Hula Grill Tasting Menu

Before coming out to Hawaii, there were many things that I had not experienced. Among them was the concept that you can find Monday to Friday at the Hula Grill – the chef’s tasting menu. What’s so awesome about this meal is that, for a set (and very reasonable) price, you choose your meal from a set list, one starter, one entree, one dessert, building to a fantastic three-course meal.

To start, as with most of the other food posts here, the pictures are split between my Canon PowerShot and Beedoo’s Panasonic Lumix. However, we do have to start with one taken with my iPhone, as it is of the actual menu. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not the best photo, but it gives you an idea of the choices we faced for our courses. You can also view the tasting menu online here.

menu

Two things I will like to note about the tasting menu –

  1. A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of the menu goes to local organizations whose goals are to further awareness and protect the natural resources on the islands.
  2. The portions that you are presented with are actually half of the size of the normal serve that you would get if you purchase the regular item off of the menu

Before the main meal began, we got our drinks. Both Beedoo and I had the Lava Flow, which is just an awesome drink to enjoy, and one that is something that is a great refreshment to enjoy and, in my experience, doesn’t have much of an effect on me. For me, the best part is just to be able to take my time and enjoy all of the flavors that are in the drink – coconut, strawberry, pineapple and banana.

lavaflow

Beedoo’s other half had the Blue Hawaiian, which he reported as being strong.

bluehawaiian

Shortly after the drinks were served, the waiter brought us a bread basket, which was at the perfect temperature. What was even better was that the bread was served alongside two containers of oil – one with plain olive oil, and the other containing a chili oil. What we did was mix the two oils and it was a perfectly spicy. For me, I did put a little more chili oil than olive oil on my plate as I do like my foods a bit spicier ๐Ÿ™‚

bread

Due to the fact that we had set ourselves a 5:30 reservation (as the tasting menu is only available from 4:45-5:45 PM), it was just the perfect time for us to catch a sunset over Waikiki. Since you’re on the second floor of the Outrigger Waikiki, you have an unobstructed view of the sunset over the ocean (well, other than a few palm trees that you have in front of you, but that’s hardly an obstruction :))

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However, that’s enough of the beauty, as it was time for us to begin the main portion of the meal, which were the starters. Both Beedoo and I had the Potsticker Duo, which was a surf and turf combo – Kalua pig with Ponzu plus Lobster & scallop with guava-plum sauce.

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Both potstickers were delightfully crunchy on the outside, the fillings were awesome, but the best part was the sauce, as you do not really expect to have a sweet sauce along with the savoury fillings that you’re presented with on the plate. What made this even better to me was that there was a small collection of greens next to each potsticker, which helped to collect the sauce on the plate.

Beedoo’s other half opted for the tomato soup, which was presented with a finger sandwich of Big Island goat’s cheese and garnished with basil oil. Note: In the current version of the tasting menu, the soup option has been changed to be a chef’s choice.

soup

One thing to know about him is that he can be a bit of a picky eater at times. One of the things that I’ve been told that can be a bit of an issue is tomatoes. Being tomato soup, it might be surprising that he did finish the whole bowl and enjoyed it thoroughly! ๐Ÿ™‚

Soon after that, our waiter presented us with our entrees, of which we all had something different. I chose the Shrimp Chow Fun which featured locally-made rice noodles and truffle kabayaki. Note from Beedoo – this appears to not be on the menu anymore! It has been replaced by Shrimp Scampi with garlic butter, tomatoes and capers.

shrimps1

The shrimp that they put in the dish were certainly not shrimps, they wereย jumbo shrimp (or prawns if you would prefer :)). Now, I have no idea what a kabayaki is, but the dish had an excellent Asian flavor to it, and the noodles were perfectly cooked, making this a fabulous dish! ๐Ÿ™‚

Beedoo chose the fresh-caught fish, which was crusted in macadamia nuts and served with rice, pineapple coleslaw, along with a chilli beurre blanc tying it all together.

freshfish

I do not remember what the fish was, but it appears to be a whitefish, so possibly opah. The particulars of the flavours are not coming to me as a surprise, but I do remember it being quite decent from the taste that I had of it.

Her other half had the lemon ginger roasted chicken, which came with asparagus, mashed potatoes and a Maui Onion and roasted red pepper (capsicum) sauce.

chicken

As far as the entrees go, I felt that the shrimp was the best of the lot, but really, all three of the dishes were spectacular.

Ah, but this is a three course dinner, so we had desserts left over, and with the portion sizes being perfect, we all had room for dessert!

