Restaurants, post-2010

If you’re going to add something to any of the conversations begun in the original restaurant thread, by all means please feel free to add your comment there. However, if you’re going to add some thoughts to some new place not previously mentioned, let’s put it here.

337 Responses to “Restaurants, post-2010”


  1. Mitchell

    Yay. Wednesday was my birthday so I finally got to check out a couple of places I’ve been salivating at.

    First, I had lunch at Good to Grill, which Reid was unimpressed with but which he said he looked forward to trying again. I have several friends who eat here all the time, but it occurs to me that some of them might be getting paid to talk it up, which is kind of a downer on my whole eagerness. Still, at least one person who I’m pretty sure isn’t on the take goes there a lot.

    I had the prime rib and garlic shrimp combo ($18) with garlic mashed potatoes and brown rice. Hey, it was my birthday, and I wanted starch. The prime rib was made nicely but tasted kind of bland. I never really thought grilling was the best treatment of prime rib anyway, but the blandness is not what I expected from a kiawe grill.

    The garlic shrimps were pretty good, but I never understand why adding shrimp to a meal always costs so much. I’m not complaining (it was my birthday, so the price wasn’t that much of a concern); I just don’t get it.

    I thought the potatoes and even the rice seemed strangely flavorless, too. I mixed some horseradish sauce into the potatoes and that made things more interesting, but even the au jus seemed flat and flavorless.

    Still, there was something very satisfying about this meal; maybe it was the grilling, or maybe it was the quality of the food if not the preparation. It pretty much filled me up for the whole day, too.

    However, several hours later, I found room for Honolulu Burger Company. Reid said the burger was slightly crumbly but fairly flavorful, if not as good as Kua Aina or Teddy’s. And he went twice.

    Penny and I split a Korean burger (shredded Korean rib meat topped with kim chee and chili sauce on a wheat bun) and a pocho burger (a hamburger topped with Portuguese sausage and grilled onions on a wheat bun).

    The Korean burger was a pleasant surprise, quite flavorful with a really nice mouthfeel. It wasn’t especially spicy, but it was tender and juicy and pretty dang good. I’m not sure the kim chee added very much (except moisture and texture), but I liked it.

    The pocho burger was good. We had it prepared medium, so it wasn’t very crumbly and had a nice juiciness, and I really liked the flavor. The Portuguese sausage worked really well with the beef, something I wasn’t really expecting. My problem with meat toppings on burgers is that the topping tends to distract from the burger, but I thought in this case everything was enhanced.

    We also had sweet potato fries with a honey mustard sauce. They were crisp on the outside and kind of pasty on the inside; good but not great.

    I’ll agree that it’s not as good as Kua Aina or Teddy’s, but it’s different and still worth the trip. It has the advantage of being in a nice, convenient location with good street parking (at night, anyway).

  2. Mitchell

    Snow FactoryI had a little bit of time to kill Monday afternoon and happened to catch McCully Shopping Center in one of those rare moments where a decent parking space was easy to be had. Snow Factory, baby. Reid said he didn’t think it was very good, but the novelty approach to one of my favorite foods in the world meant that I had to try it on my own. This is that place that shaves blocks of flavored ice instead of adding syrup to shaved ice.

    I had half li hing mui and half strawberry. The first thing you notice about this stuff is the texture. It’s dry and thready, a lot like cotton candy. In fact, frozen cotton candy is the most accurate description I can think of for this stuff. It’s so much like cotton candy that they don’t offer spoons with which to eat it: they give you a plastic fork. It’s very dry and cottony on the tongue and melts in your mouth even though (unbelievably) it doesn’t really melt in the bowl. I do not know how this is accomplished, but it has to be because of what they add to the water before they freeze it. Anyway, it’s more of a novelty than much of a pleasure, and while I think it’s the kind of thing everyone will consider worth trying once, it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that I’ll go back for, unless I’ve got to get my frozen dessert on and Waiola (just a few blocks away) is closed.

  3. mitchell

    Couple of assorted thoughts:

    I went to Ice Garden last-last weekend on my way somewhere else, and I just have to reiterate my love for that place. It’s my favorite place to go for shave ice. I don’t know why I’ve only been there like three times in the past year and a half. It’s not like it’s very far out of my way.

    There’s this place midway between work and home: Bee’s Dessert House. It’s basically a Taiwanese shave ice place, plus bubble tea, ice cream, and burgers and fries. I’m working up the guts to try one of the more exotic offerings, the grass jelly shave ice, but usually I just get plain shave ice, which they serve in a bowl and is decent but not great. The burgers are actually pretty good: tasty if not hefty, and for some reason not available on Wednesdays. It’s in the 99 Ranch Market food court.

    Some friends of mine have been obsessed with coffee jelly lately, so I had it on my mind last week. Penny went with me to La Palme D’Or to try theirs (it gets good reviews). I had the coffee jelly latte, which is basically half a cup of coffee gelatin and half a cup of whole milk. You use a straw to stir it up (breaking up the jelly into swallowable pieces). It was pretty dang good, and I like the thought of coffee gelatin shooters. Jell-O shooters with alcohol in them are a popular way to get some alcohol into you quickly and easily; it seems like much more useful to me to be able to get some good caffeine in you the same way. I expect to experiment with this concept in the next few weeks. Rather than have a cup of coffee in the warm afternoon, why not just toss back a couple of cold, refreshing coffee gelatin shooters?

    There’s a new 24-hour cafe on Piikoi and Waimanu, in the same building as KHON. Kissaten Cafe or something like that. Some of my friends have practically lived there for the past couple of weeks. They say the soups are good, but I haven’t heard much about the coffee. Today’s Groupon is for a $30 stamp card for $15 bucks (or something like that). Email me if you want a link. I haven’t been there yet but I’m considering a visit soon.

  4. Don

    Ice Garden is definitely my fav as well. The only draw back is the price versus the serving size. What do you normally get there?

  5. mitchell

    I get the number 7: milk shave ice with custard pudding and mochi balls. So freaking delicious.

  6. Reid

    Shorebird (Next to the Halekulani)

    I’m just going to write a quick review. You have to cook (grill) all meats for your meals, and not all your table. You have to go to a communal grill. (My brother and I grilled the meats and were there for about twenty minutes.) You get a salad bar with the meal, which is pretty weak. The menu is pretty bland (steaks, chicken, etc.). Not recommended.

  7. mitchell

    Finally checked out the stripped-down re-emergence of Bob’s Diner, Drive-In, and Dinner House.

    I had a loco moco, and it was freaking delicious. The patty was a bit on the tough side but it had nice flavor, and something about the light-brown gravy had me slurping it up with a straw and then licking the plate after. My sunny-side-up eggs were done almost exactly as I like them, with the whites nearly cooked through completely and the yolks warm and runny. Best loco I’ve had in quite a while.

  8. Reid

    Is the menu basically the same (pecan pie)? What about the decor?

  9. Mitchell

    Basically the same, but seriously stripped down. I didn’t see any desserts. And the decor? Basically you’re on a non-air-conditioned lanai (what used to be the very back section in the old restaurant), eating off of folding tables and sitting on folding chairs. About nine tables. Huge sheets of plastic hanging from ceiling to floor to block that section from the still-damaged rest of the joint. Ladders, buckets of plaster, fans. It’s like eating in the least damaged section of a burned-out restaurant.

  10. Reid

    Wow, that doesn’t sound too good. In any event, I liked the decor because it was in that style that I associate with the late 60s and early 70s California ranch style (if that’s the correct term). Anna Millers is sort of in this style and also the diner in Pulp Fiction. Bob’s was one of the few places like that, so I was wondering if they were going to preserve that style. Oh well.

  11. Mitchell

    They were supposed to be fully operational by last October, but it doesn’t look like they’ve made any progress since a friend described it to me last May. I’m not holding my breath.

  12. Reid

    Yogurstory (off of Keeamoku, next to/behind Sorabol)

    I think the name of this place is not a very good one as its more of a cafe–with breakfast, sandwiches and coffee, than a yogurt place (although they have a self-serve yogurt and topping bar like all the other yogurt places nowadays).

    I think most of you have heard my complain and wonder why we don’t have more creative diners in Honolulu, the kind that will do new twists on breakfast and diner food. Well, this place serves some of those kinds of things, particularly with the waffles. There are several creative ones, but we tried the red velvet waffles (about $10). It’s a chocolate waffle, chocolate drizzle, taro cream cheese and red velvet cubes on the top. It was OK, not great.

    We also ordered an egg dish–asapargus, seasoned potatoes in a cream sauce (really light and not very much) with an egg and breakfast meat in a bread bowl (more like a scooped out bread like the kind you get at Ba-le). It tasted good, but it was about $10, too; and not very big portions. (My guess is that the owners/cooks are either Japanese or Korean.)

    Anyway, they also have dessert and stay open until 10:00, so I wouldn’t mind trying this place after dinner. Also, the interior is quite spacious with an upstairs loft. The decor is in the contemporary style that Asian places seem to favor (although it’s a bit warmer and comfortable, imo).

    Mitchell, I could see you liking this place. Don, you probably won’t like the value here. (Think Panya or Cream Pot.)

    Btw, we also went to Honolulu Burger Co. later. I finally got the Big Bang Burger (the Korean burger Mitchell mentioned in his review). I thought the flavor was good, but I would have preferred standard kal-bi texture versus the “pulled” meat texture of the burger. (It was like a teri pot roast sandwich.) I did like the addition of kim chee and I thought a little mayo would or mac salad would kicked it up a notch.

    Larri got the pastrami burger (again), and I think this is the one that I like the best.

  13. Mitchell

    Yogurstory is one of two current darlings of Twitterlulu, ‘though I haven’t been there yet. The photos I’ve seen of the food there are very intriguing. I totally need to check that out.

    The other place everyone’s buzzing about is Kissaten, a new cafe in the KHON building on Piikoi. Haven’t been there yet either.

    This time of year is so lame!

  14. Reid

    At the last Sunday of every month, Kaka’ako Kitchen offers, “Picnic on the Lana’i,” a family style meal generally focusing on a specific cuisine. ($33 per person and children under four, free.) This past week I went with my family for American/Italian cuisine.

    Here’s what we had:

    carpaccio
    scallops wrapped with prosciutto
    salad (with feta, cranberries, and I can’t remember what else)
    red potatoes
    braised short ribs
    mahimahi dore
    roast chicken
    panna cotta

    Overall, I was disappointed by the meal, but I will say that the price was right; there was quite a bit of food. In general, I’d say the quality was similar to what you’d get at a banquet held at a hotel. The salad was probably the best thing for me (I like the way Siu makes his salads, although the ones they sell normally at Kaka’ako are disappointing; I like the ones he makes at catered events.) The short ribs were solid, too. The roast chicken reminded me of public school lunch baked chicken.

    Camille on Wheels (foodtruck)

    John Heckathorn essentially said this was the best taco food truck on O’ahu (or at least of the ones he reviewed). I’ve been hear twice for the tacos, and I think they’re good, if not very good. I had the Thai Spicy pork and the chimichurri beef. Both tacos come with a bunch of vegetables (mostly cabbage with some kind of ranch-type of sauce) in a corn tortilla. Both the fillings are good and fairly substantial. I think the run for under $4, and they’re pretty filling. (Mitchell, I could see you liking this.)

    We also tried the blue velvet cupcakes, which were fine, but not worth $3.

  15. Reid

    Tango

    Larri and I happened to walk over to Tango to check out their menu and noticed that they served breakfast. It looked interesting so we decided to check them out again. Here’s what we had:

    Swedish pancakes (around $8). This was basically five silver dollar style pancakes with whipped cream and various fruits. The pancakes had a slightly chewy quality that I liked, but I felt like the pancakes were gone in six or seven bites.

    Sausage hash (around $8). Basically, this was homefried potatoes (more boiled than crisp) with kielbasa sausage. One or two eggs was served on the top. Just OK.

    Danish ($3). According to the waitress, they make their own danish. We had three small ones. I never tried it, but Larri said it was good.

    Btw, Tango opened another place, “Tango Market,” in the Satura Cakes location. The place serves more lunch fare, coffee and some desserts.

  16. Reid

    La Tour Cafe (on Nimitz, the old Weyerhauser building)

    This is a small, contemporary cafe–with a sort of generic and sterile interior; not very warm or inviting ambiance, imo. They have baked goods (although more breads, than pastries), pizza and sandwiches. They also serve macarons–which are quite good. If you’ve never had macarons, they’re basically cookies with sort of a hard shell on the outside, a chewy cookie underneath and some cream filling between two cookies (sort of like an oreo with a shell). I had some in Seattle that were excellent and this was in the same ballpark.

    We also ordered a pizza (magherita, if I remember), a burger (bacon, avocado and jalapeno, if I remember correctly) and I can’t remember what else. The burger was OK and the fries were a little better. If the prices were a bit lower, I’d consider going here more often.

    I do recommend trying the macarons, though.

    Cafe Luibueno (Haleiwa, next to Pizza Bobs)

    This is a Mexican place that got some good reviews on Chowhound. The verdict? The fish dishes were good, but I’d stay away from other items. (Apparently, they’re also a fishmarket.) We started with a seafood potpie–which came with crab, fish, potatoes in a spicy cream sauce. It was good, if not great.

    We also ordered monchong in a spicy garlic butter sauce (they have four different ways to prepare it). It came with Spanish rice and sauteed veggies in a spicy sauce (seemed like chili oil). I really liked the veggies and the fish ($23). Perhaps, driving out to Haleiwa just to eat here is not worth it, but if this place were closer to town it would be worth trying.

    (We also ordered fried calamari in a chipotle aioli sauce–both the sauce and calamari weren’t well-executed, imo.)

  17. Mitchell


    Cereal Remix

    It’s been just over a year since Cereal Remix opened its doors in Waimalu but I hadn’t heard of it until the beginning of my spring break. I love breakfast cereal so I had to give it a try!

    This is my extreme-sized bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, Cocoa Krispies, and Golden Grahams with skim milk, topped with raisins and almond slivers.

    It was delicious. It was also a lot of cereal. I got the extreme size because the regular size looked a little too small and the extreme was just a buck more. This is basically the Yogurtland of breakfast cereal, ‘though the toppings aren’t as plentiful or varied. Also, you don’t pay by weight; you pay by the size of your bowl. As you can see, I played it safe for my first visit.

    It’s breakfast cereal. So yeah. It’s overpriced for what it is, but I still enjoyed it and will probably visit again on my next break. The owner and the employees are super, super, super nice. The owner even made me a toasted peanut-butter and banana sandwich with honey just for the heck of it. The one major downer is that it opens at 7:00, far too late for me to drop in on a work day. Also, parking’s not free (this is in the building across Waimalu Times, where Elephant and Castle used to be).

    They also have slow-cooked steel-cut oatmeal and good-looking sandwiches.

  18. Don

    I love cereal as well. How much for the extreme size? I’m guessing the cost of one entire box.

  19. mitchell

    The extreme size was six bucks and change. The regular size was a buck less. Most of the tables have electrical outlets near them, so if you need to make it a working breakfast (as many of mine are!), you can bring a laptop. Although I guess I wouldn’t recommend that, ’cause you gotta eat breakfast cereal quickly. 🙂

  20. Reid

    Wait: so this is cereal you can buy at a grocery store–or do they make their own versions? It sounds like the former, but I can’t believe they would just sell various combinations of cereals and sides you can already buy at the store–even if these combinations are pretty creative–especially at $6!

  21. mitchell

    Just regular cereal you can buy at the grocery store, but I don’t. I love breakfast cereal but it’s not a good way for me to use my money most of the time. The mixes aren’t pre-made; you tell them what to fill your bowl with from among 25 (or so) choices.

  22. mitchell

    A friend of mine says that the falafel at Mary’s Mediterranean kitchen is pasty and that it tastes baked instead of fried. I don’t have too much experience with falafel, but I thought it was among the best I’ve had. I thought it was dense and chewy and had a wonderful meaty quality about it that made me almost forget I wasn’t eating meat. The warm pita it comes with is really good; the hummus is decent. The salad comes with ranch (why not tzatziki?) dressing and it’s all right. If you’re craving Greek, this might do the trick but I think it’s perhaps $1.50 overpriced for what you’re getting. If you’re eating in, pick up a drink from one of the other places: Mary’s charges you a buck-fifty for a 12-oz. can of soda.

  23. mitchell

    For about eight months after we graduated from high school, I worked at the airport for a company whose office was in the Airport Trade Center. Byron’s Drive-In is right across the street from there, but I only ate there a few times because it kind of sucked. Its being open 24 hours a day wasn’t enough of a draw; if I had a long-enough break during my graveyard shifts, I’d just eat something in the airport or perhaps make the drive to Nimitz Zippy’s.

    In recent years, however, I think a different Byron’s has emerged. Management is much quicker to call the police on shadier types who are hanging out but not dining, and the menu is a lot more creative and interesting. A letter posted in the pick-up window shortly after the new year explains further that the menu has been stripped-down to reflect the more popular choices so they could focus on quality, but the real pleasure has been the specials board, which tends to be a little more exploratory. Recent weekly specials have been grilled mahi tacos and lilikoi chicken (boneless, deep-fried, sweetly syruped). The food is still not outstanding, but it’s a decent option when your options are limited, and I have to say that a couple of times, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

    Other pretty-good finds were the kalua moco (on the regular board) and the meatloaf (on the specials board) if you’re the type to order meatloaf when you’re dining out, which I am.

  24. Reid

    On Don’s recommendation, I tried the lemon grass chicken sandwich at Ba-le. It was good, but I don’t know if I like it as much as Don.

  25. Don

    I give the Bale Chicken Sandwich about 7 out of 10? It’s not like I would rank it up there with Brent’s sandwiches. Maybe I made it sound that I liked it more than I do. I think I was just surprised you never tried it.

  26. Reid

    How was the cuban sanwich, Don?

  27. Don

    I had the Cuban sandwich at Eat the Street. Sorry cannot remember the name of the truck. It was pretty good. On the Cuban sandwich scale, I would give it a 6.5 versus Soul de Cuba’s 9. Granted those are the only two Cuban sandwiches that I can remember eating. so my scale is not all that valid.

  28. Reid

    Alicia’s Market (Mokauea Street, makai of Nimitz)

    A friend of mind told me that they have the best poke. He specifically told me to get the masago ahi poke with the roast beef (the menu says top sirloin–but it tastes similar to roast beef or prime rib). I tried to the masago poke, and it was good–it’s soaked in a spicy sauce–but I don’t know if I’d call it the best. I guess, it depends on one’s preferences.

    I did go back and try the combo. You can get a mini ($8) or regular ($10?). It comes with rice, mac salad (with peas and potato) and kim chee. It was a pretty good combo. I especially liked the way the juices from the meat and the “gravy” from the poke mix in with the rice.

    One other thing. I liked the ambiance of Alicia’s Market (There’s a small sign and, at first, it might be hard to figure out where the place is, but just go to the only place it could be.) It’s basically a Chinese roast meats + poke place+ old school mom and pop store.

  29. Don

    The Curry

    This place is right outside of Don Quixote at Kaheka with all the other eating places. If you can deal with the cheesy name and ambiance/environment, this place is great. As the brilliant name suggest, they sell curry and that’s it. They serve Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian curry in all kinds of “heat” levels. They serve it with chicken, beef, veggie for $6.75 or shrimp for $7.25. I would suggest not getting the shrimp because the one time I got it, it was overcooked. I’ve only been here twice, once with a groupon-like deal, and tried all three curries. All is good, but if I had to rank them I would say Vietnamese (which is more soupy), Indian, and then Thai. My suggestion is to go with a group and get all three. It comes with choice of white rice, brown rice, sticky rice or Jasmine (I think), mac salad (which is decent and goes well with the curry) and vegetable salad (which is “meh). It’s a pretty good deal.

    The main reason I write this is because I don’t want this place to close, so I’m encouraging the readers (in the famous words of Mitchell “a whopping two”) to go. Although to be honest I hardly ever go here myself. If you do go, let me know what you think.

  30. mitchell

    I’ve looked at that place with interest. My experience has been that all three ethnicities’ curries are made with coconut milk, which I really like. Is that the case here?

  31. Don

    Definitely Thai curry is made with Coconut Milk. I’m guessing that in most cases Indian curry is made with yogurt, if there is any type of dairy in there. Vietnamese curry I don’t think I ever had that before. In fact I would even say I didn’t even know if existed. The Vietnamese places I go only got pho, bahn min (the sandwiches), and stuff that sort of resemble Korean, like Kal Bi and lemongrass chicken which is their take on teri chicken. The Vietnamese curry here is soupy and to me has a beef flavor. I think I chose that one over the other two because I never had it before, but for some reason it does taste Vietnamese to me.

    To add to the enticement, they give a good amount of food. I would venture to say that with will power you will be able to make two meals out of it. The will power part definitely leaves Reid and me out of that comment, though.

  32. Don

    Ooops, forgot to say there is definitely no coconut milk or any dairy product in the Vietnamese curry. Although, not sure if coconut milk is a dairy product, but I take it you know what I mean. 🙂

  33. Reid

    Some disappointing developments for some of my favorite restaurants/eateries/items:

    Kaka’ako Kitchen’s bread pudding, which I used to consider one of the best desserts, has gone downhill. The bread pudding is a bit dryer and doesn’t have that custard pudding quality anyone.
    Dave’s Ice Cream. What happened? I don’t know but Larri and I have been to the Aiea and Waipio Dave’s and they’re just not the same. The ice cream is not as creamy and rich as in the past. Seriously, we felt like it was similar to eating Meadowgold ice cream (or maybe a notch above).

    Sad news.

  34. mitchell

    Don, I went to The Curry this evening. I had the Thai chicken curry (medium) with sticky rice. You get a lot of food for seven bucks—I could have eaten just half and taken the rest home, if I were going home after. As it was, I ate all of it and am still feeling the pain an hour later.

    Anyway, it was okay. I’ve had much better. I’ll go back and try the Indian before I decide whether or not I want to keep going. It definitely wasn’t worth riding the bus from Kalihi for; it’s a good thing I also planned to go somewhere else right after.

    That food court at Holiday Mart has always been a sleazy place to have a meal, but the tables are nicer and more comfortable now. It’s still a great place for people-watching. And by “people” I mean “young Asian women” and by “watching” I mean “leering.”

  35. Don

    So even for the amount you got, you didn’t think it was worth the bus ride? What about the fact you get mac salad. Where else can you get mac salad and asian curry.

    Re: Leering
    I had a coworker who used to work at Daiei. He always said they had the best views as well. I never noticed that was the case until he brought it up.

  36. mitchell

    I’d say it’s worth it if you’re in the area or if you’re driving. The mac salad was a plus, and they make it pretty much the way I like it, simple and with no veggies.

    Did any of you go to Eat the Street this month?

  37. Reid

    Regal Bakery (near the airport)

    Mitchell told me about this place–they just make doughnuts (although they have a plate lunch type of place on the side). We got the following: strawberry (glaze with sprinkles over a cake doughnut); the lemon doughnut; crueller (sp?) and I can’t remember what else.

    The cake doughnuts were tasty, but nothing exceptional. (Mitchell did tell me about the maple bacon doughnut, but I wasn’t in the mood to try that.) Btw, I did ask the woman behind the counter if they had freshly made doughnuts and she sort of waffled. Basically, they wanted to give out the older doughnuts first, which I understand, but I think it would be better to allow customers the option of getting the fresh ones.

    Verdict: OK, but not worth makign a special trip for.

  38. Mitchell

    What time of day did you go?

  39. Reid

    About 10 AM on a Friday.

  40. Reid

    BLT Steak (Trump Tower, Waikiki)

    As many of you know, I tend to feel like steaks at a fancy steakhouse are almost never worth the price; but since I had a gift certificate (thanks, ohana), we checked it out over the weekend. The verdict? BLT Steak did nothing to change my attitude. Like other fancy steakhouses, the food wasn’t terrible per se, but I almost feel like using that adjectives given the prices I have to pay. It was a real disappointment, and based on this one visit, I would not recommending going to the restaurant.

    Here’s what I got–the bone-in rib-eye ($48) and long beans ($10; everything is a la carte). Larri got the filet mignon (can’t remember the price) with potatoes (fried, baked and gratineed, with cheese and bacon). And we both split the lobster cobb salad.

    The rib-eye was nothing special–in fact, it was kind of flavorless–and the seasoned crusty outer layer was much too salty. (Talk about a double-whammy.) The taste for everything else was surprisingly mediocre. The dressing on the cobb salad was unexceptional and not really that good. (Dressings at places like Sam Choy’s, Assagio’s or even Big City Diner are a lot better, imo.) Seriously, you’re better off going to some place like Outback. The food would be just as good, if not better, for a fraction of the cost.

    Oh, we also got their famous popovers, which were pretty good. It’s very airy, which a crispy outer shell. The dough inside the popovers are chewy and cheesy. Still, I didn’t think they were all that exceptional.

  41. Don

    I heard the steak there was fork cuttingly soft. Not true? You probably ate it so fast you didn’t realize it was so soft. 🙂 In fact the softer it is, the faster it would go down. No wonder you didn’t taste anything.

    What about the pate on the popovers? Obviously non memorable.

  42. Reid

    _You probably ate it so fast you didn’t realize it was so soft._

    That could be. 🙂 Seriously though, I used a knife, so I couldn’t tell. But who cares about the tenderness, if the flavor was mediocre? (And I don’t eat that fast! 😉

    Yeah, the pate, obviously, wasn’t memorable. It was very peppery. Uh, OK, but nothing great, imo. (It came with small pieces of toast and not served with the popovers. They serve the popovers with butter and salt. I’m not sure about the reason for the salt–it didn’t add anything for me. Larri seemed to like it, though.)

    I’m going to be a little surprised if you love the steak. Then again, you loved Longhi’s, so maybe you’ll really like it.

  43. Mitchell

    Dining out is a lot different for me now than it was just a few years ago. My disposable income doesn’t go quite as far as it used to, AND there’s less of it. Eating somewhere even kind of nice means planning ahead; when I get invited to dinners on short notice, I usually have to make some kind of excuse not to go.

    Luckily, a friend from the mainland (a food stylist/photographer) was in town, and I knew about her trip weeks in advance. Another friend made arrangements for us to eat at Restaurant Chibo in the Royal Hawaiian Center. This friend who made the arrangements LOVES okonomiyaki and is kind of a regular at this place.

    It was because of this friend that I tried my first okonomiyaki: I was eating many years ago at Makino Chaya (Reid’s favorite restaurant!) and ordered it off the menu. It was pretty awful.

    But hey. My friend was in town and I wasn’t going to miss out. Chibo basically has two things on the menu: okonomiyaki and yakisoba. There was no way I was going the safe route and paying twenty-five bucks for yakisoba. I told my friends I was going to have whatever they were having, even though I knew it was taking a chance.

