Monday, July 31, 2006

Kaua'i Eating

Kauai Eating

Notice this entry is titled ‘Kauai Eating’ not ‘Kauai Dining.’ That’s because we flew to Kauai to eat, not for fine dining. We wanted to try the best local hole-in-the-walls, shacks on the side of the street, and breweries. Unfortunately we were only there for three days so this list is in no way definitive and is just a tiny sampler.

Best Coffee
Java Kai (Kapa’a)
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, #105
Kapaa, HI 96746

Totally yuppie (if you’re more of a ‘new age’ type, go next door for the vegan bakery) but unbeatable coffee, Java Kai has something for everyone.

The drink menu puts Starbucks to shame; it’s got to have at least twice as many different drinks, including elaborate coffee-chocolate concoctions and smoothies. While pricey (a small smoothie is $5.35, a small cappuccino is $2.80) the coffee smells divine and tastes even better. The beans are grown locally, roasted in-house, so at least you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Java Kai also boasts an extensive bakery: 9 flavors of muffins, 2 bar cookies, cheesecake, and a scone of the day. On the day we were there, the scone was lavender & honey, and was absolutely divine, bursting with lavender (the size of caraway seeds) and very moist.

Best Smoothie
Banana Joe’s (near Kapa’a)

Banana Joe’s is a smoothie shack on Kuhio Highway heading toward Kapa’a from Kalihiwai. They offer one flavor (only!?) smoothie, one frosty, and lots of fresh fruit. The day we went, the smoothie was banana/pineapple/mango, and the frosty was pineapple.

A frosty at Banana Joe’s is something you should experience at least once; it’s incredible. They use a Champion Juicer to make it: they feed frozen fruit into it (nothing else! No dairy, no sweeteners) and out comes what looks like soft serve ice cream. I seriously want one of these in my house. I guess it also makes juice, but I just want it to make fresh fruit ‘ice cream’ every day!! The pineapple flavor was OK, but I think it would be to die for with strawberry-banana or mango. I froogled the Champion Juicer ($179-199); we might have to make that investment.

Best Local Food
Hamura Saimin (Lihue: Kress St near Rice St)

*check out the traffic jam outside!*

The first day we went, Hamura’s hadn’t opened (we were there at 8:30 in the morning because we were so excited to try the saimin). The second day we went, it was too late (4:00 pm and heading to the airport for our 4:50 flight) so we weren’t very hungry. The saimin looked amazing though ($4-5 a bowl, $5.50 for won ton soup). There was seriously a traffic jam outside, this place is that popular.

We wanted to order shave ice, but the shave ice counter was closed. (Come on, it was Sunday. Seriously, who closes down the shave ice on the weekends?@!) we checked out the menu anyway: shave ice, halo-halo and lilikoi chiffon pie. Ahhh, definitely have to go back to try those out.

Hanamaulu Café
3-4301 Kuhio Highway, Hanama’ulu

Hanamaulu Café is seriously an old-school Japanese teahouse. I loved the menu and décor – exactly the same as Natsunoya teahouse in Honolulu. We both ordered the special set meal: teri beef or chicken, mixed tempura, miso soup, rice, pickles and salad ($10.50 at lunch, $12.25 at dinner). Hanamaulu Café does not try to remake the wheel; they do what they know best. They serve standard Japanese food so patrons know exactly what they are going to get. The tempura (shrimp, eggplant, broccoli and sweet potato) was served piping hot, very fresh ingredients, and a heavy tempura batter (as opposed to light & flaky). The teri beef was in a sweet teriyaki sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds.

In addition, we ordered a ‘special chef roll’ of sushi to try: spicy scallop. It was disappointing compared to the meal, just raw scallop, cucumber and wasabi.

We were hoping to order the guava sherbet for dessert (supposedly better than Lapper’s) but they had already run out for the day.

Best Omiyage
Lawai Store (Menuhune convenience store in Lawai)

It may say Menehune Store outside but don’t be fooled. This is the Lawai Store. Forget bringing back manju from Maui; the Lawai Store kicks their ass. Inside it looks like a regular convenience store until you see the bakery in the back. Their manju is so popular that when we stopped by on a Saturday at 3 pm, they were sold out and we had to place an order to pick up on Sunday.

