Hawaii eats section These Isle eateries put the 'wow' in laulau
By Mari Taketa
Special to Metromix
CHEFS BRING ZING TO CHILI COOK-OFF
Fifteen restaurants converged on Koko Marina last Saturday night for the inaugural Chili Cook-off, bringing their best and wildest chili concoctions within grazing range of our spoon. We went and tasted every single one to find out who makes Honolulu's best chili.
We weren't the only ones putting our taste buds to work at the Absolut Vodka-sponsored event: a panel of official judges, including newsman Howard Dashefsky and Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeff Vigilia, weighed in, along with more than 1,000 members of the chili-loving crowd who cast ballots for their favorites. At the end of the night, everyone's ballots were tallied for the People's Choice award. Other categories: Absolut Best Chili and Best Use of Local Ingredients.
The official winners were: Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider for Absolut Best Chili, town for Best Use of Local Ingredients and Good to Grill for People's Choice Award.
The 15 chili-contest entries were all over the map — literally — from your basic, plain old chili with or without beans to one made with shrimp and eggplant. These chefs used more types of chilies and more parts of pigs and cows than we can remember, and after tasting them all we picked our favorites:
1. Hank's Haute Dogs — This is the place that wraps bacon around a hot dog and deep-fries the whole thing. Their cassoulet chili is made by sauteing duck, chorizo and pork belly in duck fat and then simmering overnight. No richer, deeper flavor.
2. town — Kaimukí eatery town made a pulled pork chili verde with a Big Island pig. Melty-rich pulled pork, first, then a riot of well-balanced flavors: tomatillos, lime, cilantro and cumin.
3. The Willows — The Hausten Street restaurant made a chili whose beef was not only dry-rubbed, left for a day and braised in chili spices, it was then mixed with chopped edamame, creamed corn and pickled jalapenos. Creamy, sweet, tart, surprising.
4. Kona Brewing Co. — The brewpub's Lavaman Chili made with its Lavaman Red Ale had that extra-sweet smooth you can only get with an extra-sweet, smooth beer. The other meaty, tangy flavors melted into this.
5. Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider — The Beachhouse's chili was what classic chili should be: chunky, meaty, a little smoky, a little sweet, a lot of smooth. Plus it came with an awesome real cheddar chip.
The space at 3605 Wai'alae Ave. is destined to be an Italian restaurant. Because though no one restaurant has been able to make a go of it over the long term, the place is now home to its third Italian restaurant in a decade (it was Buon Amici and C&C Pasta Company before that). Perhaps the third time's a charm for Belladonna. which opened late last year. After a bit of a rocky start, Belladonna is now getting good buzz from diners who say the eatery has found its way with an eclectic menu of classic Italian fare (gnocchi and bolognese) and classic 1960s faves like beef Wellington and chateaubriand.
3605 Wai'alae Ave.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
THESE LITTLE PIGGIES GOT AN UPGRADE
They may not be the pigs in a blanket you remember, but these little piggies blow those away. The Original Pancake House's Three Little Pigs in Blankets ($6.95) are breakfast links wrapped in pancakes, dusted with powdered sugar and served with butter and syrup. It's a triple dose of salty, sweet satisfaction.
The following restaurants are still accepting last-minute Mother's Day (May 9) reservations: Beachhouse (Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., 921-4600), Don Ho's Island Grill (Aloha Tower Marketplace, 528-0807), Hula Grill Waikiki
(Outrigger Waikiki Hotel, 2335 Kalakaua Ave., 923-4852), JJ Bistro & French Pastry (3447 Wai'alae Ave., 739-0993), Kai Market and Twist at Hanohano (Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., 921-4600), Morton's The Steakhouse (Ala Moana Center, 949-1300), Oceanarium Restaurant (The Pacific Beach Hotel, 2490 Kalakaua Avenue, 921-6111), Pikake Terrace (Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, 120 Ka'iulani Ave., 921-4600), Romano's Macaroni Grill (Ala Moana Center, 443-5515), Sapori Enoteca Birreria (1341 Kapi'olani Blvd., 955-3582, The Willows (901 Hausten St., 952-9200).