Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Louie's Gen-Gen Room

I *still* haven't ever been able to get my act together to get a reservation for Lihiliho Yacht Club.  Every time I have a reason to go, I try to make a reservation, and it is fully booked.

The same has historically been true for Louie's Gen-Gen Room, the cocktail bar hiding in the basement.  Yes, even a couple weeks in advance, I haven't been able to get a reservation there either!

But when I had a visitor in town recently, I finally did, likely as we were going for an early dinner, on a Monday evening, only 3 of us.
70% of the Menu!
I really enjoyed more than half the dishes we ordered.  Some serious highlights.

I'll gladly return, and even more gladly, finally get in to Lihiliho!

Setting

Louie's Gen-Gen Room is located in the basement of Lihiliho Yaucht Club.  I can't quite define the style ... uh, modern island basement vibe?
Stairs Down ...
Finding Louie's Gen-Gen Room is not obvious.  There is no signage on the street.  No signage inside.  I checked in at the hostess stand for Lihiliho hesitantly, unsure of where I should be.

We were given instructions to walk through the whole restaurant, through to the back, and then down some stairs.

The stairwell was actually nice, it didn't feel like heading into a dingy basement.
Finally! A sign!
 And at the bottom, finally, a sign we were in the right place.
Bar.
I was shocked when I saw how tiny it was.

A small bar, 3 standing tables along the wall.
Standing Tables.
The standing tables were marble, facing into the brick walls.  Basement vibe, but a nice one.

I believe this area is for walk-ins.
Seating.
And then, the main seating.  The same white marble tables, but full (albeit small), rounds.  4 tables of 2, 3 tables of 4, although all made of small tables so I'm sure they can re-configure as needed.

This area did have a bit of an island vibe, turquoise benches, palm trees on the wallpaper.

All reservation based.  About half the tables while we were here were couples just having a drink and small snack before moving up to the restaurant, the other half, like us, were there to dine.
Bar & Kitchen.
The bar and kitchen are in the same small space, with half the area occupied by each, each with a single staff member working it.

The kitchen was a thing of wonder.  It featured ... yes, a toaster oven and waffle iron.  Which basically resembles my kitchen (I literally have half my stove burners covered up with butcher block cutting boards with my waffle iron on top ...), and, um, they have the same (amazing) toaster oven I do too!

Reflecting on the menu, I realized that everything truly could be prepared (ok, finished) in this space - all room temp or chilled items, items simply needing heating, or, waffles.

No wonder the menu appealed so much to me, this is my style of "cooking"!
Wine Cellar.
 En route to the bathroom is the wine cellar for both establishments.  Appropriately in a basement?
Unisex Bathroom.
A call out to the bathroom just because it is a true non-gendered restroom, two individual rooms with full size doors for the stalls, shared hand washing station.  The bright island colors continue here as well.

Drinks

As I described, half the kitchen/bar is, well, the bar.  So cocktails are a big part of the program, along with a decent spirit, and obviously wine, list.
Cocktail Menu.
Since the bar is such a focal point, I wanted to go for a cocktail. The menu had a bunch of great sounding options, interesting, diverse ingredients, particularly "island" ingredients like guava, mango, pineapple, and passionfruit.

One thing missing was decent non-alcoholic cocktails.  They could only make 2 drinks, both quite fruity.  The server, and the bartender, were not interested in doing anything different.
Young Coconut. $13.
"Novo fogo cachaca, falernum, coconut water, lime, green chartreuse."

For a cocktail, I went for something a bit different from my normal bourbon, scotch, or tequila choices.  I was ... uh, a bit hungover from an epic night before, and really wanted something lighter.

This was indeed what I was looking for.  Very refreshing, a touch sweet from the falernum, and then ... yup, chartreuse!  No mistaking that.

The right selection for me, for the night.

Food

The food is all share style, all sorta bar snacks, but all breaking the mold in some way. 
Food Menu.
The food menu is not extensive, and fits on a single page.  10 total savory, 2 sweet.

We skipped only three savory items: the one of the two poke dishes (ahi, but it has avocado which i'm allergic to), the actual avocado dish (their play on avocado toast but with crispy nori as a base, again, because of the avocado), and the kimchi-cheese dip (it has crab, which sounded good, but we were cheese'd out).
And ... shockingly for me, we skipped both sweets.  One was ruled out since it has caffeine (coffee milk and cocoa nibs) and the other was a cardamom and citrus cheesecake ... which just isn't really my thing.  I really wish we could have ordered dessert from upstairs though ... I've been drooling over that dessert menu!

