Lunch at Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant

When it comes to Thai cuisine, Honolulu has several highly acclaimed restaurants to choose from, including Keo’s, Singha Thai and Phuket Thai, just to name a few. Well, you can add another one to that list, which our gang had lunch at this past Friday in celebration of my birthday at Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant.

Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant is still relatively new, having opened in September 2009. They’re located on the Diamond Head (east) side of Keawe street, right next to the vacant Comp USA property in Kaka’ako (slated to become a Safeway).

While previously in partnership with Wanida Tienchai, Blue Ocean is now solely owned and operated by Chivanan Phanphongsa who is a native of Bangkok. Here’s the lovely Chivanan or “Chiw”, who was on (very frantic) duty during our lunch hour visit…

The building they occupy is rather unassuming from the outside, appearing to be just another warehouse in this mostly industrial area…

You may recall back in December guest blogger Tony did a review of this place, giving it a 5 SPAM Musubi rating. Well, I was quite surprised to find a printout of that blog post from right here on the Tasty Island posted at the entrance of the restaurant!…

How flattering! When I told Chivanan I’m the owner of this blog, she immediately expressed deep gratitude and thanks (thank you Tony!) for the “5 SPAM Musubi rating”. And as you’ll soon find out, for the most part, I agree with Tony’s impression here.

Belying its surroundings, once you enter the establishment and walk into the dining room on the first floor, you’re greeted and surprised by quite an elegant setting with romantic, low level directional lighting…

The high quality solid wood tables and comfortable, well-upholstered chairs are all imported from Thailand. While completing the ambiance to make it feel like you’ve been transported back to the motherland are a number of authentic art pieces adorning the entrance and dining area…

This is the (in)famous Klong River…

I bet you them coconut pancakes that peddler is selling on that skiff would BLOW AWAY any pancakes around town here. Only problem in this scenario: too much supply and not enough (or any) demand. Unless they’re all trading with each other. lol

The front side of the dining room is made up of a full bar, with the kitchen right in back….

This is actually not the first Thai restaurant in this two-story space, as it was previously under different ownership doing business as Ploi Thai. While it also went through several incarnations as a nightclub under the name Bliss and Velvet Lounge. Retaining some of its nightclub heritage, upstairs you’ll find another full bar, dance floor and lounge…

Right about now you’re wondering when the HELL we’re gonna’ see what’s for LUNCH! lol

Alright, alright then, here’s the menu…

That’s Blue Ocean’s main menu, which is served both for lunch and dinner, where the prices for the most part seem reasonable.

Here’s their wine and drinks list…

Along with that, making it even easier on your dining out wallet is their Lunch Specials menu…

Here you get to choose one of any appetizer, soup and entree on the list, bringing you a 3-course authentic Thai feast for just $11. SU-WEET!

With that, Diner C chose the Tulip appetizer…

Tulip appetizer: Steamed ground shrimp, chicken & crabmeat in wonton wrap, served with soy vinaigrette

While Diner AC chose the Crispy Roll…

Crispy Roll appetizer: Filled with ground pork, bean thread noodles, taro and julienne vegetables. Served with a sweet chili sauce.

For the soup portion of the Lunch Special, Diner C chose the Veggie…

Veggie Soup: Mixed vegetables in clear broth

While Diner AC chose the Lemon Grass Chicken…

Lemon Grass Soup: Tradional Thai style lemon grass soup with galangal, mushroom and basil

For the entree portion of the Lunch Special, Diner C chose those Red Curry Chicken…

Red Curry Chicken: Sauteed in red curry with green beans, bell peppers, bamboo shoots and basil. $10.95 including appetizer and soup

While Diner AC chose the Pad Thai Chicken…

Pad Thai Chicken: Stir fried rice noodles with egg, bean sprouts, tofu and green onion in tamarind sauce. $10.95 lunch special, including appetizer and soup

Diner E chose an appetizer off the regular menu as his entree, going for the Blue Ocean Treasure…

Blue Ocean Treasure: Traditional Thai Chicken Satay, steamed Tulip Crispy Rolls, Shrimp-in-the-Blanket, Thai Dumplings and Somtum Salad (in the center). $13.95

This is such a big “party on a plate”, you need to view it from another angle so you can see who you wanna’ make friends with…

Blue Ocean Treasure: Traditional Thai Chicken Satay, steamed Tulip Crispy Rolls, Shrimp-in-the-Blanket, Thai Dumplings and Somtum Salad (in the center). $13.95

Variety is the spice of life with this app-turned-entree, which carries on with the included dipping sauces…

Blue Ocean Treasure Thai Dipping Sauces

The sauce to the left at the 9 o’clock position is Thai Peanut Sauce, while the one at the 6 is Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. The other three are Tulip Sauce, Thai Dumpling Sauce and Blue Ocean’s own house sauce. I tried each one and liked all of the above, as they each addressed most of the senses of taste in varying intensities.