    They ordered okonomiyaki with yakisoba noodles inside (!), plus bacon, mochi, and cheese. I was a little bit wary of the mayonnaise and plum sauce; however, I was committed to experiencing what my friends were experiencing. so when the chef asked us if anyone had a problem with mayo and plum sauce, I kept my mouth shut.

    It was prepared teppan-yaki style, right at our table, and OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS SO GOOD. I didn’t even recognize most of what I tasted, but the crazy blend of textures and tastes was unlike anything I’d ever eaten. Call me a fan.

  44. Don

    How much is the okonomiyaki? I heard it’s under $15, no? How big is it? Is it bigger than a Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut?

  45. Mitchell

    There are different prices. It’s hard to say what it cost because the chef made us three entrees we didn’t order and my friends are regulars, so we tipped generously. Plus, we had a guest. Someone divided the check evenly and my share was $35. I’d say it’s slightly larger than a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Those yakisoba noodles seemed to make a big difference. My friends say they usually eat the whole thing but they were full after half. It was the first time they’d had it with the yakisoba.

    I took half of it home. It was really good as leftovers.

  46. Mitchell

    ps: there’s a downloadable PDF menu at the website.

  47. Mitchell

    Crud. I meant to say the chef made us three APPETIZERS we didn’t order, not three entrees.

  48. Mitchell

    I had to run a million errands in town Saturday, most of them on foot, so I took the opportunity to eat at three new places.

    I had breakfast at the new Fatboy’s on Keeaumoku. This place makes really good food. My principal once catered our end-of-the-year breakfast from Fatboy’s and everything in it was delicious. I was ravenous so I had the Alii Breakfast. It’s a sunny-side-up egg on top of a corned-beef-hash patty on top of a scrambled egg on top of a grass-fed beef hamburger patty on top of a small mound of fried rice. Man, was this good. With a large drink I think I paid twelve bucks.

    6206334166_a81bac259f.jpg

    I later had a snack at Otto Cake. This is mostly Renee’s fault. I’m not a huge cheesecake fan. This was pretty good though, if slightly pricey for what it was. Nice decor, though. I like the guy and I like his place, which is good enough a reason to go there once in a while. It was like five bucks for a thin (albeit filling) slice.

    6206508279_b939c8b934_m.jpg

    Lunch was at Le Crepe Cafe, where I had the Pesto-Pesto crepe. Pesto, cheese, tomato, and chicken. I sprinkled some Tabasco on it and it was rather tasty. Only $6 or so, too. Minus points for being out of diet soda.

    6206508263_12e5032a4e_m.jpg

  49. Don

    Hence the name Fatboy. That’s ridiculous and awesome at the same time.

  50. Reid

    I took off from work today, and Larri and I checked out a couple of places.

    First, we split a burger at Honolulu Burger Co. (We used our last pay Hawai’i.) We got the pastrami burger, which was OK. (Actually, the greasy pastrami helped because Larri likes her burgers well-down and that really dries out the grass-fed beef.)

    Next, on Don’s advice, we went to Soul de Cuba and tried one of their sandwiches. I can’t recall the name but it had “soul” in it. The pressed sandwich came with serrano ham, salami and roasted (shredded) pork with aioli and I don’t know what else. It was about $14. Just OK.

    We then walked over to Otto Cake and got the apple caramel cheesecake. Again, good, but I don’t get the hype.

    I’m going to take off a few more days this week, and we’ll hopefully try some other places.

  51. Mitchell

    I had to spend my day running around Waikiki on foot (prepping for a 日本語 excursion next week). Photos later.

    I had breakfast at HISteaks, which is one of those steak-and-rice places. This one’s inside the Food Pantry on Kuhio. It’s got a couple of breakfast things but I wanted a real steak plate, so I ordered the #1, which is grilled steak, rice (white or brown), and either tossed salad or Asian potato salad. I had the brown rice and the potato salad. For $8 I thought it was pretty good. You get a choice of sauces (served on the side), and I went with the chimichurri sauce, which tasted more like a vinegary pesto. The steak was flavorful and had a nice mouthfeel, ‘though I suspect many would consider it too dry. Since it’s inside the Food Pantry (a very large convenience store; probably a grocery store is a better description), I bought a soda from in there, instead of getting a fountain drink at the steak place, and the cashier was giving away snack-size packs of Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to all the paying customers, so that was a nice little surprise.

    For lunch, I went to Marukame Udon, which is right on Kunio in the heart of that area’s activity, where that Jack-in-the-Box used to be near Seaside. Yelp reviewers have been raving about this place for its quality and value, so I had to check it out.

    It is my opinion that udon can only get so good, so value was critical here. And you can get a regular order of udon in the house broth for less than four bucks. As soon as you enter, you’re in front of a cafeteria-style counter. You grab a tray, you tell the noodle guy which order you want (they have a variety of sauces and soups, in two sizes and offered hot or cold). Then you grab a tempura plate and walk past several tempura and musubi offerings.

    I can’t remember the name of the udon I had, but it comes with a soft-boiled egg, green onions, and tempura crumbles. I picked up a shrimp tempura, a sweet potato tempura, a croquette, and a one more tempura that escapes me at the moment.

    The udon was less than five bucks. Each tempura was between $1.25 and 1.75. My whole order, with a fountain drink, came to just over $11, but let me tell you that four pieces of tempura was overkill and the only reason I ordered that much was that I told my students to bring $10 to $15 for lunch and I wanted to see what $10 would get. In the future I think I’ll just get one or two pieces of tempura.

    Yes, the noodles are made right there on the premises, right before you order them, in fact, so they are very, very fresh. However, unlike the freshly made ramen noodles at Tai Sei, these freshly made udon noodles didn’t seem noticeably better than most other udon I’ve had. I guess I don’t have the palate for udon. The broth (the critical element for this noodle) is tasty but served just north of lukewarm. The tempura is well-made but not mind-blowing. I didn’t try it with the tempura sauce, though, so that might have diminished my experience.

    However, if you’re in Waikiki, where else are you going to get real Japanese food for just a few bucks? I wouldn’t make the drive into Waikiki for this, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re already in the area.

  52. Reid

    Downbeat Cafe (Hotel Street; next to Mini-Garden)

    Larri and I tried to this place recently–basically a diner with a few breakfast dishes (mostly meat related) , sandwiches, burgers and fries. We were there for breakfast so we tried a loco-moco that came with two slices of bacon. The gravy was of the white variety and pretty tasteless. The burger was OK. Really, nothing to get excited about.

  53. Don

    Marukame Udon

    Mitchell, try getting the chicken tempura next time. It has a strong flavor (some might even say a little salty), but it goes good with the udon, imo.

    Downbeat Cafe

    The burgers here are pretty good I thought. Didn’t get the loco moco though. Not Teddy’s good, though. 🙂 I think they use North Shore Cattle beef right? The same as Pineapple Room. That’s what I thought.

  54. Mitchell

    I think the chicken was the fourth thing I had. I think I’m going again today, so maybe I’ll try something else. Hafta finish my field-trip prep.

  55. Mitchell

    So yeah. I went again Saturday and then again (with my students) Monday. Saturday I had the curry udon, which was pretty dang good, with one shrimp and one soft-boiled egg tempura. Monday I had the soft-boiled-egg udon with the cold broth and two pieces of fried chicken. Nice.

    I have to say that it was a great location for a small group of high-schoolers. Students tend to go for the familiar when they’re given a choice, and they’re usually very price-conscious. Making them eat with me at Marukame was successful because the food was good and inexpensive. And even though we got there at like 12:15, there were plenty of tables and almost no line. Smooooooth sailing.

  56. Mitchell

    I finally checked out Alicia’s Market on Mokauea. I ordered the combo: beef and poke. I agree with Reid: the sign says top sirloin but it tastes like a pretty good prime rib to me. For poke I just asked for the shoyu poke (with sweet onions). It was good. I don’t know if it was GREAT compared to other good poke places, since I’m kind of new at this, but I moaned quite a bit while eating this.

    The salad Reid mentions is their potato-crab salad. It’s GOOD. The sweetness from the crab really comes through and gives the whole salad a lively flavor. There was also a garnish (or just a taste?) of some won bok tsukemono and THAT was good too. The four different tastes (beef, poke, potato salad, and tsukemono) all worked nicely together: contrasted but not OUT THERE. $13 for the regular combo plate and worth it.

    The Chinese roasted meats in the window looked good. I could see them preparing some slabs of pork for roasting, so I guess they do it on the premises, which is always a plus. My only gripe about the place is that there’s nowhere to sit down and eat. I walked from Mokauea (across Nimitz) to Kalakaua Park (on Kalihi Street between Dillingham and King) where I had a nice meal sitting in the grass. But that can be a haul when you’re hungry.

  57. Mitchell

    If you enjoy good coffee, Beach Bum Cafe on the corner of Bishop and Hotel is worth checking out. After Karen’s swearing-in, I stopped in (I’d heard about it for months) and had a latte. They make their large lattes with quad-shots, and that’s what I needed.

    You could tell they take their coffee seriously when, as the espresso was coming through the machine, the barista sloshed some steaming hot water round in my lattee glass and poured it out in order to heat the glass.

    The flavor was strong but not too bitter; I’m not sure, based on taste alone, I’d have guessed it was a quad. It was a good balance of milk, froth, and espresso and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

    I’m told their regular coffee is brewed by the cup, too. I hope to go back soon to check that out.

  58. Reid

    How’d you like the overall vibe in Alicia’s, Mitchell? I really like Old School mom-and-pop places like that. Let me know if you try any of the Chinese meats. Do you think Don would like the food?

  59. Mitchell

    Checked out Downbeat Diner at someone else’s recommendation, totally forgetting that you guys had even mentioned it. I had a teri burger and The Pile, which is home fries with cheese, bacon, and eggs. I thought it was good. Not to-die-for good, but solid and comfy. The burger had a nice char and a really nice texture, ‘though I can see why some would consider it overdone. Next time I’m going for the Guinness milkshake.

    There’s a 24-hour pho place on Kapahulu called Aunty Mai’s. I had the pho and the spring rolls (I’d gone specifically for autumn rolls, but they were out of the cold noodle wrappers). Yummy spring rolls. Yummy pho. The chicken pho had thin slices of chicken breast and a nice broth, not insipid like the broths I’ve had other places. Definitely going to go back so I can try other things.

  60. Reid

    You and Don should start a thread on the best pho (and Vietnamese food).

  61. Mitchell

    Man, I’ve only eaten pho like five times, so my experience is super limited. But if it can be as good as what I’ve had at Auntie Mai’s (and at least one friend of mine who loves pho was NOT impressed with the broth there), I’m going to make it a personal quest this year to find the good stuff that doesn’t require standing in long lines or sharing my table with strangers.

  62. Mitchell

    El Palenque.

    This is that hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant some of us went to several years ago at Penny’s urging. I finally went back Sunday. The photo is of the mixed enchilada plate: one each of mole, red, and green. I chose pork for all three enchiladas. $13.

    It was quite good but not great. I’d definitely eat here again; in fact, I’m eager to try some of the other things on the menu. Each enchilada had a different character from the others. I liked the mole the best, but three mole enchiladas might have been a bit rich. I finished with the green, which was nice and kind of refreshing in its brightness.

  63. Mitchell

    Larry’s Wholesale Bakery used to be Larry’s Waiau Bakery in the Waimalu Shopping Center, a place I never checked out for some unfathomable reason. It’s behind the Salt Lake Target store now, which is close to work, and it’s open at 6:00, which is about when I start to pull in.

    I mostly go if I haven’t had time to make lunch (my school has no food service and there’s just not enough time during lunch to go off campus). The walk-up window has Spam musubis with plenty of nori for $1.50. You can get it with fried rice instead of steamed rice for $2. The fried rice is quite good.

    They also have small breakfast bentos for something like $3.

    I haven’t tried too many of the baked goods, but the glazed doughnut and its related cousins are really good. I had the bread pudding but wasn’t too impressed and I don’t remember why. I think it might have had coconut in it.

    Open Saturday mornings too. And everyone who works there is always super cheerful.

  64. Mitchell

    I feel I should add to Reid’s and Don’s assessments of Downbeat Diner, even though I haven’t yet been back. Reid wrote that it’s “basically a diner with a few breakfast dishes,” but that’s because he’s not a drinker. It’s also a lounge with some really creative things on the menu. Also, many of its menu items come with vegan options, which is a huge plus for some of us who have vegan friends.

    I mentioned the Guinness milkshake, which I still hope to try someday soon (spring break is on the way…), but it also has some alcoholic ice-cream floats.

    Today’s Tippr deal is $20 for $10 at Downbeat. I haven’t hit the button yet, but I’m considering it.

  65. Don

    http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/Biting-Commentary/September-2011/Eating-Local-with-the-Heeia-Pier-General-Store-Deli/

    Ate at the Heeia Pier General Store Deli with my Mom and Tracy. There are a few counter seats inside, a few covered bench seats on the “patio”, and a few uncovered seats outside. You cannot beat the backdrops of the Koolau and Kaneohe Bay, that alone I will say is worth a trip. Add to that great food, and I would say it is a must try. I had the Ahi Katsu for $12. It was raw in the middle and just a great piece of fish. I would say sashimi quality (but I would think cannot be for $12). According to stuffs I read on Chef Mark Noguchi, he buys fish from the fishmen straight off the dock, which is probably why the fish was really good. My plate lunch came with Kalo (taro), instead of potato, salad (which had a curry base), which Tracy loved so much she bought a side order to take home. My mom got the teri beef plate, which was a decent size for $8. If you like the Japanese bento style teri beef, where they put the sauce on top after cooking, you might like this plate, but I rather have the local style teri beef in which the beef is soaked raw and then cooked in the sauce. Tracy got a hamburger, which came with fries and a drink for $9, which was good. I like a bun that stays together amid all the sauces (condiments and burger juices), but this bun was a little soggy after a while. We got there right before 11am, and the place is supposed to open at 11 for lunch. They close between breakfast and lunch for like half an hour (I think.). They probably didn’t take our order until 11:15ish even though there was no one there. This is probably why we were given free poke and a taro dish made of what the Chef said was leftover taro and they pound it to a cake and pan fry it. He put it on our table and said because we were his first customers of the day. Alright. The poke was different from any I tried. It had what Chef called bozobana leaves in it. It was good, but I cannot say better than normal poke fare. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you go and want to get the poke bowl and you expect “regular” shoyu poke. The taro was really good, but you cannot order that because it’s not on the menu so you out of luck.

    Give this place a try would be my suggestion. I would definitely go back.

  66. Reid

    The Whole Ox Deli (Keawe St. in between Hank’s and Restaurant Row)

    I went here on Friday, but I was in a rush so I only tried their “spinach pie” (the guy behind the counter didn’t know the name of the dish). I’m not sure if the greens were spinach, the guy told me it was mostly shoots (what kind of vegetable, I’m not sure), but it basically tasted a lot like spinach.

    The pie is basically a quiche–with very little egg or cheese. So it mostly tastes like spinach, which isn’t bad, except the crust was not far from cardboard–both in texture and taste. Having said that, it wasn’t bad and it was very filling. (A pretty big slice for about $5.)

    I went later and tried the “Porchettaboutit, Doug,” which is porchetta sandwich with fennel and cracklins. Porchetta is basically roast pork, and here the fennel seemed carmelized; it was very sweet, reminding me of a chutney. I couldn’t taste much crunch of the cracklins, and I wished the sandwich had more of this. It was a good sandwich, not necessarily something I’d drive out for, but solid. Roast pork fans (not Chinese style) might like it a lot more, though.

    Btw, I liked the open-aired feel (huge sliding doors) and wooden benches. The menu is a lot more extensive than on the website. (They have about seven or eight sandwiches and about five breakfast items.) They also have some side salads. Oh, we tried the mozzarella salad, which came with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Basically, the mozzarella was bland, like other mozzarella I’ve had it in Hawai’i. (That was about $4.)

    This might be a place for Don. (The medianoche–pork and ham sandwich–has Don’s name written all over it.)

  67. Don

    Went to a couple places this weekend, one Mitchell might be interested in and one Reid sort of might be interested in.

    First is Shochan, which is a okonomiyaki place on Kapahulu right above Hee Hing. This place is roomy but only has a few tables (maybe 6-7). This is because the chef can only make 7 okonomiyakis at a time. It also takes about 15-20 minutes to finish one batch. That 2 – 3 tables every 20 minutes or so. The Hiroshima okonomiyaki has noodles (soba), egg, cabbage, bean sprouts and pork. The Kansai okonomiyaki has similiar stuffs, but less cabbage and no noodles. The best reason to go is that it’s fairly cheap. $7.50 for the basic okonomiyaki. You can add more stuffs (ie: extra egg, shrimp, etc) for about $2.00 each. I don’t see how they can make a lot of money if they making 7 okonomiyakis every 20 minutes.

    Second is Panda on Keeaumoku. They changed owners and now offer $7.99 lunch dishes. Reid might want to go and order the black bean steamed oysters. One order has 4 oysters in the shell. Not huge oysters, but 4 fresh oysters (ie: not canned or bottled) for $7.99 is not a bad deal. You can also order the deep fried flounder which is big, huge actually for $7.99. The food is not exceptional, but for the price it’s a deal. The deal is only for lunch though and probably not going to last forever.

  68. Reid

    Thanks for the head’s up, Don. I’m assuming the lunch deals apply on the weekends? Btw, does Panda serve dim sum? What else would you recommend getting? (Larri wouldn’t like the oysters, and she probably wouldn’t be too excited about the flounder.)

    The okonomiyaki place sounds interesting–but the “7-in-20-minutes” aspect does not.

    Mitchell,

    How was that okonomiyaki place on King St.?

  69. Don

    Reid,

    Yes you can get the lunch deals on the weekend as well. They do not serve dim sum. Actually Tracy always wants to get seafood, and I’ve only been twice, so I’m not sure what else they have that’s good. I have had the salt and pepper pork chops and it was okay. I thought that dish wasn’t that big though, but big enough for $7.99. Forgot to mention that the deep fried flounder is not the salt and pepper, garlic kind. They deep fry it with a tempura like batter and add a small amount of shoyu, green onion, oil sauce on the bottom. It’s good, but the tempura batter is sort of bland, so you have to get the flavor from the sauce it’s sitting on.

    I’m not a okonomiyaki expert. In fact I haven’t had many. Shochan’s version seems really simple and with the exception of the sauce on top, it’s sort of bland. In fact they advertise it as healthy food. Yeah if you are table 4-7, you may have to be in round 2 of the okonomiyaki batches.

  70. Mitchell

    The place on King Street is Yaki Yaki Miwa, in the same building as Sasabune. I remember really, really enjoying the food but I can barely remember it. It may be slightly overpriced for what it is, but we didn’t leave any food on the table. I’ll probably go back some day.

  71. Reid

    Kiss My Grits

    We tried this place yesterday, especially after hearing Mitchell and Penny rave about.

    We ordered a lot of food. Here’s a breakdown:

    fried green tomatoes–liked the tangy taste of the tomatoes, but the pimento cheese sauce was even better. Pretty good.
    bisquits and gravy–white gravy with bits of sausage (which tastes like McDonald’s sausage–which is not a complaint. The bisquits were OK, the gravy didn’t have much flavor, but I liked the sausage.
    oyster po’ boy. Lost of fried oysters, so I liked that aspect. They didn’t put a lot of sauce, though.
    ribs in mustard sauce. To me, if there is no charring to the meat, you can’t really call it bbq. The ribs were essentially boiled meat with some mustard-y sauce. One of the worst bbq I’ve had.
    smokey mac and cheese. This came with fried onions and bacon. This was really oily, but it tasted really good to me.
    Collards. I think they used a vinegar sauce in this, which I didn’t care for.
    Black-eyed peas. Meh.
    Candied yams. I didn’t get to try this, but Larri said there was too much brown sugar.

    I’d be surprised if Don likes this place, at least the dishes we tried.

  72. Reid

    Da Falafel King

    We went this tiny lunchwagon on the site of the old Varsity theater. (There’s another one in Waikiki). We tried the falafel sandwich and kabob sandwich. The best thing about the falafel was everything but the falafel. The falafel was a bit too mushy and lacking in flavor. But the sandwich is packed with red cabbage, cucumbers, pickles, in a tahini sauce (I think). More importantly, this is stuffed into the pocked of the pita versus folding the pita over like a taco. The vegetables and the sauce aren’t that noteworthy, but the “packaging” of all the food appealed to me for some reason. (It’s also wrapped in paper and tinfoil, which you can easily pull back.) Still, I probably wouldn’t get this again.

    The kabob sandwich is basically a patty of beef and pork (or was it lamb?). It’s almost like a hamburger, but, again, it came in the same form as the falafel sandwich. The patty wasn’t exceptional, but I prefer it to the falafel.

    We paid $14 for the kabob combo and $11 (I think) for the falafel combo. You get a canned drink and either fries or pita chips. The latter is probably the best thing about the place. Yep. They cut the pit into triangles, dust them with spices and then quickly fry them so that the edges are slightly crisp, while middle of the pita remains soft. They also either fry it in olive oil and/or dip in olive oil afterwards. It’s good, but not necessarily drive-out-of-your-way good.

  73. Mitchell

    Restaurant Domo

    I was hanging out with Susan and Kristie and we decided to eat somewhere none of us had ever heard of, using Yelp as a guide. We settled on Restaurant Domo in Kaneohe. It’s in that little corner strip mall behind Windward Mall on the Sears end. Actually, I have no idea if Sears is still there, but it’s the area I think of as the Sears end.

    It’s a tiny (six or seven tables) Japanese restaurant with the usual teishoku-sushi-donburi kind of stuff. Kristie had the gyu-don; Susan had the ten-don, and I had the katsudon (my usual go-to in a new Japanese place; about $10) and an order of maguro nigiri (two pieces, $5). We also shared a spicy ahi maki and a natto maki.

    The spicy ahi maki was like the little cucumber maki, but with spicy ahi and California roll fillings. Not bad, but I prefer my raw ahi to be in chunks large enough for my tongue to appreciate the texture, something this didn’t offer. This was my first time trying natto, and it was as gross as everyone says. At first, the texture and flavor were reminiscent of nametake, something I love, but as it rolled around on my reluctant tongue, I was overcome with a noxious, almost petroleum-type flavor and smell, and then it was all I could do to wash it down with a glass of water. How in the world is this food?

    The maguro was in long, thick slices that completely hid the sliver of rice beneath. It wasn’t especially flavorful but the texture was heavenly and this was the highlight of the meal. Besides the company, of course.

    The katsudon was just north of standard. I would have appreciated a leaner cut of pork, but I’ve had a lot worse at the same price. I think Kristie’s gyu-don was the best-looking dish. Along with the thin slices of teri beef, it also had watercress, onions, and a couple of other veggies. I think watercress on a donburi is a good idea.

    If you go for dinner, you might want to make reservations. We just walked in and had to put our name on a list. The wait was about twenty minutes, but I was with friends so it didn’t seem very long.

    You know that Japanese place we’ve been to, near the Kaneohe Safeway? I’d say this is a small step beneath that. A serviceable Japanese restaurant that I’d probably go to a lot if I lived nearby.

  74. Mitchell

    Yajima-Ya

    This is a food truck parked in a lot on Sheridan, right behind Hinone Mizunone. There are four picnic tables beneath a tarp in front of the truck, and pretty much no parking. I parked on King Street in the metered stalls.

    After a morning swim, I often want more than just breakfast stuff, but this place is open for breakfast at 7:00. There’s a breakfast special, which is Portuguese sausage, Spam, and bacon with rice and eggs for four bucks. Everyone I saw ordered this. The truck specializes in donburi and THAT’s what I wanted, so I asked the Japanese guy in the truck if it was okay to order off the lunch menu.

    The day I went, there were three donburis on the menu: gyuu-don, ten don, and “samurai” don, which is a combination of those two. The tempura in the ten don is really sliced veggies with small shrimp, battered and fried in cake-like tempura. It was pretty tasty but not the kind of thing I’d order again. The beef is tasty and tender and not too fatty. I’m not especially fond of the donburi sauce; it’s just a step above regular shoyu, and there’s no egg in the don, which to me is always a disappointment. I paid $7.50 for the samurai don. All in all, it wasn’t a bad breakfast but I thought it was slightly overpriced for what it was.

    Almost everybody was also ordering the iced coffee, so I had a large (with cream and sugar) for $3.50. Pretty good, but also slightly overpriced. I’m probably going to try it once more to try the breakfast special; however, I’m fairly confident that this is not a must-try place for anyone. There are other places open in the area during breakfast hours.

  75. Mitchell

    Ikemen Ramen
    At the Yataimura Food Court in Shirokiya, only until July 8

    A bunch of my friends have been raving about this, so I tried it today. Click the images if you want a bigger view.

    Not a Bad Philosophy

    The guys who work there wear gangster-inspired clothing. When they work together prepping a dish, bent over their work around a prep table, they look like they’re conspiring to knock someone off. It’s really cool.

    Three of the Five Offerings

    There are basically five dishes with options for toppings and one appetizer as a side. You get a dish of noodles and a bowl of shiru for dipping. I had to go for the $12 “Ghost Buster” Ramen, not only because of the torched marshmallow but I liked the thought of a creamy ramen broth. My friends who’ve tried more than one seem to like the Ikemen the best.

    Chasiu from Ikemen Ramen

    I ordered the chasiu appetizer. It was freaking delicious. Thin slices of Japanese-style chasiu with a delicious char. Sprinkled with bonito flakes and some kind of light mayo. This was awesome. I kind of longed for a small bowl of rice to eat this with. Five bucks, which I think is about right.

    "Ghost Buster" Dip-Style Ramen

    Here’s the Ghost Buster. You can see the little torched marshmallow, that little black thing, in the soup bowl. They wait ’til you get to the counter to pick up your order before they take a huge acetylene torch to a tiny marshmallow and then drop it in your soup. More for effect, I think, than any real flavor. If you want to eat the marshmallow, don’t wait too long because it dissolves in the soup. Twelve bucks. It has a very truffle-oil aroma and flavor. The broth is a bit on the salty side, and I think the cream mellows it just a bit too far. I’d like to try the Zebra ramen, which doesn’t have the truffle oil or the cream. I’m okay with the $12 price, but I have a feeling this just isn’t $3 better than the other, $9 dishes.

    Anyway, check it out before July 8. I went at 10:00, right when it opened, and didn’t have to wait in line or look for a table. If you’ve ever been there during the dinner hour, you know it’s hopeless to try and find a table. There are $1 beers beginning at 5:00, so you don’t really want to try to fight that crowd.

  76. Mitchell

    By the way: the Falafel King has a store now. It’s located in the space where Diego’s Tacos used to be, right next to Old Stadium Park.

