Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday dinner @ Town (picture heavy)

The family took our annual visit to Town last night. I'd picked Wednesday, because I was hoping to try "wine down Wednesdays" at Town...which I had read about on Twitter and seemed to be a $25/3 course with wine tasting dinner, to help pick their "diner favorites" on the wine list. Unfortunately when we arrived, the lovely hostess (the stunning hula dancer Beverly Noa, Ed Kenney's mother) told us that we had to pre-book for the special, so we went with the regular menu.

Focaccia and baguette to start, with amazing EVOO:
Homemade mozzarella with prosciutto, roasted eggplants and saba (a balsamic reduction):
Mussels with perfectly toasted bread:
Twice fried french fries...nice & crispy
Town's take on the Zuni Chicken & Bread salad: perfectly roasted chicken, tatsoi greens, croutons and roasted fruit (grapes??):"
Hand cut pasta with sugo sauce (pork gravy)
Pan roasted opa on roasted vegetables:
Salted chocolate pretzel tarte (baked by Chris!): this won rave reviews
Brown butter almond rich...
And a final palate cleanser -- grapefruit campari sorbet
An outstanding meal!

3435 Waialae Ave. (corner of 9th)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After surf breakfast in Kapahulu

I was starving after a near dawn surf the other day, so I stopped at Diamond Head market on my way home. I was hoping for a piece of cornbread, but it wasn't out yet, so I got a banana cream cheese scone ($3.50). It reminded me of Sconee's banana bread :)
Then as I was driving up Kapahulu towards the freeway, I spotted Bento-Ya Iyasume (in the little mall near Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt). I thought it was Iyasume musubi, which I had read a great review of on Tasty Island, but had never made it over there since it's such a pain to get to anywhere in Waikiki, with the lack of free parking.

I wasn't 100% sure if they were the same owner, but according to Yelp, this one on Kapahulu is the main kitchen, and they send musubi & bentos over to the Koa St location.

Mini bento ($3.50?): choice of one musubi (choose from ume, bonito, salmon or konbu), two pieces of fried chicken, and two little sausages.

A side of nishime ($1.92). They also had other okazu choices, including gobo, eggplant, mac salad, which all looked delish.
A very filling breakfast :)
Diamond Head Market & Grill
3158 Monsarrat Ave.
Bento-Ya Iyasume
611 Kapahulu Ave
Iyasume Musubi
2410 Koa Ave.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Tale of Three Thais: Opal Thai, Siam Garden & Bangkok Chef

After traveling around Thailand this summer (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani) and eating an amazing variety of street food, I'm always looking for good Thai food in Honolulu. Plus it has the option to be [a little] healthier than other takeout, since it is packed with veggies, especially if you avoid the coconut based curries.

1) Opal Thai
I'd read great reviews of this one online, plus heard from a friend that they have the best pad thai in Hawaii. I'd definitely recommend the pad thai here ($8 with tofu)! Also tried the green curry with chicken ($8.25) and the roasted chili shrimp ($9). I'd asked for "spicy" but neither was particularly hot. Sticky rice is an extra $1.75

It's kind of difficult to get to, since they're on the North Shore, but definitely worth a stop if you are out there. Be sure to leave lots of time though; we went on the early side, not even much of a line, and it still took 25 minutes to get our order.
2) Bangkok Chef A stand-by for takeout in our house...Bangkok Chef is cheap and satisfying. It wasn't as authentic as I'd remembered it being, but still a decent meal. Chicken larb:
Shrimp & mango salad (heavy on the vermicelli noodles)
Chicken stir fry with basil and bamboo
3) Siam Garden

This was my first time at Siam Garden. It was packed on a week day night, and all of the staff looked like they just arrived in Hawaii from Thailand. It was good, but wasn't something I'd necessarily go back to again.

Clockwise from top: pad thai, sticky rice, green papaya salad, and roasted chili chicken stir fry
Opal Thai
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy

Bangkok Chef
2955 E Manoa Rd

Siam Garden Cafe
1130 N Nimitz

Really ono: Ono to go food truck

Ono To Go
I'm not really a big eater at lunch time. Yes, of course I have to eat something, but usually not too much (either because I've been snacking all morning, or because I want to run / workout in the afternoon and don't want too much in my stomach). You can ask my co-worker, who complains that I always make him feel bad for eating so much more than I do.

Well, I've found a spot that is sooo good that even I was polishing off my plate. In my lunch truck search (previous trip to
Gogi Taco), I went to check out Ono To Go, a new-ish truck that just opened this fall. I'd been following their twitter and then read this fantastic story on them in Nonstop Honolulu so knew I had to go check it out.

