Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nico's Pier 38 Restaurant

Nico's Pier 38, located in Honolulu, Hawaii, serves breakfast and lunch six days a week (closed on Sundays). Because they are situated so close to the ocean, Nico's is able to obtain some of the freshest seafood each day.

Part of their menu
On Fridays and Saturdays, Nico's has live music. Having live music at a food establishment automatically ups the experience. It was pretty good music, too (local stuff).

Live music being played on a Saturday
Nico's offers a "Catch of the Day" special each day they are open. I went to Nico's on a Saturday with a friend, and we got there around 11:15 a.m. That day, the special was pan-seared marlin with a lobster bisque sauce. While the dish sounded too rich for my blood, that didn't stop my friend from ordering that (with brown rice and nalo greens). I asked my friend for his thoughts afterward...he enjoyed his meal and his overall dining experience.

I went with the pan-seared furikake ahi (cooked rare), white rice (forgot to ask for brown rice) and nalo greens. The fish comes with a side of ginger garlic cilantro sauce.

The ahi was seared nicely and rare/raw on the inside, just how I like it. I liked the sesame seeds in the furikake breading because it gave the dish a nice texture contrast with the fish. I did have a problem with my piece of ahi being too stringy in several places. The furikake flavors are there, but generally mild on the palette. Faithful readers of this blog may know by now that I like big, bold flavors (and if you didn't know that, I guess you know now!).

I liked the ginger garlic cilantro sauce -- even moreso because it was on the side (so I could control the amount to put on my fish). The creamy consistency basically screamed "mayonnaise-based sauce," so I just wanted to try a bit "in the interest of science." The ginger, garlic, and cilantro flavors worked very well with the ahi.

I guess it's just me, but I felt the fish and the sauce needed more heat or more amped-up flavors. A little more spice would have worked for me -- and I don't mean just adding my own sriracha.

I agreed with my friend: some of the best fish should not require use of a knife -- much like how The Alley's salmon was. I did need my knife here, but hey, it was a seared ahi steak at Nico's versus a moister baked salmon at The Alley. The different preparations on the fish would be like comparing apples to oranges.

I thought the greens were good, but slightly underdressed. The sweet and tangy miso dressing was delicious, elevating otherwise-tasteless greens to a new level. Just a bit more of that dressing in my serving would have been ideal. The white sticky rice was cooked well.

There were a lot of people at Nico's, but hey, what else do you expect at Saturday lunchtime? I also liked that my friend and I both got our food quickly. I also like how Nico's takes advantage of its location -- near the water in Hawaii -- and puts all its tables outside. At the same time, all the tables remain sheltered just in case of bad weather. In the grand scheme of things, however, it's nothing real fancy. Because Nico's does not open for dinner (as of the time of this writing), one will not be able to order a meal here and watch the sunset (and I know there will be tourists that would like that option).

The meal was $9.65 after taxes, a pretty good price for a cooked-to-order fish plate lunch in Hawaii.

Nico's has pretty good food. A few tweaks on the flavoring here and there for more burst of flavor may make me come back more often. 7/10

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