  77. Reid

    Hey, I thought I wrote about Ikemin, but I guess not.

    We tried the zebramin, the ghosbuster and the spicy (tomato-y with groundbeef). The shiru for the first and last was good. The ghostbuster shiru was kind of bland. But all three shirus were tepid. Imagine making a bowl of ramen letting it sit for a few hours and then eating it. That’s what it tasted like. (I have to believe this was unintentional.)

    I agree with Mitchell about the char-siu, which is a misleading; it’s more like roast-park with a hint of a char. The side order was good, but the ones that come with the ramen are basically just as good.

    We also got a shrimp, garlic gyoza from the ramen place next door. It was OK.

  78. Reid

    I’ve been to Whole-Ox Deli a few more times. Here are some of the things I tried:

    Falafel sanwich. The name is somewhat misleading as the falafel seems to be mashed as opposed to fried; it’s not the dominant flavor, either. What dominates is the tangy yogurt sauce (harissa?) and the fried–tempura-like–vegetables. My family likes this sandwich, and I think it’s the best sandwich I’ve had there.

    Burger. OK, not great. They cooked it medium and it was nice and juicy, but the flavor isn’t exceptional, imo. It comes with a grilled onion. Good, but nothing to stop the presses.

    Korean pork with kim chee. This was a special. I’m not sure about all the flavors, but it was basically a pulled-pork with a bunch of different flavors. The flavors disappointed me. (We had a lot leftover and didn’t bother finishing it.)

    Roast beef. Byron gave me a “meh” response, and I agree with him. Meat: bland; sauce: bland. What the heck? Very disappointing. It might be better than Arby’s, but it’s not worth the difference in cost.

    Potato salad I can’t remember specifics, but this was pretty good.

    Pickle. Meh.

  79. Mitchell

    REAL: A Gastropub

    JB and I went here last week.

    This is the root-beer-braised short rib. I thought it was pretty dang yummy. JB was far less impressed. In general, this this is super easy to cook and very difficult to mess up, so maybe that’s why JB wasn’t thrilled. Shortribs are overpriced in Hawaii’s markets, so I seldom purchase them for cooking at home. And I don’t like most of the local preparations, so I seldom order them out. Maybe that’s why I liked this as much as I did.

    Root-beer-braised shortribs

    These are the chicken wings. I love wings and will never complain when someone else orders them. However, these were pretty standard. Which is to say I really liked them, but not any more than wings just about anywhere else.

    Chicken wings

    And here is the candied bacon. JB and I both thought this was the best thing we had that night. But you know, bacon served like this isn’t really food; it’s more like a warm-up. I would have been happy with just a little less char on this. Still, when I go again (and I will go again), this is a definite must-order.

    Candied bacon

    Here’s the menu:

    Menu

    We went on a Monday night after 9:00. Don’t go too late because the kitchen closes before the bar does. Plenty of parking and basically our choice of seating.

  80. Mitchell

    Pint + Jigger
    In the old King’s Bakery space, next to Jimbo’s in Moiliili.

    This is one of the hot spots everyone’s talking about. Huge beer selection and interesting food seem to be the reason.

    I didn’t photograph everything, so maybe Penny will contribute some photos.

    Here are the Scotch Eggs. Among the people at our table, this was the most popular, even without Susan’s vote (she doesn’t like eggs). It’s a soft-boiled egg wrapped in a pork rillette and deep-fried. I liked this a lot.

    Scotch Eggs

    These are the sweet potato dumplings. They tasted like a lightly-fried mochi. Nobody disliked this, but it wasn’t outstanding. When our table was cleared, there were still five or six dumplings still in the dish. They were served in a kind of buttery, cinnamon sauce. I don’t know why but I’m thinking serving them with something stickier, like a peanut sauce or something, might have worked better.

    Sweet Potato Dumplings

    This is the ceviche. I could identify squid and scallops and some kind of fish. With lettuce and a few other veggies, this was bright and citrusy and my favorite thing we ordered. It comes with three small corn tortillas; it needs more.

    Ceviche

    We also ordered the thing everyone is buzzing about: Red Devils on Horseback. They’re bacon-wrapped strawberries with a candied lemon zest and some kind of lemon-caramel sauce. I liked this more in retrospect than at the moment. I think I need to try them again.

    We had an order of the ramen-crusted fried shrimp served with house-made barbecue potato chips. Susan LOVED the chips. They were good, but I can’t get excited about chips when I’m eating real food. I would much rather have had fries, which the shrimp come with by default. The shrimp were not tough, but they were pretty firm. I kinda liked the firmness but maybe they were just slightly overdone.

    Finally, we had a chocolate stout cake for dessert. It was good. I just don’t have much of a sweet tooth; at least it wasn’t too chocolatey, the way most chocolate desserts are!

    I’m definitely going back. We went on a Monday night after 10:00 and not only was there plenty of parking, but there was a lot of seating. Closes at midnight on weeknights.

  81. Reid

    I never heard of Pint+Jigger. It sounds pretty good (better that Real).

    Burgundy (Kapahulu across from Crane Park)

    According to Don, Joe Moore said that he doesn’t have to go to Le Bistro because now he can go to this place–which I interpreted to mean that this place is as good, if not better, than Le Bistro. Uh, no–at least not on the time we went. (To be fair to Don, he did try to warn after he read some negative Yelp reviews.)

    I shouldn’t judge a restaurant based on one visit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be going back here. For starters, the menu is really uninspired. I would guess most foodies would decide not to go here if they only had the menu to go on. (Another small, but bad sign for me: the menu had a Japanese translation. I don’t know if this is a valid red flag, but when I see that, I think the place is catering to Japanese tourists, and I get the impression these restaurants are overpriced and not very good.) The menu seems to be classic French cooking, cooking that would be very palatable to American eaters…actually, if I could see this restaurant succeeding if it opened in the 60s or 70s. But in 2012, I can’t see how a restaurant like this can succeed (although the prices were pretty good). The entres would have to be incredibly good. For example, they have a chicken confit, which is basically a roasted chicken. What’s the chances of eating the best roasted chicken you ever ate? That’s what it would take to make this place succeed, imo. Now, to be fair, restaurants place chicken dishes as a way to satisfy some customers, not necessarily because they’re excited about preparing chicken. But I got the rack of lamb ($48 for a full order, which was considerable, although very fatty), which, according to the waiter, a lot of people rave about. It was roasted (?) in roquefort cheese, and it was just OK. (I’ve never had a rack of lamb that was so fatty. I like fat, but this was a bit excessive. I’m wondering if this was how it was supposed to be served, and I’m just an unsophisticated rube.)

    Larri got the beef bourguinon, which was good–probably the best dish. But, again, I don’t think I could recommend the place based on this dish. (It came with mashed potatoes; most dishes are a la carte).

    Other items:

    Mushroom salad. Loads of Japanese style mushrooms over lettuce. Portion (mushrooms) good; taste, OK.
    Appetizer “sampler”: lobster pate, pork rillet,… can’t remember what else. Just OK.
    mushroom quiche: (because Larri read a good review about this). Just OK.
    Ratatouille: OK, but it looked like they just threw in some stewed tomotoes and cooked it with some vegetables. (I prefer Kalapawai Cafe’s version.)
    Gratin: Basically, scalloped potatoes, thinly sliced. OK.

    Oh, my mom got the lobster dish, but I didn’t try it (half lobster in butter, citrus sauce.)

  82. Reid

    Chi-Town Deep Dish Pizza (Ft. Street and Pauahi)

    Don told me about this place, and I checked it out today. I had the italian sausage sandwich and a slice of the sausage pizza.

    CTP cuts their sausages like small pieces of gyro meat. The bread was a smidge better than a cheap hot dog bun. It also came with some mozzarella, and diced green peppers and onions. The flavor of the sausage was OK, but the texture left something to be desired. (I was charged only $5 because they didn’t have fries at the time.)

    As for the pizza, Mitchell, you remember how you told me you liked eating canned stewed (or was it whole) tomatoes? Well, this is your pizza. The pizza has about an inch to a half inch of sauce–which seems like they dumped crushed, whole tomatoes–while throwing in some sausage. That may not sound positive, but I don’t mean it that way. I actually liked the sauce like this. I’m not sure about other ingredients, but it basically tasted the way I describe. I bit into big chunks of meaty tomatoes and I really liked that.

    The crust wasn’t the thick pan pizza style, but a thinner variety. It was fine.

    And, yes, the pizza just came with the sauce (crushed whole tomatoes) and sausage–no cheese. They do have a cheese pizza, though.

  83. Mitchell

    There was a Groupon for that place and I kept meaning to walk by it to see how legit it looked before buying the deal, but I kept forgetting. Sounds like I might need to try it.

  84. Reid

    $4 for a slice.

  85. Don

    What? No cheese? Are you sure? That just seems wrong. Was the tomato sauce flavorful or did it just taste like tomatoes? Although you seem to somewhat enjoy it, it doesn’t sound that appealing to me.

    How big was the $4 slice? $4 for a slice seemed reasonable when I walked by and saw the price, but I didn’t see the size of the slice.

  86. Mitchell

    A few more photos from Pint + Jigger.

    Pigs in Blankets. “Hand-crafted sausage” in flaky dough. I felt dumb ordering this because it’s such a pedestrian dish, but this is miles better than Lil’ Smokies in Pillbury Crescent rolls. Of everything I’ve had there, this is the best-tasting. Ridiculously good. Comes with a cherry-tomato relish.

    Pigs in Blankets

    Here are the Red Devils on Horseback:

    Red Devils on Horseback

    Crabcakes:

    Crabcakes!

    Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout. I like oatmeal stouts, but this is the first time I’ve had one out of the tap. A huge improvement over the can.

    Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout.

  87. Reid

    Don,

    If there was cheese it wasn’t visible and the taste was super subtle. 🙂 Seriously, I guess it might have been there, but there must have been super little, if so.

    The sauce was flavorful, imo, but it was basically tomatoes, if that makes sense. Basically, if you like really good tasting tomatoes, you would like this. If you want other ingredients and flavors, then probably not.

    The size of the pizza isn’t very big–maybe a little bigger than a 3″x5″ card.

    And, yes, strangely enough, I did like pizza. It’s definitely a good change-up from the other variations we have available.

  88. Reid

    Da Cajun Guy (parking area sort of across from McDonalds in Haleiwa, with several other food trucks).

    He wasn’t serving jambalaya, so I got the chicken and sausage gumbo. It was good–yummy comfort food. I’m not sure it’s worth the drive, but it was good. I’d say it was better than the gumbo I’ve had at Emeril’s in Vegas or the gumbo in New Orleans.

    I had the sausage po’ boy, which wasn’t remarkable.

  89. Don

    My office did a take out from Nico’s, and because I didn’t know what to order I just got the Furukake Ahi. It was fabulous. The fish quality was as close to sashimi quality without being sashimi quality. I got it rare. It wasn’t fishy, and there was no stringiness to it at all (sometimes tombo ahi has a lot of grizzle or tsuji as they say in Hawaii). The preparation as well as the tartar sauce that came with it was nothing special, but kudos to the quality of the ahi. Tasted like a good piece of rare steak. The size of the fish was decent as well.

  90. Mitchell

    That’s always the best choice if the catch of the day doesn’t appeal to you, but I almost ALWAYS get whatever the catch is.

  91. Reid

    Pint and Jigger

    We checked this place out over the weekend. Here’s what we had:

    pigs in the blanket
    sausage sliders
    ramen crusted shrimp with bbq chips
    fries

    The best thing was the warm, nicely toasted bread of the pigs in a blanket. The mushy sausage disappointed us as we expected something crispier, like pupu pups or arabiki sausage. (It was more like breakfast sausage, but a bit blander.)

    The sausage in the sliders also didn’t have much taste either.

    The shrimp was OK, although I wouldn’t have known that the breading was made out of ramen. The bbq chips were good (not too oily).

    This is not a place I look forward to returning to.

  92. Don

    I heard Pint and Jigger does breakfast on NFL game days (Sundays). I forget what they had on the menu, but I remember it sounding good.

  93. Mitchell

    I can’t believe you didn’t try the red devils on horseback. Not that they’re THAT great, but they’re so different from what you usually see.

  94. Reid

    I believe red devils aren’t on the menu. (Was it in the dessert section?)

  95. Mitchell

    No, it’s on the main appetizers menu. Interesting. Might have to see if they took it off.

  96. Reid

    Morning Glass (Manoa, a little mauka of Manoa Shopping Center, or whatever it’s called)

    This is a tiny (about eight small tables) coffee place. I heard they served a good breakfast (full menu on weekends only) and good coffee–specifically the locally grown type. I’ve been wanting to try Rusty’s coffee from Ka’u, adn I read that Morning Glass serves that. Alas, when I went, they only had the Maui Moka peaberry (which was just OK, in my opinion).

    Anyway, we had two skillet-egg dishes, both of which comes with home-fried potatoes. I had one with spinach, ground-beef and guyere cheese. Larri had a standard one with bacon and something else. The portions weren’t very large, and the food was OK.

    I also tried the blueberry scone which was good.

    Later, I visited the place with Jill, who got their version of an egg McMuffin. Jill loved it (raving about the homemade English muffins), and I thought it was solid. I tried the latte this time, and it’s probably the best latte I’ve ever had (almost ruining lattes at Starbucks for me).

    They also serve sandwiches, but we never tried any.

    It’s not a place to rush out to, but it’s quaint little, open-aired (almost a lanai) coffee place.

  97. Mitchell

    I finally got to check out the Whole Ox Deli. It’s on Keawe Street, which is the street right after the old CompUSA building as you head into Ala Moana, in the space that briefly housed Grumpy’s.

    I went twice for breakfast and once for lunch. My first breakfast was an eggs benedict dish with some kind of sausage (made on the premises; I can’t remember its unpronounceable name). The sausage was kind of bland and had an almost mealy texture I didn’t much care for. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t especially good, although I have to say those were some of the most nicely poached eggs I’ve ever had, and the Hollandaise was nice and simple, the way I think it’s supposed to be. A satisfying (if probably too heavy) breakfast. I probably wouldn’t order this again.

    The second breakfast I had was the roast beef hash. I’d gone specifically for the corned beef hash but it wasn’t offered that morning. The flavor was good, but the roast beef was way overcooked. I’ve made this dish at home and you’re supposed to cook it dry, so in a manner of speaking, overcooked is practically the name of the dish. However, this went to the point of losing precious flavor AND being unpleasant to eat. The mouth-feel was unpleasant, too. I should mention that the potatoes were cut into very small cubes, very much like the potatoes you get in canned hash, which might have worked well if the roast beef portion of the dish were tastier. As it was, I thought the dish lacked the potatoeyness I think is crucial to this breakfast. I admired the effort they put into this, and the presentation these small cubes provided, but a much rougher dice, with larger hunks of potato, might have rescued this dish. I’m not ruling out trying the corned beef the next time I go, but I wouldn’t order this again and would try to dissuade anyone else from ordering it.

    When I went for lunch, I had the dry-aged burger everyone talks about. I have a friend who’s got excellent gustatory credentials who says this is the best burger he’s ever had. Reid says it’s okay but it’s nothing to get excited about. My experience falls somewhere in between. I think it’s a VERY good burger, very well made and very tasty. It was just a little dry, but the taste and texture reminded me of a really good backyard barbecue hamburger. So while I won’t put it up there with Teddy’s or Kua Aina, after those two burgers I am not sure I could name a third that’s ahead of this one. My advice is to go easy on the condiments (if you put anything at all) and enjoy the meatiness.

    I also had an order of the potato salad, and it was really good!

    Reid mentioned the open-air feeling of this place, and while I have to agree that it’s very relaxed and comfortable (especially for a late breakfast if you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere), if you’re eating alone and it gets busy, it’s kind of not fair for you. You eat at these picnic tables, and of course it’s not right for one person to have a whole picnic table to himself if the place is busy, but these four ladies who were dining together asked if they could join me, and when you’re outnumbered like that, it’s really you who is joining them, no matter who got there first. I was doing some work while I ate, and in order to accommodate them, I had to squeeze my laptop, notes, and lunch into a smaller space than I’d have liked. Joints like this should set aside a few smaller tables for lone diners.

    One of the reasons Reid thinks this is my kind of place is that the dishes are really attentively, carefully prepared. I do admire this and for that reason I will go back, but I have to say that after three tries, I’m not very excited about this place and three visits should be enough to form a decent assessment.

  98. Reid

    I do admire this and for that reason I will go back, but I have to say that after three tries, I’m not very excited about this place and three visits should be enough to form a decent assessment.

    I feel the same way. (You might want to try the falafel sandwich, which has deep-fried vegetables in it, with a tangy sauce. My kids love it.)

    Ramen-Ya (Across from Wal-Mart in Pearl City)

    We ordered the spicy seafood ramen, shoyu ramen, and miso soup. Everything was very mediocre, bordering on bad. The one good thing is that their portions are kinda big, at least compared to the real Japanese-y type of ramen places. (The chicken katsu and curry plates that passed our table seemed pretty huge.) Definitely not a place you’d want to check out.

  99. Mitchell

    I’ve been meaning to try Loving Hut. My vegetarian friends think rather highly of it. It’s right on the corner of Pensacola and Young, at the opposite end of the building that houses Aunty Pasto’s. Everything on the menu is vegan,

    I had the crispy won tons which come with a sweet chili dipping sauce. They were good, but the sauce reminded me a lot of the McD’s sweet chili sauce. Which doesn’t mean it was bad. It was just really saucy. $5.

    This I followed with the chili and brown rice. If you have ever eaten a vegetarian chili from one of the health food stores in town, you pretty much know how this tasted, but it had a lot of different kinds of beans which made it interesting. Earthy and slightly bland, it was filling and satisfying. I’ve made vegetarian chili at home many times and this wasn’t better than what I make, so I doubt I’ll get it again. $7.

    The service was pretty inattentive. I didn’t get my water glass refilled until near the end of my meal. The tables are clean, and there is a large TV monitor on the wall playing a series of lectures about the benefits of eating vegan. I actually found that kind of interesting. I went during the dinner hour but I was the only person who dined in; everyone else was ordering takeout, and the ladies who worked the counter seemed to know all six (or so) customers who came in for takeout.

  100. Don

    Picture 093

    Pho Huong Lan

    This is my favorite Pho place. It’s in the Chinese Culture Plaza on the Mauna Kea Street side. Pho at some places, depending on the time of day that you go, may be salty or heavy or the opposite not tasty enough. Pho Huong Lan’s soup is more consistent. This could be because they are only open for lunch. Tracy also thinks their beef is the softest of the pho places. Other good features of good pho is that their must be a lot of soup and that it’s hot, since you still need to add the bean sprouts and other stuffs. Pho at Pho Huong Lan meets those criteria. The minus is that there is usually a line, but when we went we only waited about 10 minutes.

  101. Mitchell

    Hey Don. Did you mean to trash your pho comment? I rescued it from the trash and it’s in the “pending” bin right now. If you meant to trash it, I’ll discard. If not, I can restore it.

  102. Don

    I couldn’t post the picture so I trashed it to try again.

  103. Mitchell

    Okay. I fixed it.

    The IMG tags built into VI work only for URLs that point right at a graphics file. This means you’re looking for a filename that ends with .gif or .png or .jpg. There’s a way to do it from Flickr; if you right-click on my photos above, you’ll see they have Flickr URLs with .jpg extensions. I can tell you how to get there in Flickr if you don’t know. The URL you had originally only pointed to the Flickr page of that photo, which is a different kind of situation; you can’t use the IMG tags to show a webpage in your comment.

    The way your photo shows up now, it’s really a photo and a link, which is a different bit of HTML. You can just copy and paste the HTML from that photo’s Flickr page by clicking the “share” option in Flickr.

  104. Mitchell

    PS: I agree with you about the heat. I’m so often disappointed when pho comes to my table at eating temperature. By the time you throw the bean sprouts, lemon juice, and basil in, it’s barely warm enough to eat.

  105. Don

    Reid had told me before that Serg’s Mexican Restaurant in Manoa had good Mexican food. I haven’t got to try it until recently. IMO, I think Serg’s has the best Mexican food in Hawaii. We got the normal fare, a shrimp burrito and a steak chimicanga.

    What I really like about the food is that it’s not really heavy as most Mexican food tend to be. The reason is there is no cheese in their food. Most would think, “Woah then it cannot be any good.”, but no it’s great. The only cheese we had on both plates was the shrimp burrito came with refried beans which had some sort of Feta-like cheese on it.

    Without the cheese you can really taste the flavors of the fillings. For example the shrimp burrito had a strong lime flavor, which I thought was awesome. Also they have five “take your own” salsas, which I tried three and they were all really good. All “homemade” I imagine.

    From seeing other people’s food they only have flour tortillas (which I like better anyway). Even their tacos seem to be fried flour tortillas just a smaller version of the chimichanga size tortilla. Just thought I’d point that out if you are a corn tortilla fan.

    The food portions was huge and the price not too bad for the amount of food. The shrimp burrito was $10, and the chimichanga $12. The only drawback is their is no free water (ie: cups of water) so bring your own since it’s all outside seating anyway.

  106. Mitchell

    They have a Serg’s in Waimanalo, too. I ate there a few months ago; had the flauta because that’s what Yelp told me to get.

    It’s good. And it’s a lot of food for ten bucks. They do have free water (from a cooler), but you only get these three-ounce Dixie cups. I filled three Dixie cups and went back to the cooler about four times. I don’t know, but I think the white stuff in my photo is cheese.

    I have to say that deep-fried stuff in Mexican restaurants is often greasy, but this flauta was deliciously dry and crispy. And I really liked the black beans.

    Also in Waimanalo is Ono’s Steak and Shrimp, a food truck across the street from the 7-Eleven (Kailua end of Waimanalo Beach Park). I forgot to take a picture of my food that day. I had the seven-piece garlic shrimps with an 8-oz. steak. The steak was flavorful but dry; I think most people would consider it overdone. It was even slightly overdone for my tastes, and I have a wide zone for that. The shrimps were plump and perfectly done. They came with a sweet chili dipping sauce that tasted like EVERY OTHER sweet chili dipping sauce I’ve ever had. I am beginning to lose patience with that particular condiment.

    It came with a scoop of potato-mac salad (passable) and rice. It was $13, and while I enjoyed my meal very much, there was nothing really to make it worth driving to Waimanalo for. I was out there for a meeting.

  107. Don

    We seen others with the flauta and Tracy wants to get that the next time. She likes the chimichanga but she doesn’t like the rice and beans in it. She assumed that the flauta is virtually the same thing without the rice and beans inside. Is that a true assumption? What was yours filled with or do you have no choice of filling?

    There are two white “stuffs” on your flauta. One I think is what I described as a Feta-like cheese, the other is sour cream. We had the sour cream on our chimichanga, too. They squirt it our of a bottle onto the food.

    What is your take on the no cheedar cheese Mexican food?

  108. Mitchell

    Man, I really can’t remember what was in that thing. Sorry. And you know what? I didn’t even notice that there was no cheddar on my food. I’m a cheese fanatic and I didn’t even notice. It was that good, I guess.

  109. Reid

    Don,

    To give credit where credit is due, a Mexican guy on Chowhound mentioned this place. I liked what I had, and while I thought it was solid and maybe a little better than other Mexican places, the difference wasn’t significant. (But I only tried a few items–none of which were the things you mentioned.)
    I should probably go back and try some of the things you got.

    Oh, and thanks for the comments on the Pho Huong Lan.

  110. Reid

    Prima (Kailua, next to Big City Diner)

    This small, hip Italian restaurant (maybe seating around 20-30 people) decorated in a contemporary/modern style. The menu is small with daily specials. We tried two: the gnocchi and pork belly.

    I’m not a huge fan of either. I like Gnocchi, but I find it unpleasantly heavy. Pork belly dishes in these these hip restaurants have been a disappointment–not that they’ve tasted awful, but they’ve been rather pedestrian. But we ordered both because the waiter’s description got us excited (mostly Larri, who really doesn’t care for either as well).

    Before that, we ordered a small dish–the curry with clams. This came with dried shrimp, those small dried silver fish and some hot spices. The waiter warned that it would be fishy, but I ignored the warning, which was a mistake. Basically, the dish reminded me of an Indian curry with a strong, salty-pungent flavor. I imagine it was like a Filipino-style curry. Indeed, Larri said as soon as it came to the table, she thought of her grandmother’s cooking. (Larri’s grandma cooked a lot of Filipino food. To be clear, Larri likes some of the dishes, just not the one the clams reminded her of.) The dish wasn’t terrible, and I think I would have liked it more if I wasn’t expecting a more traditional Indian or Thai curry.

    On to the gnocchi and pork-belly ($19, I think). The gnocchi was pan seared and then cooked in a bacon-reduction. I forget what else they had in it, but the sauce was good, although about what you would expect. The gnocchi, itself, was just OK.

    The pork-belly was really good, although I’m not sure if I was just in the mood for this. The restaurant serves three 2″ cubes of pork-belly. They slow cook the meat in a brine for two days (I think) and then they cook two sides until they’re crisp. It had a kind of simple hoisin/shoyu type of sauce–nothing special, but I liked it. The crispy exterior and soft middle were yummy. Now, we had something similar at Lucky Belly, but we both agreed that this was much better. (But I’m wondering about this.) As to be expected the meat is pretty fatty, so if you don’t like fat, you probably shouldn’t get this. It came with some mashed potatoes and greens (which were OK). The dish was $30.

    By the way, we sat at the counter, and the pizzas looked really good. (They were done in the V-Loung style.) We definitely want to go back and try some of them.

  111. Reid

    Two return visits. First, Prima.

    We tried two pizzas–the mushroom and the meatball. The mushroom pizza is similar to CPK’s mushroom pizza. The meatball looks and tastes like italian sausage. The mushroom pizza doesn’t have any red sauce, while the meatball does. The pizza reminds me of a combination of V-Lounge and Boston’s. The crust is in the same style, and might be just a tad better than both. (I’ve only had V-Lounge’s pizza once.) I think the quality of the toppings are better than Boston’s, and I’d say this is probably the best pizza that I’ve eaten in Hawai’i.

    I also went to Whole-Ox for dinner. We got the burger, with foie gras,and pakora vegetables (essentially the same as the “falafel” wrap. By the way, the waitress told me that they don’t have any falafel in the wrap, so I was wrong about that.) I liked the burger a lot more, not because of the foie gras, but because the burger was a lot juicier. Basically, they cooked it closer to medium rare than medium.

  112. Mitchell

    More stuff from Serg’s (in Waimanalo).


    These are the enchiladas. I think I had the shredded pork that day.


    This is steak picada. It’s basically a pepper steak dish. I love pepper steak, but it’s one of my top three things my mom ever made (in the entree category), so it’s tough to really blow me away with this dish. Still, I liked it a lot. It came with two small corn tortillas.