Sunday we came back and the bakery racks were full: manju (azuki bean, apple, peach/pineapple, or coconut), pies (apple or custard), mochi, pastries, sushi, spam musubi and fried chicken. Perfect for a picnic or to take back to Honolulu. Reasonably priced as well: $1 spam musubi, $3.50-$5.50 for manju, $0.80 for pastries.

Best Brewery
Waimea Brewing Company (Waimea)
9400 Kaumuali`i Highway
here’s their website

Waimea Brewing Company is a must-see on Kauai. Beautiful setting (plantation cottages), on the beach, dining al fresco, and great beer. What more can a gal ask for? Try the lilikoi brew (the very color of lilikoi juice) or the IPA (6% alcohol, I couldn’t drink it but it was Jane’s favorite) which is so popular they ran out on the day we were there.

The food was pretty standard: burgers, fish, lots of fried appetizers. We ordered the goat cheese & taro leaf dip with pita bread, a poke wrap, and a chicken burger with onion rings. The goat cheese dip sounded fantastic, but tasted more like regular ol’ spinach dip. The poke wrap was a nice idea but the poke was overpowered by the amount of rice in the wrap, and the French fries were soggy. The chicken burger was nice although the sauce and cheese in it were a little heavy.

Review: Gina's Korean BBQ

Gina’s Korean BBQ
2919 Kapiolani Ave

Gina’s is one of my favorite Korean bbq places EVER. I used to go to Myongs (RIP) on Young St., but after it closed I discovered Gina’s. Gina’s is great for a couple of reasons:

a) they LOAD the plate. It’s seriously food for a family or a couple of meals for one person
b) the meat is always marinated & bbq’d to perfection
c) the side dish vegetables are divine. My favorites are kim chi, watercress, rice noodles and tofu, but they have an ever rotating selection

This week I tried the spicy bbq chicken for the first time. It was just like their bbq chicken but had been brushed with a ko chu jang (that sweet red sauce). It was good, not particularly spicy, but I think I’ll stick with the regular bbq chicken in the future.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Kaimuki: Baja Tacos & Tropicana

On Waialae Avenue across the street from City Mill, there's a tiny strip of restaurants including tacos, pizza, sushi and shave ice. I had to go try Baja Tacos as soon as I saw it (always craving a good taco or burrito) and while I was there I spotted amazing looking shave ice right next door.

Baja Tacos
3040 Waialae Av #A-1

Baja Tacos is located close to the University of Hawaii in a cluster of casual restaurants, next to a shave ice store, Boston’s pizza, a sushi place, and some other restaurants.

Here’s a photo of the order counter.

BT offers soft tacos and burritos. The soft tacos are ‘south american’ style: a small, warm corn tortilla topped with your choice of meat. (it reminded me of the tacos downtown at Just Tacos). The burrito, on the other hand, is more what Americans expect at a Mexican restaurant: beans, rice, veggies and meat.

There is a basic salsa bar with fixin’s for your taco/burrito. It has red & green salsas, onions, and some jalapeno peppers.

BT also has 3 fun Mexican drinks: tamarindo (tamarind juide), a hibiscus drink that supposedly tastes like cranberry juice, and horchata, rice milk. I ordered the horchata ($2.00), because I liked the counter staff’s description of the drink: ‘It tastes like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.’ 

Here’s my order of chicken soft tacos ($3.75).

3040 Waialae Av #A-1

Tropicana is a cute shave ice stand by the University next to Baja Tacos, Boston Pizza, a sushi restaurant, and some other casual restaurants.

They have a huge shave ice menu: regular shave ice, ice cream, goodie goodie (shave ice, ice cream AND sweetened condensed milk), and then a long list of shave ice sundaes with mochi balls, azuki beans, and different flavors of ice cream/shave ice.