For the starters and mains, there were more selections than people. For dessert, the ratio was perfect, so we each had one of the choices. I opted for the Island bread pudding, featuring fruits of the island up to the discretion of the chef.

breadpuddingIt was sided with some fresh vanilla ice cream. If you make the picture full-size, you’ll see the vanilla bean specks in the ice cream, and that was definitely a great addition to the dessert. The bread pudding itself was alright, but not the best of the three desserts ๐Ÿ˜‰

Beedoo opted to have the Tropical Dreams Sorbet (which does have a sub choice of mango lychee or raspberry guava). I think you can tell which one she took by the photo ๐Ÿ™‚

sorbet

The raspberry guava sorbet would be the correct guess :). It was served on a fried wonton wrapper and tasted fairly decent, but again wasn’t the best…

The definite winner of the dessert round was her other half who got the ice cream sandwich (labeled on the menu as petite, but I would disagree!).
chocolate

Just looking at this ice cream sandwich now is making me crave one just like it – filled with awesome ice cream and surrounded on three sides by chocolate or chocolate syrup, with a raspberry coulis as a garnish, this was by far the best of the three desserts that we were presented with, and the one that, if you do take this meal, you should be having every single time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overall, the tasting menu gave us all full stomachs without being overstuffed. It was amazing to think that all of these three courses were just half of the size of the regular portions if you ordered these items a la carte.

On a normal night, had we ordered a la carte, I know that I would not have had dessert, as the potstickers and shrimp would have been more than enough to fill me right up to the brim.

Note from Beedoo –

Out of all the places I most wanted to eat, this one was really high on the list of must-dos for me.

I would rank this 3rd of the top 5 meals we had on Oahu. The whole meal was seriously amazing – we each tried a bite of all the options you see above.

Starters – The soup was amazingly flavourful, the Kalua Pork potsticker was packed so full of pork and it tasted incredible, I could eat those all day long. The lobster and scallop version was great too.

Entrees – All 3 options we tried were wonderful but there is no doubt the winner serving size wise was the Other Half with the chicken, this seemed like it must be a full size serve unless you get a half chicken for the regular serving!

Dessert – again the winner was the Other Half who chose the ice-cream sandwich – if you are not going to have the tasting menu I strongly recommend you drop by the Hula Grill for one of these at some point during your stay.

The service was fantastic, we had a wonderful time here, great atmosphere, and the food was amazing. Would return for both this menu and some of the other options there. Possibly even breakfast.

Let me add this – if you can’t get into Dukes downstairs, go upstairs and see if you can get a table at the Hula Grill, you won’t regret it for a second. Both Dukes and Hula Grill are part of the same chain called TS Restaurants. You may even find some of the menu items you wanted to order at Dukes are also available at the Hula Grill.

Hula Grill Waikiki on Urbanspoon

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Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport

For me, this is where the trip began. When we were organizing the trip, I had originally planned to depart out of Milwaukee at around 9AM on Friday, but thanks to some good negotiation with the people at Delta, I was able to get a 7AM flight.

That led to a new wrinkle – how to get to the airport so early, and the idea was hatched to pick up a stay at a hotel the night before. I used Hotwire to get a deal on the Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport, and I have written a review on Trip Advisor, which I have, for the most part, republished here; just with a couple of more details ๐Ÿ™‚

I stayed at the Comfort Suites while I was on my way out on a trip to Hawaii. It worked out much easier for me to stay overnight in a hotel since my flight was due to leave Milwaukee at 7AM, and I found that the rate for the hotel, and having a family friend take me down to the hotel was a better (and less expensive) option than having to be awake at 3AM to leave my home with a car service.

The room that I was booked into (2062) was a suite with two queen beds, and it had a very simple set-up. When you enter the room, you are presented with the two beds, a large dresser and a flat screen TV.

hotelsleep

Behind that is the bathroom and kitchenette, featuring a microwave, mini fridge and coffee maker. Finally, you have the sitting area, with a second TV, couch and workspace.

hotelsitting

There was also a window there, and in the room that I stayed in, it had a view of the indoor pool and spa, which was fantastic – it also meant that you would not have to worry about any sunlight coming to you as a surprise if you are a later sleeper, or staying in the summer when sunrise can be as early as 5:30 AM.

hotelpool

One thing that I have seen mentioned in other reviews is the charge for the use of a safe in the room. I was aware of the charge already (which can be removed by simply asking at the end of your stay) thanks to the reviews. However,ย  travellers who may not have read reviews on TripAdvisor are made aware of the charge for the safe on the check-in paperwork that you sign off on prior to receiving your room key. One other thing that I arranged for right away was a booking on the free shuttle that runs at :10 and :40 past each hour.

After getting myself settled in to the room, I headed down to the bar in the hotel to check out the happy hour that was mentioned (which you get a card for at check-in), along with the prospect of pizza being available for a dinner. When I got there at around 6PM, there were a couple of people in there enjoying the complimentary beverages (Miller Lite was the beer on tap, along with house wine and soda). While there was not any pizza there at that time, there were pretzels laid out on each of the tables.

I waited for around half an hour or so in hopes that the pizza would appear. Ultimately, I decided to head out into the rain and walked over to Subway to buy dinner, along with stopping at Speedway to pick up a bottle of water. There’s also a McDonald’s at the same corner, but I wasn’t interested in it. I then came back to my room and had my dinner.

I then went into the pool and enjoyed the spa and pool area, swimming a couple of laps of the pool, then spending time in the spa. I also played some of the games in the game center, which was a good way of spending a couple of minutes, even though some of the machines seem to be a bit out of maintenance, which is a disappointment.