    This awful photo (I’m having difficulty with the white balance on my point-and-shoot) is another flauta. Don asked if you can get it with a choice of fillings, and the answer is yes: they give you multiple options, including a veggie option. But the last three times I’ve been to Serg’s, I’ve had the same thing: flauta al pastor. “Al pastor” means “shepherd style,” and it refers to the the pork filling. You can get a pork carnita filling (which I now remember is what I had in the flauta photo from before), but another choice is the pork al pastor. It’s basically small, spicy-sweet cubes of marinated and slow-cooked pork. The sweetness comes from pineapple, which as you know is a good tenderizer. The spiciness isn’t hot at all, but it is kind of a warm chili pepper flavor. It’s my favorite thing at Serg’s now. Try it!

    And to answer Don’s question from last time: yes, the flauta is basically JUST the meat (or veggie, if you order that) filling. Unlike a burrito, I guess, where you get the meat filling plus all that other stuff.

    It pains me to say this, but although the food there is consistently good, the last time I went it was kind of weak. The flauta was greasy and the pork al pastor filling was kind of hard and dry. But I’ve eaten there about six times now and I think that’s the first less-than-stellar meal I’ve had. Of course I’m still going back.

  113. Mitchell

    I’ve given the Ono Steaks and Shrimp truck in Waimanalo another try. Here’s a side of garlic-butter shrimp:

    I thought it was better this time, not slightly on the rubbery side like the first time I went. The butter has a weird sweetness that I don’t find unpleasant, but it’s rather unexpected. You can see they really load on the garlic. And there’s that sweet chili sauce. I didn’t even uncap it this time.


    This is the smoked meat plate. As you know, what people call “smoked meat” varies widely in style and flavor. This pork had kind of a dry, lightly smoky, almost ham-like flavor. It was chewy, almost like beef jerky but not nearly as dry, and holy cow it was a lot of food. I liked it, especially with the rice and shrimp to go along.

  114. Mitchell

    Man, the white balance on those last two photos is great and it’s the same camera. I really need to figure out what I’m doing with that thing.

  115. Mitchell

    I’ve been spending too much time at Kissaten lately. Can’t seem to work at home, and Starbucks closes too early for my productivity. More bad white-balance photos:


    Pork fried rice. This is yummy, but it’s only on the regular dinner menu, so you can’t get it after nine. Slightly overpriced, but I think that goes without saying in a coffee joint, you know? My attitude is that I’m paying for a work space; this is my ticket to staying a long time.


    Gyudon. I don’t know where they get off calling this a donburi, but here it is. Overpriced but flavorful as heck. I really liked this, but it’s basically just a really good teri beef with rice and green onions. This is on the dinner menu and the late-night menu, so you can get it after hours.

  116. Mitchell

    There’s this place in Waimanalo called E.J.’s Kitchen. It’s just a few feet down the road that goes between Keneke’s and 7-Eleven, on the beach side, in a stand-alone building. The place is really clean and tidy (which I mention because I’m going to compare it later to Keneke’s, which has the GROSSEST DINING AREA I’VE EVER SEEN), and you can get a mixed Chinese-food plate with two entrees and rice or noodles for $7.50 AND it comes with a small drink. If you dine in, the small drink is a great throw-in because the fountain drinks are self-serve.


    The first time I went, I had the sweet-sour ribs and orange chicken with chow mein. The chow mein is quite good: look at those long slices of green onion! Good thing I keep a tin of Altoids in my car at all times. I’d stay away from both of those entrees, though I’ll admit I didn’t have any leftovers.

    The second time I went, I forgot to take photos, but they had already closed the steam table. I asked if I could still get the mixed plate special, and the counter guy (a very nice but totally standoffish person, which is just how I like it) said yes, but it would take a while. I ordered the plate with mochiko chicken and beef broccoli, and both choices were much better than the stuff I had the time before. The beef broccoli was only average, but you could do a lot worse than average, and the only reason I ordered it was since they had to send to the kitchen to make it, I was worried that they might take shortcuts or something. I wanted something that I knew they could make from the beginning if they had to, without too much hassle.

    The mochiko chicken was perfect. I was so surprised, because nowadays everybody’s got mochiko chicken on the menu and I’d forgotten how it was supposed to be. The breading was perfectly crisp and chewy, and the chicken pieces were flavorful and not overdone. The whole reason for making something like this with mochiko is to take advantage of those glutens in mochi rice, and they really nailed it. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had mochiko chicken that was made right.

    I forgot to ask for noodles, so they gave it to me with steamed white rice. I’d rather have had the noodles, but the rice was fine.

    Here’s another reason I like eating here:

    The place is really well-kept. The tables are clean, the floor is clean, the windows are clean. The lighting is nice. There are vases with fresh flowers on some of the tables. And both times I went, it was at low-volume times (everybody who came in while I dined ordered takeout), so I could take my time and read a book, and it was nice and quiet. It’s practically heaven compared to the dining area at Keneke’s, which has the GROSSEST DINING AREA I’VE EVER SEEN. But more about that later.

  117. Mitchell

    I go to the swap meet exactly twice a year (unless I have friends visiting, or unless I’m taking a group of photography students), and one of the things I look forward to is spending too much money on well-made food. There’s this barbecue tent (not a stadium vender, but an independent vender) that makes great barbecue chicken sandwiches I love.

    But on my last visit, I made the mistake of planning to meet someone after, and I got off to a late start that day. This means that I didn’t have time to hunt down the barbecue lady once I’d found the items on my shopping list. So I ate at the stadium concession.


    To be fair, there are one or two items on the menu there that aren’t horribly overpriced, and the food is pretty good. I just wasn’t in the mood for chili (it was too early in the morning) or a burger. So I ordered the Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice. This thing (with the drink? I’m not sure) was $9.25!

    Boy was it good. Such an obvious, simple dish. The rice was perfect. The sausage wasn’t one of those cheap brands. And the eggs were almost exactly how I like them. For so much less, you could do better in your own kitchen with just slightly more effort. And yet, the simple quality of the meal made me temporarily forget that it cost me more than a Kua Aina ortega burger.

    Still, next time I’m going to make sure I have time to find the barbecue lady.

  118. Reid

    I’m waiting for the Keneke’s review and pictures.

  119. Mitchell

    Well heck. ONE DAY after I post nice things about E.J.’s Kitchen in Waimanalo, I see that Ono’s Steak and Shrimp has moved out of the truck and into that space! I’m kind of disappointed. But at least now it will be nicer to eat steak and shrimp.

  120. Reid

    I forgot to mention that I’ve tried to the burgers at Hank’s Haute Dog. I’m pretty sure Don tried the hamburgers, but I can’t find his comments. Anyway, I thought the patties were nice and juicy, but I didn’t care for the sauce. It wasn’t terrible, just a bit strange and not super good.

  121. Mitchell

    Are there a bunch of options, like with the dogs? And how much did you spend?

  122. Reid

    There aren’t a bunch of options. I think you can get cheese on it, but that’s about it, as far I remember. I can’t remember how much they were, but I think they were around $5.

    By the way, I forgot to mention that they had a special I tried (not their daily specials): the Coney Island dog. This came with the standard hot dog (I think), zesty meat sauce (basically a chili sauce without beans), mustard and onions. It’s about what you would expect, but I liked it. For about $4, it was one of the cheaper dogs you can get, too. Larri liked it a lot, too. Unfortunately, they’re not making them now.

  123. Don

    Picture 086

    Here’s my burger from Hank’s. I remember the bun being a little flimsy and small. The sauce was okay, but the burger itself had an excellent char on it. My burger was really rare too. So much so that I would think most would have taken it back. It was organic so I figure I would survive.

    I would definitely get that burger over the dogs. It seems a little more worth it.

  124. Reid

    The burger was smallish. It does seem like a slightly better deal that a lot of the hot dogs. (Then again, many of the hot dogs seem way overpriced, especially if quantity is important.)

    What do you think they put in the sauce?

  125. Don

    I’m pretty sure the burger is a 1/3 pound. It’s small in diameter, but the one I got was pretty tall.

    Isn’t the sauce just thousand islands, ala the Big Mac?

  126. Mitchell

    It may be a better deal, but you can get a decent hamburger at twenty-five places in town. Where else are you going to get a bacon-wrapped, deep-fried, made-on-the-premises all-beef dog?

  127. Mitchell

    This is going to sound lame, but I’ve been on a quest to find the best teri-beef sandwich lately. Notes later.

  128. Reid

    Don,

    Pretty tall? I think that’s pushing it. It’s a meaty burger, and I wouldn’t say it’s small, but it seems smaller than Kua or Teddy’s. Speaking of Teddy’s, don’t forget to tell Mitchell about Teddy’s teri-burger.

    As for the dressing, it tastes a bit different from Thousand Islands. It’s in the same ballpark, but I hesitate to describe it that way.

    Mitchell,

    There was a place in Haleiwa where you could get a bacon-wrapped dog (across from McDonald’s), but it wasn’t that good. In any event, I see your point. There are a lot of items you can’t get anywhere else, but are they good enough to spend the money? (Larri thinks so, although she says the fatboy went a little downhill.)

    I think the teri-burger project is cool. I’m interested in reading your comments.

  129. Don

    Reid,

    Dude, he said teri-beef sandwich not teri-burger.

    When I say tall I mean it’s not the flat kind like Teddy’s. It’s more the shape of The Counter Burger. If my 1/3 pound burger claim is correct, just imagine a 1/3 pound burger sitting in a bun a little bigger than a McDonald’s hamburger bun. The thing must be pretty tall.

    Mitchell,

    I rather get the $1.50 Costco deal for hot dog I think.

    My go to “local” plate lunch was teri-beef with french fries instead of rice. Something about the sweet teri sauce with the salty fries that I love. I haven’t gotten it in years, but I hardly eat plate lunches anyway. I remember I went to Australia and thought I should open a teri-beef and fries shop here. I think I could make a killing. Why Australia? There was fish and chips shops everywhere. I thought I could bring something different. 🙂

    I’m interested in the teri-beef sandwich comments as well. Although I can say that I don’t normally eat teri-beef sandwiches. I want to say I don’t think I bought 10 of ’em in my whole life. HBA used to sell them though, right?

  130. Mitchell

    The reason for the teri beef sandwich search is that sometimes I just need a little bite. There are some things that are best with rice. There are others that are best with potatoes. And then there are a few that are best between two slices of bread. I don’t know when I realized this, but teri beef on a plate lunch never excites me. Teri beef on a hamburger bun? Yes please.

    I used to make teri beef at home pretty often, mostly because I was hanging out a lot with someone who loved it. But I hadn’t made it in several years, and then one day I had a bunch of dinner rolls from Costco (they may have been left over from a party) and I decided to make teri beef sandwiches and holy cow.

    So yeah. Notes on my quest later.

  131. Reid

    Dude, he said teri-beef sandwich not teri-burger.

    Ah. Lovely. I guess I was just lumping the two together. (I hardly see teri-beef sandwiches, although I’m not looking for them on the menu. I did notice them on the Tasty’s menu, but that caught my eye because it seemed to be a strange item for a Korean restaurant.)

    When I say tall I mean it’s not the flat kind like Teddy’s. It’s more the shape of The Counter Burger. If my 1/3 pound burger claim is correct, just imagine a 1/3 pound burger sitting in a bun a little bigger than a McDonald’s hamburger bun. The thing must be pretty tall.

    Oh, OK. But “tall” sounds more dramatic and, well, “taller” than thick. Yes, the patties are like The Counter, although they seemed smallish–maybe because of the circumference seems small. They are 1/3 lbs. and they’re about $5. I know because we went there today.

    On that note, I tried the chili dog. Very mediocre. The chili tastes like something you make at home; there’s nothing special. I wouldn’t not recommend it, unless you want something you could make at home. The coney island dog was better, but they didn’t have it on the menu. Hank said he’s going to try to get back on the menu.

    Something about the sweet teri sauce with the salty fries that I love.

    Teri sauce on fries does taste good, but eating fries with just teri beef is a bit awkward, I think. (If you could get teri sauce on fries in some other way, that would be cool. Maybe just have the fries under the teri-beef, but also serve it with rice and mac salad. That sounds good. Or how about a teri-burger loco-moco over fries–and maybe rice, too? That sounds pretty good.)

    I want to say I don’t think I bought 10 of ‘em in my whole life.

    Same here.

    Mitchell,

    I don’t know when I realized this, but teri beef on a plate lunch never excites me.

    .

    Same here–although bul-go-gi and bim-bim kook soo are awesome.

    But I hadn’t made it in several years, and then one day I had a bunch of dinner rolls from Costco (they may have been left over from a party) and I decided to make teri beef sandwiches and holy cow.

    Basically, teri-beef sliders. That sounds cool. But when you put the teri-beef in a hamburger bun or sliced bread, that’s not as appealing. Still, I’m curious to hear what you find. My sense is that there won’t be significant differences between the sandwiches.

  132. Mitchell

    There’s this place on Keeaumoku, on the opposite end of the building Fat Boy’s is in, called Ireh. I’ve spent a lot of time walking up and down Keeaumoku, and this place has always intrigued me, because their specialty appears to be jook.

    It’s a Korean place and there are a lot of other Korean dishes on the menu, but there are three or four pages in the menu devoted just to jook. I love jook, and apparently I’m not alone, because I have a few friends who love Ireh, some of them making that the first place they go when they feel a cold coming on, some of them making it their last stop before coming home from a night of drinking.

    This is the mushroom jook. You might feel dumb paying nine or ten bucks for a bowl of jook, and I admit I kinda did too, but I’ve been trying to make decent okayu in my ricepot for years and I just can’t make it come out the way I remember my mom’s when I was a kid and sick home in bed. I suppose I could ask her how she does it.

    It’s gooooood. With the caveat that a bowl of jook has a pretty low ceiling, meaning it can only get so good and then after that there’s just not much difference. I really liked it, and I’ll almost surely be back to try some of the more adventurous jook varieties.

  133. Mitchell

    Don, I noticed in your pho pic that you don’t tear up your basil. Have you ever tried it like that? I’ve found that it’s a lot better. I pluck the leaves off the stem, and then tear them up into tiny bits. Now, it feels kind of ritualistic, like preparing my insides for the yumminess that’s to come, like rolling my wooden chopsticks between both hands (in a gesture not unlike the one we make when we pray, or the one Mr. Miyagi makes when he heals Daniel’s wounded shoulder) even though I know that really creates more splinters than it shakes off.

    Now I’m craving pho. And I can’t sleep.

  134. Mitchell

    I work in Kaimuki now and actually have time for lunch during the workday. The possibilities are kind of exciting. 🙂

  135. Don

    re Ireh:

    I tried there and liked it but have never gone back because of the prices. It’s different than jook because they make the soup and rice separately and then mix them together. Whereas jook, the rice goes in raw (sort of like risotto). At home growing up, in a lot of soups we put rice inside, so for that reason I think I liked it more. Other people might think it’s weird, though. The other thing I remember is the soup itself was thick and pipping hot. Being so thick it took forever too cool down. That’s a good thing in general, but you need patience eating that dish.

    re Pho,

    I have never teared up the basil. I don’t remember seeing anyone doing that, to the extent you seem to be talking about anyway. I really like the taste of the basil cooked in the pho broth, so I like to have a leaf on every spoonful. Therefore I may like it more in whole pieces, but I’ll try it. If I slow down enough to remember to do it. 🙂

  136. Reid

    Christie’s Restaurant (Waimalu Shopping Center, next to Shiro’s)

    I saw this restaurant a while ago, but I never had an interest in trying because a) the menu didn’t look so interesting, and; b) Don said his brother thought it was just OK (if not less so). Well, I gave this place a shot. Verdict: Don’s brother was right. Now, we only tried a few dishes, so I can’t fairly judge the restaurant. (There are one or two dishes that I’d be interested in trying.)

    Basically, this place is a like a more affordable Roy’s or Alan Wong’s. The presentation and preparation is similar, but the overall quality is not as good. But the prices are lower as well (in the $20 range). I had the steamed opakapaka. Larri had the crab dip appetizer (couldn’t really taste the crab)–which was actually probably the worst crab dip I’ve tasted (not inedibly bad, but still)–and the bacon, spinach salad.

    The ambiance is striving for something a little more formal and classy than Zipppy’s; think of Assaggio’s, but a little cheaper in feel. I didn’t care for it, and I’m not excited about the food.

  137. Don

    Picture 381

    Takahashiya Tonkotsu Ramen

    This place is on Kapahulu a block past Ono’s Hawaiian Food. Tonkotsu is probably my new favorite ramen style. The broth is made by boiling down pork bones (I think.). I’ve tried Ippudo’s tonkotsu which is a famous chain from Japan (They are all over the world, even in New York.), and this ramen is as good as theirs, IMO.

    The bowl above was $12, which for what you get seems a little pricey. Basically you are paying for the soup, because the ingredients in the soup cannot be that costly. If I had to choose between this or a hearty bowl of pho at $8-$9, I would go for the pho. That being said though, I think this is probably the best ramen in Hawaii that I’ve been. I enjoyed a bowl more at Shirokiya, but it’s one of those places that was there for only a month or so.

    Oh, the above is a Spicy Char Siu Ramen. The spicy is just some peppers that they throw on the top of the ramen (in the pic it’s the small orangey glop). It was pretty darn spicy though for that small amount.

  138. Reid

    That being said though, I think this is probably the best ramen in Hawaii that I’ve been.

    The gauntlet has been thrown down. I will definitely try this place and report back. (Is there one version of the tonkotsu that you would recommend?)

  139. Mitchell

    You would rather pay eight bucks for a bowl of pho than twelve bucks for the best ramen in Hawaii? What the heck?

  140. Reid

    I’m guessing they’re really skimpy on portions.

  141. Don

    Reid,

    I think they only have one shiru, the only differences are you can get it spicy or not, and the toppings.

    Mitchell,

    It’s just quantity or quality I guess. Since ramen is not that much better than pho for me, I sacrifice some quality for some quantity.

    Oh and the bowls of ramen is just the normal size, like Goma Ichi or Goma Tei (although Goma Tei has those huge chunks of char siu). Speaking of which, I think you guys may lean toward the Tan Tan style ramen, since it has so much more flavor, I dunno.

  142. Reid

    Don,

    Goma-Ichi’s portions are fairly slight, so I understand why’d you chose pho.

    While I like tan-tan, I’ve also liked the different tonkotsu shirus I’ve tried. How does this one compare to Tenkkaipin’s(sp?)?

    Any garnishes that you recommend?

    (I wish we were having this conversation in the ramen thread.)

  143. Reid

    The Pig and the Lady (soon to be in the Lemongrass Cafe spot on King Street)

    I got the Pho French Dip, and it was one of the better sandwiches I’ve eaten. It comes with a beef brisket that is prepared for 12 hours, sauteed bean sprouts, thai basil chimmichurri, and–the key–pho au jus, which is basically the shiru for their pho. Uh, it was delicious. When you eat a great sandwich, it tastes good, of course, but every ingredient is solid, and more importantly, seems to come together really well. Like good cooking in general, you can tell some intelligence, skill and love went into the sandwich–which is not something you can say about most sandwiches. The au jus takes it to another level, though, and I felt like I could have just kept sopping bread in the jus and I would have been happy (not quite, but you get the idea). When I told Larri that this was one of the best sandwiches I had eaten in Hawai’i, she said, “Better than Brent’s?” I had to pause. It’s up there (and really, it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten anywhere), but I guess I generally prefer Jewish/Italian deli sandwiches over banh mi. But this was a great sandwich, and I really looking forward to trying their other dishes! (The guy said that the sandwich was his least favorite of the sandwiches they offer.)

  144. Reid

    Zaratez (on King, next to Mediterraneo)

    I tried the triple taco–with carne asada, chorizo and I can’t remember the third topping. Just OK. Not something I would recommend.

  145. Reid

    Hunan Cuisine (on the corner of Smith and Beretania)

    If I recall correctly, Honolulu Magazine, listed this restaurant’s cumin lamb as the third best dish in Honolulu. Of course, we tried this and, yes, it was very good. There are two versions, lamb chops or chopped into strips (ground up). We had the latter and it was good. It was spicy and had a lot of cumin–to the point of tasting more like a Middle-Eastern dish.

    We also tried several other dishes:

    Eggplant and green beans. Good, I’d get this again.
    Szechuan Noodles. A cold noodle dish (almost like somen noodles) with an oily, spicy sauce. It was OK.
    Steamed won tons in Szechuan sauce. I don’t know if this is the correct name, but it describes what we got. The sauce was basically the same as the noodles as I thought this was just OK, again.
    Sesame Chicken. A deep-fried boneless chicken dish that tasted like something you get from Panda. It was pretty good, about what you’d expect.
    Fish in a spicy sauce. I don’t know the correct title of the dish, but it was basically pieces of fish in a casserole. The sauce was similar to the Szechuan sauce, but I liked this better.

    I really liked the lamb, and I’d go back for that. I’d order the green beans and eggplant again, too.

  146. Don

    Dagon (Burmese Food)

    The wife and I went to Dagon for Valentines. We were going to Imanas Tei for chanko, but we didn’t make reservation (We went on President’s Day so thought we could just walk in.).

    At Dagon we got the Green Tea salad which is a Burmese specialty. It entailed Romaine lettuce with all types of nuts and dried stuff (ie: split peas, garlic chips) with a green tea dressing (which they import from Burma). The salad was really nutty as you would expect. The green tea dressing (it’s more like wet spinach) went well with the nuttiness of the salad. All in all it was a good to great salad. We also got two dishes: Basil Lamb and Pumpkin Stew with Shrimp. The Basil Lamb seemed a bit overcooked as the meat was a little tough. Also the taste was just okay. It was too sweet and little salty (I know sweet and salty???). The Pumpkin Stew with Shrimp was exactly that, pumpkin, both mashed and pureed, with shrimp inside. The entrees that we got (and the waitress suggested the Pumpkin Stew) were pretty standard. I mean maybe not something you can get somewhere else, but it seems like something you would find at a Burmese L&L (if it was even Burmese food at all). I was glad I got to taste the salad, but it wasn’t good enough to bring me back. If I ever was in Burma though, I would definitely try more Green Tea Salad.

  147. mitchell

    This only slightly dampens my eagerness to try this place. The photos look so good.

  148. Reid

    I went to Shaloha a couple more times. On one visit, I tried the eggplant sandwich, which they call a sabich ($8.61). The sandwich comes with deep fried eggplant and chopped boiled egg, along with some vegetables. The eggplant didn’t really have much flavor, and the way the ingredients were positioned in the sandwich, I ended up eating the eggplant separately from the eggs, which may be the way you’re supposed to eat. In any event, I didn’t care for it.

    On the other hand, the falafel sandwich ($7.66) continues to be awesome! As I think I mentioned, their hot sauce is terrific, too (I prefer it over Fat Greek’s.) This is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches on the island.

    I also got the pita chips ($4.78), which basically seems to be pillowy pita sauteed in olive oil until the outsides are a little crisp. The price seems high at $4.78, given the quantity, but you also get a side of hummus.

    Also, if you add $4.78, with a sandwich, you can choose two sides. (I love both their red and white cabbage salads, which are pickled, and the white reminds me of coleslaw.)

  149. Reid

    Has anyone tried Meatball Hawai’i (run by Bob McGee, formerly of Whole-OX Deli) and/or Koko Head Cafe (overseen by Lee Anne Wong, from Top Chef)?

    My brother and sister-in-law tried the latter, and said it was OK, but a bit pricey. Meatball Hawai’i sounds good–almost like The Conter, where you can choose the type of protein, starch, and in this case, sauces and sides. Mitchell, this place has your name written all over it, and it’s on your turf! Let us know what you think if you try any of these places. (KKC is in the old 12th Avenue Grill spot.)

  150. mitchell

    Everyone I know who went there for the soft open said they loved it.

  151. Mitchell

    I had to run an errand in Kaimuki during my lunch, so I thought I’d drop in at Koko Head Cafe, but it closes at 2:30 and it was already 2:10(yeah, I take a late lunch), so instead I went across the street to another place my online friends have become religious about: Via Gelato. It’s in the old Covenant Books space.

    I ordered a regular cup ($4.50 or thereabouts) of the cookies and cream flavor. You can get two flavors per cup, but I wasn’t in the mood for intra-cup fraternizing between possibly incompatible flavors, so I went with just the one.

    I was expecting something heavy and creamy, but this was rather light, and I liked it. The most interesting thing to me was that the Oreo cookies in the gelato were crisp and dry, whereas they are usually (in that flavor of ice cream) wet and kind of mushy. I like it the usual way, but I like it even better this way. The gelato was tasty and not especially filling, so I didn’t feel like I’d indulged too much when I left.

  152. Reid

    We went to Via Gelato. Here’s what we got:

    cookies and cream
    black sesame and coconut
    nutella (and something else)

    The black sesame and coconut seems weird, but it worked fairly well.

    The gelato is OK. It is light as Mitchell said, although I don’t know if this is a good thing. (It seems more watery.)

  153. mitchell

    I went there again and had the tiramisu gelato and it was just okay. Had kind of a weird tangy flavor.

  154. Reid

    Meatball Hawai’i (old La Bamba location on Kapahulu Ave.)

    Here’s what we tried:

    Fried Calamari ($8.50): Mostly rings of calamari, although not the pre-made type. The rings were fairly thin, but it was pretty much perfectly fried in a light batter. Just OK.
    Hoagie ($13?): You can get this with a choice of meatball, cheese and sauce. I got this with the veggie ball, mozzarella and marinara. Someone on yelp thought the veggie ball had chickpea, and it definitely reminded me of a falafel, with less spices that I’d associate with Greek/Middle Eastern cooking. This was just OK.

    General impression: While I loved the concept of Whole OX, I honestly didn’t think the food was all that tasty. Unfortunately, that’s my impression for this place. I’ll probably try some other things, but I’m not in a rush to do so.

    Koko Head Cafe (old 12th Avenue Grill spot)

    Here’s what I think you should know: this place is basically a high-end diner, with an emphasis on the former more than the latter, which is disappointing to me. By “high end,” I mean the creativity and prices are high, while the portions are small. Love the creative part, not so much the prices and portions. This isn’t the type of approach I favor–with regard to my personal tastes and what I think people would like–especially when it comes to diner food.

    What would I prefer? Well, I’d like good portions, low cost with the some creative twist on diner-food. I don’t mean creativity in the sense of frou-frou cooking techniques and ingredients; I just mean creative in the sense of “thinking outside the box.” I don’t think you need to be a fancy-smancy chef to do that. The people at KKC are going for a different approach, and we’ll see how that turns out. (This is a good location for the approach, though.)