I ordered a regular shave ice (lychee & lilikoi flavors) and li hing mui powder on top. It rocked. The ice was so fine, just like at Waiola’s. Definitely going back to Tropicana again!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Korean BBQ Express

Korean BBQ Express
Korean BBQ Express,
originally uploaded by pia_cristina.
Korean BBQ Express
Ward Warehouse

I went to this (rather generic looking) Korean bbq joint at Ward Warehouse on the recommendation of a Punahou parent, who says that Sam’s Korean BBQ on Nu’uanu Ave has the freshest side dishes, and that this BBQ hut at Ward Warehouse is run by the same owner.

I ordered the tofu soup, which came with rice and 4 choices of sides. I had the kim chi, long rice, cabbage and bean sprouts. I think there were about ten side dishes to choose from. The tofu soup was not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a tofu jiggae soup (thick and spicy) but I got a clear broth. It was spicy, but it tasted strongly of pork bones, as if the soup had been made from a pork butt and boiling all day long. I know that flavor is highly desirable to some people, but I just can’t appreciate it. In the soup were chunks of tofu, onions, and zucchini.

free invisible hit counter

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Review: Town (Kaimuki)

3435 Waialae Avenue

Finally (after hearing about it ALL summer long) we went to Town for dinner tonight! It was great, there were 5 of us, so we got to try a whole bunch of the dishes (the menu isn’t that long, so we got to try almost everything.

The restaurant is right on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki. As it was Friday night, we couldn’t get a table inside. While it wasn’t unpleasant sitting outdoors (practically on the street), it wasn’t ideal.

*view from the street*

*front door*

*our table*

For starters, we received two types of bread (focaccia & baguette), butter and olives. The bread was a little hard, since neither had been warmed up.

We split three appetizers: ahi tartare on pan-fried risotto cakes, roasted figs with prosciutto and goat cheese, and steamed mussels.


They were each amazing in their own unique way. The ahi tartare was probably my favorite: a mound of the tartar (basically like poke) on top of a ‘cracker’ of risotto. The fig dish looked kind of funny but tasted truly unique: the figs blended so well with the prosciutto, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Finally the mussels were so fresh and came in a lemony broth with leeks and tomatoes.

For our entrees, we shared salmon on risotto, fresh gnocchi, and a side of bitter greens.

*main courses*

I don’t usually like to eat gnocchi, because they can be rather bland lumps of dough. But these gnocchi were something else: soft and airy with a hint of nutmeg or allspice. They were then tossed with baby corn and plum tomatoes. The salmon & risotto was probably my least favorite dish of the night: neither had any unique flavors. The bitter greens, stir fried with golden raisins and pine nuts were excellent, nice and bitter.

Finally, I had to order dessert. We got both the plum crisp with vanilla bean gelato and the buttermilk panna cotta.


The plum crisp was fantastic: bursting plums topped with a nutty oatmeal topping and a big scoop of gelato (which tasted just like vanilla ice cream). The panna cotta, while I would probably choose the crisp again, was more spectacular just because of its unique flavor. It tasted like full milk yogurt combined with Yoplait ‘thick & creamy’ yogurt, but better. It was served with papaya slices and drizzled with local honey.

Overall, that was by far one of the best meals I’ve had in Honolulu. Chef Ed Kenney takes flavors to another level, combining simple ingredients in creative ways that just pop in your mouth. He doesn’t use a lot of ingredients in each dish, but he utilizes such fresh, flavorful ingredients that each different flavor shines through.

Here's the menu in case you are curious:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Review: Da Spot

Da Spot
908 Pumehana Street

I’d read good things about Da Spot online several places (here and here ) so I figured I’d go check out Da Spot for lunch today since I didn’t have to work. It’s on Pumehana St by Helen’s Party Store, near Waiola St. Tiny little place, but super cute inside with paintings of palm trees and waves on the wall. All of the surfers were coming in for lunch after surfing when I was there.

