Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!



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(NYC) On a budget/new to the city? You cannot go a second longer without THIS LIST!

Photo courtesy of Michelin MediaThis just in from Michelin: Today, the highly anticipated Bib Gourmand list was published for 2016!  For those of you who aren't familiar:

"The Bib Gourmand represents restaurants where diners can enjoy quality food at attractive prices.  These "trophies," if you will, are awarded by Michelin’s anonymous inspectors to restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included).  This year’s Bib Gourmand list welcomes 27 new restaurants and features 18 different types of cuisine.  Significantly, many newly recognized restaurants are located in Brooklyn and Queens, highlighting this year again the continuing trend of quality dining emerging throughout all of New York’s boroughs."

Regardless of the depth of your pockets or your NYC status (tourist vs. newbie vs. lifer), you cannot go a second longer without this list in your arsenal!!  Take a peak at my poor attempt at a spreadsheet, below, or view it on the web here.  You're welcome in advance!


Borough District Establishment
Brooklyn Williamsburg Baci & Abbracci
Brooklyn Downtown Buttermilk Channel
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Chavela's
Brooklyn Williamsburg Diner
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Do or Dine (closed)
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach East Harbor Seafood Palace
Brooklyn Williamsburg Egg
Brooklyn Park Slope  Elberta
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Falansai
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Faro
Brooklyn Downtown Frankies 457 Spuntino
Brooklyn Downtown Ganso Ramen
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick General Greene (The)
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Gladys
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Good Fork (The)
Brooklyn Downtown Gran Eléctrica
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Hometown Bar-B-Que
Brooklyn Park Slope  Lea
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Lulu & Po
Brooklyn Williamsburg Marlow & Sons
Brooklyn Downtown Mile End
Brooklyn Williamsburg Paulie Gee's
Brooklyn Downtown Prime Meats
Brooklyn Park Slope  Purple Yam
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Roberta's
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Runner & Stone
Brooklyn Williamsburg Rye
Brooklyn Williamsburg Shalom Japan
Brooklyn Downtown Sottocasa
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Speedy Romeo
Brooklyn Sunset Park & Brighton Beach Tanoreen
Brooklyn Williamsburg Traif
Brooklyn Fort Greene & Bushwick Umi NOM
Brooklyn Downtown Vinegar Hill House
Brooklyn Williamsburg Xixa
Brooklyn Williamsburg Zizi Limona
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square ABC Cocina
Manhattan Midtown East al Bustan
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Baker & Co.
Manhattan East Village Bar Primi
Manhattan Upper East Side Beyoglu
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Bianca
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Boqueria
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Bread & Tulips
Manhattan Midtown West Cho Dang Gol
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Ciccio
Manhattan Lower East Side Congee Village
Manhattan Chelsea Coppelia
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Crispo
Manhattan East Village DBGB Kitchen & Bar  
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Dim Sum Go Go
Manhattan Midtown West Don Antonio by Starita
Manhattan East Village Donostia
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Ed's Lobster Bar
Manhattan Midtown East El Parador
Manhattan Midtown East HanGawi
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Hecho en Dumbo
Manhattan Midtown East Hide-Chan Ramen
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Hill Country Chicken
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights J. Restaurant Chez Asta
Manhattan Upper East Side J.G. Melon
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Jin Ramen
Manhattan Lower East Side Katz's
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Kesté Pizza & Vino
Manhattan TriBeCa Khe-Yo
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Kiin Thai
Manhattan Midtown West Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen
Manhattan Midtown East Land of Plenty
Manhattan Midtown West Larb Ubol
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Laut
Manhattan East Village Lil' Frankie's
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Lupa
Manhattan Midtown East Mapo Tofu
Manhattan Upper West Side Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too
Manhattan East Village Momofuku Noodle Bar
Manhattan East Village Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Momokawa
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy New Malaysia
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Nyonya
Manhattan East Village Oiji
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Pearl & Ash
Manhattan Midtown East Phoenix Garden
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Pippali
Manhattan East Village Porsena
Manhattan Chelsea Prova
Manhattan East Village Prune
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Rubirosa
Manhattan Lower East Side Russ & Daughters Cafe
Manhattan Upper East Side San Matteo
Manhattan Chinatown & Little Italy Shanghai Café
Manhattan SoHo & Nolita Snack
Manhattan East Village Soba-Ya
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Streetbird Rotisserie
Manhattan East Village Supper
Manhattan Midtown West Szechuan Gourmet
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Tertulia
Manhattan Lower East Side Thelma on Clinton
Manhattan Gramercy, Flatiron & Union Square Turkish Kitchen
Manhattan Greenwich & West Village Untitled
Manhattan Upper East Side Uva
Manhattan Midtown East Wild Edibles
Manhattan Lower East Side Yunnan Kitchen
Manhattan Harlem, Morningside & Washington Heights Zoma
Queens   Basil Brick Oven Pizza
Queens   Biáng!
Queens   bún-ker
Queens   Casa del Chef Bistro
Queens   Gregory's 26 Corner Taverna
Queens   Hahm Ji Bach
Queens   HinoMaru Ramen
Queens   Hunan House
Queens   Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
Queens   Il Poeta
Queens   John Brown Smokehouse
Queens   Little Pepper
Queens   Mu Ramen
Queens   Paet Rio
Queens   Salt & Fat
Queens   Sweet Yummy House
Queens   Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi
Queens   Uncle Zhou
Queens   Venturo Osteria & Wine Bar
Queens   Zabb Elee
Staten Island   Enoteca Maria
Staten Island   San Rasa
Staten Island   Vida
The Bronx   Havana Café
The Bronx   Mexicosina
The Bronx   Tra Di Noi
The Bronx  

