You got a date, may we suggest the restaurant?
|Reader poll: What's your ideal first date?|
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
So ... hot date tonight?
But you've got no freaking idea where to go?
We've scoured neighborhoods, rung up credit-card bills, interrogated our single friends to come up with our Top 10 list of great no-stress first-date spots for the confused dater.
Our criteria: good food for every price point; lots of parking; and nearby post-dinner possibilities.
Here's what we came up with.
The gist: Don't think of it as a department-store restaurant. This Alan Wong's-for-less (well, a little less) serves trademark Hawai'i regional cuisine in a relaxed room.
The ambiance: Island contemporary, with bamboo flooring, muted greens and flattering lighting (good for first-date impressions).
The menu: Wong's crew does everything right. Start with the Hanalei poi cup appetizer ($7), the huli-spiced chicken Caesar salad ($11.50) or the spicy stir-fried edamame ($5). For the main event, the fall-off-the-bone pineapple barbecue baby back ribs ($24.50) and grilled wafu-style New York steak with ponzu sauce ($28.50) are meaty examples of how the restaurant fuses Island and Asian flavors.
The parking: Fantastic. Park on the top level (roof) outside Macy's. The restaurant entrance faces the parking lot.
The cost: It's affordable in the haute scheme of things.
The post-meal possibilities: Tons. You can hit the Mai Tai Bar for (what else?) an Icy Mai Tai and listen to One Drop, dance at The O Lounge on 1349 Kapi'olani Blvd., or take in a movie at the Ward 16 Theatre next door. ("The Da Vinci Code" opens today.)
The bottom line: If you want to impress your date without handing over your paycheck, this is the place.
The gist: Yes, the Windward Side has a charming spot, where you can have local-contemporary sushi and other Japanese fare.
The ambiance: Budget zen chic, with rice-paper-globe lanterns and a plasma TV over the bar (on this night, showing the surf flick "Blue Horizon"). Soft reggae and low conversations keep the restaurant comfortably cozy.
The menu: Good sushi and haute local bar food, like furikake-and-nori-crusted blackened 'ahi katsu ($9.95) and a softshell crab salad with a lemon-lime vinegarette ($8.95). While the sushi selection is limited, the maguro is top-notch and rich ankimo monkfish liver ($4.95) is a rare surprise. We enjoyed the not-so-spicy shrimp stir-fry with crisp veggies ($11.50), tempura chocolate ice cream ($5.50) and lychee martinis ($5 each).
The parking: Has its own small lot. There's street parking, too.
The cost: Reasonable, for sushi.
The post-meal possibilities: Check out the drink specials at The Shack Kailua or the live music at Boardriders on Hamakua Drive. Day-daters can hit Lanikai for a dip or walk along Kailua Beach.
The bottom line: For a tete-a-tete and an easy menu that lets you be safe or adventurous (that monkfish liver!) head here.
The gist: This open-air restaurant with retro South Pacific decor is a perennial Waikiki standby.
The ambiance: Lively, especially on Friday nights.
The menu: You can go two ways: separate meals or family-style pupus. For dinner, try Tiki's slow-roasted prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes ($20.99 for a 10-ounce slab) or the chicken breast stuffed with spinach, Boursin cheese, garlic, shallots and lup cheong ($18.99). Its signature salmon dish ($22.99) glazed with spiced cane sugar, and served with Okinawan sweet potatoes, is tasty, too. To share, try the fresh poke sampler ($11.99), spicy Thai spring rolls ($9.99) or the very popular coconut shrimp ($10.99).
The parking: Free valet, with validation.
The cost: It won't leave you destitute.
The post-meal possibilities: Wander the streets to walk off your dessert, dance all night to Asian beats at Zanzabar Night Club in the Waikiki Trade Center, take a short drive to Aloha Tower Marketplace for the Spring Jam Concert Series (featuring Natural Vibrations tonight) at Don Ho's Island Grill or Kapena at Gordon Biersch. Or stay put for Tiki's live music.
The bottom line: If you're looking for party mode, not languid romance (yet), take your date here.
Other date spots to try:
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.