What I loved:

+ They stay in the same location all week
+ The guys working there are so nice and checked up on all their customers to make sure they enjoyed their meal
+ The rice (choice of white or brown, so moist & perfectly cooked)
+ Everything on the menu (especially the poke / kalua pig bowl)

Truck from the outside:

The grill: Poke combo bowl with kalua pig & cabbage ($7)

Bbq combo plate: chicken & steak

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brunch @ Alan Wong's Pineapple Room

My aunty treated me to brunch at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room (inside Macy's at Ala Moana) over Restaurant Week. She'd had several other fabulous restaurant week experiences, so we were hoping to find out what Alan Wong was featuring.

Unfortunately when we arrived, we asked for the RW menu, and were told that they only serve it at dinner. Hmph.

Luckily the extensive brunch and lunch menu looked delicious, so we made our selections from there.

My aunty had the Alan Wong burger, which is basically what she orders everytime she's here. It's probably her favorite burger on the island.

I had the seared ahi salad, with furikake tofu (hidden under the ahi) on a bed of baby greens. The dressing (sweet ginger soy) was delish!

I ended the meal with a small size of the halo halo cup: tapioca, red bean, ice, fruit drizzled with coconut milk.

It would've been a great meal, except for the fact that the service was really off that day. We kept being ignored, forgotten about, and then at times apologized to profusely because they knew their service was really bad that day. Not sure if the manager / head server forgot to come into work that day or what, but it was really distracting. Our server promised us a free dessert to make up for the slow speed and our forgotten drink orders, but in the end, the dessert was still on the menu. It was fine, and I paid for it since I would've ordered it anyway, but the staff shouldn't be making promises and then forgetting about them.
The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong
Ala Moana Shopping Center
Macy's, 3rd floor

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ethel's Grill in Kalihi

One (of the many) good thing about having a new job, is getting new recommendations about where to eat! We had a very disappointing office holiday lunch at Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab (the menu choices sounded delicious, but no one actually enjoyed their meal), so we took ourselves for a guaranteed good meal at Ethel's Grill in Kalihi. I'd heard amazing things about the mochiko chicken and sashimi there, so knew I had to try it.

Ethel's is sit-down (in my mind, it was more of a bento / okazuya type place), and sitting down next to us was none other than Honolulu Magazine's renowned restaurant reviewer. A sign of a good place!

First page of the menu

I didn't even notice the specials up above the kitchen until after we had ordered, but I know I need to expand to those on the next trip. The cabbage rolls were especially popular today; I noticed several tables eating them.Additional menu items:
We started with the tataki sashimi, which is only $5. I loved the sesame - soy dressing, and the boiled fern greens on the side. Topped with thinly sliced fried garlic. Amazing.

I had the mochiko chicken - it was big pieces compared to an okazuya - so light and crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. I poured the dipping sauce all over the chicken. It comes as an entire meal (with rice, miso soup, salad and fruit punch / iced tea) for just $7!

My friend had the garlic chicken....yum. (That's a piece of it on the center of my mochiko chicken plate)

The service was fantastic and so friendly; they gave us some free andagi because they felt the wait was too long, even though we didn't even notice it!

232 Kalihi St.

Honolulu, HI 96819


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More pho in Chinatown: Golden River

I was on River St for lunch the other day and wanted to get some pho. After finally going to Pho To Chau (the really popular pho restaurant on river street, that always has a line down the block), I wanted to try something different. We went in to Golden River (right on the corner of River and N King) which is always busy, but usually doesn't have the line going out the door.

I actually prefer Golden River because even though the prices are
slightly higher than To Chau, the menu offers more variety.

Bun Bo Hue is my 2nd favorite thing to try in a Vietnamese restaurant (after pho, of course). It's Vietnamese "spicy beef soup" with a strong lemongrass and chile pepper flavor. It came with pork knuckle, tofu, and pork sausage.
Bun rieu cua: rice vermicelli soup with crab. This one looks spicy, but it's actually just a tomato based broth that makes it red, not peppers. I saw someone eating this the first time we were there, and went back a 2nd time just to order it. Amazing. The crab is cooked into the egg and is so delish.
3 color jelly drink:
Plate of veggies & herbs for the soup
Golden River Restaurant
198 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
Yelp (yeah, most people go here if the line is too long for To Chau...but at least it is bringing more business to GR!)

