Who is John Dominis?

One of Honolulu’s more high-end restaurants has kind of left me on the fence. I like the location, the view is wonderful and the architecture is attractive. Parking, however, is problematic. It does not leave a good impression when you need a handicap stall and are told to either use the valet or drop off and go park about a hundred yards away.

So, I’m going to tip a valet to park in the stall that is right where I am standing and if I want to park my car myself I have to walk the length of a football field? (That’s a rocky, lumpy, not-made-for-heels football field.) This is not customer service. That’s strike one in the parking lot before we even get into the restaurant. I’m sorry, I am a strong believer in tips because I know staff are notoriously underpaid, but I also believe in tipping for a reason, i.e. service provided. There was no service to be had in the parking area! Valet service is supposed to be there to assist, not to hinder.

Road Entrance to John Dominis

Now, we’ve left the parking-lot incident behind us and decided we would go in and try it anyway. Everyone is very nice and there is a warm reception from the hostess at the front door.

Restaurant Entrance

We were seated by an attentive and friendly matradee. The food looked and smelled wonderful. What a colorful variety!

Chicken Salmon Seafood and Vegetables

Salmon, chicken and vegetables start the mouth watering for sure! Then there was the prime rib at the carving station that they would take back and cook more if you asked. I did. It was great!

Salads Sauces and Seafoods

Of course no buffet in Hawaii would be complete without having some salads, sauces and seafood to choose from.

Vegetables and Fried Rice

You can’t go without the fried rice, right, along with more vegetable dishes. The picture above leaves no question about the popularity of fried rice.

Omelet Station

Keeping in mind that this is brunch, we have to include the breakfast selections too! An omelet station! Look at all the choices to put in your omelet! Yummy! The railing you see behind this omelet-flipping chef is the edge of the floor — behind it is a drop into a pool with a world of salt-water fish. I asked the chef if the fish ever receive an omelet tossed their way. He grinned and said, “It happens.”

Waffle Station

Let’s not forget the waffle station! Some people need that sweet kick in the morning and John Dominis wasn’t going to let them go without it. They even included self-serve, soft-serve ice cream across the room — with a whole selection of toppings!

Fruits and more Seafood

Ooops! We’re not done yet — fruit and more seafood!

Now, three strikes you’re out, right? Well, they didn’t get three strikes. But, they did get two. I only include this here because I hope the restaurant will see this someday. That carving station… the one with the prime rib? It also had suckling pig. Now, that’s not a problem. However, some of us are sensitive and the sight of a whole, blackened baby pig sitting on the counter is enough to make you sick! That’s a fast way to ruin an appetite! Okay, that would be fine at an outdoor shindig, but at a top-notch, $45-a-plate restaurant (and that’s just for the buffet!) they should be a little more sensitive than that. I took pictures but I couldn’t even stomach cropping and prepping them to be posted here. Anyway, that was strike two.

Parking nonsense aside, I like the look of the restaurant from the outside and I like the fact that they set up a little place just for weddings. That’s a nice touch. At least they don’t bother the wedding party about the parking of their transportation. Limousines do have their small parking privileges, sometimes. We’ll talk about the limos in another post. Yes, I promise.

Limo for a wedding party

I have to be fair about things so, while the prime rib was delicious and the omelet bar was to die for, the rest of the food was pretty mediocre. That really isn’t too surprising — this was a brunch buffet and those are generally nothing to write home about, no matter what restaurant you’re talking about. I have heard from more people about how good the food is, so I will say, based on the omelet, the prime rib and the stuffed jalapeno peppers, that the food at John Dominis is good as a general rule. A buffet is a buffet — it’s the cheaper way to go but not the best way to judge a restaurant I’ve found. You get what you pay for, or less than what you pay for.

Hey, we all learn things the hard way. In short, skip the Sunday brunch. Go for the individual ordering at lunch or dinner. I have heard from people that the food is very good. It also helps if you are a fan of fish dishes. My sister always asked my mother for a John Dominis gift certificate for Christmas for her and her husband.

There is one thing I have not mentioned yet — ambiance. There’s nothing like being on the water while enjoying a good meal.

View of Diamond Head

Here is the view from outside the restaurant’s window which wraps nearly half-way around the dining room. You’re looking over the water directly at Diamond Head, just beyond Waikiki.

Surferers

Of course you can just watch what’s going on in the water as the surfers wait for a good wave to catch. Yep, right outside the window!

I think you should go late in the afternoon, park your car and walk out to the shoreline just beyond the restaurant. Watch the sunset and then go into the restaurant for a romantic, candle-lit dinner.

Sunset behind John Dominis Restaurant

Grave sightYeah, but, who is John Dominis? The owner? No, that’s Captain John Dominis — a sea-faring captain, hence the vast selection of seafood on the menu.

Apparently he was a very famous captain in his day and he is remembered, not only by the restaurant that took on his name, but at one of our more fascinating and efficient keepers of historical records, Oahu Cemetery.

I was disappointed to find that he was lost at sea in 1846.

Grave Marker for Capt John Dominis

His lineage went on to be involved in much of Hawaii’s history.

We will talk about theShip Anchor outside restaurant offspring of John Dominis in a later post. I promise. That’s two promises in one post!