Da Spot offers plate lunch (Egyptian, Mediterranean, or Italian), sandwiches, and smoothies. I ordered the spicy garlic chicken plate, which came with 9 (!) grape leaves (or you can choose white rice), a huge serving of spicy garlic chicken, yogurt sauce, salad, and a piece of baklava. The grape leaves were delicious…tightly rolled, the rice was so soft it was almost creamy, flecks of tomato (or red pepper?) and a nice tangy-sour lemon juice flavor. The food sat in my car (well, John’s car) for a few hours before I had a chance to eat it, and the garlicky goodness smell was almost overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to try it! The spicy garlic chicken was both spicy and garlicky. It was stewed with mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions, and the owner told me they cook everything without oil.

Apparently the menu changes everyday, but some other items on today’s menu that I can’t wait to try are the Egyptian baked chicken, red curry, and chicken vegetable curry. They also had some pastas, chicken parm, and a long list of sandwiches that I didn’t even read, because I was so overwhelmed by the list of entrees! Can’t wait to go back for a sandwich and smoothie.

Review: Ken Fong Restaurant (Chinatown)

Ken Fong Restaurant
1030 Smith Street

Walked over to Ken Fong Restaurant on Smith Street today for lunch. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall Cantonese restaurant, with a 3 page menu full of the regulars: all sorts of stir-fried dishes with rice, stir-fried noodles, tofu dishes, and soup noodles.

We ordered beef and green peppers in black bean sauce, tofu and mushrooms in oyster sauce, and a beef & choy sum chow fun. The beef was nice, with a salty black bean sauce, however the other two dishes were rather bland. I expected the chowfun to be stir-fried, but it was just boiled chow fun noodles topped with the choy sum and beef in a thick gravy.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Shopping: Palama Market

Palama Market

Right around the corner from Kaheka Daiei is Palama market. It was a fun cultural experience to go wander around this Korean grocery store (I actually went because I was looking for a Korean manicurist, but didn’t find one). In the front they have a Korean bbq and a bubble tea/fresh juice stand.

The grocery store has a wide selection of fresh food, meats, kim chi, frozen foods, and dry goods to choose from. The highlight was probably the kim chi bar (just like a salad bar, but with every type of kim chi you could imagine!) they also had this really interesting make-your-own bibimbap package: it came with the fresh veggies, cooked meat, and bibimbap sauce. All you had to do is cook some rice and stir it all together!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Review: Tokkuri-tei

Tokkuri Tei
Kapahulu Avenue

Tokkuri Tei was one of Honolulu's first izakaya-style restaurants (which, which according to the NY Times is taking over sushi restaurants). I'd never eaten izakaya-style's sort of like Japanese order lots of little dishes to share. NY Times calls it 'pub-style' eating.

Chef Hideyaki "Santa" Miyoshi's poke has won multiple Sam Choy's poke contest awards. We tried one, it came wrapped like sushi, with salmon, ahi, and fish eggs. I missed the sesame oil flavor of traditional poke, but it was very tasty all the same.

We also had the ahi burger (seared ahi covered with cheddar cheese, no bun, served with a rich butter miso sauce), roasted eggplant, sauteed gobo, unagi/avocado sushi roll, and creamy teriyaki tofu (fried tofu squares served with a teriyaki-heavy cream sauce...very creative).

The restaurant has a sense of humor and the menu is very witty. A few items weren't fully described on the menu, so we had absolutely no idea what they were. However the waitresses were very helpful about suggesting dishes.

Tokkuri-tei is in a tiny mall on Kapahulu Avenue. It's super casual, no need to get dressed up. Call for reservations's crowded!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Review: Gyu-kaku

1221 Kapiolani Blvd # 105

We went to Gyu-kaku in a big group for a friend’s birthday. Eating at Gyu-kaku felt like I was in some trendy Japanese restaurant in LA or NYC. It was filled with well-dressed, young Asians and had a dark-wood, intimate décor. The meat grilling at each table smelled divine.

Another sign that they cater to young people: the first six pages or so of the menu is the drink list. All sorts of sakes, beers, wines, and specialty cocktails.

Gyu-taku is a yakiniku restaurant, meaning that each table at Gyu-kaku has a table-top chargoal grill and you grill your own dinner. The menu lists plates of raw meats and vegetables that you can grill at your table. We tried the ahi, a beef marinated in miso, and a pesto chicken (around $5 for a small plate). They were all delicious. For veggies, we had a mixed mushrooms and some spinach. They come wrapped in foil, and you just pop them on top of the grill.

