The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, April 29, 1999

Pier needs a
service overhaul

Every restaurant visit is fraught with potential for embarrassment, and I'm not talking about general faux pas as in spilling a drink or dropping a fork. I'm talking about forces beyond one's control -- surly waiters, gnarly food. Casing restaurants is wise if you want to know what to expect ahead of an important date.

Unfortunately, restaurant reviewers have no such luxury. Just on Sunday I took someone to a buffet that wasn't.

Brunch at Pier 7 is promised from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. By 12:30 p.m. the offerings were decimated, and the staff was reluctant to refill them. Our waiter's excuse: "There were a lot of people and they ate and ate. I thought they were never gonna stop."

Star Rating

After a bit of nagging, hot items such as corned beef hash, French toast, scrambled eggs, teriyaki beef and noodles finally appeared, but not pricier seafood salads and the carved meat, whatever that was.

Funny, most people would stay for an hour and a half, and hardly anyone was there. Besides, the point of a buffet is to offer grotesque amounts of food, and if management is averse to this, why offer it at all?

It's too bad, because this restaurant has potential. The site is beautiful. Parking is easy and plentiful. There's a new chef of talent in Sammy Hirota, but food alone won't save a restaurant with an air of complacency. Only Japanese tour groups keep this place alive.

Service improves in the evening. And the menu, though filled with typos (a snobby friend didn't want to eat here because of the "atrocious" French, indicating lack of authenticity), has its glowing moments.

An hors d'oeuvre platter ($12) was disappointingly skimpy with a single cracker topped with a lump of fish roe, a sliver of pate foie gras, a single scallop, a dab of Boursin and an inch-long coil of gravlax. Things could only get better. They did.

Dressing on a Caesar salad seemed to be homemade, rather than from a bottle, and paprika-tinged Sopa de Ajo ($6) was similarly homespun, flavored with plenty of slivered garlic and onions, with a poached egg floating in its center.

Roast Duckling ($25) is difficult to get right, but it was perfect here, served with a balsamic pink peppercorn sauce. Hirota serves up classic sauces with expertise, and has a deft touch with seafood such as Salmon ($19) in white wine.

And there's not much one can do with Wiener Schnitzel ($22), but he aimed for a little creativity, stuffing the veal cutlet with a duxelle of finely minced mushrooms, shallots and herbs.

Best of all is the Roast Rack of Lamb Windsor ($26), a generous seven ribs topped with mustard, garlic, parsley and bread crumbs, cooked to a perfect medium rare.

As for dessert, stick with the cheesecake, avoid the frozen souffles, and all will be well.

With Hirota in place, Pier 7 finally has a decent chef. What's needed now is better service and an attitude adjustment, starting at the top.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

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

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin