Should you visit on a weekend you'll have plenty of time to contemplate these clever design touches. Wait times on weekends can exceed two hours without a reservation, and even a reservation doesn't mean you'll be seated promptly; we were given a 30-minute wait time, and finally were seated, without apology, some 80 minutes later.
When you finally get some food, you're likely to enjoy it. There's nothing terribly complicated about chef David Kile's menu, but the restaurant imports genuine Hawaiian flavors and simplicity is definitely a virtue.
A pair of panko-dusted crabcakes, striped with a mild red-pepper aioli, are cute starters, as are the clever ahi tuna nachos-crispy wonton chips topped with seared tuna and a smear of wasabi cream. Barbecued-pork quesadillas have a touch of heat, but it's eased by some sweet mango salsa.
Seafood dominates the main courses, but meat options include a quartet of lamb chops dusted with Kona coffee. The coffee accents the meat without overwhelming its flavor, but I wasn't impressed with the thin and somewhat fatty chops.
The fish are far better. The macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi, sauced with coconut cream, is a sweet treat, though I personally prefer the Florida black grouper, the mild fish doused with Key lime butter and served with pineapple rice and long beans. Best of the bunch is the opaka-paka, a delicious fish given a light passionfruit-butter glaze and paired with mashed sweet potatoes and stir-fried vegetables.
Wild Alaskan King salmon is very good in and of itself, but the fish was served with a too-dense potato cake and mushrooms in a dark sauce. They didn't help.
I like the way Canoe Club handles dessert, offering about a half-dozen very small sweets, served in juice-sized tumblers and priced under $2. You get just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth, whether you indulge in the properly tart Key lime pie, pineapple bread pudding, strawberry shortcake or the double-chocolate mousse.
The wine list comprises mostly well-known Californians, but there are more than 125 bottles, and 50 wines are available by the glass. Among the cocktails is a superior mai-tai.
Visiting Canoe Club is a lot of fun, and considerably cheaper than flying to Waikiki Beach. The kitchen needs to tweak some of its recipes, and the front room would do well to gain control over its seating system-possibly by permitting fewer reservations, but in any case by honoring the ones it accepts.
Canoe Club (star)
15200 S. 94th Ave., Orland Park 708-460-9611
Open: Dinner Mon.-Sun., lunch Mon.-Sun.
Entree prices: $11.75-$24.75
Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V
Reservations: Strongly recommended
Other: Wheelchair accessible; complimentary valet
Ratings key: Outstanding(star)(star)(star)(star), Excellent (star)(star)(star), Very good (star)(star), Good (star)
Reviews are based on no fewer than two visits. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.