    Now here’s what we got

    Kim-chee, Bacon, cheddar, scone ($5). Larri didn’t care for this as she said it was too salty.
    Cornflake french toastt ($14). You know what this reminded me of? Donuts, the glazed type, fried in some some cornflake batter. That sounds pretty good, and it was not bad, but the portion size was about two twinkie-sized pieces of ft. Larrilynn couldn’t enjoy this dish because of her disgust with the value.
    Elvis’ Revenge ($12)–banana tempura, peanut butter, billionaire’s bacon, local honey, toasted coconut, sweet bun. Basically, this was a peanut butter and banana sandwich–with the creamy, Jiff tasting peanut butter just overpowering every flavor, except for maybe the banana. (Perhaps, you could also for the peanut butter on the side, unless you like the description.) $12 seems way too much as well.
    Frittata of the day –(Can’t remember the price but probably around $15). The special came with housemade pastrami. I didn’t get to try this, but Larri just thought it was OK.

    General impressions:
    Besides the comments I made above, I liked the vibe of the place. I wouldn’t mind trying some other things, but I’m not sure if I’ll find anything I’ll really love. The high-end diner is fine, but the dishes better really taste good. So far that hasn’t been the case for me.

  155. Don

    re: Meatball

    How was the portions here? Also I thought you didn’t like Yelp.

    re: Koko Head Cafe

    Sad to hear, but your and Larri’s impression was the same that I got when I read some of the semi-negative Yelp reviews.

    Maybe it’s hopeful thinking, but I thought maybe Lee Anne Wong’s success would bring in more mainland talent.

  156. Reid

    Re: Meatball

    The portions don’t seem great, but not terrible either.

    As far as yelp goes, two things: 1) beggar’s can’t be choosers–there doesn’t seem to be a lot of alternatives to getting information (hawaii chowhound is pretty dead; if you know of any good site, let me know); 2) I focus on the comments, while basically ignoring the rating. I focus on the people who seem hard to please and/or write very detailed comments, saying specifically what they liked and didn’t like.

    Re: Koko Head Cafe

    Yeah, I’m disappointed and I’m sad that I’m disappointed. I wish the best for Kevin Heaney (who is the owner or part owner) and I want more diner-ish places on O’ahu. Having said that, I’ve only been there once, so I still have some hope.

    But this is not your type of place–you’re going to be grumbling about the value. The only way I can see you liking this is if you really, really love the taste of the food. Then again, you loved Longhi’s, so who knows?

    By the way, speaking of diners, there are two other breakfast places I want to try. Moena’s Cafe in Koko Marina. (My brother likes this place; they have a cinnamon roll pancake that I want to try.) The other place is bill’s in Waikiki, an Aussie restaurant that’s gotten some rave reviews. Anybody try these places yet?

  157. mitchell

    The Bill’s stuff on NonstopHonolulu looks pretty good.

  158. Reid

    Thanks for the link (I’ve never heard of NonstopHonolulu.) The ricotta pancakes look good.

    On another note: I also recently read about Earl Sandwich, which is in the atrium off of 11th Ave., where Hog Island used to be. The sandwiches look pretty good.

  159. mitchell

    Yeah you have. They were originally the group that emerged when the Advertiser went under, the old Metromix people.

  160. Reid

    I remember Metromix, but I didn’t know they morphed into NonStopHonolulu.

    Earl Sandwich (11th Ave.; atrium, where Hog Island used to be)

    Most of the sandwiches are $8. We got three:

    Fun Guy–which came with roasted peppers,cucumber, mushroom, lettuce, tomato, hummus, fennel onion marmalade;
    French Dip–beef, gruyere, dijon fennel onion marmalade and au jus.
    Avocado toast ($6)

    Verdict?

    I liked the funnel marmalade, and I enjoyed my sandwich, but here’s the thing: the sandwiches remind me of Safeway’s sandwiches, and these sandwiches are in the same ballpark in terms of quality. In terms of quantity, Earl’s may be less and they might be a little more expensive. (I’m not sure about the latter.) To me, this isn’t good news for them.

    They either have to improve the quality in some way to push them above safeway or lower the price or increase the quantity. Mitchell might like this, but Don, for value reasons, would not. (In a way, it reminded me of the sandwich place near Don’s house, too–although they use baquettes at Earl’s.)

  161. Don

    You got the part that I like Safeway sandwiches. The meat at Safeway is pretty meh, but the toppings and the bread is pretty good. For example, the mozzarella and artichokes are good toppings. They also have an olive tapenade, which probably isn’t great in the tapenade category (I really have no idea.), but good in general.

    That being said I looked at pictures on Yelp and I don’t think it is comparable to Safeway. Like the roast beef looked home-made, versus the stuff at Safeway. The toppings seem to be a little more sophisticated. You mentioned hummus, fennel onion marmalade, and gruyere – all as far as I know you cannot get these at Safeway. The fact that you compared it to Safeway is not a good sign though.

  162. Reid

    I compared it to Safeway sandwiches because a) I often get Safeway sandwiches on that baquette-y bread–and Earl’s serves a similar type of bread; b) while Earl’s ingredients are a bit more sophisticated/creative, I would argue the results are not significantly different from a Safeway sandwich, not to the point where you’d pay more for Earl’s or drive out of your way to eat there.

    In a way, the situation is similar to comparing Hank’s Haute Dog with the Costco/Sam’s Club dogs (except the latter is way cheaper). Are Hank’s dogs better? Well, they’re fancier, for sure, but does that make them significantly better? It depends on your taste and mood. Certainly, I think the average eater would not think the difference matters, and certainly the price would not make Hank’s preferable.

    If you really like Earl’s (the stuff we got)–that is, you feel like it’s worth it–I’d be surprised–although I didn’t get to try the French Dip, so I can’t comment on that. (Larri didn’t think it was all that good, though, not worth the price and amount they gave. Again, I think the sandwiches are less filling than Safeway’s.)

  163. Reid

    Anybody try Cafe Waiola in Kaka’ako? This isn’t connected with the shave ice place, but it’s a place for coffee and pastry in the UH medical building (I think)–basically, the cafeteria? Two things got my attention: 1) the coffeed is supposedly good; 2) Chris Sy is making the pastries/bread. I tried Sy’s breads at Prima in Kailua, and it was really good. (I think they only have his bread from Tuesday to Saturday, though.)

  164. mitchell

    Cafe Waiola is by Curb (which first popped up, I think, in the old Arby’s spot in Ala Moana), the pop-up coffee establishment. And yeah, everyone says the coffee is excellent.

  165. pen

    Lots of new places popping up in Waialae. I’ve been to a few recently as well:

    Via Gelato
    I liked the flavor (I had the triple chocolate, my friend had cookies and cream), but it was too soft. I’m not sure if it was because they kept opening and closing the freezer. They did have some interesting sorbet flavors like one with shiso, but I didn’t try that.

    Koko Head Café
    Yes, expensive, but I enjoyed my meal there. I also tried the kim chee/bacon scone and it was good with the crème fraiche, because it was kind of salty. Also, kind of overpowered by the cheddar cheese.

    I had the Koko Moco, which was good, but not spectacular. Small hamburger patty and regular white rice, but the gravy was good and had crimini mushrooms in it. My friend had this dish named after the chef’s friend (I can’t remember what it was called, but it had pork cooked 2 ways in it, scrambled eggs, plus a chicharrone). The pork was nice, but the chicharrone needed salt/seasoning. We shared a bread pudding, which was good. On the softer side (which I like) but kind of sweet with the caramel sauce.

    I’m willing to go another time. As Reid said, there’s a good vibe there and I like that they use a lot of locally grown ingredients. We asked Chef Wong why she decided to open a place in Hawaii and she said, “I fell in love with a farmer.” Awww!

    Seed
    I’ve been twice and tried almost everything on their menu. Such a great concept! Again, locally grown ingredients (they work with 3 local farms and a dairy) and their mission is to help the houseless and trafficking victims and those recovering from substance abuse. It will be a place for them to learn job skills, earn money and be mentored.

    If you go, definitely get the shabu shabu beef. It’s the best thing on the menu. The veggie chili is pretty good. Hearty, but on the sweet side. The oven baked chicken katsu is fine, but I think almost anyone would be able to make it. It comes with a rather sweet curry sauce. The cooked veggies that come on the side were flavorful. The bi bim bap is good. It’s probably the 2nd best thing. A friend had the grilled fish of the day, but she said it lacked flavor.

    The good thing about this place is that the prices are low. The most expensive entrée is about $13. And if you get the shabu shabu plate, it’s well worth it, since it’s a generous portion. Oh! And they also have something called healthy rice (or something like that). It’s good. I wish they sold that blend and I would make it at home.

    They’re a ministry of Blue Water Mission (pastored by Jordan Seng).

  166. Reid

    Thanks for the review on Seed. Sounds really cool (not just in terms of eating). I will definitely try the shabu shabu beef and healthy rice. Thanks!

    I had to laugh at this comment about Koko Head Cafe:

    I also tried the kim chee/bacon scone and it was good with the crème fraiche, because it was kind of salty.

    I asked Larri if this was good. Her response: “No, it’s too salty.” (Don would probably love it. 🙂

  167. Reid

    Moena Cafe (in Koko Marina Shopping Center, near Zippy’s)

    We went to this diner-ish breakfast place for Easter. Here’s what we had:

    >Cinnamon roll pancakes ($11)
    >Banana, chantilly pancakes ($11)
    >fresh corned beef and two eggs (can’t remember the price, but I think it was around $15)
    >short-rib loco moco with fried rice ($17)

    The verdict? It was OK, not really something I’d drive out to, especially on a regular basis. The pancakes seem pricey, but they’re pretty big–a lot of people could share them. (They remind me of smaller versions of the pancakes at Mac 24/7.) The toppings/sauces were about what you would expect, which is fine. (I could have used more sauce or some kind of syrup, as there was a lot of uncovered spots that were kind of dry.)

    My brother got the loco moco. The short rib and gravy reminded me of beef stew. It was fine.

    The corned beef hash was OK, nothing spectacular in my view. The corned beef was cubed, versus shredded.

  168. Don

    re: Moena Cafe

    This place gets pretty decent reviews, but it sounds kind of pricey. Other than the pancakes how was the portions of the loco moco and corn beef?

    Just based on quality/taste and portions (ie: not taking prices into account), how would it compare to places like Cinnamons or Original Pancake House?

  169. Reid

    The pancake portions were pretty good. It’s just two pancakes, but they’re rather big. The hash and moco were decent if I recall correctly, neither too small or too big.

    As for quality, I’d say it was better, at least slightly, than Cinnamon’s and Original Pancake (although, I still prefer their 49er pancakes). The cooking at Cinnamon’s is just OK to me, although they offer creative items on their menu. The cooking at Original Pancake house is pretty standard diner quality, but I still really like the 49er pancakes.

    There’s a chance you could like this place, but if I had to guess, I’d say you wouldn’t care for it, especially if you factor in the price.

  170. Don

    Yeah $15 – $17 is pretty steep for breakfast food.

  171. Reid

    bill’s (Waikiki)

    We went here for dessert, and got the ricotta pancakes ($14) and brownie sundae ($12). The sundae wasn’t just OK, certainly not worth the $12, both in terms of quantity or quality. Larri liked it, but thought it was too expensive.

    I think bill’s is known for their ricotta pancakes. They give three, which are a bit smaller than what you would get at a typical diner. They were pretty good, although the pleasure was more on the texture than the taste. In my experience, ricotta can be somewhat bland, not having a very pronounced taste. The enjoyment comes in the creamy texture and weighty feel. That’s true in this dish. It’s not the taste of the pancakes that is really good, but the texture and feel. It was good, but $14 is a bit on the high side. (Probably worth trying once, though.)

    By the way, we went in the evening, and while the place is kind of nice, it was a bit on the dark side. I can see this being a much better place in the day, with their high ceilings and lots of windows for natural light.

    Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (Ward Centre, next to old Border’s spot)

    We passed by this place and it smelled so good, we decided to try it out. Inevitably, our experience, and this review, is going to be compared to Sweet Home Cafe, as that’s one of our favorite hot pot places. Unlike Sweet Home Cafe, they basically have two soups–a spicy and a regular. The regular soup was pretty good, but not better than the spicy–with one huge caveat. The spicy soup come with a lot of chili pepper husks, and unless you’re going to eat them, they can be kind of annoying. Almost every bit is going to have at least one of them, unless you strain them out. The other thing is that we foolishly got medium (our waitress some the mild is really mild), and it was a bit too much. But I really did enjoy the flavor. Still, the husks were annoying and it was a bit too hot.

    Like Sweet Home, you can choose vegetables and meat and then cook them at your table; they also dipping sauces (not as many as SHC and not as good in my opinion). They also offer small dishes that do not go in the soup. For example, we got the sesame bread, lamb skewers and this fried and steamed bread. The sesame bread was pretty good–good for dipping in the soup–but it was a lot bigger than I thought. Basically, the entire order was about the size of a sweet bread. I was expecting a flat, pita-sized bread. Had I known the portion size, I wouldn’t have ordered rice and the other breads. The other breads were basically manapua-style bread and a deep-fried version of that. It was OK. The lamb skewers were just OK, as well.

    We got fairly standard meat and vegetables, nothing really worth mention. The portions for the meat were pretty good–probably a little too much for two people, especially if you order two types of meat.

    The ambiance was pretty good, and it’s probably better to go here with a fairly big group. I’m not sure I’d do that, as it’s not as good as Sweet Home Cafe.

  172. Don

    Tracy’s beef (which is warranted) with Sweet Home Café is the raw ingredients is the same frozen stuffs you see in Chinatown. The especially true with the frozen balls (ex: fish balls, lobster balls, crab balls, etc) and the vegetables (ex: choi sum, won bok, etc). I would suspect that at Little Sheep the “balls” are made in-house, and the meat and the vegetables are probably a little better quality. Do you think that’s true? I know you said the meat and vegetables were standard, but I took it to mean standard in terms of choices, but wasn’t sure if the quality was similar to Sweet Home Café. How were the prices versus Sweet Home Café?

  173. Reid

    You’re right, by “standard” I meant the choices, not necessarily the quality of the produce/food. We ordered won bok cabbage, enoki mushrooms, baby bok choy…oh, and a huge oversight on my part, the thick noodles. I guess the vegetables were better than Sweet Home (I agree the quality of their a la carte items is just so-so–but the soup and dipping sauces are so good, it almost doesn’t matter), but not enough to make a huge difference. (They gave a lot more enoki mushrooms, but they may have charged more, too. The quality was about the same, though.) But, as you can see, we only ordered a few things to throw in there, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    Now, I forgot to mention the noodles. You could tell this was fresh, and it was probably the best part of the meal. (I don’t know if the other noodles are made in house, though.) The taste may not have been exceptional (although I’d say it was good), but the texture was really good. Loved it.

    Oh, the meat options may be a little better quality (they do have lamb as a choice), but I’m not entirely sure.

    By the way, in terms of the quality of vegetables and meat, I think the chanko nabe at Imanas has the best.

  174. mitchell

    The Imanas Tei veggies are really good, but I remember Ichiriki having excellent veggies.

  175. Reid

    Hmm, I tend to give the nod to <Imanas, but I might be just thinking of the entire package.

  176. mitchell

    Penny, Grace, and I went to Dagon last weekend. It was Penny’s second time, but I hadn’t yet tried it and was most eager to.

    We had the:


    Moh Hinga (fish chowder), a pretty nice soup with rice noodles and cilantro. Penny thought it was too fishy; I thought it was pretty tasty and would have been great cold-weather food. This was Grace’s favorite dish.


    Tea Leaf Salad. As Don said, this was a good-to-great salad, full of crunchiness and flavor. Probably the most flavorfull thing we ordered. I think this was my favorite of the dishes we had.


    Pumpkin Chicken Stew. This was my choice (I’m a sucker for pumpkin) and it was basically a pumpkin curry with chicken in it. It was the most Indian-tasting of our dishes. I’d have liked a few chunks of pumpkin to chew on, but alas. It was good enough, but it wasn’t any better than the curries you can get at the food courts with Thai food, and it definitely wasn’t better than the pumpkin chicken at Thai Mixed Plate in Pearl Highlands.


    Beef Kebat. Thin slices of beef marinated in something, and served stir-fry style with peppers, onions and other stuff. The beef slices themselves were quite tasty; combined with the rest of the dish it, like the pumpkin chicken, was kind of lackluster.


    Burmese-Indian Rice. This was a kind of rainbow-colored basmati, fairly flavorful for a rice dish, and really pretty to look at. I’d order this again. In fact, I’m thinking of visiting an Indian market and seeing if I can get the rice and try to prepare a similar dish.


    Palata (pan-fried, multi-layered bread). This wasn’t at all what I was expecting; it was like very thin sheets of butter-soaked bread. If you layered lumpia wrapping, it looked kind of like that, except it had a golden-brown color and was super buttery. It was too buttery to be a real side dish, the sort you eat with every bite of your meal, but in small quantities it was a pretty good compliment to a few bites of the beef dish. I don’t think any of us would order it again, ‘though no real regrets.

    I had been pretty amped to try Burmese food and I’m happy I tried it. I’d go again, surely, but all in all for the same money I think I’d rather have Thai food.

  177. Don

    Sounds like we had similiar experiences there. I sort of wish I could get that Green Tea salad somewhere in downtown for cheap (ie: $10 or less).

  178. Mitchell

    I added my Dagon photos to my review above.

  179. Reid

    La Tour Cafe has a pizza that Larri really likes (I think it’s pretty good, too, but I don’t like it as much as her.) It’s basically a five cheese pizza (mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, parmesan, and something else). It comes with a bit of sliced almonds, honey and a white sauce. There isn’t much honey, or at least the taste is pretty subtle.

  180. pen

    I finally made it to bills in Waikiki and my initial impression: not bad. Better than “meh,” but not as good as “good.” 🙂

    It’s a nice atmosphere — high ceiling, open, bright and clean (although kind of hot). The menu isn’t that extensive for breakfast, but they had some tasty things on it. But the cost was kind of steep (imho). Hence the “not bad” rating. I would probably go again if a friend wanted to go. I’m not sure I would work up enough impetus on my own, though.

    My friends and I ate “family style.” Our server was really nice and brought each of us a plate so we could eat this way. Also, one of my friends had never had Vegemite before, and the server got us a small taste (it’s almost as bad as I remember it being).

    We had the Aussie breakfast. Scrambled eggs (good, but not as good as Koko Head Café), fennel sausage (I was expecting it to be more flavorful), miso mushrooms (pretty good), and toast (really good. May have had something to do with the butter). We also tried the ricotta pancakes, which were yums. It was my favorite thing. We also tried the crab, chorizo and kimchee fried rice. It was good, but the chorizo and kimchee overpowered the delicate crab meat, so it’s almost like it wasn’t there.

    They have a small café downstairs where they had a few of the breakfast entrees (same price, I checked!), some cereals and baked goods.

  181. pen

    Reid, my friend is from San Francisco and she like Little Sheep. They sell the hot pot flavoring packets and I know what you mean about a lot of those dried red pepper pieces floating around, although they didn’t bother me and I ate quite a bit of them.

    I heard that the wait at the Ward restaurant is horribly long, because service was very slow. Since you didn’t mention it, I’m guessing that it wasn’t an issue and they must have worked the bugs out of their system.

    I look forward to trying it!

    Speaking of Ward, I did try the newly opened Monarch Tea Room in Na Mea (Native Hawaiian Books). The price for their high tea is a bit steep, but you get a lot and I was very satisfied. It’s a cute place. There is a bakery case, so you can order some yummies, even if you don’t want to do the whole “high tea” bit.

    They make almost everything on site and make a conscious effort to use local ingredients, blending the local flavors with more traditional tea fare.

    They have a lot of teas (perhaps 30 different types). They’re labeled in tiny containers near the front of the tea room, so you can smell them all — although everything started smelling the same after awhile. They make chai tea the traditional way by steeping it in milk.

    My own pot of tea came with two types of sandwiches (cucumber and chicken), which were about 1/4 the size of a regular sandwich. This and the mini cupcakes (lilikoi, red velvet and strawberry) were probably the least impressive of the lot — and they were pretty good.

    I loved the bacon muffin/biscuit thing they served hot from the oven. The people that worked in the store were coming to the Tea Room lured by the smell of bacon cooking. They also served a asparagus quiche-like tart with goat cheese. Very yum. My friends had a smoked salmon on toast thing, but since I’m not that fond of fish, they made me this diced mushroom spread on a cracker. That thing was terrific. You could spread that mushroom thing on cardboard and it would be delicious.

    Of course there were scones (lemon) with Devonshire cream, orange marmalade and lemon curd.

    Needless to say, I had to roll out of there. But I rolled satisfied and happy!

  182. mitchell


    This is the poutine at Meatball. It’s not really poutine, as it substitutes provolone for cheese curds, but it’s still really tasty and HEAVY. I ate like two thirds of that.

    The meatball topping is an add-on. I thought the meatballs were flavorful but kind of dry.

    Looking forward to trying some of the regular dishes. The general idea is to choose a type of meatball (beef, spicy pork, chicken, seafood, and veggie), a sauce (marinara, kim chee marinara, fresh tomato salad, bacon alfredo, and mushroom gravy), and a side (spaghetti, shells, risotto, polenta, fries, rice, greens), which means there are 175 possible combinations if you get one of each. I like the idea a lot.

  183. Mitchell

    Regarding Yelp: Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight did a really fascinating thing called the Burrito Bracket, looking for Yelp’s highest rated restaurants serving burritos, by region. It created the Burrito Bracket and used a stat Silver invented called VORB, or Value Over Replacement Burrito and then it adjusted for regional bias and sent a representative to try a burrito at each place.

    The surface of it is silly, but the heart of it is intriguing. How reliable are crowd-sourced reviews, as are found on sites like Yelp and Amazon?

    I’ve been meaning to start a discussion on this topic, but I’m still trying to soak up Silver’s writing. And I’m trying to get a better grasp on the stats part of it. More later.

  184. Reid

    Pen,

    Were there really a lot of those chili pepper husks in the packet? I’d be a little surprised if there were as many in our soup. Every spoonful would have several pieces.

    And, yes the service wasn’t great (but I have a higher tolerance for that).

    Mitchell,

    I’d be interested in reading/discussing Silver’s project(?), as long as it’s not too technical, that is.

  185. pen

    There were A LOT of chili pepper skins in the packaged soup base. People had piles of them on their plates (I ended up eating most of mine).

    I also went to check out Meatball and my review is mixed. It really depends on how you combine the meat, sauce and starch, methinks.

    Here’s what we had:

    Spicy pork meatballs + bacon alfredo sauce + risotto. My favorite combo. Alfredo sauce wasn’t very bacony, though. More like the use of bacon bits. The risotto was kind of bland, but I think that’s because they don’t want the flavors of the starch to conflict with the meatballs and sauce. Overall, yums.

    Beef meatballs + Cincinnati chili sauce + spaghetti. My least favorite combo. Cincinnati chili is supposed to have cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, etc. So warm, rich flavors. It was kind of bland in my opinion. Beef meatballs were fine. Spaghetti tasted like it came from a box (which is fine). Again, bland starch.

    Veggie meatballs + kimchee marinara + polenta. Not bad. Veggie meatballs were good. I think they had nuts in them that added richness and they were well seasoned. Kimchee marinara tasted like a rather bland tomato sauce with kimchee on top. In other words, the flavors weren’t melded. Kimchee itself was pretty good. Polenta was bland.

    We also tried the chicken wings, which were tasty. I don’t think they had a coating (or maybe just a dusting of corn starch). They had a vinegary, sticky sweet chili sauce on them that I liked. Also pretty good portion-wise.

    And the fried rice balls (arancini) were quite tasty. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, I really liked them. They only give 2 per order, though, and I believe it’s the same price as the chicken wings, so not a huge portion size.

  186. Reid

    Penny,

    (I ended up eating most of mine)

    Dang.

    Thanks for the review on Meatball. It seems like the starches aren’t very good. What if you got the spicy pork meatballs+alfredo in a sandwich? (The bread wasn’t bad when I went.)

  187. Reid

    Russo’s (new-ish strip mall in Ewa; with a new Safeway)

    I’d describe this as a lower-scale Macaroni Grill, with a slightly greater emphasis on pizza–from coal-fired ovens. When a version close to a supreme pizza. It was OK; the toppings seemed very similar to Pizza Hut’s.

    Larri also tried a seafood risotto (a little over $20). It came in a tomato sauce. Meh, if you ask me, but Larri seemed to think it was not bad.

    They serve the meals with complimentary bread, the herb type.

    Definitely not worth driving out to try.

  188. mitchell

    I’ve been wanting to go to Meatball for another lunch try, but that stuff is so heavy.

  189. pen

    Had a chance to check out the nook in Puck’s Alley. It took the Kiss My Grits space and is open from 7am – 3pm every day except Mondays. I went after church so I got there about 1:30 and there was a 30-minute wait. By that time they were out of baguettes and their baked goods of the day (scones and muffins).

    I went with two other friends and we decided to eat family style. We tried the Pork Belly Benedict, which came with yummy rosemary potatoes. The Pork Belly was thinly sliced so you didn’t get that unctuous mouth feel, although it was tasty.

    The BLT came with the same pork belly as the eggs benedict. Since there was no baguettes, we got it on the gluten-free bread, which was fine if you have a gluten allergy, otherwise I would just stick to regular bread.

    We also tried the mochiko chicken with the mochi waffles, which were my favorite, even though the chicken was more like chicken bites. No bones, but it was nugget-sized. The waffles were more than mochiko flour being used – there was actual chunks of mochi-like substances in the waffle which gave it a pleasant chewiness.

    I had the “hard chai” which had coffee beans, ginger and chili. It was a bagged blend and they brought it in hot water, so I had to add milk to make it “chai.” They offer a handful of different teas from T-We Teas. They have Kona coffee and espresso drinks.

    Service was really good, the servers were nice and willing to answer all our questions. It’s still warm in there (like it was for Kiss My Grits). They need a better air conditioning/ventilation system or something. Prices are not outrageous, but not cheap either. You’re getting fresh food, which they try to locally source.

  190. pen

    I went to Moena Cafe today and (gasp!) had about the same reaction that Reid had. Good, but not really worth the drive and kinda pricey.

    I had the short rib loco moco, but I liked the “gravy,” because it was meaty and had a depth of flavor. The short rib pieces themselves were a bit dry.

    My friend had the eggs benedict. They use French bread rather than English muffins and I liked it. They also had sautéed spinach on it, which I thought was a nice addition.

    My friend and I shared the cinnamon roll pancake, which was yummy. A bit heavy, but I liked the chewiness of it. Also, in some places the sugar/cinnamon got caramelized on the bottom of the pancake, which made for a sweet, crunchy bite.