Adding some starch to his app-turned-entree, Diner E got a side order of Sticky Thai Rice for filler…

Thai Sticky Rice

The sticky rice is served in that basket on the side, which apparently it’s steamed in a plastic bag that inserted in there to prevent the, well, sticky rice from sticking to the basket.

Diner A also went off the regular menu, choosing the Heavenly Crab Cake…

Heavenly Crab Cake: Homemade crab cakes pan fried served with dijon Mussaman curry sauce, steamed vegetables and angel hair pasta. $18.95

Last but not least, Birthday Boy Pomai (yours truly) also went off the regular menu, choosing the Paradise of Ocean…

Paradise of Ocean: Jumbo shrimps stuffed with crab meat baked to perfection. Served with Panang sauce and angel hair pasta. $20.95

I ordered the Paradise of Ocean after it being highly recommended to me by Chivanan, who told me that she always recommends this dish to her customers, so confident in it that she guarantees satisfaction or there’s no charge for it. Wow. No pun intended, I’m sold!

Here’s a closer look at these crab-stuffed shrimp tail GEMS…

Notice the inside-curl of the shrimp tail is filled (stuffed) with a big lump of minced REAL crab meat and a mixture of vegetables. Then you have that AWESOME Panang Curry sauce it’s all soaked with and OH-MY-LORD, AWESOME! So, so delicious.  Add to that the crispy deep-fried Thai Basil leaves and al dente broccoli mixed in with the nicely-flavored angel hair pasta, and this dish is indeed a WINNER! 5 SPAM Musubi and then some.

Diner A also gives his ‘Heavenly Crab Cakes’ 5 SPAM Musubi, noting  how “meaty” and just delicious the real crab meat cakes were, while the EXCELLENT Mussaman Curry it’s surrounded with completely seals the deal.

Speaking of Mussaman Curry, here’s a bowl of it that was coming out of the kitchen while I was talking with Chivanan…

Mussaman Curry: Sauteed beef in creamy Indian curry with sweet potato, carrot and roasted peanut. Served with rice. $10.95

Diner C also raved about her Red Curry Chicken entree, also giving it 5 SPAM Musubi. So far Tony was right! I tried a bite from her dish and definitely agree. 5 for sure!

What I think is Blue Ocean’s “kitchen magic” along with the EXCELLENT recipes (so far) is their super hot flaming wok, which you can really taste through the food. I just has that “it” factor. You know, that seared “smokin’ wok flavor”,  if you know what I mean. A flavor that seems you can only get with industrial gas stoves, which tastes like is the case here.

Halting the 5 SPAM roll, regardless of what was so far FANTASTIC, unfortunately Diner AC’s Pad Thai was a major flop. She noted that most good Pad Thai she’s had — including that from Phuket Thai — usually have a reddish tint to it, while Blue Ocean’s didn’t really look like that.

For comparison, here’s another Pad Thai that was leaving the kitchen while I was there talking story…

It could be that on this day, as Chivanan explained to me, her head chef had a family emergency and had just flown back to Thailand. So her current cook in the kitchen was still in training, and she was obviously struggling to keep up with logistical and food ordering issues because of that. There were several menu items we wanted to order that our server responded with being “out of”.

Diner A’s Crab Cakes also had to be sent back to the kitchen, thanks to Chivanan for catching that it first arrived at the table sans the all-important Mussaman Curry sauce. Yikes. Good catch though!

That said, could the cook-in-training possibly have forgotten to mix in the Tamarind sauce in Diner AC’s Pad Thai?  To further investigate this blunder if it is one, let’ check out the Pad Thai that Tony ordered here back in December…

I think Tony’s Pad Thai looks more reddish, having me believe the cook indeed forgot (or didn’t know) about adding the Tamarind sauce to it.

Whatever the case, Diner AC couldn’t even give it 1 SPAM Musubi, so the Pad Thai is DQ’d here. Bummers! Fortunately she tried a bite from all of our dishes, so she knows this place has potential, just not today with this dish.

Both Diner C and AC enjoyed their appetizers and soups, giving those 3 SPAM Musubi each.

Speaking of 3 SPAM Musubi, that’s Diner E’s assessment of his Blue Ocean Treasure app-turned-entree and sticky rice side dish. Everything was cooked to perfection and packed with flavor, thanks in part to the variety of included Thai dipping sauces which wonderfully rounded everything out.

As noted earlier about being out of ingredients for the menu, that was also the case for dessert, where they were also out of the mango to make the Mango Sticky Rice. Last I checked, mango season in Hawaii is in the summer, so no chance they’re getting that locally anytime soon.

