When vacationing, one often transforms into the ladies who lunch because you’re taking leisurely weekday lunches when most people are at work. In Hawaii, I like to think the “ladies who lunch” crowd more as the “aunties who lunch” because most Hawaiians fondly call an older woman they don’t know as aunty.
So there I was with all the aunties who lunch at the Mariposa Restaurant in Neiman Marcus at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. I blended in easily because I was with my Mom. I decided to take her to Mariposa on her birthday because it has that special-occasion atmosphere with a view of Ala Moana Beach.
Mariposa is so popular that reservations are recommended, and even when I called for lunch reservations I could only get an early seating at 11 a.m. When I arrived with my Mom, the restaurant hadn’t opened yet but there were already people milling around wanting to be sure they got seated.
The restaurant has an open space with a lot of Hawaiian touches, from the large mural of hula dancers on one end to the rotating rattan ceiling fans.
The chef always starts the meal with Neiman Marcus’ signature popover, which is a huge pastry brought individually to your table. The airy popover comes with a special butter, but I just took a small bite and thought it was OK and nothing memorable. The kitchen also sends out a chicken consommé, which was a tad salty for both my and my Mom’s taste.
The menu includes a lot of entrée salads, which really caters to the largely female clientele. (OK, there were a few men there who were probably on business lunches.) My Mom isn’t your typical lady who lunches, so she ordered the pork tenderloin. But she avoided the risotto and stuck with regular steamed rice. (There’s only so much a Chinese mother would do to try to please her food-loving son.)
I ordered the salmon, which came on a bed of farro and roasted Brussels sprouts. The large filet of salmon was cooked well, but a bit bland. A zingy orange-colored sauce helped, although the color was as bright as a pumpkin.
In the end, I wasn’t that impressed by the menu or the level of cooking from the kitchen. For the price and the environment, I expected a bit more sophistication in the dishes. Mariposa’s popularity seems to be fueled by its patio seating (for the OK view) and its association with Neiman Marcus.
Mariposa, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. (level three of Neiman Marcus), Honolulu. PH: 808.951.3420. Open Mon.–Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Web site
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