Food came one dish at a time, generally quite fast, the chilled items faster than cooked.  It was easy to opt to add more as we wanted it.

Round 1

Since we weren't sure what portions would be like, we actually only started with 4 dishes, then added on 2 more, and then a final one.

First up was a room temp item, a chilled item, one toaster oven item, and one waffled item.  Full spectrum of the menu.

3 of my top 4 items were in this round, which somewhat makes sense, as I ordered according to what I wanted most.
Beef Jerky. $9.10.
"Imperial wagyu, 5 spice." 

We started with the beef jerky, which arrived faster than our cocktails even.  It is a room temp item and was just put on a plate, so no prep required, but I still shocked at the speed.

I've realized that I just don't like 5 spice.  Otherwise, this was fine jerky, decent chew to it, but I didn't care for the spicing.

My second to least favorite dish, but the others liked it (it was one diner's second favorite item), and it was a nice simple protein option.
Potato Chips. $13.
"French onion, egg, chives, smoked trout caviar."

Very quickly following came their version of chips and dip ... or their version of classic caviar service.  However you want to think of it.  Fusion time.  My fellow diners were a bit confused why I wanted to order the "potato chips", but I tried to explain it wasn't what they were thinking.

House made potato chips, with dip served in the caviar jar.  Cute touch.  As was the traditional mother of pearl spoon to scoop it onto the chips.

The chips were fine, fresh enough, crisp, not oily.

We opted for the smoked trout version, but this is also available with real caviar, if you prefer, for $48.36.  Both versions use Tsar Nicoulai.
Potato Chips: Side View.
Here you can see the composition of the dip: trout roe on the bottom, french onion creme fraiche, chopped egg, a sprinkle of chives.

The layers of the dip/spread worked really well.  Great smoke and saltiness from the roe, creaminess from the french onion creme fraiche, and lots of onion flavor.  Tasty, flavorful, quite good.

Top pick for one diner, my 4th pick, something I'd gladly have again, but don't feel compelled to "need" it.
Pigs In A Blanket. $9.88.
"Home made spam, pepperjack, dijonaise." 

A moment later ... yes, pigs in a blanket.  Hot, fresh, bubbling ... yup, fresh from the toaster oven!

Of course, these are not standard pigs in a blanket.  They had house made spam in place of the hot dog.  The puff pastry was sprinkled with furikake.  They had ... cheese.  Oozing out.  Oh yes.

There were two items I was very excited for, on my "must have" list, and this was one of them.

They were very good.

The pastry was buttery and slightly crisp, and as someone who adores furikake (I sprinkle this stuff on everything!  Seriously, try adding it to your Caesar salad in particular, life changing), I was thrilled to see it there.

The spam was a great improvement on a hot dog, much better flavor, good firm texture.

The cheese was pepperjack, which I'd never normally pick (I'm team "Meh" on jack cheese in general), but it did work here, and melted beautifully.  It also provided a tiny bit of kick.

The only thing I didn't quite like was the dijonaise, which is a bit funny, as I love my mayo/aiolis, I love dipping sauces.  But here it kinda overwhelmed everything else, too much mayo flavor.  I preferred my pig without the dijonaise, but I actually think an island style ketchup would work better (Filipino banana ketchup I think would be great, or even a Hawaiian bbq sauce).

An order normally has only 2 pigs in a blanket, but our server asked if we would like 3.  The bill came with a normal order and an order of just 1, and I appreciated that they offered, and suggested, this.

My 3rd pick of the night, a very nice item, but not as unique as my top two choices.  I'd still gladly get them again.
Bone Marrow Butter Waffle. $13.78.
"Smoked sturgeon, avocado green goddess, fennel, everything spice." 

Given my .... obsession with waffles (or generally more specifically waffling leftovers), it should come as no surprise that the savory waffle was on my "Must Order" list (there is also a dessert waffle, and a waffle masquerading as a grilled cheese, keep reading for that!).  It came cut already into 4 portions, very easy to split.

So yes, a bone marrow butter waffle.  Entirely a savory item, no question.

The shaved fennel, pickled red onion, and everything spice on top ensured you were not tricked into thinking this was a dessert.  Strong flavors, yet fresh, and the fennel gave a touch of lightness to what was otherwise a very heavy dish.

Under the fennel was smoked sturgeon, a chunk on each quadrant.  Slightly smoky, firm, fish.  Not particularly remarkable, and I'm still not entirely sold on it being the right thing to be there, but, hey, protein?

