Thursday, March 29, 2012

My latest obsession: Poke

I've been completely obsessed with poke. I think it all started when I moved back home a year and a half ago. I was never super into it growing up, but after spending 7 years in China, I learned how to eat all sorts of things I never would've considered back in the day, so now naturally poke fits in on the easy end of that scale.

My two top spots without a doubt are Tanioka's and Tamura's. Tanioka's when I'm out on the west side (which unfortunately, isn't very often) and Tamura's when I'm in town (it's in Kaimuki) or driving back from the North Shore. Tanioka's might win overall, just because they have so much other ono grindz to choose from ... musubi, bentos, sushi, hawaiian plate, etc. Then again, Tamura's does have the full alcohol selection (it's also a wine shop, at least in Town).

Here's the poke selection:

My dream birthday celebration includes a poke cake from Taniokas:


 Tamura's poke bowl with kalua pig and lomi salmon
 Tamura's spicy crab poke
Best lunch ever: Tamura's spicy ahi and limu poke, with 2 musubi from Fort Ruger Market
Here's one I just checked our recently: Ono Seafood (not to be confused with Ono Hawaiian Food across the street on Kapahulu). Ono Seafood is so tiny; it's hard to find:
 Inside Ono Seafood
 Ono Seafood spicy ahi and shoyu limu

For a sit down lunch with friends, I choose Pa'ina Cafe at Ward. Inside Pa'ina Cafe - super cute upgrade compared to their old kiosk
 Pa'ina Cafe mix bowl
 When I'm downtown and craving poke, I go to Ahi & Veg. I didn't have such great luck with my spicy salmon bowl at the Fort Street mall location:
But the just-opened location off of Bishop St (corner of Queen or Merchant? Next to Cake Couture) and I had much better luck with the spicy kim chee poke...winnah.

All this poke was getting $$ on my wallet, so I gave a shot at making my own. I thought, how hard can it be? Chop up some raw fish, add some shoyu, green onions, salt,avocado, whatevahs. But I found out the freshness of the fish really matters: buying it at Don Quixote and taking it home just can't compete with the freshness the poke markets are getting. I'll just have to find a better source for fish! (Below, my attempt at salmon-avocado, spicy ahi, and ahi green onion pokes)

Mmmm...Whole Ox Deli

Wow. I just had lunch at He'eia Pier earlier this week and we were talking about how "the boys" are opening a new concept this week: The Whole Ox. Everyone and their mother was there for the grand opening on Wednesday (and seem to have spent all day there - breakfast and lunch!). According to Honolulu Pulse, 

For months, there was buzz that Robert McGee (formerly of Apartment3 and Plancha Honolulu) was planning to open a new business in the former Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant space on Keawe Street. McGee used fundraising site IndieGOGO to collect donations for a smoker (costing roughly $11,000) and produce his own cold cuts.

McGee sources his pork from Maui and his beef from Hawaii Island (although not sure which ranch) I believe. We got to try both meats today, splitting a dry aged burger and the smoked pork sandwich. Although the menu is short (less than 10 items) it was soo hard to pick what to eat, because they all sounded so ono.

From the outside: super cute renovation of Blue Ocean Thai!

 Outdoor picnic tables

Ordering at the counter

The menu on a chalkboard behind the counter

This was actually the line at its shortest
 The Doug...something...pancetta (?)
 Smoked pork
 And...omg...the best burger I've ever had. It didn't need any condiments; the meat was that flavorful.
** Update 4/23/2012:
I went back again and tried the roast beef sandwich (per the rec of one of the staff). It was beautiful but not as good as the burger. My friend also recommends the french fries (actually fried potatoes) which are fried baby (fingerling?) potatoes...$4 a serving but big enough to share.

Here's some of the salads & pate / headcheese / prepared meats:

The deets:

327 Keawe St
Honolulu, HI 96813
No phone yet

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Must eats for an Oahu vacation

A friend asked me for a list of places to eat for her boss's niece who is visiting Honolulu from New York City. Gee...they have a lot of good choices for foodies in NYC. I felt under quite a bit of pressure to come up with a list for some young 20-something year old hipsters!

What should I include on my best of list?? Here's what I came up with...let me know what you would add / take off!

1) Fancy local bar food

Side Street Inn - the original

Home Bar - the new comer

I can't choose between the two...I guess Side Street since it's more convenient for visitors staying in Waikiki.
2) Hipster diners
Downbeat Diner: For Sunday brunch or 2 am snacks after going out in Chinatown

3) Authentic Hawaiian Food (not what you get at a luau)

Helena's Hawaiian Food - in Kalihi
Ono's Hawaiian Food - on Kapahulu, closer to Waikiki

Both of these are LEGIT - hole in the wall, been there forever. Get a combo plate at either so you can try kalua pig, poi, laulau, lomi salmon and haupia.

