One of the most anticipated restaurants this year has been Liholiho Yacht Club, a Hawaiian/Asian inspired restaurant, from the same owners as Nopa and Nopalito (read my review here) in San Francisco.
The chef, Ravi Kapur, formerly worked at Boulevard (read my review here) and their sister restaurant, Prospect which both serve New American cuisine. However, Liholiho Yacht Club serves up an entirely different type of cuisine so I was excited to taste the flavors of Californian cuisine but with several types of Asian influences. Like all trendy restaurants in San Francisco these days, Liholiho Yacht Club is a fun hip but casual restaurant with an open kitchen (love it).
Their menu is divided into three parts: small bites, appetizers, and entrées. Everything, and I mean everything, on their menu sounded delicious. However, the entrées looked quite substantial and I wanted to try as many dishes as possible so we ordered mostly small bites and appetizers to share (can’t wait to go back again and try more dishes).
We started off the meal with the most well known dish of Hawaiian cuisine; the tuna poke. Traditionally, poke is a raw salad made with fish, usually ahi tuna, marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil with seaweed and chili pepper but other kinds of ingredients can also be added. The poke was so flavorful with nice chunks of ruby red tuna, sweet creamy aioli, and bitter crunchy radish all piled on top of a crisp nori cracker.
Next, we tried the beef tongue on a poppy seed steam bun. The idea of eating beef tongue was making me slightly nervous because I had a terrible experience imbedded in my memory from culinary school in Italy. Not only did I have to clean an entire beef tongue but the smell of it while it was cooking was awful! And once it was done cooking, all the accompaniments served with the beef tongue were depressing making just an overall horrible dish. Thank you to Liholiho Yacht Club for forever changing my mind that beef tongue can be good, wait not good, great! This tender beef tongue was slathered in a sweet asian inspired bbq sauce served with crunchy kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) and sour pickles on a fluffy poppy seed steam bun. SOOO good. I do wish the kimchi was a bit spicier to add more of a punch but that’s just my preference.
Our last small bite was the duck liver mousse toast; if you haven’t noticed already from my previous posts, i’m kind of a freak when it comes to duck or chicken liver mousse. I love it!!! The duck liver mousse was creamy and smooth (and not overly livery) with sweet and sour pickled pineapple and a touch of heat from the crunchy jalapeños.
One of their signature dishes is the marinated squid salad with tripe (cow’s stomach lining). I’ve tried tripe a few times in Italy but never had it prepared in a way where I enjoyed it. However, I was intrigued to try this dish because the tripe was fried versus how I’ve tried it before, stewed. Crunchy thin slices of red and green cabbage, tender pieces of squid, fried crispy tripe, and sweet shallots all tossed in a vinaigrette seasoned with fish sauce and garnished with peanuts and fresh mint; this salad reminded me of the flavors from my travels in Southeast Asia. Delicious and refreshing.
The octopus was paired with plump sweet golden raisins, castelvetrano olives, fried butterball potatoes, and creamy cilantro sauce, a divine combination of flavors. My only criticism for the dish would be that the octopus could have been slightly more tender and needed more of a char but otherwise I loved the flavor profile.
Our last savory course was the scrumptious lamb ribs; melt off the bone meat with a sticky black vinegar glaze topped with sweet dates, crunchy fresh watermelon radishes, and almonds. Freakin’ awesome.
Even though I was so full, I knew I had to try at least one of their desserts. They only offered three desserts (all sounded delicious though) but I knew I wanted to try their signature dish, the baked Hawaii, their version of a baked Alaska. Traditionally, baked Alaska consists of a spongecake on the bottom then ice cream (usually vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry) topped with brûléed creamy meringue. Their version was a cute mini cake stuffed with caramelized pineapple ice cream (yummy) topped with brûléed creamy meringue and served with caramel sauce, fresh pieces of pineapple, and coconut flakes. Tropical paradise on a plate.
How would I describe the food at Liholiho Yacht Club? Yummy in my tummy. Asian flavors throughout each dish but with a very California style. No wonder Liholiho Yacht Club is one of the hottest new restaurants in San Francisco right now; all the food was out of this world! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here so I would rate Liholiho Yacht Club at an 8.5/10.
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