Sign up for news and special offers from Dining Out
Pupu Picks
Pupu Picks

“Look at Me” Starters

By Steve Murray Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 10, 2013

See more articles from

Pagoda’s recent renovation includes more than new carpet, paint, tables, and most noticeably, a bar. The classic dining establishment also has committed itself to stuffing the menu with locally grown produce to go along with Hawaii-raised beef. In the food game, local is always better. A good example of this is the Big Island brisket executive chef and owner Jason Takemura uses to create the restaurant’s house-made pastrami. It’s a 10-day process that involves brining, smoking and tons of flavor.

But this is an appetizer column so lets get going.

Pot Stickers ($7/$6 Happy Hour) are incredibly crispy pockets of shiitake mushrooms and shrimp with a miso-yuzu butter sauce. As good as the pot stickers are, it is the sauce that really differentiates it from its many, many rivals. The sauce is slightly sweet and creamy with a hint of teriyaki.

It may sound weird, but the Spring Rolls ($7/$6 Happy Hour) have a distinctly Asian flavor. Made with kalua pork, shrimp, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms and cellophane noodles, the rolls are wonderfully fresh, crispy, and as stated 20 words ago, very Asian in flavor. That may sound funny, an Asian flavored spring roll, but many places put ingredients together without any identifiable origin of flavor. A big reason for Pagoda’s success is the Mandarin Chili Sauce, which provides the tanginess a bit similar to a light takoyaki sauce.

There is not a lot to say to say about the Sizzling 10-ounce New York Steak ($14/$12 Happy Hour), but that it’s a 10-ounce New York Steak! How can that not be good? Simply prepared and presented with sauteed mushrooms and onions, it’s a steaming, sizzling, smoking platter of “look at me” goodness.

One final item up for consideration is Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura ($14/$12 Happy Hour). Three pieces of shrimp are joined with zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato and shiitake mushrooms to make an appetizer that is golden brown, tasty, sweet, earthy and crunchy — just as tempura should be.

Starting March 4, Pagoda will begin an a la carte menu that will be offered daily. Its famed buffet will remain as a weekend attraction, but now diners have a better choice of menu options to enjoy within the sealed garden sanctuary that makes Pagoda a refuge from the hustle and bustle just outside the door.

Pagoda Restaurant

1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
948.8356
Monday & Tuesday, Breakfast and Lunch only. 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Wednesday-Sunday, Breakfast and Lunch 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Happy Hour 3:30-6:30 p.m., Dinner 5-9:30 p.m.