Meanwhile, check out the restaurant when you can. Now you know what to avoid.

John Dominis has always been, and continues to be, one of Honolulu’s finest restaurants.

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sheila // Aug 6, 2007 at 12:56 am

    Looks like a nice restaurant. The view is awesome.

    Be very careful about parking your car with the valet. When I was in Honolulu in June we went to a popular restaurant and ended up being in the valet line accidentally. So, we let the valet park our rental car. When we came back to pick up our car, there was a brand new dent in the hood. The valet guys were really rude to us and went through our glove box without our permission (what else did they pilfer around for when the car was out of our sight?) to find the rental agreement…denied denting the car…. They even said, “So what! It’s a rental car.” Is this the way to treat tourists? I really felt discriminated against.

    We are waiting to find out how much of a deductible we have to pay. It can be up to $250.

    We called the police to write up a report. The officer told us that he would never use a valet and that he would NEVER EVER let the valet at this particular restaurant park his own car. He told us that they get calls all the time from that spot from valet damage.

    Guess what the little claim card says….”not responsible for damages”. So, just be aware that when you hand your keys over to the valet, you are taking a risk. I’ve learned my lesson.

    It really put a big damper on what was otherwise a wonderful time on Oahu.

  • 2 Evelyn // Aug 6, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Oh good heavens! Thank you, Sheila, for yet another reminder about the dangers of valet service. I have had more people say to me in recent months about how you should “just use the valet.” I’m just very distrustful when it comes to my car. I am so sorry for your unpleasant experience!

  • 3 Mike Scott // Aug 6, 2007 at 11:25 am

    That was a great review! The food sure looked good, sorry to hear it was mediocre.

    Is Sam Choy’s restaurant still around? My wife and I went there for our anniversary one year, and the food was just way too gourmet for us. I think we spent something like $200 for dinner, a micro-brew sampler and a “fine” cigar.

    I didn’t like any of the beers, and the cigar was horrible. We ended up going to McDonalds on the way home.

  • 4 Evelyn // Aug 6, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Hey Mike! Thanks for reading and for sharing your comment! In JD’s defense, they really do have good food and excellent customer service. It’s just the buffet that’s not worth sharing recipes over. 🙂 I’m amazed that Sam Choy’s restaurant was a disappointment. I guess there’s always a bad day for everyone. I’m assuming you’re talking about the Diamond Head location because their other location is not gourmet. Sorry to hear that. You know, McDonalds and Zippy’s have one thing in common — consistency. You know what you’re buying and it’s always good… if you like their food, which I do. 🙂

  • 5 Mike Scott // Aug 6, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    No problem, I love reading your blog.

    It sure was the Diamonhead location, I don’t think the other one was open at the time. I haven’t had Zippy’s, they aren’t here in Colorado, and I don’t think they were open out there at the time.

    Is Buzz’s Steakhouse in Kailua still open? We loved that place. That and “The Willow Tree” in Kailua.

  • 6 Evelyn // Aug 6, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you, Mike, for the kind words. Zippy’s is not a place the hotels would tell you to go. I’m sure they were here but it’s a very local place to eat that is not much above any other drive-in restaurant. They’re all over the island and their menu appeals to the local palate! Buzz’s in Kailua is still there and so is The Willow Tree! I have to confess, I have not been to either one. I guess we’re just gonna have to go and check it out! I can probably con my husband into it if Buzz’s serves lobster! 🙂

  • 7 Mike Scott // Aug 6, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Mine isn’t a local palate, but after 4 years there I came to love a good deal of the island’s food. I’m so ready for L&L Hawaiian Barbecue to open up here! They have so many of my favorites on their menu. I just pray that Manapua is on there too.

    I’m pretty sure Buzz’s serves lobster, I have never been a big fan of it, so I don’t particularly remember. Buzz’s is right across the street from Kailua Beach. We used to love to go there when it was busy, and sit on the lanai and have some beers, then eat, and then walk the beach afterwards.

    The Willow Tree was (if I remember correctly) in the SafeWay shopping center right outside the back gate of the Marine base. It is a Korean restaurants, ran by the nicest husband and wife. We used to eat there so often that when we called in carry out, they recognized us by our order.

    I think that between your blog, and the boogie boarding that I did this last vacation, on what passes for waves in Florida, I am determined to go back for a visit, during the winter, in one of the next couple of years.

  • 8 Evelyn // Aug 6, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Boy, L&L sure has grown! Korean food sounds good to me right now too! Hmmm… 🙂 We have a Chinese restaurant that knows us by what we order — she even completes our order for us sometimes! We do love our food! 🙂

  • 9 M.R. Field // Aug 9, 2007 at 5:11 am

    Don’t like valets? Sounds like another reason to have local public transit.

  • 10 Evelyn // Aug 9, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Hey Rose, thanks for stopping by! Fortunately for us, and our visitors, Honolulu has a very good public transit system. 🙂 The restaurant is set back a bit from TheBus line but it’s doable. If you’re traveling by car, it’s certainly a lot closer trek from the parking area than it would be from Ala Moana Blvd. So, it’s easier to just avoid the valets completely and park your car so you don’t get mad and ruin the rest of your dining experience.

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