has been an annual tradition that January means trying some new restaurants via Restaurant Week. But in recent years I find with all the different price points (some $50+ per person) with very limited options in its prix-fixe menu, that it almost requires too much research to decide which restaurant has both the food that interest us and the value to make us want to spend that money there. With the dishes offered during Restaurant Week often different than what is on the regular menu, it sometimes defeats the purpose whether it is indicative of what their food really is like.
So this year, I took a completely different approach and skipped Restaurant Week altogether. However, I still wanted to take advantage of the quieter January when most people are still paying off their holiday bills and may not have the budget for eating out and go to one that is so hard to get into but has become my favorite restaurant, Liholiho Yacht Club.
Upon first bite at Liholiho Yacht Club shortly after they opened in 2015, I knew that was the restaurant of the year for me. Now almost 4 years and 7 visits later, I dare say this might be the restaurant of the decade for me.
What really sets this restaurant apart for me is the consistency and excellence of all visits. Do not get me wrong, I have been to restaurants where the food have wow’d me both in the Bay Area as well as on island but unfortunately by my next visit, often a year later especially in Mau`i, that wow factor was gone. The same can even be said about what I considered the restaurant of the year just the following year in 2016 where I enjoyed it so much, I dined 4 times within that one year at that establishment, my belated birthday, Valentine’s Day, my cousin’s birthday. By year end, when I returned for my mom’s birthday, there was already something missing, maybe the chef in the kitchen?
Now I am sure you are wondering if I love Liholiho so much, why did I not go there 4 times in one year? Trust me, it is not from a lack of trying but the lack of availability short of planning at least a month in advance, making reservations exactly at midnight, not 12:01AM a month ahead to secure a preferred time. My more recent visits which I am grateful is at least an option, was lining up about half an hour before opening on a weekday to hopefully secure one of the tables available for walk-in.
Perfectly cooked and tender short rib already had its lily gilded served alongside bone marrow but stuffed with escargot, takes decadence to a whole new level.
The off menu house made spam is a far cry from your canned spam. Less salty and when served over furikake rice and topped with pickled cucumber slices, it elevates this Hawaiian staple to its finest.
With 40 photos, repeats like Cornish hen,
and fried oyster topped with beef carpaccio,
threepeats like the duck liver toast,
and off menu spam and a four or five timer of marinated squid salad
and beef tongue bao,
I have probably eaten half the menu by now including a few that are no longer on the menu like the lamb riblets and twice cooked pork belly.
Our two visits last year found us trying 4 new items as we continue to eat our way through Chef Ravi's menu. The Hamachi app hits so many of the taste sensories, savory from the Hamachi and sauce, hint of tartness from the grapefruit exploding with the crunch factor from the fried sunchokes. The roasted octopus is cooked to perfection, tender with a slight chewiness and always complemented and never overpowered with any of the ingredients paired with it. The fried oyster with beef carpaccio lettuce wrap has the perfect amount of crunch with each bite while the thin beef carpaccio topping lets you eat with your eyes as soon as it hits your table making me secretly glad that someone has a shellfish allergy so I do not have to share. The opah, the Hawaiian moonfish, one of my favorite fishes just takes me straight back to the islands. Creamy butter beans, crunchy broccolini and baby bok choy. Dare I say that it was even better than the ones I have had on island including Merriman's. Oh yes, I did.
Since I seem to be bucking the trend this year, our last visit just 2 days ago did finally find us picking our favorites only vs. a new dish that we normally do. However, even with all this experience, we still make the same mistake each time except once, no room for dessert. But how can I say no to duck liver toast, oyster and beef carpaccio lettuce wrap, beef tongue bao, housemade spam, and opah?
One of these days, I will make room to have that Baked Hawai`i once again.
To have a 5 star experience all 7 visits spanning over 4 years says a lot right there and it is the presence of Chef Ravi TLC in making and overseeing what comes out of that open kitchen that adds the additional aloha spirit and love to the food and the atmosphere.
Mahalo Chef Ravi. A Hui Hou!!