Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lunch today: Shirokiya bento

Wanted to share some pics of my delicious lunch today from Shirokiya (Ala Moana shopping center):

2 bentos: butterfish & salmon

These artisinal musubi (handmade while you watch): seaweed, ume and salmon

Friday, June 27, 2008

Yummy's Yook kae jang

Yummy's is one of the places I always have to visit when I come home (I like the one at Don Quixote). OK, so it's a chain...but it's just so delicious and everything always tastes so fresh. Prices have gone up since I last went there ($7.99-8.99 for a plate) but it's still worth it!

This time I ordered the yook kae jang - lightly spicy (but very red) beef broth with rice noodles, shredded beef, and egg. It's one of those soups you just crave after being sick or on a cold, wet day. Sides I got (which were all wonderful) were long rice, kim chee, bean sprouts, and omelette roll.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yogurtland has opened! (and it's better than Pinkberry)

Yogurtland, a new fro-yo shop has opened where Volcano Joe's used to be (on the corner of University and Metcalf, right across from UH). I'd drive down University everyday, wondering when it was going to finally open.

Super cute, bright, and airy inside (wonder if they have free wi-fi?)

It's the greatest idea ever - I can't believe no one has thought of this before. They have 16 flavors of fro yo, a topping bar (half is fresh fruit, half is dry toppings), all self-serve, for $0.39 an ounce. The fro yo flavors were all amazing - I tried the taro, mango, tart blueberry, cheesecake, peanut butter, and green tea - super dense and creamy (and the signs say 99% fat free).

The self-serve yogurt bar

4 of the 16 flavors:

For toppings, I added mochi pieces (just like at Pinkberry), cheesecake pieces, and fresh raspberries. YUM.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bangkok Chef

Bangkok Chef
1626 Nuuanu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 585-8839

Yelp Reviews

Bangkok Chef from the outside

Inside, placing our order:

I'd heard all about the great, cheap Thai food served out of a garage in Nuuanu at Bangkok Chef, so naturally it was on my list of places to try out this summer. When we pulled up, I was surprised because it was more of a hole-in-the-wall, completely unrenovated shop, in a tiny strip mall, than an actual garage. But anyway, that's not important. How was the food?

We ordered a green curry and the mango salad. I think the curries/entrees were $5.50 (+ 0.50 for brown rice or sticky rice) and the salad was $7.25.

The salad was overwhelmingly spicy and sour, to such a point that it was almost unpleasant. It came with mango (not green, but not ripe either), carrots, shallots, cilantro and cashews.

The curry was nice (the menu said the green curry is spicy, but this was mild in comparison to the salad) but not spectacular. A rich, coconutty green curry with bamboo (tons!), some eggplant, and a bit of chicken. More chicken would've been nice.

So I guess Bangkok Chef is a good place if you are craving some affordable Thai food, but I'd much rather have a bowl of pho, or a Yummy's plate lunch for basically the same price.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mo'ilili: India Market & Well Bento

I went down to Mo'ilili for lunch try out Well Bento: the healthy bento, or 'gourmet macrobiotic takeout fusion' as they like to call themselves. The premise is vegetarian bentos with whole grains (brown rice) and 'healthy' cole slaw and mac salad (I believe it's vegan, but not sure how low fat it actually is).

Their menu is divided into 'vegetarian' options and 'transitional' options for those of us who still like to eat meat :) I decided to try the veg option, since I was there. I almost ordered the grilled tofu, since I knew it would be good since I like tofu, but decided to branch out and order the grilled seitan (wheat gluten) instead to try something new.

It was actually pretty good (although super salty), with their homemade vegetarian 'gravy' covering all the brown rice in the pic below, but for $10 for a vegetarian lunch, I would've expected that Well Bento could use biodegradable corn packaging, instead of a styrofoam box....

