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Honolulu and the Halekulani

Honolulu and the Halekulani
via United and American First Class
July 2015

Mrs. SFO and I are off today to Honolulu to attend a family function. As long as we have to go, we decided to stay an extra day and explore Oahu. We used to visit Hawaii a lot and indeed lived on the Big Island for year, but hadn't really spent much time recently in Honolulu. We're staying at Halekulani for the first time and naturally dining at Alan Wong's later this week.

No mileage run today as Mrs. SFO made it known that she wanted the nonstop.  Although I did convince her that AA's HNL-DFW angled lie flat seat 767 redeye would be more comfortable even with a connection back home. We left home at a civilized 10AM and arrived at West Valet Parking lot a half hour later. PreCheck was backed this morning so we jumped the queue with CLEAR, arriving at the gate 5 minutes before boarding. And as usual with United, we became gate lice waiting to board.

Denver-Honolulu
UA 328
777-200
11:30A-2:40P
July 28, 2015
Wifi and Personal Entertainment streaming
Lunch

First time on a UA Hawaii configuration 777 with 2-3-2 seat in the "First Class" cabin. Lots of leg room and good recline but I wouldn't want to do a redeye on this bird.

What do you do when you want to hide controls that are no longer used? Tape it over of course, until inquisitive types start picking away at it.

But there is power today.

So far so good. Mrs. SFO is impressed with seating on this domestic flight.

Although the seats are short, even with the dopey extender, and it takes a while to find a reasonably comfortable sweet spot.

UA continues to impress. Exceptional and personable service by a wonderful DEN-based crew led by Purser Donna.
Open bar PDB and three rounds of drinks before lunch.  

Three choices and a nice variety of mains fully and patiently described by Purser Donna.
- Salmon with peppercorn, carrots, quinoa with lemon sauce
- Chicken breast with BBQ sauce veggies and basmati rice
- Indian paneer with tofu, rice and veggies

My salmon was very good although just a tad dry.

Passing over the Bay Area with only 4.5 hours to go.

For dessert, the mango sorbet with mint was very refreshing.

All in all, an excellent lunch and way better than the slop currently served on USdbaAA. But time to call the fashion police on Mr. 3F.  

About 90 minutes before landing, tasty freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.

On descent passing by the airport before the right turn back to land.

United will never be confused with Lufthansa or Singapore, but today's flight was quite good for a North American domestic flight.

We decided to Uber it today for our ride to Waikiki. It worked very well and five minutes after I booked Uber Black, we met out driver Raymond at the Tour Group area right just to the right of United baggage claim. Another 30 minutes later we arrived at the Halekulani, a Waikiki fixture for decades. Wonderful staff but the hotel is a little dated to say the least. And the rooms are in woeful need of a makeover, to bring them into 21st century or even the latter stages of the 20th century. 

Talk about spartan hallways. Yikes.

On the other hand, we did receive a Virtuoso upgrade and had comfortable high floor room with a great ocean view. Also breakfast and a $100 resort credit. Not exactly luxurious digs though.

But a nice balcony with an excellent view.

 

 

Antiquated controls, no thermostat and AC that apparently has one option: On Full Blast.

Bathroom. Right out of the 70s.

Our room looked down on the House Without a Key, where we went for a drink and pupus.

Then back to room to freshen up for dinner.

At Orchids, one of the hotel's two fine dining restaurants.

Amuse-bouche.

My Manoa Lettuce salad with Kamuela Tomatoes, Sweet Maui Onions, Tarragon Dressing was pretty disappointing.

Mrs. SFO's Roasted Keahole Lobster with Thai Basil & Molee Sauce, Coconut Rice was excellent.

As was my Steamed Onaga Orchids Style: Long Tail Snapper, Shitake Mushrooms, Green Onions, Sizzled with Sesame Oil & Soy.

And we finished by splitting the wonderful Halekulani’s Signature Coconut Cake:
Chiffon Cake, Coconut-Amaretto Cream, Whipped Cream, Shredded Coconut.