Taiwanese hot pot in Hawaii: Sweet Home Cafe

Sweet Home Cafe

During the weekend of the crazy rainstorm at the beginning of December, when it was cold and gray outside, I was craving some Chinese hot pot (similar to Japanese shabu-shabu). Basically you pick your broth, they bring it out to you and pour it into the hot plate on your table. Then you pick your choice of raw meat and then go up to the fridge cases to pick out plates of raw veggies, fish cake, tofu and noodles. After the soup comes to a boil, you can just start dumping in meat, noodles, veggies etc, and pull them out as they get cooked.

One of the highlights at SHC are the dipping sauces. It was always my favorite part of hot pot in China, but SHC has taken it to a new level. I was used to maybe 8-10 different bowls of sauce ingredients (vinegar, hot sauce, sha cha, soy sauce, green onions etc) but SHC had 20 different items to choose from, including ginger sauce (like what you get on cold ginger chicken at a Chinese restaurant), garlic butter sauce (fusion!), and a white miso that our server recommended. You can choose to mix up a bunch in one bowl together (like I did) or enjoy them individually.

A final highlight of SHC: the complimentary shave ice (Taiwanese style) at the end. Taiwanese shave ice includes a large pile of shaved ice, topped with brown sugar syrup and condensed milk, and then with tapioca pearls, chocolate pudding, almond tofu, tapioca and these long orange chewy worms. YUM. Sugar overload!

Our meal for 3 (including leftovers) came out to about $35.

A couple of things to know: no reservations (write your name down on the clipboard outside when you arrive), BYOB, you must finish eating in 90 minutes.

Our broth "spicy"
Plates of oyster mushrooms, soft tofu, tofu knots, and gailan. Sliced beef in the front
My dipping sauce on the left, Taiwanese fish cake on the right (with corn inside)
Grand finale: bowl of shave ice
2334 S King St
947-3707 (no reservations)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Aiea/Pearl City fieldtrip: Bravo & Ice Garden

Took a little trip for work last week out to Pearl City, so we wanted to go somewhere new for lunch. One of my co-workers is from Pearl City, so was giving us a list of options to try for lunch. After her description of the garlic bread at Bravo, I knew that would be my vote of where to eat!

Here are the famous garlic bread rolls: dripping with butter and garlic
I had the lunch special: small garden salad and small portion of any pasta (I chose the rigatoni with meatballs); it was about $7

For dessert, we went over to Ice Garden (which is by Aiea Bowl). It's run by two sweet little old ladies who look like they have been making shave ice forever. If you are a fan of super smooth (no icy bits) shave ice, you need to try this!

The menu: 30 types of bowls!
Making the shave ice
The most popular order in our group: custard on top of shave ice, drizzled with condensed milk
My order (it was amazing!): red beans, green beans, mochi balls, taro, and oatmeal, drizzled with condensed milk. Around $4.

Pearl Ridge Center
98-115 Kaonohi St
487-5544 (no reservations)
Ice Garden
99-080 Kauhale St
Aiea Shopping Center

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another ono pancake & waffle day

It's funny: after 3 days of eating turkey plus all of the surrounding carbs (stuffing, butter rolls, sweet potatoes, cookies, pies, etc.), now I can't stop craving more carbs. Seriously, I've been eating cookies & rolls for days.

Now today (day #4), I was still craving carbs, so somehow ended up eating both pancakes (in the form of Liliha bakery pancake batter) and a waffle (in the form of a KC waffle dog). Talk about old school!

Liliha bakery: I've never been such a Liliha bakery die hard addict (because I don't eat chocolate, so I never got addicted to their coco puffs), but after today I've been converted.

I've discussed in the past how I love to search for fluffy waffles. Well, I also love fluffy pancakes. And Liliha bakery is voted the best for fluffy pancakes in town (by Honolulu magazine, where I stole this pic from). Although I never knew this until today.

My friend scored boxes of new kitchen gadgets at the Macy's black friday sale, and was unpacking her new plug-in griddle (more environmentally friendly than turning on the stove, apparently) when our other friend suggested we make pancakes using Liliha bakery pancake batter. What? They sell pancake batter?

Apparently we aren't the only ones who like to play with their electric griddle, because that (pic above stolen from Yelp, it actually looks a little different now) is pancake batter from Liliha bakery! The pancakes cooked up perfectly, and actually looked just like the ones in the pic above. Amazing.

Then, we were at the Christmas Craft Fair at Blaisdell, wandering around the food gift section, when we saw the KC Hot Dog stand! KC Drive Inn closed in 2005, but Dayton Asato (part of the original family), still makes the famous dog for events & parties. You can find out where he is going to be here.

OK, no more eating for awhile now!