Under that was two layers of sauces.  The entire thing was spread with a creamy white substance that I was confused by at first.  What was it?  It turned out to be bone marrow butter.  Lots of rich, decadent bone marrow butter.  It was great.  Drizzled on top of that was the green goddess, which I attempted to avoid but failed, since I'm allergic to avocado (not *horribly* allergic, but, one quadrant's worth of drizzle was about as much as I should ever have).

And then, the perfectly crispy waffle.  I'm not sure exactly what the batter is, as I really thought I tasted something almost corn meal like.  Slight grit, slight interesting flavor and texture.

Put it all together, and you get a very rich, very fascinating, savory waffle.  Creamy, crispy, decadent, great (if only it had no avocado!).

This was wonderful, but only my second pick of the night.  I'd gladly have it again though.

Round 2

Since we needed more, we added on at this point.  No one had strong preferences on what to order, so I asked our server if she had any must-haves.  She suggested one of the pokes, so we went for one of those, thinking a lighter option would be a nice balance after the cheesy pigs in a blanket and the very decadent bone marrow waffle.

And ... uh, we ordered the grilled cheese.  Forget what I said about balance.  And, correction: *I* ordered the grilled cheese, the others were leaning more towards beef tartar, cheesy crab dip, etc.  Who orders grilled cheese anyway?  Answer: me, and I'm glad we did.
Hamachi Poke. $14.82.
"Spicy mayo, black sesame, octo puff."

I've been kinda sick of raw fish recently, so I actually skipped this one, especially as I was filling up and had my eyes on the grilled cheese.

Presentation wise though it was nice, served in crispy puff cups, and garnished with black sesame, sliced radish, and a dot of spicy mayo.

The other two diners seemed to like it, opting to split the 3rd portion so they could both have more.
Grilled Cheese. $11.96.
"Taleggio, black truffles, honey butter."

And then ... the grilled cheese.  Also cut into 4 chunks already for us, like the other waffle.

Yes, that is a grilled cheese.  Yes, it is a waffle.  This restaurant speaks my language, like I said.  Why else would I order a grilled cheese?  I knew what this would be, even if the others were a bit skeptical why I kept insisting we get the grilled cheese.

It was made with bread, not waffle dough.  Perfectly crispy.  Topped with shaved black truffle and finely shaved taleggio.  The truffle, while not overly generous, was detectable throughout.

And inside?  Ooey, gooey, perfectly hot, stringy in a fun way, perfectly melted cheese.  Glorious, glorious cheese.  And honey butter, which I assume was also spread on the outside, giving it the extra crispy exterior.

It was sweet from the honey.  It was salty from the taleggio.  It was savory from the bread, the truffle, and the cheese.  It was hot. It was crisp.  It was gooey.  It was ... insanely decadent.  So much cheese, so much honey butter, so much goodness.

I really adored this, the flavors and textures worked well together, and it was clearly a dish they have perfected.  Execution-wise?  #nailedIt  My favorite dish of the night, and I'd return just for that any time.

Round 3

At this point, we wanted just one more thing.

Normally, I'm all about desserts{LINK}.  But ... since we couldn't have the dessert waffle (caffeine in the coffee milk caramel and cocoa nibs) and the cheesecake wasn't appealing to me (cardamom and citrus), we had to do something else.   I tried (unsuccessfully, but I figured it was worth asking!) to order a dessert from upstairs, but alas, nope.

And honestly, I was pretty satisfied with the other two waffles as quasi dessert items anyway.  The bone marrow waffle was actually entirely savory, but the honey in the grilled cheese gave it a slight dessert feel, probably not enough for me to normally feel like my dessert sweet tooth was satisfied, but, I had been at a gala the night before with literally ... 30? 40? 50? dessert bites, and let's just say I may have over indulged.  And I may have had some more waiting for me at home.

So, we got a final savory item, the one the others wanted the most.
Beef Tartare. $14.82.
"Cashews, toasted coconut, crispy vermicelli, fish sauce - lime dressing."

I'm not generally one for tartare, but like I said, I was pretty satisfied.  Plus, the nuts and coconut sounded unique, and I do love fish sauce.

We were instructed very clearly to give this a big stir.  Which was quite necessary, as the top was all vermicelli noodles, and the beef was hiding under it all.

I didn't care for this.  There was far more vermicelli than beef, which came as tiny cubes.  It was like a crispy noodle salad with some cubes of raw beef as a garnish, rather than a beef forward dish.  And the noodles got soggy nearly immediately.

One other diner also didn't care for it, "Wow, I really didn't like that", was all he said, and didn't take a second bite, but the other happily just ate it all.

Least favorite dish for two of us, and the only one I'd say was actually unsuccessful.
Liholiho Yacht Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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