While I was there, I visited India Market, which is in the same complex, kind of across from Star Market. I was in India a few months ago and took a cooking class, so I was excited to find the availability of herbs, spices, pickles, and Indian ingredients that are available here. I bought some fantastic lime pickle and some tamarind puree.

The outside of India Market:

I had to try a samosa while I was there :) (only avail on M/W/F/Sat)
They also have South Pacific groceries, like these taro leaves in coconut cream
Packaged curry and spice mixes
Frozen food section (with kulfi ice cream!!)
Packaged crispies like sev and bhel puri mix:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nobu Waikiki

2233 Helumoa Rd
Waikiki Parc Hotel
Yelp reviews

I finnnnaalllly got to try out Nobu! Having never been to one on the mainland, I got to try Nobu Waikiki (at the Waikiki Parc Hotel) when a friend was visiting from the mainland and celebrating his recent engagement. This is Nobu's 20th restaurant, and it opened just over a year ago, in May 2007. Like the Honolulu magazine review I was also surprised by how casual the restaurant was. Yes, there will be 3 or 4 staff attentively serving your table at all times, but their attitudes, the decor, and the other diners make Nobu feel like a relaxed, casual dining experience.

We ordered a bunch of Nobu classics...all the dishes were very large portions and meant to be shared family style:

Hamachi sashimi in ponzu dressing with jalapeno slices

Sashimi salad

Rockfish shrimp tempura (didn't like this one, too mushy and saucy)

Wagyu beef flambe with mushroom medley and baby bok choy

Black cod with miso (so buttery) in lettuce wraps (this was awesome!)

Sashimi (toro, hamachi belly, king salmon) and a house roll

While it was a pretty phenomenal meal and a very fun evening, I don't know if I could justify going back any time soon unless it was a very special occasion. I would be inclined to go try the omakase at Sushi Sasabune first...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Town (revisited)

3435 Wai'alae Ave
Yelp reviews

I could barely walk as we left Town on Friday night, after being stuffed to the gills since our good friend Chris (local boy who has experience at French Laundry) is working as a chef there, and designed a special 5-course menu to make sure we could try all of his favorite dishes.

We started with the ahi poke (with tarragon) on a crisp risotto cracker:

Then we moved onto a green salad with mango, roasted pecans, avocado, cucumber and green goddess dressing:
For the pasta course, we tried both the gnocchi in brown butter with baby corn and tomatoes, and the risotto:

Entrees were pork cheeks (so rich and falling apart in your mouth) with polenta and collard greens (stir fried with raisins and pine nuts I believe) and then pan fried opah, served in a tomato fennel (nice citrusy taste) broth with roasted veggies.

At this point (well, actually after the gnocchi) I could barely eat another bite. But then we got two desserts: a 20 layer crepe cake (with whipped cream in between each layer, and earl grey infused dried plums on the deliciously rich) and a brown butter almond financier (sp?) - kinda like a cupcake with almond paste, served with whipped cream and a sliver of preserved grapefruit peel.

Jane and I felt like such VIPs after that meal, thanks to the awesome staff at Town, that we don't think we can ever enjoy eating as anonymous diners who actually have to order their own meals off the menu again! Thanks, Chris!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

1st attempt at making mochi...a stressful ordeal!

I got it into my head yesterday that I wanted to bring azuki bean mochi to a dinner party today. I went to Star and bought mochiko and tsubushi-an (although when I got home and read the recipe, I realized that I actually wanted koshi-an, the smooth bean paste puree, as opposed to tsubushi-an, sweetened azuki beans that still has whole beans in it. I also realized that I should've bought katsuriko - potato starch - or kinako - to roll the mochi in. I subbed cornstarch instead)

Using a recipe from Hawaii's Best Mochi Recipes by Jean Watanabe Hee for An Mochi #1, I mixed water and sugar, boiled it, and then vigorously stirred in the mochiko. Turned it out onto a board dusted with cornstarch and let it cool until it was cool enough to work with. It turned into a big, sticky mess. Had no idea what to do with it. The dough was so sticky, there was no way that I could possibly shape it into 3 1/2" round wrappers, like the recipe specified.

