Review: Alan Wong’s

2 September 2015

Despite that utterly amazing dinner (oh that dish!!!) at The Pig and The Lady, I slept badly. Jetlagged and hot, I got on a few short hours of shut-eye. I had a very long day today, so I was out the door early…

By the time I got back home, I was spent. I was roasted into a crisp, with a pretty massive sunburn that epitomises the word “redneck” — as well as my head (perils of a shaved head). I needed to relax a little before heading out to my last dinner in Honolulu — and on this epic long trip. I headed out and got to Alan Wong’s just about time.

Alan Wong’s is a legend in Honolulu, one of the foundations of the city’s food revolution. Many, if not all of the top chefs in Hawaiʻi rotated through stations in this kitchen, and it’s known as the proving grounds for new talent. But on this day, I got a bit of a different impression as I was seated — alone — at the chef’s counter.

I realised why in about 5 seconds…the AC is not working well, and it is sweltering back there. Clearly there was an AC fail in the back of the premises, as the kitchen staff seemed to be knuckling under from the unusual heat of the day. Honolulu is unusually hot and humid, but this is noticeably odd. I was sweating within minutes myself at the counter, despite cocktail in hand…

My server was good but he was over-selling things a little too much, constantly offering his recommendations like I was unable to figure out the items on the menu. Borderline condescending really… So I basically ordered nothing he recommended, and I bypassed the tasting menu too. The short seasonal menu looked good but it was too much in this heat; the big tasting, again, is plagued by the Hawai’i tasting menu curse — the constant presence of Hudson Valley foie gras… So I ordered and did my best to chill in this heat.


Soon my starter showed up, the seafood chowder. More of a bouillabaisse, with some nice shellfish, very plump. The flavour was nice and rich, perhaps on the salty side. It’s one of the day’s special and it worked pretty good. But in the meantime I was seeing some comedy in the kitchen as there was some rather sloppy cooking, with stuff falling all over the place. And at one point the (assistant) sous chef, running the kitchen, began berating one of the female cooks in a rather unpleasant way that left her nearly in tears.

I wasn’t enjoying this comedy too much, as I watched the chef and he was obviously treating the female chefs different from the male (on the other side). Strange, as Alan Wong’s is one of the few top restaurants with both a female chef-de-cuisine and head-sous. He seemed to gloss over his own mistakes with a chuckle…

I was struggling with the heat when my main arrived, the kalbi ribs with shrimp.


Not bad, but I really wish it was more authentic. Tasted nice, but it had that “not quite grilled, not quite braised” feel that misses on both with an unhappy middle. If you’re not a die-hard kalbi fan like I am you probably wouldn’t care, but compared to the plate lunches I’ve had all week, this missed. Oh well…

I was not enjoying this environment much, whether it’s the stuff behind the counter or the ridiculous heat, but I thought this dessert would help.


Shaved ice, ah… Pineapple… Just what I needed, though it was starting to melt quickly. Was actually the best dish of the night. This heat is just unpleasant, they really need to deal with the AC situation. No wonder every other diner that was offered the counter walked up to the seats and changed their minds…

I asked for a final scotch before I left and once again, the quadruple…I can get used to this… But I headed out a bit disappointed. I know it’s the training ground for Hawai’i’s top new talent front and back of the house, but it’s more like a boot camp. Not my scene, to be honest, I like a kitchen that works in symbiosis and with comraderie instead of an unpleasant field marshal aloofly directing action far away from the battle. I may have just come on a bad night — temperature-wise, and direction-wise.

But a pretty solid last dinner here…another ridiculously long flight tomorrow, not looking forward to that…

Alan Wong’s
1857 South King Street
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

One thought on “Review: Alan Wong’s

  1. Pingback: Ono grinds in Honolulu…ah, good to be home… | melhuang1972

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