Last month The Willows Sunday Brunch Buffet was featured here, where I enjoyed it so much, I decided to celebrate my birthday a few weeks ago there once again. This time it was on a weekday for lunch, when the spread is a little less expansive than the Sunday Brunch, yet still impressive and satisfying. It wasn’t any big birthday bash; just Diner K and myself, and the restaurant was VERY slow, practically as if that entire buffet was prepared just for us! Aside of us two, there were only like about three other small parties of two to three each there.
We’ll start this birthday lunch off with a tall ice cold glass of Plantation Iced Tea.
Since I didn’t get to try EVERYTHING (literally) on the last visit, this time around being a “seasoned” patron, I attempted to do that. This by serving very small portions of, well, EVERYTHING!
Thankfully the lunch version of their buffet still serves all the Hawaii food favorites, as shown above, being Hawaiian Beef Stew called “Poi Stew”, Squid Luau, Chicken Long Rice, Tripe Stew and Poi. While also on there is Willows Famous Hawaiian Style Chicken & Shrimp Curry, fully loaded with all the toppings, as well as a Somen Salad.
Except for the Somen Salad, which was kinda’ “bleh”, everything else was MONEY!!! Surprisingly even the Chicken Long Rice was on-point, which it’s usually not at buffets, but this one was winnahz!
Putting the spotlight on The Willows Famous Hawaiian Style Chicken & Shrimp Curry above, notice I added “the works” of curry condiments on there: Pickled Ginger, Green Onion, Raisins and Chopped Nuts…. da’ best like that! I swear, you do not know Curry until you try it with these toppings on it. Winnahz! Especially with the raisins and pickled ginger! Almost like Chutney, but I think better! And I can see why that curry is “famous”; they really got it right. It’s kinda’ Japanese style, kinda’ local style and kinda’ Indian style all in one. And there’s generous pieces of tender chicken and shrimp in it. Perfect!
Above we have even more of Willows’ EXCELLENT Squid Luau, Cucumber Kimchi, Sashimi, Spicy Tako Poke, Baked Salmon and Tofu.
Did I say EXCELLENT Squid Luau? Yup, and it is. And get choke “squid” in it, a misnomer, as it’s actually Octopus in “squid” luau. Not only are the Luau leaves fully cooked and done properly, but they also use non-sweetened coconut milk, which I think is how it should be. Sweet Squid Luau just tastes wrong! They also salt theirs just right. Also gotta note The Willows poi is mixed thick, like about “1 finger poi” (more fingers, means more thin).
Only in Hawaii will you find a plate of Prime Rib with white rice. lol Served with a generous dollop of Horseradish and Au Jus on the side, of course!
Going back for round 3, I’m also rockin’ Prime Rib, an “almost mooing” very rare, nicely crusted, rather small cut, served with course Horseradish and Au Jus, while also adding Lomi Salmon, Lau Lau and Poi to the equation. Only at a buffet such as The Willows can you find that kind of exotic Hapa Haole-Hawaiian combo’!
Deconstructing Diner K’s Lau Lau, buried within the generous layers of steamed-tender Luau Leaves are a chunk each of Pork and Pork Fat. No Butterfish, but at least the pork fat makes up for it in giving it “oomph” lol. The Lau Lau is pretty much “money”, except I think they could have used a little more Hawaiian Salt in the Luau leaves. Other than that, she go. I like also that they serve it still wrapped in its own Ti Leaf. That way I KNOW it was cooked the right way; not steamed in tin foil, thank you very much!
I love the squid luau so much, I went back for more! The Kalua Pig pretty good. Not as moist (fatty) as I’d prefer, but decently moist, very tender, while having a pronounced smoked “Kalua” flavor, with just enough Hawaiian Salt kickin’ it up.
Saving room for dessert, I had to sample them all this time around, where my fave by far was the Butter Mochi (at the 3 o’clock above) and the Bread Pudding right below that. The Guava Chiffon Cake was delicious (for a cake), the Strawberry Panna Cotta quite nice, Haupia was alright, Walnut Brownie and Chocolate Chantilly Cake, alright as well.
I don’t now what it is about Soft Serve Ice Cream machines, but every time I know there’s one at buffet dessert station, I MUST make a cone! lol As you can see, I’m a plain vanilla kinda’ guy.
To my surprise, our server brought me a complimentary “Molten” Chocolate Macadamia Nut Muffin Cake for my birthday! Yay! A beautifully paired strawberry “flower” to go with it for good measure. And look, I’m just one year old again! This is now a 1st baby’s birthday luau! lol!
I forget exactly what the name of this cake is, but it’s like a molten chocolate cake, without the molten chocolate within it. Yet the cake itself is almost “molten”, being super soft; almost like a fudge-cake if you will. While again I’m no cake fan, this was really ono! It was especially good eaten together with that soft serve vanilla ice cream cone!
Speaking of server, here she is for a shot with the birthday boy. While I can’t remember her name (sorry, didn’t write it down), she was EXCELLENT, very friendly and attentive, always clearing plates and keeping our drinks topped.
Dang man, I’m getting up there in age. Look, I already need reading glasses! Pretty soon I’ll be sitting on the bench in front of the the supermarket feeding the birds. Or sitting at the local McDonald’s at 5am every day telling stories to complete strangers while drinking free coffee refills. Or strumming my ukulele with the other old futs at Ala Moana Beach Park. I’m still waiting for my AARP membership to come in the mail. lol
I have a better idea for retirement than feeding the birds in front of the supermarket: instead I’ll sign up as a volunteer voyager on the Hokuleia! If not, I’ll just hang out here at The Willows every day on this docked shrunken-down version, eating soft serve ice cream refills. lol
Seriously though, The Willows has a really neat property in the heart of Mo’ili’ili. It’s this garden oasis tucked between an urban/suburban sprawl that you’d never expect. Yet once you enter it’s like, “wow, this place is neat!”I was actually surprised to find out the Weinberg estate owns this property, as they do many other properties in industrial areas around Honolulu. I always thought The Willows restaurant company itself owned it.
Wrapping it up, if you’ve never been or haven’t been in a while, I highly recommend The Willows buffet. For the very reasonable price of $25.50 per adult for the weekday lunch buffet, the staff are wonderful, the selection is great, and, while you’re not going to get say, top-shelf sushi-grade Ahi, most dishes are on-point and excellent in quality and flavor.
901 Hausten Street (turn right off S. King right by Longs; formerly Star Market)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
The Tasty Island rating:
4 SPAM Musubi (excellent!)
The Tasty Island related links:
• The Willows Sunday Brunch Buffet v.2.2017