808 Kapahulu Needs Some Serious Polishing
By Kevin McQuarrie
I’d heard mixed things about 808 Kapahulu, but the place looked really nice and is in a lively, foodie neighborhood—it definitely seemed at least worth a try.
The restaurant has a hip, tropical décor that is its strongest suit. Details such as beautiful wood chairs and tables, an open and airy window/door set up and a large potted palm lend the place an upscale, yet relaxed vibe. The menus are enclosed in a woven lau hala mat.
In terms of cuisine, the gist is supposed to be “beyond
Pacific Rim.” Okay. What that is seems to translate to a lot of mayonnaise and
a lot of yuzu (a citrus fruit commonly used in Japanese cooking). Appetizers,
for example, include dishes such as diced salmon and avocado with lemon
mayonnaise; sliced beef tongue with miso mayonnaise; and a salad with dried
squid mayonnaise. Entrées include listings such as spaghetti with a yuzu
garlic sauce, cold cappellini, fried fish, and grilled lamb chops, served hunter style. My friend and I looked at each other, worriedly. “It’s all over the place,” she said.
We started with two soups: a cold asparagus cream soup ($4.50) and a vegetable tomato soup topped with a poached egg ($4.50). Both arrived fairly slowly, but that was okay, as we were enjoying our conversation and the relaxing Hawaiian music. The vegetable soup was truly great: hot, spicy and delicious, with a creaminess provided by the warm egg yolk mingling into the zucchini, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The asparagus soup was a winner, too. Creamy, yet very lightly textured, with an intriguing sharpness as the end flavor note.
For our entrées, my friend had a rib eye with three-mushroom sauce ($18.90), while I ordered the spaghetti with Kahuku shrimp ($15.95) served “808 style.” What that turned out to be was strange indeed. It wasn’t quite an Asian sauce; it was almost nutty/savory/sesame-y, but then kind of veered into Italian. I’d advise the chef to go one way or the other, because that middle zone is dangerous and not tasty. Compared to the mountain of pasta, there were surprisingly few shrimp.
And then the evening really went downhill. We finished eating, waited. Plates, not cleared. I should mention here that the restaurant was nearly empty, so the lack of service didn’t seem to be from a time crunch. Our server finally came by with water, and we had to ask him to please clear the plates. More waiting. The table next to us gets coffee in little French presses. Jeez, that looks nice. No offer of coffee to us. They get pastries. Us, nope. We weren’t even good enough to warrant a dessert menu, and frankly, at that point I wasn’t about to spend another cent in the restaurant anyway. We attempted to be patient (although we’d been there for two-and-a-half hours at this point and not of our own free will) and tried to make eye contact to get the bill. I finally just got up and not-to-nicely requested the check, please. I’m not sure this place actually wants to be a restaurant.
Located at its namesake address,
808 Kapahulu Avenue
Hours are 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly.
For reservations, phone 737-8081
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Limited street parking.
Major credit cards accepted.