So we ended up ordering the other two dessert items, the Fried Banana…

Lightly tempura sweet banana served with sweet cream sauce. $4.95

and the Fried Ice Cream…

Fried Ice Cream (Vanilla only): Vanilla flavor coated with special ingredients then deep fried and bedded with a vanilla cream sauce. $6.95

Because of the kitchen’s current logistical challenges, these desserts took painfully long to arrive on the table, being about a 20 minute wait. Even then, they forgot to bring us spoons, so by the time we dug in,  the what was rock hard frozen ice cream within was already melting…

The bed of sauce tasted like a combination of vanilla and guava or lilikoi (passion fruit). I really enjoyed the texture contrast of the panko-like crust encasing the cool and creamy vanilla ice cream. Regardless of the partially-melted state and late arrival, overall we enjoyed this, unanimously giving it 3 SPAM Musubi.

Then we have the Fried Banana…

The tempura-battered crust had a nice golden-brown crispy flavor to it, but was a little greasy. The Sweet Banana inside was also a little overripe, while thankfully the vanilla-flavored cream sauce added a smooth and pleasant contrast to the crunchy tempura crust. Overall we all thought it was pretty good, giving it 2 SPAM Musubi.

Now’s time to show off the “polished plates” from those amazing 5-SPAM Musubi rated dishes, starting with Diner A’s ‘Heavenly Crab Cakes’….

Unlike me, where I usually have enough left on my plate for a “doggy bag”, this time even I pretty much polished my ‘Paradise of Ocean’ stuffed shrimp plate…

Diner C also usually can’t finish an entire plate in one sitting, yet this time enjoyed her Red Curry Chicken so much, she also polished her plate!…

Diner E did pretty good as well…

Then we have unsatisfied Diner AC, who didn’t get anywhere near polishing her lackluster Pad Thai…

Ah yes, leave it up to The Tasty Island to provide such “tasteful” photos of “polished” plates for your viewing pleasure. lol

Still, one bad dish out of five, with three of them being 5-SPAM Musubi rated is very respectable odds in their favor.

As for the service, considering there was only one server plus owner Chivanan helping out with customer service, it was reasonably attentive. Other than the extremely delayed desserts, our other dishes came to the table very quickly.

Hopefully Blue Ocean’s head chef will return to the kitchen so that all is in order again. Even beside a couple of I think are forgivable flops, having three out of five dishes topping the charts, on this visit Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant gets 4 SPAM Musubi.

Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant
327 Keawe St. (next to the former Comp USA)
Honolulu, Hawaii

Tel. 585-9545

Business hours:
Monday – Thursday
Lunch 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Lunch closed
Dinner 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Lunch closed
Dinner 5:00pm to 9:00pm

The Tasty Island Rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
Kaka’ako Eats: Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant – The Tasty Island
• Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant – Honolulu Star Bulletin
• Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant – Yelp user reviews
Ploi Thai – The Free Range Gourmet



11 thoughts on “Lunch at Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant

  1. Happy Birthday Pomai!

    As great as all that other stuff looks, I have to believe that the marginal Pad Thai was a fluke. At any rate… killah Thai food on your birthday, what’s better than that?! Plus, Chivanan is very cute…. 😉

  2. Besides “Chiw”, the Paradise of Ocean dish looks great!

    Yah – Happy Birthday! Another year older! Getting along there!

    You went back to work after that “lunch”?

  3. Nate, funny you say that. When Diner A got back, about an hour later he asked, “is Thai food like Chinese food or what?” Indicating even after polishing that huge ‘Heavenly Crab Cakes’ plate, an hour later he was hungry again! (just like when you eat Chinese).

    Marcus, thanks! As I wrote in the review, the bad Chicken Pad Thai had to have been an error in the kitchen. Chivanan told me that because her cook was still learning, she made sure to (try and) check EVERY dish that left the kitchen. Diner AC’s Pad Thai was probably one that missed her inspection and seal of approval. In Tony’s review, he said noted that their was one of the BEST Pad Thai he’s ever tasted, so something had to have been missing.

    Raph’, mahalo! Now exactly which picture left you drooling? lol

    Kat, domo arigato gozaimasu!

  4. Happy Birthday Pomai and many more to come. You’re the best at what you do as I look forward to reading your well written blog every chance I get. All the best!

  5. Raph, I take it your wife doesn’t read this blog. lol
    Paki, big mahalo for the kind thoughts. Much appreciated!
    Kimo, I remember quite a while ago having an excellent Green Papaya Salad at Keo’s. I’ll have to go back there soon for a refresher.

  6. Happy belated birthday!
    The food looks so incredible! I’ve never heard of fried bananas, but it sounds like something right up my alley!
    Funny story about why I love Thai food: apparently, when my mom was pregnant with me, the only food she could stomach was Thai food! I guess you could say I was destined to like Thai food 🙂

  7. haha oh pomai, my wife doesn’t read your delicious blog as regularly as i (everyday!!) but i do spam her with your latest entries whenever you publish ’em. that being said….let’s just say my wife knows that food is as far as i’m ever gonna venture out for. sad but true (and i know my role….LOL)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s