When I started planning my trip to San Francisco, Liholiho Yacht Club was one of the restaurants that kept coming up as a must go to. (My friend Tiffani had suggested it when I was in Boston, and I had read great things about it). I had also met Chris Kronner from KronnerBurger that week, and when I saw him at the Manchester United vs. Barcelona match, we chatted food and when I mentioned we were dining at Liholiho Yacht Club that evening, he said that it was his current favourite spot in San Francisco and that everything on the menu was innovative and tasty. He was right.
We were starving when we got to the restaurant at 5:15pm, as some of us had not eaten a proper lunch at the stadium. (To me, food is to be appreciated and greasy stadium fare doesn’t fit the bill). We had eaten some cow girl creamery, bread and tasty salami from the Ferry building in the car, as the traffic was so bad we had to tailgate when stuck in the car, but that was a while before dinner and we were ready for some poke and to experience some good Hawaiian food.
My experience with Hawaiian food was poke and Kahlua pig and also lots of macadamia crusted fish when I was in Hawaii ages ago. Spam never appealed to me and the food never impressed me very much. But at Liholiho Yacht Club it did.
What we ate:
Popcorn, butter, togarashi: we started with some popcorn with togarashi, a peppery Japanese condiment that made it more fun and new.
Tuna poke, sesame oil, radish, nori cracker: we ordered two portions (3 pieces each) and it was absolutely stunningly gorgeous and very fresh and delicious. The tuna was cubed into beautiful morsels of bright perfect fish and tossed with sesame oil and served on a nori cracker. A must eat!
Little gems, avocado, sungolds, corn, pistachios, herbs, toasted quinoa: this dish was so simple but stunning. Every ingredient was delicious – the avocado was ripe but not soft, the corn was cooked al-dente and the toasted quinoa and pistachios added some crunch to the dish. I really want to try to make this at home.
Halibut sashimi, cucumber, melon, nardello peppers, white soy: this dish was just ok. Fresh, good but not memorable.
Roasted octopus, curried raisins, castelvetrano, butterball potatoes, cilantro: when we read the menu, we voted unanimously to order the octopus and considered ordering two portions to avoid fighting at the table. But we decided to start with one, thankfully. It was fine but not worth fighting for.
Spam fried rice, corn, enoki mushroom: there was a lot of controversy at the table over this dish. Some of us really wanted to try it, but Dani was against it. We knew we needed at least one of their spam dishes. (There was another one not listed on the menu that we really regretted not ordering). Truthfully, uni and spam don’t sound like a marriage made in heaven, but at Liholiho Yacht Club they made magic! Even Dani loved it, photographed it and admitted how good it was. The spam added porkiness, the uni added richness and it all worked perfectly together – another must order.
Manila clams, coconut curry, summer squash, snap peas, fresh turmeric, garlic naan: interesting combination of flavours and tasty but didn’t seem very Hawaiian. To be honest, the mains didn’t seem as appealing as the starters and smaller dishes on the menu. It was a very hot day so maybe clams in a deep Indian meets Hawaiian broth was not the smartest choice on our part but would have hit the spot well on a cloudy cold day.
Slab of beef ribs, kimchi chili sauce, cauliflower, red onion: this was a huge portion and more than enough for the six of us around the table. We were expecting them to have more of a kick from the kimchi but couldn’t find it, but they were sticky like good ribs should be. They were still tender and well prepared but the roasted cauliflower was my favourite part of the plate.
Chocolate cake, macadamia nut, sesame, buttermilk: there was some differences of opinion on this dessert. Stewart professed it “best cake ever” and I thought it was very moist and good but wouldn’t get close to saying that and it vaguely reminded me of a good cake made from a box. Truthfully, I am not a cake lover and prefer denser chocolate species like brownies, so maybe he is more qualified to make the statement. This was the first dish we encountered macadamias, which brought Hawaiiness to the dessert.
Coconut butter mochi: when I think mochi, I usually think mochi ice cream, the little spheres of mochi coated ice cream. This was more a mochi meets flan, meaning a denser flan and even though it was ok, was just a denser pudding with some coconut undertones and not special.
In sum: Liholiho Yacht Club elevates Hawaiian fare with fresh and tasty ingredients and fun combinations in a happy fun spot. A must go!
Liholiho Yacht Club http://liholihoyachtclub.com/