zero otto nove



(NYC) BBQ'ing in Brooklyn with Questlove, George Takei, and friends

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*


Hosted and curated by QUESTLOVE, the Taste Talks All-Star BBQ brought world-renowned chefs together in Brooklyn to whip up their signature dishes al-fresco!  Check out the incredibly brag-worthy lineup, description of offerings, and my thoughts, below.

Photo courtesy of Taste Talks.


Michael Psilakis (MP Taverna, Kefi, Fishtag) // Jarobi White (Musician; Eats, Rhymes & Life)

The chefs paired up with Los Angeles’ famed La Brea Bakery and created a pulled-lamb slider that made for an awesome start to the day!  This early favorite wowed me with a plethora of kick and an amazing range of flavor. 

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) // Dan Santoro & Bert Krak (Smith Street Tattoo)
RAW LAMB LARD & BBQ YUZU CABBAGE | With fish sauce, brown butter, mint, and thai basil

Certainly an interesting interpretation for a BBQ festival, this dish stood out for its lack of cooking (read: BBQ’ing) and its awkward (tang from the bitter yuzu) and inedible (charred cabbage) flavors.  Another time/another place, perhaps.  But here?  At a BBQ festival?  No.  Just no.

Alex Stupak (Empellón) // Damian Higgins AKA Dieselboy (DJ/Producer)
LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA | Grilled short rib patty on a potato roll, Tex Mex style queso, red pepper-chorizo relish, crispy gaufrettes, smoked mayonnaise

What a remarkable slider!  Cooked to a perfect ‘medium rare,’ short rib beef patties were topped with smoked mayo, crinkle-cut potato chips, and – my favorite - Texas queso before being sandwiched within a soft and squishy potato bun.

Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)

Although I found this portion to be on the smaller side, the sausage managed to fully deliver thanks to the inherent richness of the duck.  The plum jam proved to be a fantastic companion, to boot!

Rob Newton (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9, Smith Canteen) // Lee Gregory & Joe Sparatta (Southbound)
GRILLED PORK SHOULDER | With rice noodles, Virginia peanuts, cucumbers and herbs

The succulent, savory pork melted in my mouth.  I was so taken by this dish, I had to sit down!  The rice noodle-salad had a very familiar flavor, although it wasn’t listed - chicharrones, perhaps?


Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the large presence of seafood dishes - from mussels and crab to lobster tails!

Hugue DuFour (M. Wells) // Mark Hegedus (Blue Point Brewing)

This was the longest line at the BBQ, and rightfully so: Hugue Dufour’s platter was so ample that it required me finding a seat to navigate through the plate of crab, summer corn, and Parker House rolls.

Ben Conniff (Luke's Lobster) // Matt Timms (The Takedowns)
CHILI-BUTTER LOBSTER TAILS | With grilled cabbage and corn slaw

These ‘tails were a surprise treat and very-well received amongst the heavier, "land" proteins.  Buttery and light with a nice amount of char, the lobster tails were served alongside a colorful purple cabbage and corn salad.

Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) // Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black)
GRILLED MUSSELS | with Korean gujoung pork fat butter and fermented cornbread peptia crumble

After an unforgiving rainstorm, this was the final savory booth that I visited.  And although my plate was a bit wet from the elements, the vibrancy of the flavors remained intact and the mussels, themselves, were delicious.


Dessert: What a welcome addition to a BBQ festival!

Laura O'Neill & Ben Van Leeuwen (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream// Sharon Van Etten (Musician)
TRIPLE PEANUT | Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and crunchy peanut brittle
BUTTERMILK JAM | Buttermilk ice cream swirled with house made raspberry jam

This creative ice cream-version of a PB&J sandwich was chock-full of natural ingredients which helped me chase away any lingering feelings of guilt.

Allison & Matt Robicelli (Robicelli's Bakery) // George Takei & Telly Leung (Actors, Allegiance A New Musical)
FUJI APPLE PIE | With miso caramel and vanilla bean tofu cream

A unique take on the American staple (apple pie), this slice of heaven was made even sweeter by the fact that it was served by none other than George Takei (modern celebrity hero) and Telly Leung (actor, equal rights activist).


While I made it a point to sample everything, there was only so much time and room in my stomach!  The following are the four booths that, unfortunately, I did not get to experience:

Justin Smillie (Upland) // Heems (Musician)
GRILLED VEAL RIBS | With charred cherry tomato salsa

Pierre Thiam (Pierre Thiam Catering) // Island Creek Oysters
GRILLED OYSTERS | With Spicy Smoked Crayfish Mignonette and Cassava Leaves with Peanuts

Roblé Ali (Roblé & Co. & Streets BK)

Shannon Shaffer (Design Cuisine) // Lauren Wagner (Street Art Throwdown) & Jenna Morello (Street Artist)
KOREAN BBQ BEEF BRISKET | Asian pear and fennel slaw, wasabi pearls, puffed rice cracker


Thank you, chefs!Not even scattered thunderstorms could keep the crowds away!  Despite the passing showers, Questlove kept the mood upbeat by spinning for the crowd throughout the entire day.  And what a day it was!



Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle 


So, the Food Network called...

No, really.  They did! 

I was just contacted by a casting director for the Food Network who wanted me to let y'all know that she and her team are scouring the nation looking for the best home cooks!  Why?  Because they're casting for "All-Star Academy!"  

Ten home cooks from across the country are paired up with some of Food Network's biggest names — Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, Curtis Stone and Michael Symon — in the new culinary competition All-Star Academy, hosted by Ted Allen. Each home cook, with the guidance and support from his or her Food Network mentor, competes in intense culinary challenges; each mentor's reputation is on the line during the eight episodes, as each mentor hopes his or her pupil will make it to the finish line. One by one, the home cooks are eliminated by special guest judges who determine which dishes are not up to par. One home cook will be left standing, winning bragging rights and a $50,000 grand prize.

OK, so if you consider yourself to be a Food Network fanatic and truly skilled home cook who prepares elevated dishes completely from scratch, then read the flier, below, and apply!  What are you waiting for?


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(Honolulu) Reviewed: Azure

Restaurant: Azure

  • Cuisine: Regional American
  • Location: The Royal Hawaiian (Hotel), 2259 Kalakaua Avenue - Honolulu 96815  
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Everything
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining, date night, small groups, foodies, views


For someone who has grown up vacationing in Oahu, my family and I have amassed quite a number of special haunts and go-to eateries over the years.  In Kailua, we love Island Snow for shave ice, Saeng's for Thai, and Buzz's Steakhouse for Mai Tai's - ahi poke - and the freshest local fish.  And in Honolulu, no trip is complete without a visit to Tanaka of Tokyo for the best teppanyaki this side of, well, Tokyo.

Prior to spending this past Labor Day weekend in Honolulu, I realized something: This would be my first time visiting the island without my family in tow!  With a limited number of dinner reservations to plan, would I set one night aside to making a pilgrimage at Tanaka of Tokyo?  Or, at 35 years old, was it time for me to make my own culinary footprints and memories in this land of nostalgia?   

Ultimately, I never ended up dining at Tanaka of Tokyo.  However, I'm happy to report that I corralled a pretty solid list of my own go-to eateries.  One that particularly stands out is Azure at The Royal Hawaiian.  Not only was it the best meal of my trip - it's the best meal I've had in recent memory.


