Come for beer, stay for food at Gordon Biersch
|Aside from offering an extensive variety of beers and television sets for sports enthusiasts, lower right, Gordon Biersch in Aloha Tower Marketplace also serves excellent food. The garlic fries always are a big hit; the pizzas are consistently high quality; and the entrees cover a lot of ground, from steak and lamb, to meatloaf and pasta.
Photos by Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
1 Aloha Tower Marketplace
10 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays
The talented executive chef, Liam Martin, grew up in San Francisco. He moved to Honolulu to take a job with the now-defunct Scott's Seafood several years back, and has been with G.B. since mid-1998.
I asked Martin if he felt any pressure from having to cook for people who mostly come to drink. Surprisingly (to me), he told me that the Honolulu Gordon Biersch holds the distinction of having the highest percentage of food sales (65 percent) against beer, wine and spirits among the 18 restaurants in the nationwide chain.
Gordon Biersch earned its reputation as a brew pub, creating beers according to Germany's 500-year-old purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, which dictates that only water, malted barley, hops and yeast can be used in brewing.
Before getting to the food, here's a brief rundown on a few of the beers ($4.25 the pint):
- Golden Export: Its taste is not unlike a stronger, flatter American beer. It's slightly bitter and dryish, but light on the hop flavor.
- Marzen: It has a mildly sweet butterscotch taste. The Marzen is G.B.'s most popular beer, medium-bodied and less malty than a bock, but more fruity, with a banana-like aftertaste.
- Dunkle: For me, this one wins hands down. It's dark brown, with a malt and cereal aroma. It's slightly sweet and malty with whispering reminders of chocolate. This is a good, smooth dark beer that's great with steak.
You may need a couple of beers to wash down the very aromatic garlic fries ($4.95) that always are big sellers here. You definitely will reek, so make sure your date or dining companion digs in as well. The moist and meaty crab cakes ($9.95) are dusted with cornmeal, fried lightly and served with a crunchy Asian slaw and a creole mustard remoulade dipping sauce.
The hummus and goat cheese salad ($10.95) is a good one, with sweet, fleshy, fire-roasted peppers and sharp flavors such as Kalamata olives and Reggiano cheese. They make a Dunkle beer vinaigrette to go with this, and the entirety is served over warm herbed flatbread. You can add chicken for $2.95 or salmon for $3.95 for a more substantial appetite pleaser. I also liked the chopped salad ($10.95) with chicken, pepper jack cheese, artichoke hearts and pepperoni. This one's drizzled with an olive oil and lemon dressing.
There's a brick pizza oven on the premises that lends itself to the overall high quality of their pies, along with the homemade dough. My favorite combo is one with roasted chicken, Asian-influenced barbecue sauce, bean sprouts, carrots and scallions ($11.50), although there are more traditional ones with tomato, mozzarella and basil ($9.95); or spicy andouille sausage and Italian sausage, with red onions and mozzarella ($11.95).
The main-course part of the menu offers something called a grilled hanger steak ($17.95), a little-known cut of meat, to say the least. It's also called the hanging tender and the butcher's steak (because butchers are known to take these home for themselves), and is the same as the French cut called onglet. When cooked rare, this steak can be quite tender, but it's the juicy and intense beefiness that people enjoy. This plate is rounded out with garlic mashed potatoes and a mustard demiglace sauce made with Marzen beer.
Moroccan-flavored lamb chops ($22.95) are superb: a generous serving of three double chops grilled with rosemary potatoes and a cucumber and rocket (aka arugula) salad.
I can't recall enjoying a restaurant meatloaf as much as the one here ($13.95); it was meaty without being dense, and flavorful, teamed with a beer mustard gravy and garlic mashers.
The goat-cheese ravioli ($13.50) was lick-your-plate good, with portobello mushroom, pine nuts and fresh rosemary in a brown butter sauce. If you can handle the heat, try the fettuccine with andouille sausage, grilled chicken and shrimp, in a tomato-cream sauce for $14.95.
For dessert, the warm apple brioche bread pudding ($5.95) with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream is as sticky and sweet as you'd ever want. The double chocolate fudge cake ($5.95) is deadly good, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Gordon Biersch can be loud and raucous at times, but it also can be a perky, casual and welcome change of scene. Live music is offered four or five nights a week, ranging from easy-listening jazzy stuff on up the ladder in tempo and decibels. Friendly service, frosty drinks, and of course, good food make this a fun place to visit.
Reach Matthew Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.