    Then my friend and I hiked up Makapuu. I only had to stop once going up (just for a few minutes). I wasn’t hungry until dinnertime, so it was a hearty, filling breakfast.

  191. Reid

    Pen,

    Moena Cafe seems like a decent neighborhood breakfast spot, one where you go to when you want to go out to breakfast, while wanting to stay close to home.

    I was hoping it would be a little better, but oh well.

  192. mitchell

    The new breakfast spot that’s the darling of Instagram is Tucker & Bevvy, another Australian place with ricotta pancakes. I think it’s in the building where Sam Choy’s was on Kapahulu. Hoping to try it…after payday.

  193. pen

    I’m still on a breakfast kick, so I went to Tucker & Bevvy with my mom today. We tried:

    Chicken fried rice – People on Yelp seemed to like it a lot and it was quite tasty, but…it’s fried rice. Then I remembered what bad/mediocre fried rice tastes like and I was more impressed.

    Roastbeef Hash – it’s not a traditional hash. More like seared fingerling potatoes, red onion and roastbeef chunks in a stir fry (not mashed together like a corned beef hash). Yummy and generous with the meat, so it was hearty.

    Tim Tam Waffles – I was happy to see you can buy these chocolate-covered wafer cookies from Costco. You don’t have to go all the way to Australia. This is a belgian waffle with crushed Tim Tam cookies on it (and garnished with 2 whole Tim Tam cookies). The waffle was light and crispy and had a vaguely salty taste, which I really liked. Thumbs up.

    There are still several things I want to try on this menu, so Mitchell, I’m down if you’re looking for a breakfast buddy.

    So far this has been my favorite (out of Moena Cafe, bills Waikiki) with the nook a close second.

  194. Mitchell

    You can get Tim Tams at Walgreens too.

  195. Reid

    Thanks for the review, Penny. I want to check this place out.

  196. pen

    Continuing with my breakfast fixation, I went to Scratch on Smith Street in Chinatown. BUT, they don’t serve breakfast all day. I went for dinner. So, I was denied. They do serve the breakfast menu during lunch, though, so I will be going back soon.

    I enjoyed my meal here. It’s a little on the expensive side, but the food was fresh and tasty. Sorry, I don’t know how to add the pictures, but we had:

    Chicken-fried deviled eggs. Good flavor, but I wish it had been crispier. They came with these spicy pickles which were great, because the acid and spice helped cut through the richness of the eggs.

    Melted Brie. Yum. Who doesn’t love melted cheese with slivered almonds and herbs? Kinda strong with the rosemary, but still pretty great. Came with toasted baguette slices.

    Steak Gaucho. Had a sort of chimichurri sauce on it that was acidic and fresh. Came with charred green beans and seared fingerling potatoes.

    Apple Turnovers. More like spiced apple compote in a puff pastry. It was $10 (I think) for 3 pieces. They were rectangles of buttery goodness. About 3″ x 5″ in size.

    On Yelp they had pictures of a tiramisu pancake. I am definitely going back to try that!

  197. Reid

    Oh, that sounds really interesting, Pen. Thanks for the review! Do you know if these are the same group that owns Lucky Belly?

    By the way, it’s really great to that breakfast/brunch places are popping up.

  198. Reid

    Scratch (on Smith, between Hotel and King)

    I got two things:

    jelly doughnut muffins ($6?): three rather smallish muffins rolled in sugar and served with a side of creme anglaise sauce. Today’s special filling was lemon and blueberry. I was excited. Unfortunately, the muffin was sort of bland and non-descript, as was the filling. 🙁

    Tiramisu pancakes ($10): Three smallish pancakes, dusted with chocolate and mascarpone. To me, it tasted like a tiramisu–rather than a pancakes that taste like tiramisu. If you like tiramisu, this is not a bad thing. I like tiramisu, and I enjoyed this dish.

    I was pretty full, so I didn’t really try anything else, but the other items look good. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this place is going to be really crowded on the weekends. For one thing, this is a new place and my sense is that people in Hawai’i love breakfast. Additionally, this place is kind of small.

    It’s definitely worth trying, though.

  199. mitchell

    At the very beginning of King Street, where the new Mitsuken location is near Love’s Bakery and the Middle Street intersection, is this new (about five months, I think) Korean place called Lily’s. I’d been hearing about it but never got inspired to check it out until last week, when I saw a photo of the smoked brisket. I think I drooled on my keyboard.

    I’m eating it right now. I mean right now as I type this. Everything (positive) people have said about this dish is true. It’s amazing. You get four slices of the smoked meat, and it has an amazing bark layer and it smells so smokey and good that I kind of leaned over the plate to try and get the smell all over me. If you are the sort to trim the fat and stick to the lean, don’t do it for this dish, because the fat is incredible. Actually, you might want to just eat some of the fat, because there’s a lot of it and the meal is ridiculously heavy if you try to eat the whole thing, fat and all.

    It’s served with a tangy barbecue sauce (on the side, thankfully) that’s pretty good but I hardly used it. The mac salad is the way I like it, which I won’t describe here except to say it doesn’t go overboard on the mayo and the macaroni isn’t overcooked, and I like the slice of cornbread you get: dense, chewy, and crumbly, not too cake-like but not sconey either.

    It’s a little over nine bucks and totally worth it.

    I went earlier in the week, too, but got there about 45 minutes before closing (they close at 7:30) and they were out of the brisket, so I just got a meat jun and barbecue chicken combo. The meat jun was above average: very flavorful with a batter that leans eggy. The barbecue chicken was about as good as it gets. If you like Korean barbecue that’s really shoyu-y, you might not care as much for the chicken, but I thought it was a really nice balance between the shoyu and the sweet, with a light caramel color, and it wasn’t overdone the way so much Korean take-out is.

    You get kim chee with both plates but it tastes like thst stuff you get in the grocery store, which is good enough but does nothing to add to the meal, so I hardly touched mine with the brisket. The chicken and meat jun combo also came with a few pices of fried mandoo that were pretty awful. They tasted like the frozen stuff you get in the grocery store, prepared by someone who can’t read the re-heating instructions.

    I’ll post a photo later, since it was a photo that finally sold me. But I’m really happy with this place. And if you’re no longer patronizing Mitsuken, the way I am no longer patronizing it, it’s nice to walk right past it and come somewhere even better.

    My one complaint is that when I came late, I had to wait about twenty minutes for my food, which wouldn’t bother me too much except that they close at 7:30 and you could tell they really wanted me out of there by then.

  200. Reid

    Sounds terrific. Question: so the brisket is Korean-style BBQ or Southern-style? Your mentioning of corn bread is throwing me off.

  201. Mitchell

    They have a few southern things on the menu, including smoked pork ribs which are apparently wonderful too. I may never find out.

  202. Reid

    OK, because of your review, I went out and got the brisket. (I tried to get the pork bbq ribs, but they ran out. Ditto the various pot pies.) The verdict? I liked the dish, but I’m a little ambivalent, too. You know what it reminded me of? Kalua pig. Indeed, I felt like I was eating pork more than beef. The fattiness and thickness reminded me of the char siu at Goma Tei. In any event, I think my ambivalence stems from the fact that it’s something I wasn’t expecting.

    I do want to go back and try other items. I think a restaurant that has both Korean and Southern BBQ is awesome! If I can get kal-bi and bbq pork ribs, that’s heaven for me! (I don’t think they allow this, though.) Anyway, thanks for the recommendation.

  203. Reid

    Tucker and Bevvy (above Hee Hing, next to Tokkuri Tei)

    We had the following:

    Tim Tam Waffles: Basically waffles with the tim tam bar and a scoop of ice cream. OK, but nothing to write home about.
    Lentil salad and sausage: Plus two eggs. This was OK, nothing special.
    Ricotta pancakes: I actually liked this a little better than bill’s, mainly because they tasted a little more like pancakes. You only get two pieces ($10), but it was a bit cheaper than bill’s

  204. Don

    I too on Mitchell recommendation went to Lili’s BBQ. I don’t remember if I ever bought Smoked BBQ brisket from a store before. I made it before, but that’s a totally different story. The meat with fat, which amounted to about half the pieces that I got, was deliciously fatty. The other pieces were dry. The good is the amount for the price, the mac salad, the kim chee (which unlike Mitchell I thought was pretty good), and the corn bread wasn’t great, but a plus. The bad is the dry pieces, which still had a decent smoke taste, but almost too dry to completely enjoy and the small amounts of BBQ sauce to down those dry pieces. Also I’m pretty sure when you cut brisket you should be cutting against the grain of the meat, but the dry pieces I got was cut along the grain. This made the pieces more like the shredded meat you see in Mexican places.

    I disagree with Reid that it was like Kalua pig. The smoke flavor is much more pronounced then Kalua pig which is good, but it was also much drier than Kalua pig. I would even say less tasty (or less salty) even though the smoke flavor was stronger than Kalua pig as well. The meat itself reminded me a lot of when my mom makes a roast in the slow cooker. There are pieces with fat that is tender and delicious and there are pieces without fat that are still okay, but dry. That being said I would say for the most part the good outweighed the bad.

    Tracy got fish jun, which was pretty good. It didn’t have that MSG, strong flavor that you find at a normal Korean place, but that can be a good thing. Her plate had quite a lot of food as well.

  205. Mitchell


    This photo doesn’t look anything like what either of you describes. I’m sticking with my review until I try it again.

    Lox of Bagels moved to that mall-like place across Dillingham from HCC. It looks a lot more like their original Kaahumanu St. location, with lots of tables and chairs, so it has returned to my list of hangouts. I like that it opens early. The bagels are still yummy.

    By the way, Kamehameha Bakery moved there too, although I haven’t seen it yet.

  206. Reid

    Did anyone see the new restaurant popping up across from JJ’s Bistro on Waialae Avenue? It’s called Kaimuki Superette, and I understand it’s run by Ed Kenney(sp?), owner of Town. I saw some people working on the restaurant inside, and I walked over, and they said they were opening today. I also got a menu, and from the looks of it, the restaurant seems to be a version of Downtown@HiSam–which is great, because I liked that place. The restaurant is small, but I liked the decor and ambiance (very casual). Mitchell, it’s in your turf, and it looks like a good lunch spot. Let me know if you try it out.

  207. mitchell

    The early reviews are positive. Might check it out this week.

  208. Reid

    Don sent me a notice for an event called, Baker’s Faire. The event featured several bakers selling some of their items, originally at the new public space in Kaka’ako. Because of the hurricane, the event was moved to MW, the following week. My family and I went to check it out.

    The food was OK. Here are some of the things we got:

    from Chris Sy:
    >croissant with blackberry and almonds. I thought this was OK, but Larri loved it.
    >croissant with citron and sesame. I have no idea was citron is, but this was OK.
    >chocolate croissant. Again, just OK

    I tend to like Chris Sy’s baked goods, and I would seek them out, but these weren’t particularly outstanding.

    from MW
    >pineapple tart. I liked the crust. Other that, it was fine.

    from Pig and the Lady
    >mango roll with rose-based glaze. Again, OK. The bread quality wasn’t all that great, almost like a cinnamon roll you get at fundraisers.

    We also got these black sesame cookies, but I can’t remember where they were from.

    Here’s what sucked about the event, though. You had to buy scripts prior to entering. (Actually, I think you could go in and then buy the scripts, but a fairly long line formed, so….) The scripts were $1 each. The space was also kind of cramped, too. Not sure I’d go back, not to that venue, anyway.

    There were some items from Koko Head Cafe, but I don’t think we got anything from there.

  209. Mitchell

    I know this doesn’t really matter, but it’s worth knowing that the event was called Baker Faire, and that name is significant because it’s a play on Maker Faire. The take-off on that name communicates a kinship of attitude and spirit beyond just a similarity in names. If you’d told me it was some baker thing, I’d have been all, “Okay.” But if you’d told me “It’s a take-off on the Maker Faire concept,” I’d have been all, “Ooh, cool.”

    I saw some great photos of the offerings there. I wonder if you’re tough to please.

  210. Reid

    Kaimuki Suprette

    Here’s what I got:

    quiche (varies every day) with two sides–watermelon with lime-chili; and a roasted eggplant type of dish. Everything was good, but it’s pricey–both in terms of quantity and quality. (It was about $13.)

    I also got the banini, which was banana panini with sweat bread and chocolate. This was about what you’d expect.

    If money was no object, this would be a great place. It’s not a place you could go to lunch on a regular basis.

  211. Reid

    I’m not sure if I talked about this before, but I heard that there were these New Zealand meat pies being sold at some market out on the North Shore. A week ago I was in the area, so I checked it out. I think the store is called, Fiji Market, and they also serve Indian food. I got the corned beef curry with brown rice and a chicken meat pie. The curry was pretty good, but it took a long time to prepare. In addition, ordering the corned beef (the Samoan/New Zealand canned type) was a waste as the curry drowned out the flavor. Still, it was pretty good–not drive-out-of-your-way good, but it was fine.

    The meat pie was not freshly made, but imported, frozen, from New Zealand. Really, it’s not that much different from one of those Swanson’s frozen pot pies–at least I think the difference is negligible.

    If you’re out in the area and ono for Indian curry (there offered different types), this is not a bad place to try. It will take a while and the convenience store was very hot inside.

  212. Reid

    Livestock Tavern (corner of Smith and Hotel, makai of Lucky Belly)

    The food and interior decor (red brick) reminds me of something I’d see in Seattle, which is a good thing. The food is in the New American bistro vein (at least that’s what I think it’s called), similar to Town and 12th Ave. Grill. Is it as good? We only tried three things, but so far I’d say the quality is close.

    Here’s what we had:

    clams, andouille sausage with shoestring fries. It came in a saffron, butter(?) broth. I thought it was OK, but Larri really liked it–ordering bread to finish off the remaining sauce. (They do not serve bread here, but I think they should.)

    risotto with squash and farro. I didn’t know what farro was, but it’s a grain, similar to rice, I guess. This was pretty good, although it was strangely sweet. The dish sort of looked like rice crispy treat mixture before you dish into a pan, and it almost had a marshmallow taste. It was actually pretty good, but I probably wouldn’t get this again.

    scallops and shrimp over grits. This was a cajun-y thing, and I really like this. The scallops and shrimp was cooked in some tomato-based sauce, which, while not anything fancy, was just really tasty.

    The grits had the consistency of mashed potatoes and didn’t seem like grits at all.

    Stuffed chicked, with cheese, mushrooms and spinach over mashed potatoes. This took about 25 minutes to cook. To me, the chicken didn’t have much flavor (lacked salt, too). Otherwise it was OK.

    I can’t remember the prices, but they were more in the Town range, which is a bit cheaper than 12th Avenue I think.

    By the way, the area around the restaurant, Hotel between Smith and Nuuanu, is really turning into a new restaurant row. The section was one of the seediest parts of downtown Honolulu, but the new restaurants are changing that. I could tell just by the people that were walking around. (This was bout 7:00 PM on a Saturday.)

    In addition, to Livestock, you have Scratch, Grondin, Lucky Belly, and some other places. On the Nuuanu side of Hotel, several new restaurants are planning to come up by next year as well.

    I don’t know if all of this is intentional or not, but it’s a change I welcome. Now, if they can get a movie theater and some bookstores and cd stores, maybe I wouldn’t have such a strong craving to go to Seattle or NYC.

  213. Reid

    I don’t think of Serg’s as a breakfast place, but they have a pretty good breakfast menu–mostly egg dishes, but they do have pancakes (which I tried).

    We tried to the machaca and chilequiles con huevos (Note: there’s also a chilequiles con carne, which is not that great). The machaca is scrambled eggs with beef and the chilequiles is old tortillas fried up with eggs (and I think a chile verde sauce with a bit of Mexican cream). For a $1 more you can get carne asada on the chilequiles con huevos, which I’d recommend. It’s terrific–maybe becoming one of my favorite dishes. (The machaca was also very good.)

    The portions were good (especially if you compare them to a place like Cocina).

    The pancakes, three fairly large-sized, were about $6 or $7. It comes with a caramel, cream type of sauce. It was kind of dry, and probably not something I’d get again. (If you really like caramel, it might be worth trying.)

  214. mitchell

    That really sounds good. I wonder if they have it at the Waimanalo location too.

  215. Reid

    Don’t know. I’ve never been to the Waimanalo location.

  216. Reid

    Don,

    How was MW?

  217. Don

    MW was good. The ambience was just okay or maybe even less than okay. You have a regular looking well-lit room with tables that are pretty darn close together. The food though was good. Tracy had the Valentine’s prefix. It came with three main dishes: Onaga, which Tracy and I liked, but thought the sauce was a little bit salty, filet which came with a Habanero sauce (I think), was easily the worst of the three, but the piece of meat was of good quality, and a Kona Lobster (not crab) dish that was great. The crab was on a bed of crab mousse, on top of a tomato based sauce. The portions of her three dishes were decent, but the prefix was $75. She also had five bite size appetizers that were just okay. I think one of the stars of the night was Michelle’s crème brulee. It had a lilikoi cream, with tapioca, and guava jelly-like pieces. It doesn’t sound appealing with all those textures and tastes in one dessert, but I thought it worked well (probably better than well).

    I had the oxtail stew risotto. The oxtail is boneless and sits on top of the risotto. The oxtail was pan-fried crispy, but there wasn’t enough salt on the oxtails themselves. The risotto was amazing. It’s not a tomato based stew, more of a gravy than a stew. But I would definitely get that dish again. That being said my dish was $28.

    The price of food or anything for that matter has been going up, so maybe I’m just old or “old school”, but I thought the prices were slightly high for the atmosphere. But the food itself is good to great.

    Where did you guys go?

  218. Reid

    Dang, I honestly can’t remember where we went…lovely…we waited to the last minute to decide…uh….nothing work reporting on, though.

    Thanks for the feedback on MW. I agree the ambiance is kinda lame. In a way, it reminds me of Alan Wong’s restaurants, but, for some reason, I like the ambiance at those places better (maybe because there’s an ugly parking lot right outside MW, with big glass windows to boot?).

    You going to the restaurant to try the food is worth it? Somehow the menu doesn’t get me too excited. The food would have to be really good for me to want to go there–or at least as good as Town, let’s say.

  219. Mitchell

    Reid, I thought this article on Chinese food would interest you. That Kapolei place sounds interesting, even though it’s a buffet and I don’t like buffets.

  220. Reid

    Oh yeah, that article was totally up my alley. It would be for Don, too, I would think, although maybe he already has enough answers about the best Chinese restaurants in Hawai’i. What’s interesting is that Tracey’s tastes seemed to be confirmed by some of the people interviewed in the article (e.g., Moon Garden, Ming’s, etc.).

    I’ve been to Ho-ho’s. It was a decent, cheap buffet, but it kinda went downhill the last time I went there.

  221. Reid

    Timmy Tom’s Gourmet Sandwiches (Kailua, next to Boston’s North End Pizza)

    Basically, this is a mom and pop version of Subways, which can be good or bad. When I lived in California, there was a place called Togos, which was similar to Subways, and I liked it.

    Timmy Tom’s is better version of Subways–how much better will probably depend on the person. I’d say it’s not worth driving out to, but if you happen to be in Kailua, and you were in the mood for a sub, this is not a bad choice.

    I read that they use Boar’s Head deli meat, which is supposedly reputable brand. I liked the meat (turkey and chicken). And they also bake bread in the shop (but they don’t make the dough), similar to Subway’s. To me, the bread is slightly better. (They also have wheat slices.)

    The one thing that stood out was that they were fast. Now, when I went the place was empty, but I’d say they completed my sandwich in two minutes, maybe less. This might be their biggest strength–in which case this would be a great place in the business area or any place with a big lunch crowd. It’s a quality that would allow them to beat out Subway’s, because I’m pretty sure Subway’s loses business because they can take a while and lines can pile up.

    By the way, we ordered a turkey with avocado spread and a chicken sandwich, which normally comes with bacon, but I had it without. The avocado spread was skimpy, but I liked the turkey. The chicken was also good, and I’m pretty sure they had some kind of seasoning in the mayo(?) that was good.

    You can get all the fixings (onions, more lettuce, etc.) for no charge.

    Sandwiches were about 8-9″s and cost about $9.

  222. Reid

    The Nook (Puck’s Alley, hidden behind storefronts)

    Penny wrote a review, and I checked out their menu a while ago, but I wasn’t really impressed, as it seemed like standard fare, with a few exceptions.

    I went there recently, and it was just the opposite: almost every item is a creative twist on breakfast fare. I tried the mochiko waffle (plain) when I went. It was pretty much what you’d expect–a waffle with a mochi density and flavor. It was pretty good, and while not very large, it would be something I’d share.

    There’s a lot of other items I’d like to try, and I’m looking forward to going again. I think Don and Mitchell would probably like this, although Don might not be satisfied with the value (too little for the price).

    The space is pretty small, and it’s not ideal for parties more than four. (Four might be kinda tight, too.)

  223. mitchell

    It’s also way, way too warm. There’s outside seating, but in the morning hours the sun shines right down on it. That’s the main reason I haven’t eaten there yet. Whenever I’m there, it’s a very warm morning already.

  224. Reid

    I was going to mention that, since it was hot when I ate there when Kiss My Grits operated out of that space. But when I went recently, it wasn’t hot at all. The heat would be something I’d be wary about, though.

  225. Reid

    Honolulu Kitchen (Waipahu at the old Diners/Jenny’s spot)

    This is a spot that has had several restaurants in the last twenty years–most of them looked like standard, grungy plate lunch places. But several weeks ago, the interior decor suggested something different, something a bit nicer. Whatever was going to be in there might be a plate lunch place, but it was probably going to be nicer and a bit different. I was a little excited and hopeful that this could be a really good plate lunch place, maybe an upscale–ish one.

    Honolulu Kitchen had a soft-opening about a week or so ago and had their official grand opening on Saturday. Just going in to take a look, Chun Wah Kam came to mind–with the various Chinese dishes sitting in warmers as well as an offering of dim sum. Indeed, I got the sense that someone who worked at Chun Wah Kam decided to start his/her own restaurant.

    There is one notable difference, which may keep this restaurant going for years to come. You know we talk about certain innovative food items that we wonder why it took so long to appear–spam musubi being the classic example? Well, Honolulu Kitchen has an item like that–namely, their (deep) fried manapua. We deep fry twinkies and oreo cookies, you’d think someone would have deep-fried a manapua. (Maybe there is another place that does this, but this is the first place I’ve seen it.) In any event, the key question is, is it any good? I’d say it is. They have different types of filling, including more dessert fillings like cream cheese and strawberries. I can see some people not liking the idea of deep frying a manapua (and I don’t actually know if they deep fry it), as it conjures up an oil-soaked manapua. That’s not really the case here. The fried manapua’s have a thin, crispy shell-like outer layer, while under it the bread is moist, not dripping, with oil. I’d say the bread is mostly dry. The item is original and good enough to draw people and keep this place in business for a while–sort of like KC Drive Inn’s waffle hot dog.

    As for the other items, we tried one or two of the noodle options and their pork gisantes type of dish and their roast pork. Both appealed to me because the chunks of pork were huge and appetizing. (Ditto the abode, which I didn’t get to try.) All in all, the items were OK to a little less than OK, sort of like Chun Wah Kam. There might be other items that are really good, but I would stick to the manapua.

    On another note, the interior sitting area of this location has always been kind of gross and unappealing, but they’ve actually fixed up the place, to where it’s not a bad spot to eat (although, I still don’t really care for the vibe).

  226. mitchell

    So it’s a steamed manapua that’s dipped in some kind of batter and then fried? Or is it rolled in breadcrumbs and fried? Or do they deep-fry the unsteamed dough, kind of like a malasada?

  227. Reid

    It looks like they take a regular manapua thrown into oil, until a thin crispy outer layer forms, if that makes any sense. So no extra batter or breadcrumbs. I could be wrong, though. By the way, it looks a little like a baked manapua.

  228. mitchell

    Well I may have to trek out to Waipahu soon then.

    Actually, I was just out there. Took some visiting coworkers to Waikele to shop, then drove them past my old hood. Memories!

  229. Reid

    Oh, that would have been a good time to go. It’s not very crowded right now, but that could change as word gets out. I could be wrong, though. I wouldn’t say the fried manapuas are super good, but I could see it catching on, at least initially (like Beard Papa’s cream puffs).

  230. Reid

    Went back to The Nook. Jill raved about the egg scramble–three scrambled eggs with mushrooms, with a savory bread pudding on the side. It was good–I’d guess, one of the better dishes there. The “bread pudding” is more like a muffin made out of stuffing, with some nice toasty crispness on the outside. It also comes with a few spinach leaves with balsamic vinegar. The eggs are just OK, the bread pudding is good, but all the items work well together, which is what makes the dish so good.

    We also tried the malasada french toast, with mangos and condensed milk whip cream. I didn’t really notice any “french” aspect to the malasadas, but this was fine.

    Oh, we also have the scone–blackberry and sage. It was solid.

  231. don

    Ethiopian Love Restaurant
    I took Tracy to the Ethiopian Love Restaurant on Smith Street across from Village Noodle House for Mother’s Day. We had Lamb Tibs ($19) and Beef Wot ($16). The difference between tibs and wot, well at least at the Ethiopian Love Restaurant is the wot is a little more stewy whereas the tibs is more dry. I thought the food was just okay and for the price it wasn’t that much food. This is the only Ethiopian restaurant that I ever been, but I thought it’s similar to Indian food, but Indian food is more tasty.

    The biggest difference though is that Indian food comes with naan and Ethiopian food comes with injera. The wheat that goes into injera is fermented for 48 hours (or was it more), and so the injera is sour. It’s sourer than sour dough bread. Being that you eat with your hands by rolling food in the injera, every bite has injera and thus everything taste a little sour. Tracy didn’t love the injera, I thought it was just okay.

    All in all I thought the food was okay, portions just okay, price could be a little cheaper, and ambiance decent. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if someone wanted to try it I wouldn’t dissuade them either. Go give it a try and maybe you like sour food. haha

  232. Reid

    Two things about my experience eating Ethiopian food (on the mainland):

    1. The injera I ate tasted like manapua bread, only thinner. I don’t recall it being really sour;

    2. The servings seemed like small piles of stew. I thought it wasn’t enough food, but my friend and I weren’t able to finish it.

  233. mitchell

    That Ethiopian place is never open when I go there.

  234. Reid

    The Waipahu Arby’s is now offering gyros–either turkey or beef. They actually have a special deal–two for $7. It’s a great deal, and the turkey gyros tastes good! They season the turkey with gyros spices (whatever they season gyros with), and it comes with tzaziki sauce, which is pretty good, considering this is a Arby’s. The pita is solid (although I wish they toasted it more). I hope this becomes a part of the regular menu.

