Ala Moana Shopping Center’s new Ho’okipa Terrace on the upper level is home to some exciting new eats, including Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks which opened in February 2006. Today was our office group’s first visit.
Island Fine Burgers & Drinks, facing Mai Tai Bar
The theme of the decor is tropical, with mild hints of Tiki Bar kitsch, yet not overdone. Overall a conveniently comfortable and relaxing escape from the busy mall surroundings.
The menu is entirely ala carte, which consists of seven signature burgers (+1 “gremmie” version) and a selection of appetizers, salads, soup, tacos and other items that I’m going to name “CaliMexiWaiian” cuisine.
We started our lunch with some ice teas, lemonade, an endless platter of Tortilla Chips & Salsa and a basket of Island Fries.
Tortilla Chips & Salsa (“endless” includes free refills!)
The Tortilla Chips are served warm and have a nice, fresh-made flavor with a light toasty crunch. The salsa has a fine texture (not chunky) with the perfect blend of flavors, including a hint of cilantro, and it wasn’t too watery.. just right.
Island Fries with skins left on
The shared basket of Island Fries had a mixed reaction on our table. It arrived piping hot, but some of us were disappointed at the sogginess of it and the way it was unevenly salted. Most odd is that it’s as if they chop the fries into smaller pieces, making it seem more like a basket of leftover “crumbs”. A few actually enjoyed it, so you’ll have to be the judge.
*****time for the burger*****
There’s a choice of 7 signature burgers, all offered with either white or whole wheat bun. The patties are 7 oz. and grilled to medium to order. Fresh iceburg lettuce and sliced tomato and basic mayo.
I ordered the Hula burger. Being a major Swiss ‘N ‘Shroom burger fan, this is what I use as a taste test gauge when sampling new burger joints.
Hula burger – sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, swiss & mayo on whole wheat bun
Hula burger (cut-away view)
I was quite impressed with the flavor of the patty, considering they’re cooked on flattop griddles vs. an open flame grill. It had a nice sear on the outside, was well-seasoned and cooked to medium-doneness perfection. VERY juicy.
The whole wheat bun is certainly different for hamburger as far as I’m concerned. It has a significantly toasted outer shell and slightly chewy, yet soft enough to work for a hamburger. They also toast the insides to order.. a must! The shell is sprinkled with wheat bran flakes to give it that sesame seed-like appearance and texture.
The main complaint I have is that it was a bit TOO BIG, overloaded and greasy. I suppose that’s better than small, underloaded and dry, but still, balance is a major factor when judging “the perfect burger”. Also, the wheat bun sort of overpowered the toppings.
I’ll need to return again (he he!) and try it with the white bun.
******Other orders on our table*****
One person on our table opted for the Sandpiper chicken sandwich, which she claims was excellent. The grilled chicken was tender and moist, and the toasted wheat bun added a new dimension to the flavor.
Sandpiper – grilled chicken breast, boneless & skinless w/bacon, sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, swiss & mayo
Another diner ordered the Hawaiian burger, which was given a thumbs up. He said the teriyaki sauce was standard fair, yet the pineapple had a slightly seared flavor that really helped to punch out the flavor.
Hawaiian burger – grilled to medium, with wheat bun (choice of white or wheat available on all burgers & sandwiches), pineapple, teriyaki sauce, lettuce, tomato, swiss & mayo
A spin on the classic B.L.T. called “The Wedge” was also ordered.
The Wedge – B.L.T.: bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar & mayo on wheat bun
Stack up the condiments, 7 oz. patty and substantial bun and these burgers are huge. So much that everyone on our table could only finish half the sandwich, opting to take the other half home in single portion doggy bags (including a square piece of foil wrap), as shown above.
The Ala Moana location’s prices average about a dollar more than the menu pricing shown on their website. We shared the fries and tortilla chips family style, and with that, our bill came out approximately $13/person including tip.
Our waiter was attentive and friendly and our food arrived quickly – an expected result of their well-staffed kitchen.
Our entire party had an overall satifactory experience, and we all agreed to return again and try other menu items.