You know that restaurant that wins all these awards and about which you heard amazing things, but you never got around to dining there because [insert excuse here
]? You always meant to go to this place: It buzzed like a bee in the back of your mind. Remember to check this place out!
That, for me, was 12th Avenue Grill
in Kaimuki. Fortunately my friend Kawehi was celebrating a birthday and her friend Toni threw it there. Good choice – it's just as good as I've heard. If you're staying in Waikiki, it's an easy trip: Just a couple miles away. Make it happen, you don't want to miss this place while you're in town.It's certainly a hidden gem: It's off Kaimuki's main drag (Waialae Avenue), on an alley leading to a parking lot.
The atmosphere is cozy but modern: It reminds me of great bistros in Santa Barbara, Calif., where my sister lives. A red-oak bar frames an open kitchen; chalkboards with the day's specials hang above, along with great specialty beers, cocktails and wines by the glass.
I'm a fan of unusual beer, so I ordered one of those posted on the chalkboard, a Japanese brown ale called "Angry Boy." It was nutty and refreshing. You know a beer selection is going to be good if Chimay's on the list; it's harder to find in this town than you might think.
We ordered some small plates, including their renowned Macaroni & Cheese (pictured
, made with house smoked Parmesan cheese topped with toasted bread crumbs; we added Black Forest Ham). The serving was actually quite large for a small plate, but divided between six ravenous females, the bowl was nearly licked clean. We also enjoyed the Crab & Kahuku Sweet Corn Fritters, and the fresh bread included a soft panini style, perfectly salted.
For dinner most of the girls went with the succulent steak and lamb specials. I went with the pesto linguine with grilled shrimp, scallop and vegetable brochettes. Interactive food makes me happy: I pulled off onion wedges and scallops and twirled them into the al dente dish. Fantastic.
The birthday girl ordered their signature pork chop with potato pancake and apple chutney. Had a bite: tender, juicy, not overly adorned or flavored. A nice chop.
And then, dessert! Mine was the Black Bottom Creme Brulee with a bittersweet chocolate ganache lining. I nearly ate it all on top of dinner. With only a couple spoonfuls left I was nibbling at the remaining caramelized sugar-top trying to restrain myself from wiping it clean. The rest of the girls enjoyed the bread pudding (right
), which I naturally sampled: moist, chewy, lovely cinnamon notes and a vanilla sauce that we're pretty sure had condensed cream. Kawehi, a foodie of note in Honolulu, is enraptured by bread pudding – it's her favorite dessert – and she said it's one of the best she's had.12th Avenue Grill, 1145C 12th Avenue in Kaimuki. Open for dinner 5:30 - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sundays.
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