  235. Reid

    Tried the corn quesadillas at Serg’s. It’s more like a like a rolled up taco, which is lightly fried. We got three: one with carne asada, chicken and chorizo. The chicken was bland, and the chorizo was a bit too oily. The carne asade was the best. (They were close to $4, if I remember correctly.)

    We also tried the pastrami-burger, which is part of the Wings and Things section of Serg’s. It came with a thousand island type of sauce, which I didn’t care for. The burger patty itself wasn’t that good, too (overcooked). If I’m not mistaken, they also put some type of Mexican red sauce. I wouldn’t get this again.

  236. mitchell

    Heeia Pier is closed. There’s a sign in the window that says to look for a reopening under new management, but I don’t think there’s a plan in place.

  237. Reid

    I never got to try there–oh, except for a standard breakfast. I’ve been wanting to try Mark Noguchi’s food for a while now.

  238. don

    We went to Bread + Butter for breakfast on Memorial Day. You can read about the place here: http://www.frolichawaii.com/stories/something-new-bread-butter/. We got the Dashimaki Tamago, which is a frittata-like dish. It had ham, egg, on top of rice, which is in a mini cast iron pan, which crisps up the rice kinda like Bi Bim Bap. I thought it was okay. I think with that much rice (and it wasn’t that much, I guess) that the egg needed to be seasoned more. If you eat it with the ham maybe it’s okay, but I wouldn’t get that again. We also got the beef tongue curry. The beef tongue was deliciously soft and juicy, but the curry was extremely sweet. Probably the sweetest Japanese curry that I can remember eating. It was okay, but I would have enjoyed it more if it tasted a little more traditional. The last thing we got is the Breakfast Pizza. It had ham, a sunny-side egg, cheese, on a pesto sauce. This is very good. I like the Umami flavor of the egg running all over the pizza, but it’s probably not for everyone.

    I would go to Bread + Butter again to try other stuffs. Most of the items were sort of reasonable, with the curry probably being the most extravagant at $13(?). Portions are fine for breakfast.

  239. mitchell

    I’m looking forward to trying their personal paella. Looks super interesting. And since I dine alone most of the time, paella for one sounds like a good idea.

  240. mitchell

    I’ll add photos later, if I can find them.

    I’ve been to Scratch twice now, for breakfast both times. The first time I had the chillaquilles, which are sort of like baked breakfast nachos. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t much to get excited about. I think I need to try them again.

    The second time, I had the cajun shrimp and grits, and they were delicious. They’re served with whole shrimps (and I think just the heads and tails for flavor), and slupring the shrimp juices from the shells with bites of the creamy grits was almost heavenly. It’s served with slices of chorizo too, but the dish doesn’t really need it. This is a heavy meal, so you don’t need to order a side, as tempting as a muffin or cookie might be.

    I went to the new Mission Cafe (Mark Noguchi). I really wanted the luau stew, but you have to get there early for that. I was there at just after noon (they open at 11:00) and they were out. So I had a tombo sandwich with a spigarello antipasti (with Himalayan red rice), and a side of the soup of the day, which was turkey and green papaya. The sandwich was good, although it was really just a very high-quality tuna salad sandwich. There’s a house-made pickle in it that made the whole sandwich. The soup was good, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. The spiagrella was alternatingly extremely bitter and pleasantly nutty. Everything in front of me tasted really fresh, and I think I just ordered the wrong stuff for me. Other stuff on the board looked just as interesting, so I’m hoping to find something that’s more my style.

    There’s this place on Pauahi (next door from Doner Shack) called Yum Yum Thai. It’s basically a plate lunch place with a steam table, mostly with Thai style dishes but some local stuff too. The food’s not bad, but the big draws for me are (a) the hours. They open at 7:30, and the only thing that would make it better for me would be if they opened earlier. And (b) the value. You get two entrees and rice (white or brown) for four bucks. One entree and a side are three bucks, which is good for breakfast. The best stuff on the table (and it’s a rotating list of stuff) are the chicken dishes, but I also like the meat-and-veggie dishes (spicy ground pork with eggplant, for example, or beef and bean sprouts). Haven’t tried the curries yet, but that’s the most Thai-looking stuff there, so I guess it won’t be long before I give it a try.

    Kahuna Okazuya in Pioneer Plaza (you know, a few spaces down from Heidi’s) is good for grab-and-go stuff. The quality of the food is above average, especially the musubis. I’ve had the donburis too and they’re good. The guy who runs the place, a middle-aged Japanese man, is exceedingly polite and he always seems super grateful to have your business. This goes a long way with me. He once dropped a musubi I handed him for purchase on the floor, and then refused to sell it to me even though it was completely wrapped in plastic. I told him it was fine. I begged him not to waste it. But he instead picked up another one from the counter and handed me that. It’s a small thing, but it’s a nice example of how polite he is.

    There’s a bar on the corner of King and Smith. In the past two years, it’s had three names, and has gone from being a total dive to a hipster joint with foie gras burgers. Which I would recommend. All the burgers there are pretty good, but that one’s the best.

  241. Reid

    Thanks for the reviews, guys.

    Don,

    Your description of Bread+Butter makes the food not sound so good. What were some other things that you’d want to try if you go again?

    Mitchell,

    Have you tried the chillaquiles con huevos (with carne asada) at Serg’s yet?

  242. don

    Reid,

    The food at Bread + Butter is done well, IMO. I think it’s just not to my taste. Whereas I did a review on Dagon a while back and I thought the food was okay, but not necessarily cooked well. I think I made a comment that the cooking was equivalent to a Burmese L&L. I could see you liking the curry because it was really tasty and the meat was cooked very well.

    Mitchell,

    Yum Yum Thai used to be on Bishop St close to the gyro shop, Leo’s Taverna. It used to be really popular, but just all of sudden closed. Yes the food is extremely cheap there. The fried chicken is decent (but it’s lukewarm). They coat it with cornstarch is my guess because it gets really crispy. You pretty much get what you pay for over there.

    You ate at the bar enough to know that most if not all the burgers are good? What about the Epic Restaurant burger? I heard that one is supposed to be good.

  243. Reid

    Don,

    The overly sweet comment about the curry didn’t really appeal to me. I’d say you and I have about the same tolerance for sweetness, when it comes to entres, so if you’re saying it was a bit too sweet, I’d probably think the same thing. Still, I’m not closed to giving the place a try.

    By the way, my impression is that it’ll be like Panya, which is a Japanese version of American diner food, I guess.

  244. mitchell

    I haven’t eaten at Smith & King’s (that’s today’s name of that bar) that many times, but someone in the office bought like ten things and we all had tastes. I was pretty impressed.

  245. Reid

    Alejandro’s Mexican Food (pink store in Kalihi Valley)

    Very short menu–tacos, burritos and quesadillas with three types of meat–carnitas, ground beef and carne asada. (You can also get a veggie option). Tacos come with diced raw onions and cilantro. It was pretty good, but nothing I would drive out of my way for.

  246. don

    Just for comparison, where has a better taco? I’m guessing it’s that soft shell taco (ie: not the type of hard shell you get at taco bell). How much was it?

  247. Reid

    I think they ranged from $2.50 to $3.50 (carnitas being on the lower end). And, yes, we’re talking the small-ish, soft taco–the kind I associate with taco trucks.

    I don’t know if there’s any place that’s better, but I wouldn’t say this place is better than other good places I’ve tried–if that makes any sense. To me, the best Mexican food places in Hawai’i are about even and just pretty good–nothing that would make my eyes pop out. I’m beginning to wonder if I either just don’t like Mexican food all that much, or it doesn’t really get much better than the best I’ve had here.

  248. Reid

    Golden Pork Tonkotsu (King Street, at the old Mediterraneo location)

    My brother went to this place before I did, and he raved about the black sesame tsukemen–which he said tasted exactly like the tsukemen he tasted in a famous Tokyo ramen place. I never tried the one in Tokyo, but I didn’t think this was so great. The shiru was very strong and salty, almost overpowering–it’s not something you would drink by itself. The tsukemen noodles were good, at least in terms of having that fresh chewiness. (There wasn’t much flavor, though.) If you like e-mein, I’d guess you liked this.

    I agreed with Joel about the gyoza (which was just OK) and the pork belly in a bun (Chinese style), which was just one small serving cut in half. (It was about $2 or $3 dollars at happy hour, though.) We also had the shrimp, avocado dip with crackers. The crackers looked like Diamond Head soda crackers, which make it seem not so promising, but Larri liked it. I thought it was pretty good, but not something I’d rave about.

    Larri had the red spicy miso, which comes in mild, medium or hot. Larri thought the shiru was a little too strong. She ordered this as a ramen–the noodles being really thin, almost like Hong Kong style chow mein. She ordered extra noodles in the tsukemen style, which watered down the shiru, making it a little better in my view.

  249. don

    Is the hard taco shell not authentic? I never saw the “real” Mexican places serve that shell. There is a “fine dining” Mexican place in Waikiki called Buho Cocina opened by the group that opened Shokudo. Here’s the website: http://www.buhowaikiki.com/#menu.

    I’m pretty sure when you get tsukemen style the shiru is supposed to be much more potent because it’s more of a dipping sauce. Wasn’t the shiru amount smaller than what you would get if you got regular soup? I sort of don’t like the tsukemen style because meal cannot stay as hot as when you get regular ramen.

  250. Reid

    My impression is that the hard taco shell isn’t authentic, because, like you, I haven’t really seen it at “real” Mexican restaurants.

    I heard about Buho, but a co-worker went, and she gave a lukewarm review.

    You could be right about the tsukemen shiru being more potent. When I went to Japan, they served somen like this (which is a way better way to eat somen, if you ask me) and the sauce is more concentrated, not something you would really slurp down. The tsukemen might be like that, too, but this one was a little too salty and potent, even if you factor that in. That’s kinda how I felt, anyway.

  251. don

    My brother got a room in Waikiki at the Parc Hotel to watch the fireworks this past weekend. He invited us to come over and watch and to eat dinner. We went to Okonomiyaki Chibo. I didn’t really care for it. The okonomiyaki had too much batter and too much sauce for my liking. I will say that out of all the okonomiyaki I’ve eaten, this one had the biggest filling, like the beef was chunky and not thinly sliced, the shrimp was whole. But that doesn’t make up for the price. I think Larri said prior that she liked the one with avocado in it, but we didn’t get that.

    The next morning, we went back to Waikiki to take my brother to breakfast at Goofy Café and Dine. It’s a Japanese run place hence the word Dine in their name? Not sure, but I would have thought it should be Diner. Anyhoo, this place is known for their local fresh ingredients. I got the eggs benedict, which had a sweeter than normal taste. It was done well and the belly pork (Shinsato Pork), which is used instead of ham was thin, but delicious. Tracy got the omelette, which had Portuguese Sausage, Hamakua Mushrooms, avocado, spinach (or some kind of greens) and cheese. If I made an omelette at home that is probably what I would like to put in it as well. If I went back I would probably get that omelette. My brother’s wife got what I got, and my brother got the Honey French Toast. Everything is about $13 – $14, and although a little expensive, it’s not crazy. My brother’s French Toast was the only thing I wouldn’t get based on the price because it’s just way too much for bread. I think because he got the pineapple version and it looked like canned pineapples (although it was probably fresh). My son ate half of it, so it must have been good though. This place is small and lines can be crazy. We went at 8 and got in right away, when we left at 9 there was a lot of people there. Comparing Goofy to Bread + Butter, I would say Goofy’s food is better, but Bread + Butter’s value is a little better. It’s a close call, but I would go back to both.

  252. Reid

    Thanks for the review. I like going to breakfast places. Where exactly is Goofy Cafe?

    I think Chibo is OK–not great. It is expensive, although okonomiyaki seems expensive in general. I think I prefer Yaki-Yaki Miwa. Larri usually gets hers with bacon, cream cheese and avo–which is kind of gross if you ask me.

  253. Mitchell

    Shepherd's Pie
    This is a shepherd’s pie from Sweet Revenge, that pie truck that set up at the School of Medicine cafeteria. I should have taken a slice out of it and then photographed it. Next time. This was really good.

    Tombo Sandwich

    This is that tombo sandwich (with soup) I had at Mission Cafe.

    Pasteles Stew
    Pastele moco (pastele stew with an egg on it) from Newtown Driving Range. They have a bunch of wood-fired-ovened pizzas, but this is what I came for. It was tasty as heck, and SUUUUUPER HEAVY. Not sure what makes it pastele stew, but it was really good. By the way, the singular form of “pasteles” is “pastel,” not “pastele,” just as the singular form of “tamales” is “tamal,” not “tamale.” Oh! And the mac salad here is maybe the best I’ve ever had. It was made up of chopped spaghetti noodles (like at KJ’s) with tuna, potatoes, and corn. Holy moly.

    Kona Coffee Pulehu Steak
    Kona coffee crusted steak from Pono Plates (in that area by the Pearl City Walmart), with cauliflower mash and pono mac salad. The mac salad was pretty awful. The cauliflower was great. The steak was good but pretty much overpriced.

    Cioppino
    Cioppino from Mediterraneo. Yummy.

  254. Mitchell

    Goofy Cafe is in that weird little wedge of shops on Ala Moana Blvd. approaching the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where that Kobe Steakhouse is. I meant to go there Sunday but fell asleep because I got up too early.

  255. Mitchell

    I never got to eat at the Well Bento, but I imagine Pono Plates is aiming at a similar demographic. It’s all a bunch of healthy options, supposedly. The rest of the menu looks pretty good. I was in the mood for steak, though.

  256. don

    That’s some great looking meals.

    Sweet Revenge pies are great. I’ve tried their savory and sweet stuffs and everything is done well.

    Pastele stew is stew with plantains in them right? Did it taste different than regular tomato based stew? Stew with an egg on it huh? Sounds great.

    How much was the steak at Pono’s?

  257. Mitchell

    I assumed the stew was thickened by the plantain masa, but I couldn’t really tell. The flavor was different, though I couldn’t necessarily pin the difference on the plantain masa, if there was any.

    The steak at Pono Plates was $15. You can see the whole menu here.

    Beef and Spring Roll Vermicelli.

    Summer Rolls
    This is that Vietnamese vermicelli dish I can never remember the name of; it’s effectively the Vietnamese bi bim kook soo. And summer rolls from Tram Le, that place on the corner of Smith and Hotel, sharing an intersection with Livestock Tavern and Lucky Belly. I’d been meaning to try this place for months, then finally went in on a Sunday evening, which turned out to be their last night before closing for two weeks for renovations. They opened late last week with a new name: Pho Hana or something like that. Not sure if the cute Vietnamese owner is still involved, but if she’s not I may not be in a hurry to come back. The food was good but not outstanding.

    BBQ Brisket
    Too bad this photo is out of focus. It’s the barbecue brisket from Hughley’s Southern Cuisine. It came with choices of two sides (I got rice and cole slaw), plus a slice of cornbread. I can’t remember what I paid, but this was excellent; I’d say it’s better than Lily’s. The proprietor was super nice, even though he shook his head at my choice of rice and cole slaw. There’s enough interesting stuff here to recommend you at least give it a try. Order at the counter, then find a table where they’ll bring you your meal. It’s in Aiea, in the same building as the old Albero’s.

    There’s also a place called Smokin’ Grill, in Aiea in the building facing Young’s Kal-Bi. So yeah: there are two southern joints in that strip mall. This one is more like a plate lunch place that specializes in southern-style dishes (you can also get some local dishes), while Hughley’s is definitely a southern restaurant. This was decent too, but I can’t remember what I had. It was garlic chicken (pedestrian) with something else. A rib, maybe? Dang, I can’t find a photo either.

    pasteles
    Two pasteles plate from Alicia’s. Good, but I’d really rather have had the steak plate.

  258. Mitchell

    Breakfast Burger with Home Fries
    Breakfast burger with home fries. Downbeat Diner.

    Katsudon
    Oh yes. Katsudon from Kimukatsutei, one of those places at Shirokiya. The quality of the tonkatsu was ridiculously good here. And bonus points for Japanese style potato salad. I can’t help it. This is my go-to in almost any Japanese restaurant, at least the first time I dine. My mom was teasing me about it on Mothers Day–that I’m still ordering the same thing I’ve ordered since I was a little boy.

    Creole Shrimp and Grits
    And here is that ridiculous creole shrimp and grits from Scratch. Makes my mouth water.

    Strawberry Dream

    Green Tea Shave Ice with Ice Cream and Azuki

    Strawberry Dream and some kind of green tea creation. These are from Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha in Aina Haina, a place Reid would probably like since he likes the Ailana style of syrups. The shave ice was absolutely delicious; I’ll totally give it that. My problem is that the owner, Uncle Clay, goes way overboard on the friendliness and hospitality. Not only did he introduce himself to us, but he insisted we introduce ourselves to him, after which he asked us a lot of questions about our work and schooling. Then he introduced us to the customers sitting nearby. It was just too much, especially as I was trying to have conversation with some coworkers about work. I understand that a lot of people like this kind of friendliness, but it was just way over the line for me, enough over the line that I doubt I’ll go back unless I send a scout in there ahead of me to find out first if Uncle Clay is even around. Yeah, yeah. Call me a grouch, but even my super patient and outgoing friends were put off.

  259. Mitchell

    Opakapaka from Pongo's
    I’ve been told that Pongo’s in Kalihi is hit or miss. This is grilled opakapaka with garlic shoyu sauce and I thought it was really good. The mac salad was gross, so get another option.

    Mixed Doner Rice Plate
    This is the lamb doner rice plate from Doner Shack. You can get a combo (that’s chicken, lamb, and beef), which I got the next time and it was better. I love this plate to death and could eat it every week.

    Chicken Parm
    When I was still teaching, I used to find excuses to run a certain errand in Kakaako every so often so I could stop for lunch at Max & Lucy’s. I’ve mentioned this place to you guys before (years ago) but could never remember the name. And if anyone had asked me what’s good, all I’d be able to tell you is the meatloaf (which is embarrassing, because some people think that’s one of the things you should never order out). Well, this is the chicken parm. It’s now the only other thing I’ve had there, and I’ve had it three times. It’s not awesome, but it’s solid, and sometimes you just want fried chicken fillet swimming in marinara sauce.

    Xiao Long Bau, Pork Hash, Taro Gok, Radish Cakes
    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but in case you’ve forgotten about Mei Sum: this is the xiao long bau, pork hash, taro gok, and turnip cakes. Pretty much just a normal order; nothing exotic.

    Pork Carnitas
    Pork carnitas from Maria Bonita on School Street. This place gets mixed reviews all the time, but I like it. Kind of a lot.

    Gyoza

    I Think This is the Man-Ichi Special
    This is the Man Ichi special (I think). It’s #1 on the menu. And gyoza. From Man-Ichi, on Kona Street near Ailana. I thought it was good, but not better than anything I’ve had at Tenkaippin.

  260. Reid

    I’m enjoying Mitchell’s recent reviews, and I haven’t had the time or energy to comment on them. Still don’t, but I wanted to give a quick post on my visit to Hughley’s. I actually tried this place before (It was called Ken Nae’s, I think–but I’m pretty sure the owner is the same guy.). I think I got the pork ribs, and I didn’t really care for it.

    Anyway, Mitchell’s comments made me want to try this again–and this time I got the brisket. It’s kinda pricey–$19–but they do give a lot of brisket. The brisket was just OK. It kinda reminded me of a beef version of baked ham–in terms of the texture and even flavor. I was going to get mac and cheese and red beans and rice, but I asked the cashier what’d she’d recommend, and she said the green beans and hush puppies. “Green beans?” I asked her. “I mean, it’s just grean beans, right?” She said she didn’t know what to say, but it was just good. (I think she mentioned the seasoning.) So, I followed her advice, and she didn’t steer me wrong. It wasn’t the greatest thing I ate, but it was good. (I’d get the green beans again, and I wouldn’t mind eating the hush puppies, either.)

  261. don

    Man that Downbeat breakfast burger looks so disappointing with that “Love’s” bun. That shows how much the bun matters.
    I love the katsu and Uncle Clay stories. But what is under the katsu. I couldn’t tell if it’s some kind of pancake or egg.
    Strange coincidence but I was thinking of writing about Pongo. Pongo is in the heart of the warehouses in Kalihi. There is also no parking there. But I thought the food was pretty darn good. I got guava chicken and ahi. Both were deliciously good for plate lunch. The opakapaka looks good too. I thought the mac salad was pretty good too, but I cannot tell you that I remember much about it.
    That Doner plate looks a mess, but dang does it looks ono. I didn’t know they had rice plates. The rice looks like some sort of basmati rice. Two questions: How much does it cost and what is the whiteish gravy on there?
    Dude, you have been all over the place. I love it…

  262. Mitchell

    Well, we’re going back kind of a long way on some of these. Notice I haven’t really posted any restaurant things all year.

    I agree about the bun. The burger itself was good (I love breakfast burgers and don’t understand why you can’t get one at most of the fast food places), but I found the bun disappointing. In fact, I recently went to Square Barrels for the first time and that was my takeaway there, too. The burger was delicious, but the bun was a huge downer.

    Pongo’s is also open Saturday, so if you’re ever in the area…

    The katsudon was pretty much just a katsudon. So that stuff you see right under the tonkatsu is just that soft scrambled egg you get in a good katsudon. beneath it is rice, onions, and sauce. I love that style of tonkatsu with the very thinly sliced, quality pork roast rolled up. Mmmm.

    That white sauce on the doner plate is their yogurt sauce. They have a spicy sauce too, which is also pretty good even though it’s not very hot.

  263. Reid

    Quick update:

    I went to Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha

    I got the green tea with vanilla ice cream, Larri got the pina colada and the kids got the strawberry. I had one bite of the strawberry, and I didn’t really care for it. It didn’t seem to have much flavor and the ice was a bit mushy. The ice was also mushy for the green tea. This could have occurred because there was too much syrup. Too little syrup isn’t good (see Ice Garden), but I guess too much can be a bad thing, too–not just because it can be overpowering, but it can prematurely turn the ice to slush.

    As for flavor, you know how green tea ice cream is usually creamy and sweet? This one doesn’t really have that–it tastes like the green tea you drink. That can be good or bad depending on your tastes. But I must say that I think the flavor wasn’t always so strong–on some bites I could taste very little flavor. (Maybe this was why they put a lot of syrup?)

  264. don

    I’m guessing Uncle Clay wasn’t there?

  265. Reid

    Yeah, he wasn’t–which was a good thing. I must be becoming a grouch like Mitchell. 🙂

  266. Mitchell

    Did you have the strawberry shave ice with slices of strawberries on it? Because those strawberries were yummy and they made a big difference.

  267. Mitchell

    This is what I think: If you’re just getting shave ice and syrup, you want the syrup stronger. But if you’re getting toppings, you want it weaker, otherwise the combination of toppings is too sweet. You know?

  268. Reid

    Yes, we ordered the one with the strawberries. But I only had one bite of the shave ice (and I don’t it included a real strawberry).

    I don’t know if I agree with the quantity of syrup. Too much, without other toppings, can ruin the shave ice, too, in my view. Too little with toppings can get in the way, too–which is what I think happens at Ice Garden.

  269. Reid

    Queen Street Cafe 2 (near Hughley’s in Aiea)

    Some of the people I worked with recommended this to me–specifically, the firecracker chicken and the spicy ahi poke combo. (You can mix all items.) I didn’t get the poke, but got the fried calamari instead. I also got another plate with steak and spicy tempura shrimp.

    The firecracker chicken was pretty good, perhaps a little too bready. The sauce was basically the Thai chilli sauce, which is sweet and a little spicy. The calamari reminded me of the type you would see at Makino Chaya–with the tentacles being on a the bigger side. It was OK, but it give me bad vibes.

    The (pulehu) steak was pretty good. I liked the kiawe smoke taste and the seasonings. (I want to try their kiawe bbq chicken. I believe they grill their stuff on the outside of the restaurant.) The shrimp, on the other hand, was really bready–you know the yellow type of batter? Except, this was even more cakey; plus, the shrimp was kinda tiny. I wouldn’t order that again.

    They have some interesting things on the menu, and I’ll definitely go there again. They also serve brown rice, which is cool (but they charge a little extra for that).

  270. Mitchell

    Gyros Plate

    Gyros Plate

    These are two shots (on different days) of the gyros plate at that Mediterranean place inside the building next to Hawaiian Electric, between Alakea and Richards, between King and Merchant. There are two places in there that sell Mediterranean food, and they are named TheDeli and Fresh Garden Deli, which is super confusing. This place is TheDeli, and I’ve had a few things here over the years but this is what I come here for now. It’s really reasonably priced and very tasty, and the service is always cheerful.

    Chicken Bi Bim Bap

    Loco Moco

    Garlic Stems

    When I first started working downtown, back in January, I’d wander around looking for places to have dinner before I took a bus home. There aren’t a lot of things open after 5:00, but I stopped in a couple of times at Red Pepper on Fort Street Mall. It’s this Korean place that tries to incorporate some local style into their dishes, or it takes local dishes and adds some Korean style. It’s a good concept, but the food itself is just north of okay. Which is good enough for me, most of the time. The service has always been super friendly; in fact, the time I had the chicken bi bim bap (first photo), the owner/chef came out to chat with me, which as you know I generally don’t like. She was nice, though, and wanted to know my name and what I did, and then she left me alone to eat my meal, but she sent out a small dish of garlic stems (third photo) saying she wanted me to enjoy them as an extra side dish. They were really good! I’d never had them before. Then as I was finishing up, they were closing the restaurant and cleaning up, and the owner said she and the cashier were about to have a shot of whiskey to celebrate the end of the workday, and would I like to join them.

    I think most days, I’d have been happy to, but I was really tired, and I felt we’d already been too chummy for my comfort, so I graciously said no thank you, and I’d love to join them for a shot the next time, if I were lucky enough to be invited. They said great, and they looked forward to it.

    The whole episode gave me something to think about; I don’t know why I put up these barriers between me and strangers. I mean, would there have been anything wrong with making a new friend who owns a Korean restaurant downtown? Why was I so resistant to letting people get close? I’m still trying to figure that out, especially lately, as I have somehow gotten to know a few of the homeless denizens down there. Why them, but not the nice Korean lady who just wanted to reach out to a customer? This has been the puzzle of the year for me.

    The middle photo is Red Pepper’s version of a loco moco. I love the Japanese-style potato salad, but something about it tasted off.

    Chicken Pho

    Summer Rolls
    This is chicken pho and summer rolls from Super Pho on Pauahi Street (next to Wing Ice Cream) between Smith and Maunakea. I think this is a second location (there’s another Super Pho on Waialae). The pho was good, and the summer rolls were good, and the restaurant was clean and comfortable and the service was fine. I was a little disappointed not to receive a separate plate of condiments and basil leaves; everything in my bowl is what I got, though there were a few sauces on the table for mixing in, if I wanted.

