The much talked about Liholiho Yacht Club has been on my radar since it hit the SF scene. I don’t even live in SF so that probably means this place has made quite the splash, if word has spread to a SoCal resident about its delicious food. Both Triple F and Fishing Zebra Man dined here and raved. The fare is modern Hawaiian/Asian fusion so a bit of a departure from the usual farm-to-table, seasonal, California cuisine that dominates the SF dining scene. SF is an already difficult place to dine out if you don’t plan at least a week or two in advance. Reservations are tight for any place even remotely popular. Liholiho is notorious for this. In fact, I was instructed to set an alarm for midnight exactly 30 days prior to my desired dining date. It is within this very short window of time in which you can score reservations at a reasonable dining hour. Outside of this, you’re shit out of luck. Have fun eating with the senior citizens at 5pm or falling asleep on your food at 930pm. For many, jumping through these kinds of hoops is utterly ridiculous, and not worth it. I sort of thrive on schedules and making plans so I don’t mind the added hurdles.
Yellowtail Sashimi white soy, asian pear, cucumber, brown rice vinegar
A light and cool start. The flavors and textures were all perfectly balanced. Tender slices of yellowtail against the sweet crunch of pears and cucumbers. It was dressed with a nice blend of salt, sweet, and acid.
Beef Tongue kimchi, cucumber, poppy seed steamed bun
Hats off to the homemade buns. It was soft and fluffy. I’m not sure I needed the poppy seeds though. The beef tongue was meaty yet tender. The accoutrements were bright and punched up the flavors. YUMS!
Duck Liver Toast jalapeño, pickled pineapple
You’re not going to find much pate in Hawaiian food. The brightness of the sweet and sour pickled onions brought a beautiful balance to the small bite. YUMS!
Marinated Squid crispy tripe, cabbage, peanuts
The combination of cabbage, carrots, fried shallots, peanuts, and a fish sauce vinaigrette was undoubtedly Vietnamese in inspiration. It was kicked up by the crunchy fried tripe and marinated squid, which you’re not going to find at any Vietnamese restaurant. It was a protein heavy dish for a salad.
House Made Spam furikake rice, pickled cucumbers
The house made spam is a pretty well known off menu item. They might as well add it as a regular menu item. It had the salty flavors of spam, but a more fresh meaty texture. It reminded me of Vietnamese nem nuong, but without the sweet fish sauce flavors. Alone it wouldn’t be anything special, but atop the furikake rice with the pickled cucumbers, it made for a deliciously comforting dish. YUMS!
Japanese Eggplant Katsu wasabi mayo, ginger
We were all surprised at the tasty creativity. Instead of pork pounded thin, breaded in panko and fried, eggplant was used. The flavors were tangy and creamy from the wasabi mayo and ginger. Excellent.
Grilled Short Rib escargot, bone marrow, mushrooms, fresh horseradish
Our one larger dish was disappointing. The short rib wasn’t as tender and fatty as we were expecting. It also leaned more medium, than medium rare. The bone marrow didn’t seem to marry well with the short rib. I would skip this dish next time.
Fried Rice bay shrimp, spam, abalone
Triple F recommended we order the fried rice, but she had a different version during her last visit. We were all a bit underwhelmed with the bay shrimp. I can’t say I’ve ever had a dish with bay shrimp that knocked my socks off.
Banana-Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake cocoa nib mousse, popped sorghum
I ordered this because I knew The Annoyer would enjoy the bananas. It actually was really delicious. The bananas balanced nicely with the salted caramel. I loved the popped sorghum. It tasted like toasty rice cakes.
Baked Hawaii caramelized, pineapple ice cream cake, vanilla chiffon
The baked hawaii is the signature dessert at Liholiho. It looks like a cute little beehive to me. The toasted meringue exterior houses a delicious pineapple cake within. I personally find pineapple dole whip that I make at home to be tastier, but this still meets the mark. I liked the banana dessert much better though.
Liholiho delivered a wonderfully Hawaiian inspired treat. I might add that it has an obvious pan Asian influence as well. Make no mistake, I have never eaten food this delicious in Hawaii. Sure I’ve had sashimi dishes and Chinese steamed bun sandwiches, but the dishes here were extra tasty. The food was executed to perfection, except maybe the short rib dish. I can see why it is hard to snag a reservation here. There’s nothing like it in San Francisco as far as I know. While I love the strong farm-to-table scene in San Francisco, it’s nice to try something a little different but just as solid.
10 – You NEED to eat here.
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here