On Oahu, the dining scene has always been bright in Kaimuki, a residential area on the east side of town near the University of Hawaii. But during my last visit, it seemed like Kaimuki is THE place for eating as everyone undoubtedly would recommend a restaurant in the area.
One of the most popular spot is the 12th Avenue Grill, which has been around for a few years but just recently opened in a new expanded space (still on 12th Avenue).
Walking in, I felt like I was dining somewhere in the Bay Area, with the contemporary décor, bustling bar, blackboard menu wall, and locally sourced seasonal menu. Dining with my nephew Chris and his girlfriend, Mary, I was impressed by the menu, which had many local ingredients, many coming from the Big Island.
Despite the constant flow of people coming in for dinner, the staff was friendly and polished, staying on top of everything even during the peak busy times.
I was excited to see Hawaiian kampachi on the menu (a sustainable fish that popped up on Bay Area menus a few years ago but now seem hard to find), and we had a starter of seared kampachi crudo ($13), nicely done and served with a chimichurri sauce.
An ahi bruschetta ($9) was also enjoyable, although I couldn’t help but think that at its core we were eating tuna salad on toasted bread.
The main courses were substantial with lots of Hawaii twists, like Chris’ duck ($26) with pink peppercorn tagliatelle served with Big Island kabocha and my pork osso bucco ($25) with Hau’ula tomato and pecorino bread pudding.
One of the signature dishes is the hefty 12-oz grilled pork chop ($27) that Mary ordered, with the juicy chop served on top of crispy potato pancake and chutney stuffed apple.
The Hawaiian ingredients continued with desserts, like the Lilikoi mochi cake. Lilikoi is passion fruit, and mochi is the Japanese sticky rice treat. In Hawaii, it’s a local delicacy to use the sticky rice flour to make cake, resulting in a chewy cake bar. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a mochi cake, so I really liked this version from 12th Avenue Grill.
But we also loved the Naked Cow Dairy fromage blanc cheesecake ($8). The cheesecake texture had the right balance of light and rich, and it would have been great alone without the Big Island poha berry-Manoa honey sauce.
The Last Bite
Chef/Owner Kevin Hanney has created a beautiful new space to highlight Executive Chef Jason Schoonover’s intricate and delicious menu. The 12th Avenue Grill deftly takes on the trends coming from the mainland but delivers them with a local touch.
12th Avenue Grill, 1120 12th Ave., Honolulu. PH: 808.732.9469. Dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. 12thavegrill.com
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