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Oahu: Pearls

432 Ena Rd., Waikiki

Reviewed by: Nosveemos from USA, review #788

When: 2004

A classic Vietnamese cafe off the beaten track in Waikiki. A block from the Hilton complex on the beach, this is an economical but sterile choice.

Directions: When you see the ABC store on Ena Road, just keeping walking away from the Beach area and look on the other side of the road from ABC.

At the start of Waikiki, but not the scene, on one of the streets from a time before the automobile dominated planning, sits Pearl at number 432. Ena Road, like an alley winds between high rises and some low, tawdry commercial buildings. The hint of commercial sex hangs thereabouts, what with some particularly seedy karaoke establishments. All this, a block from my hotel and a hurdle across the relentless traffic of what was Ala Moana boulevard and has become Kalakaua Avenue heading East toward Diamonhead. Another hint this city was not planned, but carelessly grown by the water. In the Midwest of my younger years, the unbroken, rigid, right angled grid of the city streets gave me no hint that a city should be otherwise.

Poh, letterd on the Ena Road windows, this must be Pearl in Vietnamese? Poh further identifies itself as a Vietnamese Bistro. After all, I think, the French did occupy Vietnam, before tricking ante anti-imperialist America to sub for it. But this Bistro does not display any French style. White table clothes on the tables, but they stay pristine, under plexi-glass sheets, which give off the brightest glow, reflecting the abundant neon lights above. White lighting tubes, for all their efficiency, do not shine stylishly. More reminiscent of my junior high lunch room, the dinning tables similarly arranged in unimaginative rows. Like the lighting, I suppose, an efficient use of space for all the eager diners. Although, when I passed by on occasion, there were more seats inviting then occupied, by a ratio of ten to one. In this simple fact a prospective diner finds no recommendation.

At the far end of the Bistro the ever on TV presides at the bar/register counter, just like the competing Vietnamese Café at the start of the block, no bistro appellation there. Adjacent, cold beverages stand on display to the dining room behind the glass door of the Turbo Air refrigerator. Yummy. On top an early or late ceramic rendition of what I think is a Hello Kitty, but latter learn more probably a good luck cat. Cute: one of the mysteries of the East. In the corner, just next to the Turbo Air a murky, very large aquarium, a few languid fish, presumably not for menu selection, bestir themselves. On top of the aquarium one white pedestal flower pot with permanent pale green vegetation and lavender blooms, all nicely symmetrical, as nature intended. On the left and right walls, two commercial calendars on the walls, one from Song & Song, the other Wongs Produce. Further down the left, a gold and red oriental tapestry, significance of han characters unknown to me, followed by a very large psychedelic colored painting of a whale breached in silhouette against an oval shape. Does this rival the Sattchi gallery on the Thames?

Further, on a wall outcropping, a sign: Buffalo Wings $5.95. Next, two still lives of single floral bouquets, centering a further posted sign with the seemingly tardy advice: Pearls, Parking Available. My dinner, No. 48 Vegetables Sauteed in Season w/Tofu $7.95. The Tofu, was indeed an afterthought. Front window festooned with dangling xmas lights, white bulbs. This marketing effort had hooked this one discerning dinner.

The program on TV is called FIT TV, coming soon to a box near you. A couple, overweight, are closely pictured, partially unclothed in equal measure with the tasteless premise, and a plan for rehabilitation made with the know-it-all program moderator. Said know-it-all better turned out then her subjects. The program then tracks the couple’s fit progress in their indeterminate succeeding days of healthful activity. The character development appears thinner than these figures, and the outcome of the plot missing, as the box segued to another commercial message. Therein, the actors if not the subject, found far more attractive.

I cleared my tears from the overdose of Vietnamese sauce, likewise my nasal passages, and settled the account at the cash register near the TV box, no gratuity just like France, and exited 432 to Ena Road. I cannot swear I will return. Aloha

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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