Dough from boiling water:

Disastrous first attempt with dough that kept sticking to my fingers as I tried put it down on the wax paper:

I went running to the computer, googled 'making mochi with azuki beans' and luckily found this post from A Daily Obsession that saved my mochi! The blogger, Terri, gave a recipe for microwave mochi and detailed instructions.

I stirred in some more mochiko to make a drier dough, then stuck it in the microwave for a few minutes to cook. This time I let it cool all the way down, and was able to roll it out into flat circles.

Dough after microwaving:

The second batch I made just as the blog directed: mix the sugar and mochiko (without the matcha), stir in the water, and then microwave for 4 minutes. I came out with a much smoother mochi dough.

Wet mochiko mixture before microwaving:

Dough after being microwaved (very smooth and elastic):

I had 2 different fillings: peanut and azuki. For the peanut, I just stuck equal amounts of peanuts and sugar into the food processor and ground to a fine powder. For the azuki, I used the tsubushi-an straight from the can.

The final product (peanut on top, azuki on bottom, some rolled in flaked coconut for fun):

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Garden Dim Sum

So this is a pretty new dim sum place in Chinatown, on Maunakea close to Hotel St. It's a tiny hole-in-the-wall (literally 10 tables) but is run by a bunch of Canto speakers and seems fairly authentic. I haven't eaten dim sum in Hawaii in ages, so I can't compare it to anything, but it seemed like they offered several dim sum outside of the standards, and also had a table in the back where they would fry up the luo bo gao (turnip cake) as an exhibition. No carts, but a steamer table in the window, right in the front of the restaurant, where you can point to the dim sum that you want, or you could order the dim sum off the menu.

Limited selection of dishes & noodles/fried rice aside from the dim sum. Dim sum plates are $2, look fun was $2.88, and our chicken chow mein was $5.50. The dim sum we had were all very good (including one interesting pork-peanut dumpling)...a good find to get your cheap dim sum fix in Chinatown, if you aren''t looking for anything fancy.

Steamer tables in the front window

Boneless chicken chow mein (crispy)

Tofu skin stuffed with meat & bean sprouts

Half moon (chive) and peanut-pork dumplings

Sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaves

Char siu bao

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Uncle's Fish Market & Grill

Pier 38
Yelp Reviews

Trying to leverage the popularity of Nico's, Uncle's is a new-ish (opened June '07) fresh fish restaurant down in the 'little fishing village' on Pier 38. When you drive into Pier 38, you hit Uncle's way before Nico's, and there's lots of parking across the street (in a dirt lot). Uncle's looks like something you would find in Waikiki - very kitchsy Hawaiiana - wooden tables, hula skirts, flowers, and fishing videos playing on the tv screens - but the crowd was very local on a Wednesday at lunch.

Given that it's a lunch time place, Uncle's is not really prepared for quick business, weekday lunches. The line is long (only 1 or 2 cashiers), and the wait for your food is longer. Like Nico's, you order, pay, and then wait for your number to be called to pick up your food. So don't be expecting a quick lunch.

Many have enjoyed the food (i.e. the honolulu advertiser and star bulletin), but we rated the atmosphere higher than the actual meals. The fish in the tacos was overcooked, the ahi in the ahi salad sandwich tasted like tuna out of a can, and the french fries were quite generic and a little soggy. The opah in the fresh fish sandwich was nicely cooked and flaky, but perhaps a little bland. Meals ranged from $7.50 to $15.00.

Half sandwich (with the tuna we didn't like) and clam chowder (ok, with chalupa hot sauce in it)

Broiled opah sandwich (bland)

Fish burger (with green onions and oyster sauce)

Soft tacos ( that a supermarket tortilla they served it on?)