Yesterday our office gang rang in the new year with a celebratory lunch at Restaurant Epic, located in the Chinatown side of downtown Honolulu.
Restaurant Epic is a rather contemporary affair, aptly suited for the yuppy crowd that swarms the area during the bustling daylight and early evening hours of the work week.
To the left of this main dining area is a full bar to service the downtown pauhana crowd, while to the left in front, there’s also a private room with a single large table to accommodate up to 8 guests, which is where we sat.
Let’s check out Epic’s lunch menu…
With Roy’s alumnus, Chef David Hoffman at the helm, the menu reflects a similar Eurasian/Pacific Rim fusion theme, with just about everything listed — at least in writing — sounding exotic and absolutely mouthwatering!
Getting right to it, not listed on the menu, Diner CM decided to try one of their daily specials, as explained verbally by our server, which would be the Togarashi-spiced Pan-Seared Ahi…
Diner C kept it light as well, going for Epic’s Seared Ahi Salad…
Diner A loves always enjoys a good Teri’ Burger, opting to try Epic’s wild take on the classic…
Diner E was in the same frame of mind as myself, wanting to try something unique to this restaurant, that would be difficult to find similar elsewhere (at least on this island). With that, he went for Epic’s Kiawe Smoked Pork “Grilled” Cheese…
All three “Grilled” Cheese menu items include a side of their Roasted Garlic Tomato Bisque…
Since Diner E chose the Kiawe Smoked Pork version, I decided to try Epic’s Havarti & Bacon “Grilled” Cheese, served with a side of Roasted Garlic Tomato Bisque…
Garnished with their “Grilled” Cheese plate is a baked Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Chip. Ooh-la-lah! Can I have more, please?
And how was it? Overall, very good!
Particularly STELLAR for Diner A, who gave his Spicy Teriyaki Angus Burger a “broke da’ mout’ ono” 5 SPAM Musubi, saying that was easily one of the best burgers he’s ever had. Wow.
Which you know what made it? Not only was the Angus Beef patty wonderfully char-grilled and HUGE, easily weighing 1/3 pound to possibly close to 1/2 pound. What made it was the FURIKAKE they sprinkle directly over the patty after it’s grilled. On a burger? Duh! In the famous words of Shallow Hal, “Koo-koo! Koo-koo! Koo-koo!”. Why the HECK didn’t I ever think of trying that in my kitchen!
Hey, when any given savory dish needs extra kick, Furikake almost always takes it from boring to OISHII-TASTIC, right? Well, according to Diner A, that’s what did it with Epic’s take on this popular local burger classic, especially when further enhanced in depth by the sweetened shoyu Teri’ glaze, along with the spicy kick from the Wasabi Aioli, which certainly wasn’t shy of the sinus-clearing green stuff. He also loved the added dimension texture and flavor contrast of the slaw in the burger. I’m definitely gonna’ try replicating this at mom’s house next we fire-up the grill.
Diner CM really enjoyed the Togarashi Crusted Ahi Fillet, simply noting it was “responsible”. Word. An enthusiastic 4 SPAM Musubi for the dish.
Diner C enjoyed Epic’s Seared Ahi Salad, only noting the Red Wine Vinaigrette dressing was a bit bland, needing “something” to kick it up. 2 SPAM Musubi.
Diner E’s feedback of his Smoked Pork “Grilled” Cheese was the most shocking, as without thinking about his “Saimin Kaukau” (Simon Cowell) reputation, he initially gave it 4 SPAM Musubi, which is practically UNHEARD OF due to his extremely demanding palate. “Whoah, 4!?” So he gave it 3, which is a 4 to you and I.
With that, he said the super-buttery-rich cheesy ‘n toasty Jalapeno Biscuit is what sealed the deal here. The “bread” is certainly the most important component of any great sandwich, and it’s good to hear this buttery-cheesy-spicy biscuit pulls it off so well in making one onolicious “grilled” cheese sammy. Actually the reduction to 3 SPAM Musubi if fare, as he did note the thick slice of Provolone Cheese wasn’t melted, which actually is taboo as far as a grilled cheese sandwich is concerned.
Yet really, with all that Kiawe-smoked, BBQ sauce-laced pulled pork stacked in it, I suppose this isn’t even a “Grilled” Cheese Sandwich anymore. So yeah, he really enjoyed it. 3 SPAM Musubi.
Finally, as for my Havarti & Bacon “Grilled” Cheese, even for this, I wouldn’t quite call it a Grilled Cheese Sandwich anymore, as once there’s meat in it, that takes the center stage. Especially also in this case, where it’s Maple Smoked Bacon, which easily overpowered the creaminess of the Havarti cheese. Yet in a good way, just not what I was expecting.
Dipping it in the Roasted Garlic Tomato Bisque is what it’s all about though with these “Grilled” Cheese sammies. That really takes it from the ground floor to the penthouse. You get the almost creamy sweetness from the Hawaiian (actually originally Portuguese) Sweetbread, the earthiness from the Apricot-Caper Spread and savory depth from the Maple-glazed Bacon. Then add to that the creamy-thick viscosity of the Tomato Bisque, which also introduces acidity and more earthiness to each bite, and POW! Delicious.
If there’s anything I’d change with this dish, is the bread, as my only complaint is the sweetbread added too much sweetness when combined with the already fruity Apricot spread and Maple-glazed bacon. I’d say use French Baguette slices instead, and it would probably be perfect. As it is, I give it 3 SPAM Musubi.
Pretty much stuffed, we all passed on dessert, however in hindsight, we wish we had gotten something, as about an hour later we were craving some sweets. It’s often like that.
Epic’s service was SUPERB, with our server being friendly, attentive, and 100% knowledgeable of the menu and daily specials. Our dishes arrived simultaneously at the table within 10 minutes of being ordered, and our drinks were kept topped throughout our stay.
The best place to park if you go there is the Chinatown Municipal Parking Structure, located on the corner of Beretania and Smith Street. The lot entrance is on the left off Beretania, just before Smith. It will cost about $2 for 2 hours, and best of all, the lot is clean, well-lit and secure, with ample parking. Restaurant Epic is just steps away, on the corner of Nuuanu and Pauahi street.
We all agreed Restaurant Epic is a place we’d definitely like to return and try more dishes on their tempting menu.
1131 Nuuanu Ave.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96805
Tel. (808) 587-7877
The Tasty Island rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Ono!)
P.S. Speaking of epic, the beaches of Hawaii can surely be that. Including Diamond Head Beach, just a short walk out of Waikiki, where last Sunday a group of Paragliders cruised aloft peacefully overhead. Watch in the following video, as I captured a Paraglider expertly coming in for approach and precision landing within a shadow’s distance of sunbathers relaxing just feet away…
They jump from the top of Diamond Head crater, gracefully gliding across the skies overlooking scenic Diamond Head point, catching thermals along the way to maintain altitude.
Here’s a still photo of the Hawaiian Monk Seal (an endangered species) that was captured in the Paraglider landing video above…