Friday, July 20, 2012 0

The Pineapple Room ~ Honolulu

By FaFoFi in , , , , , , ,


Hello All! Today I'll be reviewing Alan Wong's Pineapple Room, the casual dining extension of the fancier Alan Wong's, located in Ala Moana Mall. I have to say, as a diner that has eaten at both restaurants, the atmosphere of each restaurant is very different. Where Alan Wong's is a smaller, more intimate establishment the feeling I get from The Pineapple Room is somewhat reminiscent of Morimoto's restaurant, in the terms of both restaurant's atmosphere and capacity to hold lots of diners. There is an enormous dining area in addition to two bar seating areas, one surrounding the alcohol and the other bordering the open kitchen. I can't imagine very many seating issues with that much space, but if you definitely want to eat here you might as well make a reservation. My family and I went on a weekday, with a reservation, and the seating areas probably were at 1/3 their capacity. Despite the differences in atmosphere, the themes behind their cuisine are the same: "tasting Hawaii", the "Aloha Spirit", and modern Hawaiian sustainability. 


Honestly, my family and I had a bit of trouble finding the place, it's located inside the Macy's section of the enormous Ala Moana Mall, and I didn't really expect to walk through the women's wear section to find the maitre'd stand. As you an tell from the photo above the aesthetic is somewhat reminiscent of the interior of a Tommy Bahamas store. The Pineapple Room utilizes the same color scheme from Alan Wong's, dark woods, light greens and creams, and some choice light fixtures and accent walls suggestive of tropical seas and sea life.

The light is a fish
As for the service it was quick, polite, and the waiters and waitresses were very friendly. I didn't have to ask for water at all, they were very attentive to our table, and the maitre'd got us seated within minutes. They were the sort of "hummingbird" waiters that always flutter around your table for refills on drinks, a friendly chat, or questions on how your food is tasting.

Now onto the meal!

IT'S A TRAP
Our meal started off with some complementary bread, which was very addictive. The bread had large pieces of sauteed garlic baked inside of it and had really nice dense, spongy texture. The starter bread was actually sweeter than normal white bread and was ten times more enjoyable than sourdough bread (to me at least). I tried to resist eating a lot of it though, because I didn't want to get full on starch filler before the actual meal.

Ahi Chili Nachos: Avacado Salsa, Chili Sour Cream 
A secret food fetish that I hole away in my heart is chili. My mom, dad, and sister don't particularly like it....but I...I love it. You can ask any of my friends, I always ask for chili on dinner nights. I was super psyched when my parents ordered this, after all they never willingly order chili, and I was eagerly anticipating stuffing my face. When the plate arrived it was very prettily presented, one can imagine the difficulties in making a brown chunky substance look appetizing, with an additional serving of nachos waiting in the wings on a different plate. Unfortunately, the chili was good, but wasn't anything particularly special. It was well balanced with lots of chili flavor, heightened by the tart sour cream and the rich buttery avocado, but I do feel that the Ahi was lost in the dish. With the chili flavours so strong, the chunks of Ahi tuna were physically lost in the chunky chili and the delicate tuna flavor was masked by all the strong herbs and spices. My mom, dad, and I all had trouble in differentiating the fish from the other bits and bobs in the dish...it was so finely chunked that we could hardly find the fish meat. Then again, I'm not sure how much fish meat was actually in the chili....
 
Shrimp Cocktail: Spicy Wasabi Cocktail Sauce 
Shrimp cocktail, a dinner party classic! I think the stereotypical presentation of shrimp cocktail is usually in a martini glass, but a plate is perfectly fine as well. I didn't really find this dish very impressive or ingenuitive. It was well executed, the shrimp were boiled to perfection and the cocktail sauce had that tangy, addictive flavour it uses to sucker people into eating glasses and glasses of cocktail shrimp, with the extra kick given by the wasabi. This dish was just a fancy shrimp cocktail and I can't really say much more about it. It was a dish where "what you see is what you get." I think it was an appropriate size for an appetizer, but I felt that the price didn't match. Unfortunately, they don't list the price online...but I do remember the feeling of surprise when seeing the price then seeing the portion.

Fries with Foie Gras Dip
Our waitress that night was telling us that the Foie Gras Dip was a new addition to the menu that they were currently testing out to see if it deserved a spot on the main menu. However, by the looks of it...this menu item lost out. Unfortunately, this was going to be the dish that I would most strongly would recommend. It's really simple in idea and execution, but it's so addictive and delicious. The potatoes were fried to crispy, golden perfection and were seasoned with a light dusting of salt. Already fries can be extremely delicious and addictive, but the addition of the foie gras sauce really pushed it over the edge into craving territory.