 4) Japanese food

So many choices here - I went with Sasabune...currently on my bucket list of restaurants to try. This would be more high end Japanese. There are two different omakase options, and you put your meal in the hands of the chef to make all decisions for you.
 5) Locavore farm to table dining

Town.The first one in town. Located in Kaimuki, a more residential neighborhood, but still close to Waikiki. Others to consider are He'eia Pier, Sweet Home Waimanalo, and coming (in April 2012) The Whole Ox.

Here's my first trip and my second (more recently).

6) Misc. and snacks

Tanioka's musubi and poke: I can't get enough of the ahi poke, the mochiko chicken musubi, or the shiso musubi there. And if you've never had a spam musubi, gotta get one of those as well.

 Shimazu Shave Ice: Because you can't visit Hawaii without have shave ice (once...or 5 times!) This one has the most unique flavors to choose from.
 7) Bars
My current favorite spot on the island for drinks is the pool bar at the Modern (formerly the Edition) on the Ala Moana end of Waikiki. Feels very South Beach with the white chaise lounges.

The deets:
Side Street Inn: Yelp
Home Bar: Yelp
Downbeat Diner: Yelp
Helena's: Yelp
Ono Hawaiian Food: Yelp
Sasabune: Yelp
Town: Yelp
He'eia Pier: Yelp
Sweet Home Waimanalo: Yelp
Tanioka's: Yelp
Shimazu Shave Ice: Yelp
The Modern: Yelp

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ethiopian pop-up (Addis Ababa) for the next two weeks!

I've been meaning to try the Ethiopian pop-up restaurant, Addis Ababa, for months now. They used to have a spot every Thursday evening at J2 on Waialae in Kaimuki. That closed down (maybe before Christmas 2011?) though, so I didn't have any chance for the past few months.

When I saw the post on Biting Commentary that AA was opening up at the Pacific Gateway Center in Chinatown for 3 Saturdays only, I booked a table for 6 immediately. I sent it out to all my curious eating/foodie friends and got a group of 8 together for last Saturday.

You can choose a 6 pm or 730 pm seating. When we arrived at 730, all the tables were still full, so we sat at the bar to wait (bonus: it's BYOB!!).

Once we were seated, we perused the prix fixe menu. $25 including appetizer, main course, and dessert/coffee. Main courses included beef (spicy or coriander), lamb, chicken, shrimp, fish or vegetarian.

Appetizer: vegetarian ethiopian spring rolls
 Spring roll innards:
 Main course: injera (spongy fermented crepe), roasted lamb, surrounded by a bunch of veggies, including cabbage, purple cabbage, beets, salad, and kale (or some leafy green). It needed some hot sauce -- we asked our server to bring us 4 servings of it!
 The happy group
 Dessert: chocolate cake and Ethiopian coffee (with something herbal floating in it)
Verdict: a good deal, a unique evening out, and supporting the family who runs the place...but needs some more flavor if I am going to go back.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Use those green mangoes!

After all the crazy winds we've been having here on O'ahu, I saw plenny green mangoes littering the streets around my house. I wanted to use them for instead of making mango chutney, I made an Indian green mango pickle (recipe). It's great spicy-sour flavor as an addition to Indian curries, on naan bread, or with lentils.

What the finished product will look like (I hope):

Sliced green mango (it was softer and easier to slice than I expected. Leave the skin & seed in)
 Covered with spices: chili powder, tumeric powder, whole mustard seeds, and whole fennel seeds
 Shake; cover with oil.

It's sitting outside on the deck in the sun for the next two (or 15? according to some recipes) days...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Brunching on Oahu: Sweet E's Cafe and Cinnamon's

Mmmm, brunch. With all the wet, yucky weather we've been having, what better way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning? At brunch with the girls, of course! The only thing that would make it better would be a menu of Bloody Marys and Mimosas :)

Sweet E's in Kapahulu is a super cute little all day breakfast spot at Kilohana Square (the old India Cafe location). It's a super cute place to hang out for awhile, in its tasteful and restful way.

Cobb salad: local greens, bacon, chicken, blue cheese, avocado and awesome croutons.
Belgian waffle with fruit & whipped cream:
On the windward side, everyone is obsessed with Boots & Kimo and their mac nut pancakes. Of course, if you're not willing to wait outside in line for an hour (although they do have take-out, I haven't tried that yet), there is also Cinnamons with its massive breakfast menu of eggs, omelettes, pancakes and waffles.

Blueberry corn pancakes with honey butter:
Kalua pig eggs benedict with home fries:
Omelette, home fries and oj:

Sweet E's
1016 Kapahulu Ave. #185
HonoluluHI 96816
(808) 737-7771

315 Uluniu St
KailuaHI 96734
(808) 261-8724