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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, May 4, 2000


Cinco’s a good excuse
to try new Cisco’s

MULTI-CULTURALISM is a wonderful thing, and food is the best vehicle for spreading that message.

That's why every ethnic fair plays up its food booths. It makes no sense, for instance, to argue politics, history, religion or philosophy with some people, but give 'em some food, and witness the change. "Stick around; let's talk," they'll say.

High school Spanish class was always more fun when tamales were a part of the lesson.

If not for our twisted interest in history as related to food, May 5 would be just another day. Instead, the anniversary of a Mexican war victory is an excuse to guzzle margaritas and flaunt flautas.

Cinco de Mayo provides just the excuse to drop by Cisco's Cantina's second location in Mililani. Actually, any day is good for soaking in Li Hing Mui Margaritas. The lime-compatible powder replaces the salt on the glass.

The menu is the same as at the original Kailua Cisco's, but I couldn't help noticing Mililani residents have the better deal. With owners' attention focused on this place, the staff is jumping, and the food is a notch better than in Kailua.

Even so, one gets the impression that a lot of the work in the kitchen involves opening cans. The salsa tastes like canned tomatoes doused with bottled hot sauce. Its saving grace is fresh-cut onions and chopped cilantro.


CISCO'S CANTINA -- MILILANI

Food StarStar
Atmosphere StarStar1/2
Service StarStarStar1/2
Value StarStar

Bullet Address: 95-221 Kipapa Drive
Bullet Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m
Bullet Prices: About $30 to 40 for two without drinks
Bullet Call: 623-2544


With its bar atmosphere, I'm not sure how well the restaurant will do in the family neighborhood. Staffers are probably hoping to draw a crowd from Schofield.

Prices are also a bit too high to appeal to families. At $13.50 for a Shredded Beef or Chicken Chimichanga, I'd say the price is about $3 more than comparable offerings around town. I felt this way about most of the menu.

A couple of items offering good value are the Fajitas, marinated steak or chicken with bell peppers, onions and a basket of flour tortillas, which two people could share for $24.95 (single order $19.95); and the Sedona Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms, Caesar Salad ($15.95) or with additional mini Kalua Pig Quesadillas ($19.95).

The buttery mushrooms had great texture, though I didn't care for their "Caesar," which for some reason was coated in vinaigrette. Kalua pig in the quesadillas was ono. The steak was tender, boasting a "sweet crust" that tasted like teriyaki sauce with peppers thrown in for bite. The steak is described as being "sliced thin." I thought this would be fajita-style, but no, it was stranger than that. It looked like fringe or fingers attached to a palm.

If you're ordering the Nachos Grande ($11.25 or $9.25/half), it's better to get the kalua pig with that rather than the lifeless beef. The substitution will cost a mere 25 cents more.

You can't go too far astray with Enchiladas ($7.950-$14.50) or the Chili Rellenos ($8.75-$14.75). If it's crab you want in your entree, the chimichanga ($15.50) or enchilada ($14.50) may be a better choice than the relleno, where crab is buried under cheese and egg batter.

Portions are quite generous so you'll have to think twice about desserts like Fried Ice Cream ($4.75), Flan ($3.50) or the Double Chocolate Taco ($5.75), chocolate cookie tacos filled with chocolate mousse.



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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to features@starbulletin.com



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