It's been two weeks since Hawaiian-inspired Liholiho Yacht Club descended onto the scene in SF, and the new restaurant from chef Ravi Kapur and the management team behind Nopa has been a packed house every single night. To help you plan your visit before the official reviews drop, we mined the Internet to find out what people are saying about the best dishes, the cocktail situation, and the price tag. Say aloha to another round of The Early Word.
The Tuna News: Kapur's tuna poke on crisp nori crackers, which he perfected at Liholiho's pop-ups, is already one of the standout appetizers, with Yelp's Rachel R. saying she'd "definitely recommend" it and The Bold Italic deeming it an "essential starter." But the best compliment comes from Yelp's Moses A., who describes it as "sex."
The Squid and Tripe News: Another early winner: Kapur's marinated squid with crispy tripe, which Zagat says "recalls Vietnam, with forward-thinking vision." Yelper Melinda C. dubbed it her "favorite dish of the night," and Julie B. praised it for having "So many flavors and textures: crunchy, sweet, sour, savory, fresh, soft. Very enjoyable, like a party in my mouth."
The Game Hen News: The must-order entree appears to be the fried game hen, which Zagat says is as "comforting as any Southern fried chicken." Yelper Laquisha V. agrees: "It's the best 'fried chicken' I've ever had in my life!" Pilan C. elaborates: "The hen had such a great crispiness to it, while still staying super moist inside, and the flavors with the chicken (the sweet glaze, cashews, flowering kale) were an unexpectedly great combination. Says Cherylynn N.: "Sorry, State Bird Provisions, but there's a new bird in town!"
The Cocktail News: While the food has been a universal hit, Liholiho's cocktails aren't going down quite as smoothly with diners. "Neither of my companions enjoyed their drinks. I thought mine were okay," says Melinda C., while Cherylynn N. added that "I wasn't a fan of any of the cocktails. Maybe I ordered the wrong ones, but the ones I did order tasted watered down." Zagat agrees, noting that the Clifton Special "tastes mostly of coconut water." Two drinks that appear to stand out from the pack are the Pineapple Peat, which Matt S. describes as "fan-friggin-tastic," and the Castaway, which Zagat praises for its "briny, savory elegance...works well with seafood."
The Reservations News: Given food this delicious, it's no surprise that one of the worst things about dining at Liholiho is trying to get a table. "Only one week old and this place is as tough to get into as some of the best restaurants in SF," says Yelp's Rachel R., whose opinion is echoed by other Yelpers who say it's a challenging reservation. But as Melanie L. reminds those who can't score tables, "It's good to know also that you can eat at the bar, and there may be a spot if you can't get a reservation when you want one." [Editor's note: Liholiho has five booths, a 20-seat communal table, and a 10-seat bar, so there is indeed plenty of room for walk-ins.]
The Decor News: The Bold Italic has lots of praise for Liholiho's looks: "It feels sunny and fresh with its blue and white tiles, blond wood benches and tables, and a beautiful picture of [Kapur's] mother taken in the '70s anchoring the bar. Walking to the seats in back, you'll pass through a bright, open kitchen." Foursquare's Chris H. agrees, praising the "cool, sophisticated vibe." "The entire atmosphere of both kitchen and dining spaces is so beautiful," adds Yelper Laquisha V. "Clean, modern, while still being warm and comfy."
The Price News: The most common complaint about Liholiho, as with many new SF restaurants, has been the price tag, especially given its Tendernob neighborhood. "Expect to spend about $80 pp (including tip) for a full meal and a cocktail," says Cherylynn N. "I would visit regularly if they lowered their prices, which are too high for the TenderNob area." Adds Deathandfood H. "Not sure if the price for the portion and quality of food was worth it for us, but I can see there being a huge market for his food for folks that are comfortable paying at least $50 a person for the average meal." [Editor's note: Restaurant personnel say that the check average per person is $45.]