I don't know the exact components of the dip, on the menu it was simply listed it as Foie Gras dip, but you can see the drizzle of olive oil and the chive sprinkled on top. The texture and consistency of the dip was thin, but viscous enough that it coated a dipped fry perfectly. The sauce was like a deconstructed seared foie gras appetizer...the seared foie gras was already perfectly blended with the sweet fruit (for example pears, apples, or peaches) that were usually paired with pan seared foie gras and the fries added the starch needed to deal with a "rich fat." I'm very pleased to report that the fatty nature of the foie gras didn't just add to the oily nature of the fry. It could have been a horrible greasy fat mess, but that didn't happen. It was an extremely addictive appetizer and I really wish they placed it on the permanent menu....it would be something that I'd go back for.

Unfortunately all three of these entrees are no longer available on the updated menu on Alan Wong's site. I'm very apologetic to provide outdated information, but I hope the quality and execution of The Pineapple Room's dishes are clear in these photos and my descriptions. However, I think it's great that Alan Wong's Pineapple Room changes up its menu depending on the seasons and what's locally available.

Grilled Chicken Breast with Hollandaise Sauce and a Crab Cake 
I asked our waitress what entree on the menu was the "lightest", because I wasn't particularly hungry and the waitress recommended the chicken breast because of its small portion size. It was a lie. It was medium sized and it was so rich that I could only eat a third of it. It was good, but it was just so enormous the portion size actually detracted from my enjoyment of  the meal. The crab cake and the chicken breast were a surprisingly good combo, I wouldn't really have paired those meats together, but the combination was a savory umami meat sandwich. The chicken and the crab were both well cooked and moist, but I think some of the perfection in the meat was covered up by the rich hollandaise sauce. So much so, that it was difficult to pick out the individual flavors that composed the dish's entirety. It was all very rich and hollandaise-y. If I had been hungrier, or perhaps hadn't eaten all of those foie gras fries, I would have enjoyed the dish way more.

Big Island Steak with a summer salad
There's a version of this steak on the menu at the moment, called Kiawe Grilled Big Island Steak, but this old dish leans more to the traditional "steak and salad" dish. My dad wanted to take the photo, so unfortunately the more detailed shot is on the summer salad. The meat was rare, just like my father liked it, and I also had a bite so I can attest to its grilled perfection. The salad was very "Hawaii" and tropical as well and contained a myriad of ingredients from the pictured greens to shimeji mushrooms to red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and purple onions. It was not a boring salad at all and I loved the way the cherry tomatoes chimed in ever now and then to add a burst of sweetness to the salad.

It was well executed and simple, but my dad definitely also had a problem with the portion size of the whole meal. For me I did really enjoy the execution of the steak dish, but that was it for me. It was just a steak. I thought there were more interesting items on the menu that showcased Alan Wong's originality a bit more.

Seared Scallops with Hash
This is what my mom ordered, a seared scallop dish that came with four scallops atop a vegetable rice porridge/hash sort of combo at the bottom. My mom gave me a scallop and I tried a bit of her hash and they were both very good. The scallop was sweet and tender, but had a nice sear on each side...truly Hawaii is a paradise for seafood lovers. The mash I wasn't a too particularly fond of. I think I would have liked the scallops paired with something a little lighter, rather than a wet starchy, bean, corn, squash, rice party. I think the bottom's starch sort of overpowered the delicate seared nature of the scallops. Just give me the scallops and the bit on top and that'll be fantastic. My mom really liked the dish, but also shared the same concerns as my dad about the portion size. I didn't feel particularly excited about this dish, but it was well executed.

Ultimately, the Pineapple Room hasn't burrowed its way into my heart like all of the other restaurants located in Waikiki that I've shared with you. I think my main concern, as well as my mother's and my father's, was the portion control of all the dishes. Although we only each only ordered an appetizer and a main, we were all completely uncomfortably stuffed by the end of the meal. My father said that we could have probably fed four people with the quantity of food that we ordered. Even though I do like Alan Wong's main fancy restaurant I'm beginning to waver in my stalwart loyalty to the Alan Wong's brand from my last lackluster meal at their main restaurant to the sort of "meh" quality of The Pineapple Room...I dunno. The food was good and well executed, but just not very memorable to me. Since we're not native to Hawaii, I can think of other places that I would rather go than The Pineapple Room. My father also made the comment that the food here, for what we got, was more expensive than he previously anticipated. I'm just thoroughly "meh" about this meal and I don't think I'll return here. 

Thanks for coming!
+Love

Price: $$$ out of $$$$$
Kid Friendly: Yes
Repeatability: No..... ()-__-
Website:http://www.alanwongs.com/pineapple-room-welcome/index.html

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