While on the way to the pool, I went back through the pub (which I will mention was quite poorly lit, even for a “pub” atmosphere), and found that a single pepperoni pizza had been delivered sometime around 7:00-7:30 PM.

After that, it was time for me to (try to, but ultimately fail) go to sleep. I will note that it was due to me not wanting to oversleep and miss my flight, as the bed was very comfortable and I was glad to have the choice of soft or firm pillows available to me.

One item that I had seen touted on their website is that the rooms are more “tech friendly” with USB ports available. I was disappointed to find that all of the available power outlets were in the kitchenette, bathroom, and seating area of the suite, and not a single USB port available in my particular room. This could be an issue if you like to plug your devices in near to your bed and have them set to play an alarm, especially if you’re needing to get up at 4:30 AM for your 5:10 AM shuttle to the airport.

toiletOne other thing about the room was that the toilet seat was cracked. While that did not prevent me from using the toilet, it did make the experience unnerving since I did not know if the rest of the seat would hold. When I spotted it, I did make a call to the front desk, and they did assure me that the issue would be resolved in the morning when maintenance came in.

A final item about when I checked out (which was easy with the gentleman who was there doing the overnight shift) – I was very pleasantly surprised to see that there was a box on the front counter with a number of bags in it, offering a small breakfast treat for those who, like me, were getting up too early to enjoy the full breakfast the hotel offers.

hotel breakfast

In the bag was a granola bar, an apple, and a bottle of water, all of which I did enjoy having as a nice treat which came as a surprise to me.

Overall, the Comfort Inn is certainly a hotel that I would stay at again if I were needing to stay overnight close to the airport prior to heading out on a very early flight on my own, and not wanting to use the at-airport parking. It’s also a great option for anyone staying for a longer time in the Milwaukee area, as you find that while you are not immediately close to downtown, it’s only about a 10-15 minute drive, and you can certainly pick up public transportation into the central city.

Up next for me: going through the recombobulation area at Milwaukee Airport, and on my way to Honolulu. It was dark then, and I was expecting it to just be hitting sunset when I arrived.

Waikiki eats 1 – Kimo Bean

Or: Must. Have. Coffee. (And breakfast :))

On Saturday morning, as we were heading to the KCC Farmers Market, Beedoo took us on a side trip on the way to the bus stop, heading past the Hilton Hawaiian Village to see where the Starbucks was located at.

Our intention was to get coffee there in the morning because it is something that is necessary to get the day off and running, even though at home I am not a big coffee drinker. As it turns out, we never actually got coffee there once, because of what happened on Sunday morning.

Since we had hired a car overnight, I had to return it (as the place was closed at night and they had no night drop box available) on Sunday morning. Before I left the condo, I mentioned to Beedoo that there was a coffee place that I had seen called Kimo Bean across the street while we were getting the car at Discovery Bay Center.

I took their orders and headed out, driving through Waikiki, ultimately finding my way back to the parking ramp for Discovery Bay. I then returned the car, and walked over to Kimo Bean.

The order that was placed was for three coffees, all hot: Caramel Mocha Cappuccino (which was made in the style of a latte), Kahala (vanilla) latte and, for me, Koko (Coconut) Mocha Latte.

The coffees that we got were simply awesome – as the more experienced coffee drinkers in Beedoo and her other half both said, Sam had made the coffees all at the perfect drinking temperature, meaning that it is not so hot that it burns your tongue, and it hasn’t cooled off too much either.

I will also add here that their iced offerings (either plain iced coffee or a Frappucino-style freeze) were awesome as well, because they just do the same thing as with the hot coffees and either stick it in the blender for the freeze or add ice for the iced varieties.

Since the coffee was so perfect, the decision was made to continue going there for coffees every morning (except for Tuesday and Saturday since we were out of the condo too early for our fixes), and then we made the discovery during our trips there that they also did breakfast, thanks to a sign that proclaimed to try their delicious breakfast sandwich.

On Wednesday, we decided to give the breakfast a go. Their options include some pastries, but they also had some awesome sandwiches available. Both times that we did have breakfast there, all three of us ordered the same things each time –

I had the Breakfast wrap, which is a tortilla filled with a fried egg (a proper egg, as you could see the white and the yolk), cheese and mango salsa, and added bacon to the combination.

Breakfast wrap with bacon

Beedoo had the same thing, substituting turkey for the bacon –

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Meanwhile, her other half opted for the breakfast croissant, which is simply a croissant with egg, cheese, and your choice of meat. He chose ham for his sandwich both times –

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On your trip to Waikiki, you certainly can visit some of the different coffee shops out there, but make sure that you do make a stop at the Kimo Bean in Discovery Bay Center. They have other locations around the area, but only the Discovery Bay location has Sam, the world’s awesomest barista who has the knack of making the coffee at the right temperature ๐Ÿ™‚

I also want to give a shout out to Jennifer, who was there with Sam most times we were in there, helping out on the till and with making the coffees and breakfasts.

One last pro tip – check your receipt. They have free wifi, and the password is on the receipt ๐Ÿ˜‰