If you read this blog or follow my Instagram you know I’m a fan of Senia, which is far and away my favorite restaurant in the state right now. So, when two Senia alums decide to open their own restaurant, I will inevitably find myself there. It has taken me a little longer than I had intended to visit Restauranta XO, but I was finally able to check it out just after the turn of the new year.

The restaurant has recently redesigned its interior, updating the look to a more contemporary feel. If there’s one drawback to the interior design, it’s the noise. Conversation and the sounds of the dining room reverberate strongly in the dining room, which made conversation with my wife markedly more difficult to carry on without raising our voices to a much higher volume than normal.

Noise factor aside, I was looking forward to the food. The menu is fairly eclectic, with various influences present throughout the dishes. Our meal began with the fried chicken skins (pictured above), served with a creme fraiche and trout roe. The skins were well prepared, crisp but not overly oily. Creme fraiche added some levity to each bite, with the roe offering some added salinity. A good way to start.

Breadshop focaccia with spam furikake butter

I’m a big fan of different and when it comes to bread, I can’t recall ever it being served with spam furikake butter. The quality of Breadshop’s focaccia is fantastic, with the kitchen putting just the right amount of toast to the outside to give a pleasant textural crunch. The spam furikake butter is… oddly colored but pleasantly flavored and a good match to the focaccia.

Crispy rice with unagi and tare

The crunchy rice you get at the bottom of a dolsot bibimbap is one of my favorite bites. If you’re a fan of that texture, this crispy rice delivers that as an entire plate. Unfortunately the win on texture is met with a shortfall on flavor, as the tare and unagi don’t add as much as I would’ve hoped.

Pork belly with soy ginger scallion and red vinegar

Something was a bit lacking in the preparation of this pork belly. Perhaps it’s my conception of the ingredient, but I was missing the luxurious fatty quality here. The skin was well crisped, but the meat and fat layers below were perhaps too rendered out and, as a result, a bit dry. I think the lack of the fatty richness also impacted the overall flavor impression of the dish.

Adobo fried chicken

The final entree of the evening was Restaurant XO’s signature dish, a very generous helping of expertly fried chicken. The heaviness of the oily fried chicken is offset by the vinegar tang of adobo sauce and the slight heat of peppercorn rounds out the flavor. If you’re in the mood for a slightly different take on fried chicken, this dish is worth a taste.

I’m not quite sure how to feel about my first visit to Restaurant XO. The experience was mostly positive, but was it positive enough to bring me back for a second visit? Reflecting on it now, I’m still not sure. There are certainly well executed dishes on the menu, but also a few misses. I hate to say it as it has nothing to do with the food itself, but the loudness of the dining room will likely give me pause when considering a return trip. But, I do see myself making a return trip sometime in the future.

Restaurant XO
3434 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816