And back to our room for the night.

Since my body was still on Mountain time, I was up at 3AM and headed to the Business Center to do some work.

Then back to Orchids this time for breakfast.

After breakfast, we tried to find some pool chaises in the shade. LOL to the supposed "no saving pool chairs for more than a few minutes" policy which was totally ignored. We finally decided on a secluded corner which turned out great as it was under palm trees for most of the morning.

Yummy late morning mai tai just before lunch.

We relaxed for another couple of hours...

Until the sun had finally shifted and we headed upstairs and finally for our late afternoon journey to Mililani. After an evening with our DIL's family, we returned back to the city but with a stop at Honolulu institution Bubbies, which supplies a number of Nobu restaurants (including Nobu 57th Street in New York) with their wonderful mochis.

Morning buffet breakfast at House Without a Key.  Excellent food spread. 

Back in the room, I finally found the thermostat. Sure, doesn't every hotel hide it in the closet??

And then back up to Mililani for the morning and early afternoon with the Hawaii ohana.  

We then headed to Ala Moana and the start of our day with one of our favorite chef's - Alan Wong.  
First stop was The Pineapple Room at Ala Moana.

The food here is still as amazing as ever but this place has started to look and feel dated. Service is spotty and not what it used to be. OK, 15 or so years ago when he opened the restaurant on the third floor of iconic Liberty House, it was pretty cool. But now just another Macy's outpost, this place needs a major makeover. We first thought to just eat at the bar but the stink from the bar sink was so bad that we bagged that idea and just waited for a table.

Once seated and once the food started coming, all was well and we thoroughly enjoyed it, dumpy Macy's notwithstanding.

We split the Asian Salad Asian Salad with Won Bok, Snow Peas,Carrots, Cilantro, Won Ton Pi, Roasted Peanuts, Soy Vinaigrette... which Mrs. SFO makes at home from her Alan Wong Cookbook. 

For our mains, Mrs. SFO had the amazing Shrimp Pork Hash Katsu Burger with 
Shredded Cabbage, Hoisin Mustard Vinaigrette, Potato roll. O-M-G fabulous.

While I went with the Kalua Pig BLT with Onion Bun, Half Caesar Salad, Bacon, Grilled Kabayaki Onions, Boursin Cheese. Out of this world.

Then off to hit the Apple Store and Tumi and some more of the once again under renovation Ala Moana Shopping Center.

And then back to Halekulani to rest up for round 2 and dinner. 

Just before 8PM, we Uber'd over to King Street and the original Alan Wong's. Sat at the bar for a while where we met one of Alan's fellow Hawaiian restauranteurs who splits his time between Honolulu and... Birmingham, Alabama. I kid you not. Went to school and played football for Bear Bryant, apparently loved it and stayed at least part-time. Go figure.

As always, we both had the wonderful traditional tasting menu of classic signature Alan Wong dishes.

With a fabulous 2012 Raveneau Chablis.

To start, the “Soup and Sandwich”, Chilled Vine Ripened Tomato Soup, Grilled Hawai’i Island Goat Dairy Mozzarella Cheese, Foie Gras, Kalua Pig Sandwich.

Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack
Stacked on Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy

Keahole Lobster Lasagna with Crab Cioppino Sauce. Out of this world.

And one of our all time faves: Ginger Crusted Onaga, Long Tail Red Snapper with Miso Sesame Vinaigrette, Mushrooms and Corn

Twice Cooked Short Rib, Soy Braised and Grilled “Kalbi” Style with Chili Lemongrass Goat Cheese, Mushroom Peanut Salsa. Simply wow.

And to finish, one of my all time favorite desserts... Alan's Signature The Coconut, Haupia Sorbet in a Chocolate Shell, Tropical Fruits, Lilikoi Sauce.

Although we had a late 3PM check-out, we'd had enough of the Halekulani and Honolulu, which really isn't a very attractive city, and decided to leave early and head up to the North Shore to explore and have lunch before head back to the airport for our 5:40P flight. And back up H1 and H2 past Mililani for the third time in two days.

Much prettier once we got onto Highway 99.

To the coast and numerous sandy beaches.

 
And to Sunset Beach, home of some of the biggest surf in the world... in the winter. Not so much in summer.
 

And then a little further up to coast to Turtle Bay which seemed to be the only major resort area on the North Shore.

We headed for the beachside restaurant Ola. Great location, nice atmosphere and tables with a view.

Whoa, TMI!

Pretty good comfort food as well.
 

After lunch, I headed up to the hotel to see what it looked like.

Meh, pretty pedestrian looking lobby. Not even close to some of the wonderful resort hotels on Maui, The Big Island, even Kauai.

And another photo stop on the way to back to the airport.

After dropping off our rental car, we headed for the international and mainland terminal and PreCheck where we were the only passengers. 

And the HNL Admirals Club which doubles as the JAL Sakura Lounge. Meh lounge but a great staff who checks departing the pax list everyday and sends an email greetings to AC members.

 

At around T-45 we headed out to the gate where boarding was just about to start.

HNL-DFW
AA 8
Ancient 767-300
5:40P-6:20A +1
July 31, 2015
"Dinner" and Continental Breakfast

HNL 763 service is still the old 2-2-2 cabin with narrow angled sleeper seats. Not the best cabin but still better than flying overnight on UA's 2-3-2 777-200.

 

Our classy cabin mate in 4G. 

Once in the air, one of the pilots came back and moved into the pilot rest seats for most of the flight.

And FA's handed out video tablets preloaded with 60 or 70 movies.

The usual mini AA towel. LOL.

This my second time on this flight in a week, having flown this one returning from dropping out the grandkids with the Hawaii in-laws. Food tonight wasn't much better. UA offers three excellent entrée choices but AA still thinks two are just swell. I had preselected one ravioli and one prawn cake from the new menu.  

Alas, catering screwed up or they just decided to use up the last of the old frozen meals. And with no old menus to go around, a photocopy will have to do.  

Mrs. SFO was still full from lunch and wisely decided none of the above and passed on the meal or any part thereof. I took one for the team and decided to try a repeat of the mahi mahi. No, I do not want the bowl of rice option. Ms. "I don't eat fish" in 5B wasn't as lucky.

The Spicy Ginger Salmon was better than last week and didn't taste stinky fishy like last week. Also, less rice.

Hard to imagine but the salad looked even worse than last week.

And what is that yellow stuff? Orange ginger vinaigrette? Not very vinaigrette looking. No chance I was going to try that part.

Was a much different color with a lot more beets and blue cheese last week, although it didn't make any difference as the beets and cheese still had little taste. 
Mercifully, the mahi mahi was not bone dry like last week and actually pretty good especially with a lot more sauce today.

The AA dessert cart.

Not even close to the style and class of the UA dessert cart from a few days ago.

For dessert, I only had a little chocolate with my sundae as I wanted to taste the ice cream. LOL. Virtually tasteless. Indeed the "vanilla" ice cream is clearly sourced from the lowest cost provider and is "vanilla" in name only.

Although the 763 seats are narrow, they do angle lie flat and we were both able to sleep for about 4 hours.  

DFW-DEN
AA 2374
MD-80
7:25A-8:00A
August 1, 2015
"Refreshments

The old Mad Dog is my favorite AA airplane. Like an comfy old shoe. None of these stupid new slimline, slider seats. And 6EF are my favorite seats with great recline.

We had grabbed an Au Bon Pain wrap in the terminal so I only took a couple of almond cranberry thins from the snack basket.

We arrived in DEN on time and were home 45 minutes later.

As a post script, three days later Mrs. SFO couldn't find her iPad. Amazingly, Find my Phone showed it in Concourse A at DEN. After a few phone calls, we were able to locate it and I picked it up from AA Baggage Service office later that day.