I’m a big fan of Nico’s at Fishmarket at Pier 38 in Honolulu and of Nico’s in Kailua – just not as big a fan as I used to be.. This is a restaurant that I’ve been eating at since a friend introduced me to it back in 2004. At that time, it was a tiny little plate lunch joint right near the fish auction. Nico, a French chef and his two fishermen friends decided to showcase some of the amazing fish coming out of the auction and ‘Voila!”
It looked like this back then…and frankly…I miss it. There were rarely lines. The poke was the best in town at a really reasonable price and the food was something we describe in Hawaii as ‘Onolicious!” Which means as delicious as it gets.
The food and poke are still top rated, but, today, it’s grown to at least four times the original size. There is always a crowd. The poke is a bit pricey for a guy like me to enjoy it on a regular basis, and the whole thing feels … well, for lack of a better word … touristy. That’s the thing. Nico’s used to be a little hole in the wall plate lunch place for locals who knew about it, but these days…it’s mostly for the tourists. Yes, you still get your food in a styrofoam pack. Yes, you still order at the counter when you go in, but it’s by design…not by necessity. this is the Furikake Crusted Ahi Tuna with Nalo Greens…oh man. Yum. Still ono.
The original Nico’s is still located at Pier 38 off of Nimitz Highway – though it moved to a larger building from the one in the old picture right below – several years ago. It now has an enclosed outdoor seating area and a bar with an upscale feel despite the styrofoam packs. They’ve opened a second location in Kailua on the Windward side. I heard recently they closed down the poke bar there…but I’ve been for the Sunday Brunch and it was good – the thing was…it didn’t feel like Nico’s over there. It felt like a decent little restaurant.
I’m happy for their success…but a little bit sad that we lost what you see above. Below is a picture from a recent trip to the Pier 38 location – I still go, but it’s not like before when I’d decide to go and feel like doing the happy dance…