Amanda and I arrived at the sprawling pink resort just before 8pm - post the Hilton Hawaiian Village's weekly fireworks show/extravaganza (held every Friday night at 7:45PM) - and meandered our way to the restaurant through the property's lush courtyards and richly-appointed public spaces.

Upon arrival at Azure, Amanda and I could not help but be taken by the restaurant's stunning, Spanish-Moorish interior decor and tranquil aura.  With breaths taken and mouths agape, we were promptly ushered to our lovely two-top, located merely feet from the sand of Waikiki Beach. 

Photo captured via the restaurant's websiteWith menu prices on the steeper side, Amanda and I decided to gorge on the (gratis) bountiful bread basket, split an appetizer, each order an entree, and drink our dessert. 


For an appetizer, we chose the Azure Sashimi.

First, Hawaiian yellowfin ahi (tuna) was blanketed by a slice of Japanese hamachi (of equal size).  Prior to being rolled like a pseudo burrito, a dollop of guacamole crowned the raw fish.  Served as a set of three, the sashimi sat atop a shallow pool of fragrant ginger vinaigrette. 

From the freshness and quality of each ingredient (namely the seafood) and the overwhelming success achieved from the melange of contrasting flavors (guacamole and ginger vinaigrette) - to the fried pineapple frond used as a garnish - every aspect of this dish married magnificently together, thus creating the pinnacle of culinary perfection.  It was, unquestionably, one of the best seafood dishes that I've ever experienced. 


For my entree, I chose the "Black Magic" Spiced Moonfish (Opah).

Artfully perched atop a generous helping of Nozawa Farms' sweet corn-pudding were two moonfish filets, liberally rubbed with the Azure's "Black Magic" spices.  Black and white sesame seeds, micro greens (providing for, if nothing else, a fabulous color contrast), and ginger/sesame vinaigrette completed this gorgeous plate.

Another solid win/slam dunk for Azure (and my taste buds)!  I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the "Black Magic" spices did not completely overpower the incredibly flaky, delicate fish.  How that was successfully achieved, I would love to know! 

"Amanda," I gasped, "do you realize that we've not spoken to each other once since our entrees arrived?"  She returned my inquiry with a puzzled gaze before looking down at her plate and smiling.  "Lindsay," she chuckled, "the conversation can wait, girl!  This food is too delicious to be interrupted!"  She was right.


If you find yourself in Honolulu in the near future, you absolutely must pay a visit to Azure.  Having dined all over the island, I can confidently say that this is one of Oahu's best restaurants (and restaurant experiences) and my personal favorite. 


Aloha and until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Dinner at Fushimi

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*

Restaurant: Fushimi

  • Cuisine: Modern Japanese
  • Location: 475 Driggs Avenue - Brooklyn 11211  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Sake, tuna appetizers (gyoza, tartar), Chef's sashimi, "New Style" Sushi
  • Perfect for: Happy hour, date night, corporate events


For my review of Fushimi, I brought along one of my best friends, Glen, who, aside from being a big fan of Japanese food, had previously hosted his birthday dinner at the restaurant!  Let's just put it this way: Glen loves sushi as much as I love tacos.  Now that's love! 

Glen and I arrived early and were met with great joy by Sunny, General Manager of Fushimi's 8,750 square foot third location.  He quickly ushered us to a spacious booth, which was adorned by ornate silkscreen designs.

Kicking off our VIP dining experience, our server presented us with warm, moist hand towelettes before suggesting that we inaugurate our “friend date” with an ice-cold glass of Ty Ku Cucumber Sake.  We certainly were not disappointed with this incredibly refreshing and light adult beverage, which proved picture-perfect for that sweltering summer eve.



Spicy Tuna Gyoza (served atop guacamole!)

Surely, they must have put this amazing morsel of Japanese + Mexican fusion on the menu just for me, right?  I was not expecting to find my favorite Mexican condiment at a Japanese restaurant – of all places - but even more surprising was the fact that Fushimi’s version of guacamole was some of the best I’ve sampled of late…and that’s not excluding Mexican cafes and taquerias!

The plump gyoza was stuffed with cabbage, ginger, garlic, carrots, parsley, sake, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and fresh tuna before being lightly battered and fried.  Absolutely delicious!!

Tuna Tartare

The presentation of this dish was fantastic!  Crowned with minced chives, a dollop of caviar and avocado, the tartare had a je nais sais quoi smoky flavor that, while mysteriously familiar, was also incredibly sexy and new.

