So I was excited by the possibilities offered by Shangri-La Cafe, serving up a distinctive blend of Macau and Portuguese fare - with the latter's Mozambique, Brazilian and Goa, India influences - in a style dubbed Macanese.
But at a month old, the restaurant has yet to see its fish tanks arrive; therefore, no crab. None of Shangri-Las other customers seem to be too disappointed. The restaurant is packed most nights.
The restaurant's interior seemed to be influenced more by Marie Callendar's than a sense of Chinese or Portuguese history. The dining room is done up in pastels with floral-patterned seats. The room made me feel claustrophobic, but as my friend put it, "This is like Hong Kong, you're supposed to feel claustrophobic." Oh yeah.
Next, we tried a Prawn Salad with Papaya ($6.95), with the two main ingredients tossed together with a little mayonnaise on a bed of greens. It wasn't very inspired.
Several fish dishes are offered. We went for the hake, served with a garlicky tomato sauce. Alas, the weathered fish, rather than being moist, crumbled like baked phyllo at a fork's touch. Perhaps, this problem will be resolved, also, when the fish tanks arrive.
Portuguese Chicken ($7.50) with potatoes is a curry dish made with the familiar English-style yellow curry also popular in local cooking. And one dish we saw heading for many tables was the Baked Pork Chop on Rice or Spaghetti ($4.95), topped with a bland tomato sauce. For the price, it's not surprising that there were a lot of marrieds with children in the crowd.
My favorite dish turned out to be a blisteringly hot baked North African Chicken ($9.95), topped with a mince of red and green peppers, which is not for kiddies.
Although Shangri-La Cafe leaves a bit to be desired in its sauces, I have long said that Honolulu is starving for something, anything new, and for those seeking a novel experience at a reasonable price this is Utopia.
Where: 1145C 12th Ave.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 daily except Tuesday
Prices: About $6 to $10 per person for lunch; about $20 for two for dinner
An hour lunch break doesn't have to mean stopping at the nearest fast-food joint.
Hoku's, the signature restaurant of the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is now promising a businessman's lunch in one hour.
On the plate are a tandoori chicken salad, a daily chef's special entree, tiramisu and coffee or tea, for $25 per person.
For reservations, call 739-8777.
- excellent;To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to email@example.com
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- below average.