Taking Flight While Dining on Perfect Poultry

Columns Ono, You Know

January 30, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

You’ve all heard Aesop’s idiom, “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched,” which warns us against making assumptions because they may turn out wrong. And you’ve probably also heard the English proverb, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” which counsels us to have a positive attitude while making ready for a disaster.

These sayings, however, never seem to apply to me whenever it comes to eating out — particularly at those restaurants with grand reputations. My mind-set has always been to presume that I will always be treated with professional courtesy, top-notch service and served the highest-quality cuisine. And truthfully, my faith in these establishments hasn’t been misplaced, as I’ve yet to be disappointed in the restaurants’ service and menu.

This week was no exception as I ventured out of my desk coop and spread my wings a bit — searching for the tastiest chicken creations on Oahu. What I discovered were crowds of people, like me, feasting on fabulous poultry and enjoying each and every bite.

All of which convinced me of the truth of another well-known saying: “Birds of a feather flock together!”

Don Ho’s Island Grill

  • The author is more than happy to indulge in Don Ho's Herb Crusted Chicken and Risotto ($16).
  • Don Ho's Herb Crusted Chicken and Risotto features herb-crusted chicken breast, sliced and nestled on a bed of creamy mushroom, spinach risotto.
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Tucked away in Aloha Tower Marketplace adjacent to the harbor lies Don Ho’s Island Grill, a replica of the Barefoot Bar ambiance of old Waikiki. This “shack by the sea” opened its doors in 1999 and since then has been offering award-winning local cuisine daily.

While menu options are abundant and diverse, there are a few that cannot go unnoticed. For example, the Herb Crusted Chicken and Risotto ($16) is a must-have among locals and tourists alike. This tantalizing dinner entree features herb-crusted chicken breast, sliced and nestled on a bed of creamy mushroom, spinach risotto.

“The chicken really makes the dish,” says manager Bo Perez, adding that the vibrant flavor of the chicken and the flavor of the crust really pulls it all together.

“And we’re looking at creamy risotto with three different types of cheese in it — Cheddar, Parmesan and mozzarella. It’s an excellent dish.”

In the mood for some garlic? Opt for Don Ho’s Garlic Chicken. For $18, customers will receive a half-roasted chicken wok-fried in a secret garlic sauce served with rice and vegetables. This dish is divine, as every ounce of flavor is soaked into each tender, meaty morsel.

The lunch crowd can’t seem to get enough of the Kalua Pork Sandwich ($10), yet the Teriyaki Chicken Club Sandwich ($13) also is a force to be reckoned with. It consists of grilled teriyaki chicken breast served with bacon, Swiss cheese and avocado topped with just the right amount of honey mustard-mayo on a sesame seed bun.

Don Ho’s Island Grill has got you covered whenever that craving hits, whatever it may be. Also, Don Ho’s features great island music both day and night — making it a feast for all your senses.

Don Ho’s Island Grill
Aloha Tower Marketplace
1 Aloha Tower Drive #193
(808) 528-0807

Camellia Buffet

  • Camellia Buffet offers customers more than 50 items, yet the orange chicken and fried chicken are among customer favorites.
  • At Camellia Buffet, diners cook their food tabletop and the barbecue chicken is one of many popular items. The lunch buffet is served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for $14.95, and the dinner buffet is available from 2:30 to 10 p.m. for $21.95 per person.
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Hungry diners delight in all-you-caneat buffets, no question about it. Therefore, the mention of Camellia Buffet and all it has to offer is bound to put a smile on your face.

For the past 25 years, this yakiniku-style restaurant has been offering locals and visitors a top-notch all-you-can-eat Korean buffet. Imagine all the Kal-bi, Bul Go Gi, Chicken, Spicy Pork, Kim chee, Taegu and rice you desire right before you! With more than 50 items to choose from, ranging from main dishes to banchan (side dishes), you’d better be prepared to stuff your stomach.

Diners cook their food tabletop, so your meal is always fresh and made to order.

The lunch buffet is served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for $14.95, and the dinner buffet is available from 2:30 to 10 p.m. for $21.95 per person.

When it comes to all-you-can-eat buffets, it’s best to start with your personal favorites. For me, I go straight for the kalbi, which is marinated for 24 hours in a rich concoction of shoyu, sugar, garlic, ginger and a plethora of secret ingredients. The Beef Rib-Eye is not one to pass up either, along with the sirloin steak and the various selections of kimchee made in-house. Yet, sometimes less is more, and during my last visit, I had to fill up on the barbecue chicken and the already made orange chicken and fried chicken, which is just as savory and scrumptious.

Be sure to save room for the Korean pancakes, red bean porridge, chop chae, seaweed and miso soups as well, as you won’t want to miss out on those fantastic items either.

Camellia Buffet
930 McCully Street
(808) 951-0511

Max’s of Manila

  • Max's of Manila's Fried Chicken is so tender it falls right off the bone ($7.95, half; $13.50, whole).
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Max’s of Manila, otherwise known as Max’s Restaurant, is my preferred choice when it comes to Filipino food. With more than 120 branches in the Philippines and nationwide, Max’s offers diners a little bit of everything. Yet, according to Maly San Luis, general manager of the Dilingham and Waipahu locations, Max’s fried chicken continues to be the most-requested item on the menu.

The chicken is sold whole for $13.50 or half for $7.95. There also are combo meals served with a chicken leg and your choice of pancit, lumpia, rice and other delicious Filipino favorites.

“The chicken is tender to the point where it’s almost falling off the bone because of the way it’s been prepared, and people really seem to like the skin too,” San Luis says.

“What’s nice about it is that we don’t use any batter on our chicken — it’s pure chicken, you don’t have the breading or anything like that. The meat is real tender on the inside, but it’s deep-fried so you still have the crispiness of the skin. A lot of people also like to pair the chicken with the Jufran Banana Sauce.”

While the original fried chicken remains a classic, the Sizzling Sweet and Spicy Chicken ($8.95) is perfect when I’m yearning for that extra zest. Served on a sizzling plate, the chicken is glazed with a special sweet and spicy sauce, complete with vegetables on the side.

Max’s of Manila
801 Dillingham Boulevard
(also located in Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
(808) 951-6297

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