Upon inquiring, I was informed that the smokiness came courtesy of furikake, a popular Japanese condiment mainly used as a seasoning for rice.  It is composed of toasted sesame, bits of nori, bonito flakes, dried vegetables, dried egg, puffed and toasted rice, salt and spices.


We took a quick TV-style timeout from all of the delicious eats to re-up on our cocktails.  Glen chose a frozen beer (half a pint glass of Sapporo served chilled, topped with frozen/Slushee-style Sapporo).  I, on the other hand, went with peppy and sweet Coconut Saketini (coconut rum, Ty-Ku Coconut Sake, coconut flakes).

This was followed by a prompt pit stop to the coolest bathroom ever...possibly even rivaling the stalls at now shuttered Bar 89!

Photo found on Yelp

Chef’s Signature Roll (king crab & king salmon)

Note: As this particular roll is part of a rotating/seasonal menu, please check your with your specific location for the most up-to-date latest specials.

Seared king salmon crowned each piece of the generously-sliced roll, which contained Alaskan king crab, inari (seasoned deep fried tofu), mango, cucumber, and avocado.


Main course(s)

Chef’s sashimi

Note: Selection changes daily

This “omakase” style portion of our meal was a total education for me!  Each piece of fish had different toppings/pairings and was served as a pair; perfect for sharing!

Having never tasted uni (sea urchin), I chose it as my first selection from Chef’s platter.  The creamy flesh had a delightfully buttery texture and, quite literally, melted in my mouth.

The other samplings included:

  • Tuna (guacamole, Maui onion, and peach salsa)
  • King Salmon (topped with yuzu jelly, scallion)
  • Hamachi (dressed with yuzu soy vinaigrette, slice of jalapeno)
  • Tonburi (mountain caviar)
  • Ikura (cucumber stuffed with crab tartar)

New Style Sushi: Today’s seasonal sushi selection with “new style” toppings

  • Sweet raw shrimp (mango cucumber salsa)
  • Eel (avocado and arima sansho -- I can’t get enough avocado, and am pleasantly surprised at the inversed relationship of the edible vs. garnish. This particular selection was my personal favorite!)
  • Uni (“match stick” cuts of mountain yam)
  • King Salmon (creme fraiche and yuzu gelee)
  • Yellowtail (chopped jalapeño and yuzu soy vinaigrette)

Every intricate cut had its significance, and the flavors resonated with the love of the craft as intended by Chef.  Each unique piece was truly marvelous!




You wouldn’t think that I’d have to travel to a Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn to enjoy one of the best versions of tiramisu that I’ve ever had – and that includes Italian cafes in/around NYC and a recent trip to Italy!  I’m telling you, this tiramisu is worth the trek over the bridge/under the tunnel/via the airplane.  It was *that* delicious!


The various cultural integrations, as well as modernizations of traditional cuisine on Fushimi’s menu, are some of the many characteristics that allow the restaurant to stand out among so many other Japanese/fusion/sushi competitors.  

With a rotating menu boasting the freshest seafood – a keen attention to culinary detail – plus amazing service and a warm ambience, Fushimi is a strong winner.


Until we eat again,

Edgar for The Lunch Belle


(Honolulu) Reviewed: Buho Cocina y Cantina

Restaurant: Buho Cocina y Cantina

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Location: 2250 Kalakaua Avenue, Level 5 - Honolulu 96815  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Cocktails, queso fundido (newer version made w/ white, stringy cheese), tacos, chips + salsa + chunky guacamole, enchilada plate (great rice & beans, to boot)
  • Perfect for: Rooftop/al-fresco dining, happy hour, homesick Californians & Texans, date night, group dining/imbibing


Prior to my recent jaunt to Oahu, I spent hours upon hours scouring and cross referencing dining websites for the best places to eat in Honolulu.  In a locale especially famous for its regional/Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines, you can imagine my curiosity after having read about Buho Cocina y Cantina, a contemporary Mexican restaurant/bar perched high above the palm tree-fronds and Waikiki Beach...

Having made reservations at more, shall we say, "Hawaiian-centric" restaurants for the majority of our meals, I figured that Buho would be a welcome distraction.  My interest (in the restaurant) was further piqued when I learned that Chef Silva was a Mexico City native.  Music to mis orejas!  And a *much easier* sell to my travel sidekick, Amanda, who trepidatiously agreed to accompany me to a (gasp) Mexican joint.  In Hawaii.