There are also a number of soup, rice and noodle dishes (Korean and Japanese style, $6-7 each). We tried the bibimbap and a spicy tofu jiggae soup (Korean tofu and kim chi soup).

Finally, even dessert is grilled! You can choose from Japanese pancakes with ice cream, smores, or mochi with ice cream ($3-4 each). The mochi comes in tiny flat rectangles that puff up as you put them on top of the grill. The ice cream (we had vanilla) was great, super creamy and smooth. I wonder where they get it from.

Our meal came out to about $25 per person, including drinks. Definitely a spot to check out!

Review: Vietnam Cafe Pho Saigon

Vietnam Café Pho Saigon
52 N Hotel St
Corner of Smith and Hotel (Chinatown)

We were walking around Chinatown after First Friday last week looking for a Vietnamese place to go eat at. Pho Saigon looked crowded, so I thought it would be a good place to go check out. What a disappointment, I can’t say this one makes it onto my list of top Vietnamese restaurants in Honolulu.

The menu is very standard: pho, rice noodle dishes, spring & summer rolls, green papaya salad, Vietnamese drinks & desserts. Everything is also very reasonably priced.

Left: pho; Right: green papaya salad

We ordered shrimp summer rolls, a pho soup (beef brisket & regular beef) for $5.50 and a green papaya salad with pork & shrimp (also $5.50) to share. The summer rolls came with a thick peanut sauce. The filling was overwhelmingly dry rice noodles…skimpy on the basil, mint and lettuce. The green papaya salad was also very dry, with a bland dressing on the side. The shrimp were obviously frozen. The pho was OK, the broth was really tasty, but nothing special. I wouldn’t make a trip back to this place, since there are so many other Vietnamese options in Chinatown.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wong Kwok Noodle House

Wong Kwok Noodle Shop
Corner of North King & Nu'uanu

I met Len for lunch today and we walked to this noodle place on the edge of Chinatown. We had a long discussion about Chinese food in Hawaii, and how it's all too Americanized. This is one of the 2 restaurants in Chinatown that he'll eat at. (He says there's much more authentic Chinese food in Vancouver)

This place specialized in thick round homemade rice noodles, similar to Japanese udon noodles. I don't think I've ever had noodles like this in China, but maybe in Guangdong you can find them. Len had soup noodles with beef brisket, and I had the house soup noodles with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and snowpeas. The highlight of the soup was the broth...very rich, tasted like it had been boiling all day.

Wahoo's Fish Tacos

940 Auahi St in the Ward Gateway Center

Wahoo's is a chain of fish taco restaurants from California. The menu is cute although very standardized...choose your filling (blackened fish/chicken, spicy fish/chicken, beef, veggie), choose your entree type (burrito, taco, rice bowl etc), and any additional 'extras' (like chips, rice, beans) you want to add.

The restaurant is tiny inside but there is spacious outdoor seating. You place an order and pay at the counter upon entering, and then your meal is delivered to your table. The waitstaff are all very friendly and helpful.

Spicy chicken burrito:

I ordered a spicy chicken outer reef burrito ($6.99). It was a huge burrito, very moist. I'd definitely order it again. The only thing I wish Wahoo's had was a build-your-own salsa bar, like some tex-mex places on the mainland have. The plate was a little empty (no chips, salsa, etc), just the burrito and a tiny slice of lime.

Review: Green Door

Green Door
1145 Maunakea St (entrance on Pauahi)

Green Door is a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown on Pauahi St (same block as Char Hung Sut). It is owned by Betty, a Malaysian-Chinese woman who grew up in Singapore and has lived in Hawaii for over 20 years.

For being a hole-in-the-wall, it’s a very cute one. Like its namesake, you can recognize the restaurant by it’s ‘green door’ (duh) and some red lanterns hanging outside.

