Food La La: Honolulu Festival Friendship Gala

Mar. 14, 2011 | 3 Comments

BY LINDSEY MURAOKA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

I attended the Friendship Gala at the Hawaii Convention Center on Saturday.  The Gala is part of the annual Honolulu Festival which took place this past weekend, March 11th-13th.

Now in its 17th year, the Honolulu Festival continues to promote understanding and harmony between Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. The Friendship Gala supports that mission by bringing people together through food and culture. Many of Hawaii’s famous and popular restaurants participate every year. The cost for this event was $85 and goes towards supporting the Honolulu Festival Foundation.

The crowd was a mix of Japanese nationals and locals enjoying the food and fun entertainment ranging from a famous 19 year old Japanese ukulele player Dai Hirai, to dance performances by various Japanese high schools. Unfortunately due to the devastating earthquake in Japan, the event was not as crowded as I remember from last year.

Mayor Peter Carlisle made an appearance tonight. He gave a very touching speech and his condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Japan. He empathized that Hawaii will do whatever they can to help our friends in Japan.  He also lightened the atmosphere by attempting to speak some Japanese which brought laughter from the audience.

Okay on to the food!

My friend Toby and I headed straight for the lobster miso soup by Nobu first because it sounded delicious. But we were both disappointed. It tasted like regular miso soup with a few pieces of lobster and tofu.

I enjoyed the satay shrimp with luau leaf curry from Roy’s Hawaii Kai. The shrimp was buttery and savory.  It complimented well with the subtle sweetness of the curry.

Here’s the team from Roy’s that put together this great dish.

We took a short break from eating and stopped by the beverages area. What a beautiful sight.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse was one of the favorites of the night. They prepared seared tenderloin served with potatoes au gratin. The potatoes were cheesy with a chunky texture. The tenderloin was  juicy and soft.

Another popular dish was Morimoto’s 10-hour braised pork belly inside of a steamed bun with kakuni. The pork was tender and marinated well with shoyu.

The grilled hanger steak by BLT Steak had a good flavor but the texture was tough. The jalapeno mashed potatoes were creamy and had a zing of spiciness.

Mariposa by Neiman Marcus had the most interesting dish of the night. Mustard seed crusted nairagi (marlin), steamed clams, braised greens and a roasted beet rhubarb chutney. The marlin was soft and moist. The broth from the clams was tasty and flavorful.  Yum.

The sake marinated salmon by 3660: on the Rise was another disappointing dish. The salmon was fresh and soft but the yuzu ginger sauce was salty and overpowered the fish. Unfortunately, I was hungry so I forgot to take a picture of it.

The  California roll by Shokudo contained crabmeat, avocado, and cucumber. It was wrapped in nori and topped with masago. It was a typical but well made and tasty California roll.

Here is the Godiva chocolate cheesecake by Cheesecake Factory. They were generous with their huge slices. This three layered cheesecake was rich and decadent but tasted more like a chocolate cake than an actual cheesecake. Not that I’m complaining, I love anything chocolate!

My favorite of the night was dessert from La Palme D’or. The panna cotta was heavenly. The texture was creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness.  It was topped with a delicious mango sauce. The cream puff pastry was light and also creamy. I could’ve eaten ten of them! They were that good. The lemon tarte had the right combination of tanginess and sweetness.

Not only did we have a good time eating all the food, but we had a lot of fun taking pictures!

I got to meet OC 16 star Tony Solis!

This group was really cute. They would do a cheer and then pose at the same time for the picture.

I had an enjoyable time at this event. I left well-fed and in a happy food coma.


Lindsey Muraoka can be reached on Twitter (@lalalinzy) and by email

  • Jennifer Lieu

    Awesome Lindsey! Glad you had a great time! The food looked ONO!

  • Albert ☆ Hawaii ™

    meow yummy!

  • kat

    I love your posts!
    Not only do you capture the essence of the food in your photos and commentary but always the beautiful people of Hawaii