Gone Fishing:

Nick’s Fishmarket is showing its age

By Kevin McQuarrie

Nick’s Fishmarket has been ensconced in Waikiki since the 1970s, so it’s one of those places everyone refers to as “a landmark.” I hadn’t yet tried it, so on a recent Thursday night we voyaged into this dark, cavernous restaurant in search of great seafood.

The décor is moody, with a curving architecture and textured wall treatment that almost suggests a grotto. It’s both charming and a bit odd, with a mish-mosh of paintings: an elegant koi pond depicted here, a cheesy wahine-worships-rainbow jobby over there.

We settled into our leather-clad booth. The water arrived right away, as did the wine list, but we had to ask to see menus—one of my pet peeves. The service just seemed a little slow. Not bad, but not seamless, either. When our bread arrived, though, it was delicious: warm (always a good sign) and chewy, served with an addictive garlic butter.

The menu is heavy on fish, but also has options for landlubbers, including a roasted Australian rack of lamb and New York steak. Lobster, and its international roster of lobsters at that, also gets prominent menu space: Choose from Brazilian spiny lobster, Caribbean spiny lobster, live Maine lobster or mixed dishes, such as lobster tail with filet mignon.

We found the prices at Nick’s Fishmarket to be as prickly as the lobsters—you might understand $77.50 for a steak and lobster combo, but $40.45 for a bouillabaisse? Ouch. The entrées are all in the $30-and-up range, and that is pricey even for Hawaii.

Easing in, we decided to split an assorted hot appetizer platter ($15.95 per person). To the server’s credit, he graciously brought two plates, two serving spoons and two sets of chopsticks, delivered with a flourish. (We were worried he’d say, “that’s per person.” This move was far classier.)

The appetizers really did get our hopes up. The petite ceramic tray included a great array, including blackened sashimi—lusciously red, jewel-like and tender. The scampi in garlic butter was good, too; properly prepared shrimp, and not overly garlicky. Each appetizer seemed to be a standout, as the crab seafood cake was crisp and excellent, too. Was that bleu cheese in there? Clever. And a classic, an Oyster Rockefeller, beckoning with bacon and spinach in an oyster shell so flawless it looked like it could serve as the poster girl for all oysters.

For our entrées, my companion ordered the Hawaiian Mahi Mahi ($31.95), a grilled and glazed preparation with a sweet chili, cilantro and sesame marinade. It’s served with a tropical salsa and roasted red bell pepper sauce. The mahi mahi was nice—firm and well presented—but nothing spectacular.

I had one of the evening’s specials, a sautéed seabass. It was served with shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams, and a truly disastrous black olive, caper, tomato and basil sauce. The ingredients seem agreeable to each other, so I’m not sure what went wrong, but there was some chemical reaction occurring that was alarming and unappetizing. However, the parsnip purée, served along with the seabass, was great—a creative alternative to mashed potatoes.

            Overall, Nick’s Fishmarket did not impress me. The décor seems tired and uneven, the food, while fine, is nothing special. The restaurant needs to raise the bar, lower the prices or both.


Nick’s Fishmarket

 2070 Kalakaua Avenue

Dinner served nightly.

Hours are Sunday to Thursday,
5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Nick’s Café and Lounge

 is open 5:30 to 10 p.m.
on Sunday through Thursday,
and 5:30 p.m. to midnight
on Friday and Saturday.

Reservations are recommended;
call 955-6333.
Valet parking is complimentary.
Major credit cards accepted.





April 2005

Italian Food with Heart & Soul

Riga Tony’s isn’t fancy, but the food and
service will warm your heart.

By Kevin McQuarrie

Riga Tony’s is a small restaurant tucked into a corner of downtown Honolulu on Alakea Street. It opened last fall, and judging from the crowd that was there on a Friday evening, it’s getting a loyal following of regulars.

This ten-table spot is simply, but lovingly decorated, with Italian-themed art on the walls, rows of cheerful white Christmas lights, homey wood paneling, and a grapevine wallpaper border. We were greeted warmly upon our arrival, and told to sit wherever we liked. The swinging, Rat Pack-style music certainly put us in the mood for Italian food. The restaurant is BYOB, so feel free to bring in a nice bottle of Chianti or a lively prosecco.

We dug into a bowl of bread, dunking it in olive oil, and studied the menu. Appetizers include healthy options, such as bruschetta ($4) and insalata Caprese ($6), with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in a vinaigrette, and the more decadent, including fried mozzarella cheese ($4.50) and garlic cheese bread ($4).

Being decadent types, we ordered the fried calamari ($6). “Right on!” encouraged our sweet server, a beautiful woman with cascading curls and a husky, hippie voice.

The calamari arrived fairly slowly, but was well appreciated: large rings (about onion-ring size) of tender squid, with a nice light batter. Note to the chef: Please, warm up the marinara dipping sauce! It was served cold, straight out of the fridge. We also tried the bruschetta, a simple, eye-pleasing preparation of thick slices of bread, with a garlicky basil and tomato topping. The tomatoes were perfect—where did they get such ripe, red toma-
toes at this time of year?

The chef himself brought out our entrées, a sweet touch, and offered us ground pepper from a grinder the size of a table leg. We had the chicken cannelloni ($12.50), a dish featuring three homemade crepes filled with a creamy mixture of ricotta cheese and chicken, covered with a Béchamel sauce. This dish was rich and delicious—far too much for one meal, so we enjoyed it the next day as well for lunch.

Despite repeated warnings on how spicy the shrimp diavolo ($13) was, I had ordered it. I found it was actually a good heat level, with a prolonged, warm mouth sensation—but extremely garlicky. Garlicky, as in, chew gum on the way home, brush your teeth twice before bed, drink a cup of mint tea, and still wake up with garlic in your mouth garlicky. If your name is Nosferatu, this dish might kill you.

Other meal options include pizzas and calzones, as well as favorites such as veal Marsala, lasagne, Caesar salad and fettuccine alfredo. Next time I visit, I will have to try the eggplant Parmesan, which was one of the specials the night we visited.

Overall, we found our meal at Riga Tony’s to be inexpensive (a huge meal for two was $45, including tax and tip), with warm, personal service. The appetizers weren’t nearly as strong in terms of flavor and presentation as the excellent entrées, but there is still something about Riga Tony’s that’s special. It’s not a fancy place or gourmet cuisine, but you leave feeling good. Perhaps it’s simply the pleasure of being cooked for by someone who is cooking from the heart.


Riga Tony’s

1192 Alakea Street • 534-0100

Lunch is served Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Dinner is served 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday.