Fear and Loathing in Honolulu

So I’ve found myself in Hawaii for the first time ever. I truly wish I were here on vacation, but it is in fact a work trip. And I mean a WORK trip, as in one of those work-sleep-work schedules with which I’m sure many can relate.

I lucked out my first few days on Oahu and was able to play tourist, so it’s not all bad. But now I’m in the grind. Straight through the weekend, yo.

As it happens, because arrangements were so last-minute, I was unable to book a room in Waikiki, the touristy area everyone had recommended for my stay in the Honolulu area. Instead I wound up slightly north, at the Pagoda hotel, which, as the agent who sold me the booking promised, is a sort of locals’ favorite. There is a really cool rent-a-bike system here called Biki ($20 for 300 minutes’ worth of riding, or $25 for a whole month of unlimited rides), and with it I can be in Waikiki in about 10 minutes. After a couple of times doing that, I don’t really want to go back. Waikiki is like every upscale, urban tourist area I’ve ever encountered in the U.S., from New York to to San Antonio to San Francisco. It’s a shopping district for the rich, pure and simple. It even has a Trump hotel. Blech.

The area outside my hotel, by contrast, is a bit grittier and far more interesting, particularly for someone whose only opportunity to explore occurs at dinner time. The restaurants are all either Korean or Japanese, with some cross-over content in the case of the Korean restaurants. I’ve been trying them one by one, but then I happened upon the Sorabol, and it impressed me so much that I’ve decided to work my way through its menu. So far I’ve had the mackerel and the salmon dishes. Tomorrow it will be Bulgogi.

Sadly, I’ve seen a couple of reviews that state you cannot trust this restaurant with your credit card, so be forewarned. I’ve always paid cash, so I cannot speak from any personal experiences. I can speak to the food, however, and it’s good! Better than the other places I’ve tried on the street.

You may also want to avoid the joint in the wee hours–I understand there has been at least one murder in the parking lot. I’m in bed long before most of the drunken revelry, so that’s not an issue for me.

There is one little spot, a sushi joint, that I’m saving for later. It is down an alley-way, a block over from the Sorabol, and it’s quite hidden from the street. Peering in the window, it appears to be the real deal.

Although I’ve liked what sushi I’ve tried, from what I’ve heard I’ve never had the real stuff. Perhaps this will be the place. I expect it will be expensive, and I expect I will not want to be there for a “quick” meal. I will wait until my last night here, when I don’t have to get up early the next morning, and I will belly up to the bar, and let what happens happen. I don’t know much about the etiquette expected at such a place. I know that dunking your sushi in soy sauce is ultra-gauche, so that at least I will avoid, even though I do it all of the time with the usual supermarket stuff I eat. We’ll see how it goes.

Aloha!