We ordered the special-of-the-day, oyster mushrooms stir-fried with shrimp in a ‘black pepper and wine sauce.’ Not very Malaysian sounding to me, but they did a great job with it. Real fresh mushrooms, shrimp and onions stir-fried in the rich sauce. The mushrooms were great.

We also ordered a vegetable curry (carrots, onions, cabbage, tomato and long beans in a very spicy red curry) and the ‘Singapore spicy longbeans.’ The curry was amazing; that is the dish I’d order next time, but the beans were nothing memorable (not very spicy or fresh).

For starches, we had (so many carbs!) the coconut rice, jasmine rice, and 2 roti (flatbreads). The coconut rice ($2.75) was the highlight: a molded mound of jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk. Not too sweet, went perfectly with the curry. (I wish I had a picture of it, but my camera flash doesn't work very well indoors, and none of my food photos came out)

Our total bill was $33 without tip. Green Door is BYOB so we ran over to the new wine market Hsir, also on Pauahi St, and picked up a bottle of wine to go with dinner.

There are only 4 tables; we were lucky arriving at 7 pm that we didn’t have to wait at all.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Just Tacos (Downtown)

Just Tacos
111 Bishop St
Remington College food court

I went to Just Tacos based on very good reviews I had read (must’ve been in the Advertiser or Honolulu Weekly) and because it’s just a few blocks away from my office.

I ordered the super taco ($3.75): 2 corn tortillas (fresh off the grill) and your choice of meat. I ordered the barria (stewed beef? Pork? Although I prob would’ve preferred plain grilled chicken). Luckily I had read in the review of Just Tacos that these are not American-style tacos (with the veggies, cheese and sour cream) but even still, I was not prepared for what I got: literally 2 (small but thick) corn tortillas covered with meat. Nothing else! Very different.

Here's my taco, covered with salsa & pico de gallo

There was, however, a salsa bar on the side, so I got to cover my taco with pico de gallo, cilantro, and mild salsa. So that made it look more like a regular taco. Overall, it was tasty…the meat was a little too juicy, so the tortilla completely fell apart, and the meat was a little heavy for me, but I’d go back.

The most popular item on the menu was the taco salad $5.25). I was a little confused when I saw everyone ordering it (don’t you know how unhealthy it is?) but then I realized why it was so popular after I got my taco. Because it is a typical American taco salad, with all of the fixings on top.

I also ordered a flan for dessert ($1.75). I was expecting something more similar to a creamy crème brulee, but this was sort of spongey (like cottage cheese) and super sweet. Eh, no need to get that next time.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pearl's Korean BBQ

Pearls Korean BBQ
Manoa Marketplace

Went here for lunch with John and Sara, as an easy to get to alternative to Yummy's for Korean bbq. I ate off John's combination plate (meat jun & mandoo) and ordered a bubble tea, after I saw an advertisement on the wall saying 'Hawaii's best bubble tea!" Now I know not to believe posters on the wall, because the bubble tea was nothing to write home about. They do the kine bubble tea that is like a smoothie...frozen & blended. The bubbles at the bottom were too hard.

I also wouldn't go back for the combination plate either. The rice was too dry, the vegetables weren't well flavored (kind of bland, the kim chi was not spicy enough), and the meat was just OK.

Review: Thang Coffee & Bubble tea

Thang Coffee & Bubble Tea
1120 Maunakea St, Chinatown
Maunakea Marketplace

I generally refuse to pay more than $0.36 for my pearl milk tea, because that's how much it costs on the streets in Shanghai. However when I saw a woman carrying this amazing mango smoothie with tapioca pearls in it, I had to go track the drink down. I found this cute stand in the Maunakea Marketplace, I think it specialized in vietnamese or thai drinks. They had all sorts of powdered bubble tea flavors (strawberry, mango etc) for $2, fresh fruit drinks with tapioca pearls for $3, or coffee/thai iced tea bubble drinks for $2.50.

I had the mango smoothie with tapioca pearls. It came in a huge cup, I could barely finish it. I can't wait to go back and try the thai iced tea.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cafe Diem

Cafe Diem
Alakea St.
There is a trio of tiny takeout places on the corner of Alakea and Richards St: Greek, Vietnamese and Korean. They each have long lines at lunch time. Today I was craving pho, so I went to the Vietnamese choice, Cafe Diem.

