I had been to Alan Wong's several times in the past, and each time it was a treat for my palate! Although I was never really impressed with the ambience, the food was enough to awaken my senses. In 1996 Chef Alan Wong was honored by the James Beard Foundation for the Northwest Chef Award. He is truly desrving of this award because he has a keen sense for pairing fresh local ingredients with unexpected flavors and textures. Some of the things that were seemingly unheard of, turned out to be my favorite. The li-hing mui ume vinaigrette is just one example. During my most recent visit, I decided to keep it simple by ordering a salad, appetizer and dessert. This was my strategy for keeping the cost down for my poor, unpaid intern budget. Nevertheless, I still felt that I was able to enjoy a nice dinner and felt very satisfied!
To start off, I ordered "Da Bag," which was an appetizer that looked out of this world! I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I wasn't quick enough. The appetizer comes to the table in an enormous foil pouch that is puffed up to the size of a 18" pillow! It seriously looked like it came from outerspace! The server then cuts a slit into the pouch and folds the foil around the plate that is sitting inside the pouch. On the plate are an interesting combination of ingredients which include steamed clams with kalua pig, shiitake mushrooms all in a light broth. Each element of this dish was perfectly steamed, flavors melding perfectly.
The salad that I ordered was a treat for both the eyes and the palate! Being a vegetable lover, I had to try Chef Alan Wong's famous Hamakua Springs Tomato, Beet and Avocado Salad. This was a salad that combined some of my favorite vegetables that I had never even considered pairing. The salad included baby red and yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red and yellow beets, avocado, and Hilo hearts of palm. The creaminess of the avocado complimented the sweetness of the beets and the acidity of the tomatoes. The hearts of palm and cucumbers added a nice crunchy texture and the basil and shiso leaves added another layer of flavor. The li-hing mui ume vinaigrette was very strong upon tasting it by itself; but it married well with the rich avocado, sweet beets, and tangy tomatoes. This salad was my favorite part of the meal!
Of course, no dinner would be complete without dessert. I chose the sorbet sampler which included five different flavors: strawberry, lilikoi, coconut, shiso, and yuzu. Each scoop of sorbet sat upon a vanilla flavored cookie alongside an assortment of fruits including raspberries, mangoes, dragonfruit, kiwi, bananas, and pineapples. I kept going back and forth to each flavor, trying to figure out which was my favorite; but I could not decide. Once I had finished it off, I think I liked the shiso and lilikoi flavors the best.
Chef Alan Wong impressed me once again. His dishes are delicious and inspiring!
1875 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826