Given my preference for beach-side dining, I've not been to many restaurants in Honolulu where I've had to utilize an elevator.  However, once the doors opened to reveal Buho's spectacular 12,300 square foot-rooftop, Amanda and I were overwhelmed by its stunning 360-degree views - indoor and outdoor seating enclaves - the gorgeous and diverse clientele - and a sizzling Latin aura/vibe.  "This place is fantastic!" Amanda exclaimed.  "Can you imagine how awesome it would be to come here on a date?"

Buho's gorgeous al-fresco dining terrace: Photo credit to Honolulu PulseSunset - and a killer view - at Buho: Photo credit to The Waikiki Shopping PlazaTo properly kick off our meal - and holiday, for that matter - Amanda and I each ordered a tequila-based cocktail: A muddled-strawberry concoction for her and, for me, a classic/traditional margarita.  Salud!

While much of the literature I had read prior to my arrival boasted of Buho's "stylish spins" and "remixes" on Mexican food (think dishes made with "right now" ingredients like pork belly and kale, plus menu items like Quinoa-Stuffed Chile Rellenos), I had absolutely no interest in ordering any of the like.  What?  I'm a traditionalist!  That means no kale salads - no quesadillas made with goat cheese - no jalapeno poppers - and, for the love of God, no fried calamari or French fries!  At least not while dining at a Mexican restaurant. 

On that note, I'm going to share some of our favorite traditional dishes from Buho's dinner menu:

Homemade chips, salsa, plus guacamole

Note: Chips/salsa and chips/guac are listed separately on the menu

Although it wasn't nearly as spicy as we would have preferred, Amanda and I could not keep our hands off of the warm, salty, house-made chips and roasted salsa roja.

While I personally found the guacamole to be perfectly flavored and balanced, its texture was incredibly chunky and red onion-heavy, thus leading me to assume that it could potentially pose as a turn off to those less keen on the crunchy, pungent bulb.


Queso Fundido

FYI: Make sure to order this version (white cheese with or w/o chorizo) as opposed to Buho's yellow queso, which I found to be grainy and bland.  Yes, I really said "grainy."

If you were to ask me which three dishes I'd like for my final meal on Death Row, "queso fundido" (a.k.a. "melted cheese" for all of you gringos out there) would unequivocally slide in to either the first or second of the three slots. 

As if this bowl of molten, stringy white cheese wasn't delicious enough in its naked state, Buho crowned theirs with a mound of fragrant, house-made chorizo.  Three warmed flour tortillas and a small dish of pico-de-gallo served as both accompaniments and crucial ingredients in which to make "queso fundido burritos."


Tacos: Smoked Brisket, Fresh Fish of the Day

From the moist, non-gristly smoked brisket topped with a crunchy red cabbage slaw, buttery chunks of avocado meat, and spicy, pickled jalapenos - to the incredibly fresh and tender ancho-battered fish crowned with the red cabbage slaw, sweet and savory mango pico-de-gallo, lime, and creamy chipotle aioli - Buho absolutely knocked these tacos out of the park.  Wow!

Photo: Smoked Brisket TacosPhoto: "Fresh Fish of the day" Tacos.

Jidori Chicken Enchiladas

In any other instance, I would have ordered cheese enchiladas, but our server insisted that we sample the chicken (enchiladas).  "Jidori is to poultry what Kobe is to beef," he proclaimed.  Done!  I was sold.

Visually, this entree could not have been more attractive; I mean, just look at the gorgeous contrast of colors (in the photo, below)!  In terms of taste, I loved every aspect of this dish, save for the chicken component.  How ironic, right?  Enveloped within the soft folded corn tortillas, the meat - albeit flavorful - came in grilled chunks and was not bound by cheese.  Healthier without a doubt, but if cheese (a binder) is left out of the enchilada, the chicken should be shredded to retain its form and, most importantly, its moisture.    


From its central location, visual appeal, and breathtaking views - to the fantastic service and assortment of both contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes, Buho proved itself amongst the dizzying sea of regional fare-restaurants, houses of predictable cuisine (Italian and American), and state-side chains.  Without a doubt, its arrival has been a much-needed addition to Honolulu's dining - and imbibing - landscape.    


With aloha and until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


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