The long line moved quickly, almost too quick for me to read the menu. They have tons of categories: pho soups, rice noodle dishes, rice dishes, combination plates, and vegetarian plates.

I went for the tofu pho soup ($4.50) and a banana tapioca ($0.30...i thought to myself 'did they write that wrong on the daily specials board?' but it was correct)

The pho was much better than expected. I won't go so far as to say it was phenomenal, since this place is a tiny takeout restaurant, but it definitely satisfied me. I had the tofu pho, so it had strips of fried tofu, rice noodles, and it came with a big bag of bean sprouts, basil, and a lemon wedge. There is a self-serve sauce bar where you can put all the soup sauces you want into those little plastic containers.

The best part of the pho was the broth (although that probably means it had a lot of msg in it...)...not too salty, almost a little sweet, a little sour.

The banana tapioca was yummy too, very rich with coconut milk, mashed up banana chunks, and little round tapioca balls.

Malee Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine

Malee Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine
Maunakea Marketplace
1120 Maunakea St, Chinatown

I surveyed all of the Vietnamese places at Maunakea Marketplace today before selecting Malee's. I was in the mood for pho, but ended up ordering Thai food, because that's what everyone sitting near Malee's was eating. One man, after finishing his meal, even came up to the chef and said 'Better than Bangkok!'

Malee's offers a wide range of Thai & Vietnamese foods: curries, pad thai, cold noodles, larb, spicy thai basil with pork, spring/summer rolls, and pho. I ordered tom yam goong ($6.50 for chicken, $7 for seafood) which comes with a side of rice. The rice was very nice, a sticky jasmine grain. They also sell rice balls (curry, basil and coconut milk) which I want to try next time.

Tom yum goong soup pic:

The tom yam goong was very nice, full of mushrooms, onions, pepers, and chicken. A few tomato slices, which I thought was a little strange, but a nice touch. The broth (the most important part of the soup!) was good, although a little oily. Nicely spicy. I want to go back to Malee's to try the chicken/basil, summer rolls, and the riceball...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Review: Boba Loca

Boba Loca

2615 S. King St. #104, 942-1770

So Boba Loca is actually a chain ( from CA I believe, but I give them a huge thumbs up for the best quality, consistency, and creativity with bubble tea.

view of counter

I drank a LOT of bubble tea when I was in Shanghai, and I have to say I'm somewhat of a purist. I don't like all of those funky flavors; I stuck to the tea flavor (because in China they generally use the powders for all of the fruity flavors). Well, BL may have converted me.

Yum...there is my chai frappe boba...

I had the chai frappe with boba, and Jane ordered a jasmine milk tea with boba. Both were amazing! The boba were perfect consistency...nice and soft but not mushy, and chewy. The chai frappe was just amazing; it was like a chai-flavored milkshake. Super rich and creamy.

I can't wait to go back and try the other flavors they have: almond, red bean, milk tea, lavender, fruit smoothies, and all sorts of other onolicious stuff.

The place also serves sushi and some hot food. It's a very nice atmosphere, sort of the 'Starbucks' of boba...clean, well-lit, lots of seating, magazines, a pleasant atmosphere. 2 thumbs up!

Jane by the seating area

Sunday, July 02, 2006

U Choice Inn

U Choice Inn
801 Kaheka St

There are a bunch of food takeout places outside Daiei (well, I guess I should call it Don Quixote now), one of which is U Choice Inn. It's similar to Panda Express, with Chinese plate lunch, but also has dim sum and shaved ice.

I used to come here for manapua all of the time. I came back for the first time in awhile, today.

Here is the manapua (steamed) that I ordered. It was massive (rightfully so, since it now costs a whopping $1.15, although now that I am back from China I think everything in Hawaii is way overpriced), but turned out to be all bread.

Here's a pic of the insides

which shows there's just not that much meat inside. The filling is tasty though, meaty (not fatty chunks) and sweet.