    Golden Waffle
    The food at Kissaten can kind of be hit or miss, and it’s seldom anything to write home about, but on the breakfast menu they’ve added this golden waffle (which you can get with either bananas or berries for $1 more—I usually get double berries). It’s probably the best thing on the breakfast menu. I’ve been having breakfast here most Saturday mornings for nearly a year, and I seldom get anything else.

    But I’m with Reid about the coffee; it’s not good. I just get a Diet Coke to drink with this.

    Chicken Loco Moco
    Chicken loco moco (they call it something else) at Downbeat Diner. Quite good.

    Pumpkin Bread and Vanilla Latte
    Pumpkin bread and vanilla skim latte from Brue Bar on Merchant St. The pumpkin bread was GOOD but the latte was the best vanilla latte I think I’ve ever had. I’ve had it a few times since and it’s consistently good. There’s something special about the vanilla syrup, I tell you. Yeah, it’s a liiiiiittle too sweet but the flavor is good enough to tolerate that.

    Spinach Breakfast Scramble
    I’ve been eating at Heidi’s periodically for like ten years. Remember when they had three locations in the downtown area? There was one over by Tamarind Park, one (a sit-down restaurant with waitresses and everything) on Merchant or Queen, and the one that remains, in the food court area at Pioneer Plaza. I’ve always liked the sandwiches, but will occasionally try something else, like this breakfast scramble (it’s got a different name), which is eggs, spinach, mushrooms, something else, and two slices of cheese with a scoop of rice. Honestly, it tastes like what you or I would make if we whipped this up in the kitchen at home, only I think I’d make it better. But, you know. Free wifi there, and sometimes you just need a quiet place to sit and read the news and have a hot breakfast.

    Cucumber Salad

    Sea Asparagus Salad

    Lomi Salmon

    Luau Food

    These photos are all from the Hale Koa luau. If you’ve ever had visitors from the mainland (or wherever), you know how expensive luaus are. But if you have any close friends or relatives in the military (or retired from the military), see if they can get you tickets to the Hale Koa luau. It’s tough to beat the location, if you live close to town, and I was able to take my friends for thirty bucks a head, thanks to a coworker who’s a military spouse. The food is really good, ‘though I didn’t like they way they rush you through the meal so they can begin the show, and although it’s not the best representative of a Hawaiian menu, it’s a fair representation of what you might see at any local outdoor potluck, and the quality of the dishes is impressive (not mind-blowing, but impressive). There’s a pretty good show, too, hosted by Dr. Glen Medeiros who only sang one verse of “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You.” There’s also this super sappy tribute to the military that I could barely stomach, but it left my coworker in tears (she’s from a military family where all the men went to the Naval Academy), so I kept my thoughts to myself. Believe it or not.

    In the hour before the dinner, there are some Hawaiian crafts and games, and some demos of tying a pareo, and a guy who climbs a coconut tree, and that’s all fun and entertaining. My guests loved the show and food, ‘though they’re not heavy eaters, so a lot of the food was wasted on them, and they couldn’t take any of it home.

    Hamachi poke bowl. Delicious. #lunch #chinatown

    This is the hamachi poke bowl from Maguro Brothers in the Kekaulike Market in Chinatown. Maybe the best poke I’ve ever had. Mmm. Would totally go back for this again.

  271. don

    I’m surprised you didn’t go for the whiskey either because the Red Pepper owner is young and not bad looking.

    I wonder if you don’t get the “trimmings” with the chicken pho? My guess though is that they just forgot.

    I will second Maguro Bros as being a good place to go. The prices are decent as well.

    Thanks for posting all the food pics again….

  272. Reid

    Beto’s Tacos and Platos (Hamakua Dr. in Kailua, close to Creekside Bar(?))

    We finally got to try this place, a taco truck. They’re only open from Thu-Sat., 7 PM to 3 AM. I heard it gets crowded, but there was only one person when we got there.

    Tried tacos with fish (ono), carne asada and pork carnitas. We also had the refried beans and rice. The beans and rice were just meh. The carne and carnitas were OK, although the portions were a little bigger than some other places.

    I liked the fish tacos best. It can with a spicy slaw that went well with the fish. Larri said she’d get that again, and I agree. Not sure I’d drive out just for them, though.

  273. Reid

    Franky Fresh (next to Fat Greek on Wai’alae Ave.)

    Retro 80s burger joint. “Retro” because they play 80’s music with 80’s hip-hop decor (mostly framed pictures). We got the fresh prince–basically a burger with some fixings (mushrooms, etc.) and the Marky Mark, which was a lamb-beef patty, roasted peppers with a tzaziki sauce. Burgers come with fries or salad for about $14 bucks. The portions weren’t that great for the price in my opinion, but the burgers were tasty.

    We also tried their shakes which include a variety of breakfast cereals (e.g., Captain Crunch). I thought they were going to dumb the cereal into the shake, but what they do (I think) is grind the cereal into a powder and mix-it in the shake. We got the one with Reece’s peanut puffs or something like that. The shake was good, but the cup wasn’t very big.

  274. Mitchell

    I don’t know if you saw that Ailana has closed, but it has. It’s going to open up in a new, nicer space at the corner of Sheridan and Rycroft (behind the Keeaumoku McD’s). They’ve been working on the new space for months, but it looks like it’s really close to opening now. Posters in the windows show an expanded menu.

  275. Reid

    I knew they closed, but I didn’t know they were just moving. Good to know! I thought they went out of business, and I was bummed.

  276. Mitchell

    Okay. The new place is open. Tuesday through Sunday, 7 to 5. It has a new name: Cafe Plumeria. It’s on Sheridan and Rycroft. Free valet parking behind the building (from Sheridan) for the first half hour. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to. My favorite boba place is there, so I’m in the area all the time lately. Let me know if you get to it before I do.

  277. Reid

    OK will do!

    Has anyone gone to the Cafe Lani at Ala Moana Center?

  278. don

    Café Lani hasn’t been getting great reviews on Yelp.

    I went to Scratch for Valentine’s based on Reid’s suggestion. I really liked it there. Tracy thought it was good but not as good as I did, but it was because of what we ordered. Reid’s warning was that the portions are not big, but I thought the portions were not small at all. I got the Spanish Tortilla (which is like a quiche without the crust) with chorizo and goat cheese. I thought it was great, but Tracy said she doesn’t like baked eggs all that much. It came with three or four white potatoes (the potatoes look like it was boiled and then smashed a little then fried). Dang those potatoes are good. Tracy got an espresso waffle that was topped with scrambled eggs and three pork belly pieces that were like chucks of bacon. The espresso flavor was almost nonexistent but the eggs and the pork belly were really good. The waffle was good too. Tracy didn’t like the scrambled eggs sitting on the waffle, which made it a little soggy on the parts the eggs sat. I told her I saw others get it on the side, so if we ever went back she said she would do that. She loved the pork belly pieces. It was like bacon, but not as salty.

    That reminds me that I also went to Moke’s Bread & Breakfast last month. Moke’s breakfast is a little more traditional then Scratch, but the serving size and price is decent. They are known for their lilikoi pancakes which are like Boot’s and Kimo’s macadamia nut pancakes, but I think I would give the nod the Moke’s version. I think the macadamia nut sauce is better, but the pancakes itself is much better at Moke’s. But it’s been a long while since I ate at Boot’s.

    That being said I enjoyed my meal at Scratch more than my meal at Moke’s.

    Was going to add pictures of my Scratch meals, but my internet browser at work sucks/old and couldn’t pull the pictures from Flickr.

  279. Reid

    Those items you ate at Scratch weren’t on the menu when I went there, for what that’s worth. How much were they? I’m assuming the portion was good for the price? To me, some of the stuff are on the pricey side, especially if portion size is a big deal.

    Thanks for the review on Moke’s. I always wonder why that place is so popular given that their menu seems rather uninteresting. It sounds like their lilikoi pancakes are the thing that draws people, while everything else is just OK. Does that sound right? Or does Moke’s have a lot of other good/well-done items on their menu?

  280. don

    When I go to the Scratch website the items that we got are not posted on their website as well, so I’m guessing they change all the time. The plates we got were both $12 I think, or if not very close to it. But yeah the portion is good for the price. I mean I can go to Queen St BBQ and get fried rice, two spam, two bacon, two portguese sausage, and two eggs for like $5, but really the food quality is no comparison. I thought the prices to portion at Scratch are good, that’s not the same impression I get from Leanne Wong’s place.

    Moke’s breakfast is more traditional then Scratch, but not quite as “boring” as Boots (again from what I remember). For example they have a rabbit loco moco, which Tracy’s brother got. It was okay, but the rabbit pieces were chopped up so it’s not like you could really tell what it tasted like, but it definitely was not gamey. I think they also say their gravy is homemade as well as their corn beef hash. That’s like a step above Boots to me. Oh I remember that Moke’s hash browns were really well done. It’s just regular homemade hash browns, but it wasn’t oily at all, it was really crisp, and very potato”ie”. I thought Moke’s is one of the better breakfast places, and I definitely enjoyed it more than like a Cinnamons.

  281. Reid

    I thought the prices to portion at Scratch are good, that’s not the same impression I get from Leanne Wong’s place.

    For what it’s worth, I think it depends on what you order. But I would say, overall, both places aren’t a place where I’d say you’d go if you’re super hungry (unless you’re willing to order a lot of stuff).

    By the way, I’m not sure if you’re sense of what is a good portion has changed over time. I think mine has–and in this sense, I think the portions are OK (especially if you factor in the quality of the meal). However, if my 20 year-old self would probably not be content with the portions (in terms of being full).

    I thought Moke’s is one of the better breakfast places, and I definitely enjoyed it more than like a Cinnamons.

    In terms of the skill and overall quality of the cooking? Cinnamon’s menu looks more creative than Moke’s, but I don’t think Cinnamon’s execution is all that great. (It’s probably the main reason I don’t really go there.)

  282. Mitchell

    The owners of Sweet Home Cafe (an idiots favorite) sold that restaurant last year, and opened a new place called Sweet Home Aunty. It’s on McCully Street in the old On On space (behind KFC).

    It’s a build-your-own noodle idea. You pick your veggies and stuff (as with Sweet Home Cafe), and then weigh it. It’s six bucks for half a pound of add-ins, which sounds like a lot of food when you’re talking veggies. Then you pick your broth (they say it’s the same broths as in the old place), hand your ingredients to the kitchen, and they prepare it for you with noodles. Sounds like a fun idea. The photos have been great, and people are saying it’s a lot of food for not much money.

    They still have the shave ice dessert, but you gotta pay separately for that. Somebody check it out and report back.

  283. Reid

    It sounds similar to a hot pot, except you get a limited amount of broth? And I imagine this isn’t family style eating.

  284. mitchell

    More like build your own ramen. And yes: single-serve.

  285. Mitchell

    Teri sauce on fries does taste good, but eating fries with just teri beef is a bit awkward, I think. (If you could get teri sauce on fries in some other way, that would be cool.

    You can get teri fries at Grace’s and (I think!) at that plate lunch place near Safeway in Salt Lake. Islander BBQ or something like that. I’ve never ordered them.

  286. don

    Sweet Home Aunty

    I went to Sweet Home Aunty and yes it’s pretty much the same place as Sweet Home Café in terms of food, but just a different way of doing it. I’ll start by saying it seems way less efficient than Sweet Home Café. The process of taking your veggies and whatever than paying for your meal than waiting for them to add the meats and bring it out to your table is a long one. Part of the reason is the restaurant is pretty big so there are a lot of people, but having one cashier doesn’t help. But even if there were two cashiers, you probably would still have to wait for them to bring out your bowls of goodness. I just think it would seem less hectic in there if they reduce the lines at the cashier. Even if the wait time will still be the same because you have to wait for them to cook your ingredients, at least people are waiting at their tables and not in the middle of the restaurant.

    In terms of price if you go with two people I think you can get more for your money at Sweet Home Aunty. But with at least three people I think Sweet Home Café will start to get cheaper as long as you are willing to share the same soup base. You also don’t get the dessert for free at Sweet Home Aunty.

    Mitchell,

    Are you sure they sold their restaurant? I thought maybe it’s their other family members that still own Sweet Home Café (ie: like a sister restaurant), but I’m just guessing. I think it would be odd to sell all your recipes to someone else than open an almost exact replica with almost the exact same name.

  287. Reid

    Don,

    Thanks for the report. The process of choosing and waiting for your meal is a turn off, so I’m glad you gave me the head’s up.

  288. Mitchell

    The choosing part sounds terrific, actually. But yeah, standing in line for the cashier is a terrible idea. They should come to your table, weigh each person’s ingredients there, then bill you that way, taking each person’s stuff to the kitchen to prepare. You’re still waiting, but you’re not waiting in line.

    I was sharing what I read in an online review, so of course the selling part could be inaccurate.

    I love, love, love Sweet Home Cafe, but I pretty much dine alone 350 days of the year. It sucks not to be able to eat at one of your favorite restaurants just because it’s not very welcoming of single diners. At least there’s a chance I would go to Sweet Home Aunty, although if it’s as busy as everyone says (and I’ve seen photos), the seating situation might not work in favor of me either.

  289. Reid

    They should come to your table, weigh each person’s ingredients there, then bill you that way, taking each person’s stuff to the kitchen to prepare. You’re still waiting, but you’re not waiting in line.

    Totally agree.

  290. don

    I agree with Mitchell and that the choosing part is better. You get to choose a little of many stuffs instead of getting a portion of one stuff. My guess though is the weighing system makes stuffs like the fish/seafood balls much more expensive. At Sweet Home Café those aren’t the most expensive items, but by weight I’m guessing they are. The opposite is true of mushrooms and aburage, though.

    We went this past Friday night at around 6:30ish. 6:30ish is a little early, but it’s getting close to prime time and we didn’t really have to wait long for a table (5-10 minutes). Throughout the night, and I cannot tell for sure, but I wouldn’t doubt if the wait wasn’t more than 15-20 minutes. It wasn’t like there were tons of people outside or that the same people seem to be standing for long. The problem there is the parking. The parking lot size is decent, but not nearly big enough to hold the amount of people that the restaurant can hold. Oh and this place seems perfect for the solo-diner, with the exception of hogging a table to yourself maybe?

    I agree with the coming to weigh your items at the table. However the simpler solution would be to just get two cashiers. I’m pretty sure with two cashiers the line would be short enough that it doesn’t seem like a drag. Again, the wait time could still be the same because the real bottleneck is the cooking, but as we all seem to agree at least you waiting at your table (ie: like any other restaurant) and not in a line.

    I love Sweet Home Café as well.

    Reid,
    When I was there I forgot which dipping sauces you really like. I got a few different ones, and they are all pretty darn good.

  291. Reid

    I like a lot of the dipping sauces, but the one I told you about was the Taiwanese satay(?) sauce. It was very peppery, and I liked dipping beef in this sauce, especially the silty part of the sauce. The last time I went to Sweet Home Cafe, they didn’t have it out, but when I asked about it, they said they had some in the back.

  292. Don

    Here are my pictures from my Valentine’s breakfast at Scratch. The first is the Spanish Tortilla (I know confusing the Spanish Tortilla is a quiche like dish.) and the second is the espresso waffle with the smoked pork belly pieces.
    24997958231_5b1e11306f_n.jpg
    24795663530_2c513b7322_n.jpg

    I know from the pictures you cannot tell if the portions were great or not, but trust me they were decent size.

  293. Reid

    Those look and sound good. (I’ve never seen either on the menu when I’ve been there.)

  294. Mitchell

    They both sound delicious. I really like that spot.

  295. Reid

    Burgers and Things (next to Pauoa Chop Suey)

    We tried two burgers: the juicy burger ($7.50) and wagyu ($11.50). You have a choice of buns, and we chose the pretzel bun, which was one of the best things about the burger. As the Honolulu Magazine said, the burgers are braised and well-done (except for the wagyu, which is medium-rare). The burgers are basically juicy and soft, similar to the type of burgers local people make at home. If you like that sort of thing, then you’ll like this. I must say I couldn’t really tell the difference between the wagyu and their regular patty, and in that sense it might not be worth it. However, the wagyu does come with mushrooms and a whole grain mustard jus, which was good (but messy). Still, if you’re going to have a sauce-heavy burger, I’d prefer just using the standard patty. (The pretzel bun was perfect for this as it could absorb and withstand the sauce assault.)

    We also ordered the wasabit potato salad, but they forgot to give it to us (and we forgot we ordered it, until we got home!).

    By the way, the burgers are smaller than what you get at Ku’a Aina and Teddy’s. They’re not super small, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Don felt cheated. (If I recall, the size/portion is comparable to Franky Fresh.)

    For what it’s worth, I liked the burgers more than the burgers I’ve tried at Honolulu Burger Company and Franky Fresh.

    A couple of drawbacks:

    • No french fries. But they do sell bags of chips.
    • The place is pretty small–a counter with two or three seats, and maybe two high tables that could fit eight.
  296. don

    Reid,

    I couldn’t tell if you liked it or not. Nor could I tell if you were recommended it. I think for the price unless the burger is ridiculously small, I doubt I would feel ripped off. The burgers at The Counter seem small as well because it’s closer to a meatball shape than a flatter shape. But I think it’s the normal fourth of a pound or a third of a pound depending on what you choose.

    No fries is kind of a downer.

  297. Mitchell

    This is that place I ineptly tried to tell you about several months ago. They’d been operating out of Bronco Cafe (a bar near the Dillingham Blvd. Foodland), and then moved to a strange, walk-up window on Pauahi Street between Smith and Maunakea.

    It was a short-lived stay. They shut down before I got to try it more than once, moving to the spot that was once Chie’s Kitchen. I had a Molokai lamb burger and fries with a wasabi ketchup (or something like that). I like the creativity and have been eager to try the new spot. The proprietor who creates the menu is a former student of mine.

  298. Reid

    Don,

    I thought my remark about liking the burgers more than the burgers at Honolulu Burger Co. and Franky Fresh would have been sufficient to convey my feelings. HBC and FF are both OK, so this is a little more than OK. I liked the burgers–not more than Teddy’s or Kua…Oh, I think I liked them more than The Counter. I could see you and Mitchell liking the burgers more than me. (And I would say they’re about the size of the burgers at The Counter.)

    Mitchell,

    I think I discovered this place from that conversation–or maybe it was Don, or both of you.

  299. don

    Mitchell,

    Actually they were in Chinatown before moving to the bar in Kalihi and then they went back to Chinatown. I think the first time they were there it was really short lived (actually like you said they were short lived the second time as well). It was a few doors down from Char Hung Sut.

    I’m guessing when you say student of yours you mean Kara. She is supposed to make good desserts, but I’m guessing from Reid’s review he either didn’t get any or there wasn’t any to get.

  300. Reid

    I think they did have desserts, but we didn’t try any. They also had sandwiches, and maybe some other stuff (hence, “things”).

  301. Mitchell

    Man, I love the burgers at the Counter. The burger itself is better than any except the old Kobe burger at Kiawe Grill.

  302. don

    I like the Counter too. And from what I remember, the prices at the Counter weren’t too bad.

    The first time I went to Honolulu Burger Company I didn’t think it was that great, but the last couple times I went I thought it was pretty good.

  303. Reid

    The burger itself is better than any except the old Kobe burger at Kiawe Grill.

    I’m wondering if I need to try the patty in a bowl, because the patty itself doesn’t really stand out for me. Then again, I don’t really trust my ability to judge the patty. The thing is, when I recall other burgers, it’s hard to separate the sauces, bun and add-ons from my memory to make a comparison with just the patties.

    I’m trying to think if you would like the patty at Burgers and Things. It’s hard to say, but if I had to guess, I would say you would really like it. (Don, too.)

  304. Mitchell

    That was my experience with Honolulu Burger Company as well. The first couple of times I tried it, I thought it was good but not great, but Grace and I went there in December and I was much more impressed by the burger itself. It’s close to a lot places I hang out, so I’m hoping to visit it more frequently.

    Also: I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the second location in Kahala, where Antonio’s Pizza used to be, is closed. There was nothing in that space when I went past it.

  305. Mitchell

    Ming’s is closing for good at tomorrow’s closing. Heads up.

  306. Mitchell

    I mean today. Wednesday.

  307. don

    Sad day for Shanghai Dumpling fans.

  308. Reid

    Fete (corner of Nu’uanu and Hotel)

    New American bistro style restaurant, in a similar vein to 12th Avenue and Town. The portions and prices are similar to Town in my view.

    I had the burger ($16), which comes with a little cup of fries. The burger patty was of the thicker variety, making the burger taller, but not as “wide.” It was good–although edit: I’m not sure it was worth the price. The burger was similar to ones I’ve had at Burgers and Things and also Frankie Fresh. The one at Fete might be the best, but not by much. (It’s hard to decide, as my memory of the other restaurants isn’t as vivid.)

  309. Mitchell

    It’s good and worth the price? Or it’s good and not worth the price?

  310. don

    I had the same burger as Reid. I was going to get a pasta dish, but Reid asked the waiter if he would get the burger or the risotto. The way the waiter said, “The burger is really good…” swayed me into getting the burger. The bun was probably a brioche bun and it was good, but some parts of it were hard, as in toasted and then left to cool. The burger itself was close to perfect. Unlike how it sounds from Reid, I like the higher/thicker burger, like the ones from The Counter. The burger was juicy and not hard. If parts of it fell apart it fell apart into little morsels. I think normally when you get a burger with no breading inside, if it does fall apart it falls apart into huge chucks. The only negative is it probably didn’t have that “char” taste that you get from Kua Aina. The burger also wasn’t over-seasoned, but really tasty. The ingredients (caramelized onions, Naked Cow cheese, Kula tomatoes, and garlic aioli) were also really good. I would say probably one of the best burgers I ever got. It also came with bread and butter pickles and homemade ketchup, which were both really good. Actually I only have had homemade ketchup at a few places, but each time it came with a meal, it was great. I never tried Frankly Fresh or Burgers and Things so I’m cannot compare. But I will say $16 for the burger and some fries seem about right. Oh the fries looked burnt, but were okay.

  311. Reid

    The bun was probably a brioche bun and it was good, but some parts of it were hard, as in toasted and then left to cool.

    Yeah, I agree–it seemed like a brioche bun. My bun started falling a part, a little when I got close to finishing it.

    By the way, the pretzel bun at Burgers and Things is really good–soft, but surprisingly durable and robust–and the burgers at BaT are very juicy/”wet.”

    The burger itself was close to perfect. Unlike how it sounds from Reid, I like the higher/thicker burger, like the ones from The Counter.

    I’d say this is accurate–I’m not as big a fan of thick burgers. However, I wouldn’t say Don’s remark that the burger is “close to perfect” is ridiculous. I don’t necessarily agree, but it was good.

    As for the accoutrements, I wasn’t as dazzled as Don was. I thought the sides were just OK.

    Based on Don’s remarks, I’d make a strong recommendation to Burgers and Things–not to say that he’ll like them more, but just to say that he could, and the burgers will definitely be in his wheelhouse. (Just remember, they don’t serve any fries.)

  312. Mitchell

    So that’s two votes for “worth $16?”

  313. Reid

    (wincing) $16 seems a bit much for me, and I’m a tad surprised Don would say it was worth it, although, if he thinks that’s one of the best burgers he’s eaten, I guess it’s not surprising. It’s not like they gave a boatload of fries, either. How much does it cost for a burger and fries at The Counter?

    If you like The Counter, I would guess you have a good chance of really liking this, too. I would try Burgers and Things first, though.

  314. don

    My guess is at The Counter for a 1/3 burger with similar trimmings it would run you about $14 right? That’s a total guess, but I cannot imagine it being that much less than that.

  315. don

    Ooops I meant to write 1/2 pound burger not 1/3 burger. 1/3 pound is the smallest, but I would think the burger at Fete was closer to 1/2 pound? It was pretty fat.

  316. Mitchell

    Wait. You both said it was worth it. The advantage at the Counter (at least worth three bucks) is the enormous variety of available toppings. I am okay with $16 for the Counter; it would have to be a slightly better burger with fewer available toppings to be worth $16 for me, I think.

  317. Reid

    It’s good and worth the price? Or it’s good and not worth the price?

    I missed this question. It’s good, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price. I wouldn’t go back just for this, and if I did go back, I’d probably try something else. But it is a good burger.

    but I would think the burger at Fete was closer to 1/2 pound? It was pretty fat.

    Yeah, it’s not 1/2 it’s gotta be real close. Shoot, a part of me wants to say it was more than that.

  318. Mitchell

    Have you guys been to Square Barrels?

  319. Reid

    I have not.

  320. don

    I never went to Square Barrels either. In general I don’t think I would order a burger at a restaurant unless it’s a burger restaurant. But it was the way the waiter said, “The burger is really good” that made me order it.

    I think Mitchell is correct about The Counter because you can get tons of “free” or included toppings if you wish.

  321. Reid

    Cafe Lani (Ala Moana Shopping Center)

    This the restaurant where they give you free bread. However, what they don’t tell you is that this applies to only those who order an entre, and kids meals are excluded (unless you pay an additional $4.50). On the night we went, I wasn’t hungry, so I just shared a meal with Larri–seafood doria, which wasn’t very good. (I think the cost was in the low 20s.) Larri said it reminded her of the food at Kit n’ Kitchen only worse, and I really think that is a good description. (Granted, we only tried one meal.)

    A couple of other things about the bread. On the night we went, there was one person serving the bread for the entire restaurant. It could take a while for the bread to come to you, with long intervals between servings. This is significant because you get two to three relatively small pieces of bread. The bread comes in a variety, including sweeter, pastry-like breads. It was pretty funny because Larri got an ensemada-like bread, which she wasn’t keen on eating with her meal. And then after a long wait, she got the same thing! She was not pleased, and really couldn’t hold in her displeasure. I didn’t think she should have done that, but I could understand her annoyance.

    One other thing. We sat in the back of the restaurant, and I thought it was pretty warm back there.

    On another note, has anyone been to Over Easy in Kailua? It’s a new breakfast place that looks good. Check out the write-up in the dining section of Honolulu Magazine.

  322. Reid

    Avenue Bar and Eatery (next to Coffee Talk on Waialae Avenue)

    We went for happy hour. Here’s what we got

    Poutine fries
    3 sliders
    Fried chicken and biscuit sandwich
    fried oysters ($11)
    Grilled cheese sandwich

    The poutine was served with a white gravy with corn and bacon. It was pretty good. The fries were solid as well.

    We tried four different types of sliders–lamb, beef and mushroom, and pork. The beef might have been the best, while the lamb was a bit too gamey for me. They were OK.

    The chicken sandwich was about the size of the slider and came with the same white gravy served with the poutine fries.

    The fried oysters were just OK–only three for $11, and not really worth it, if you ask me.

    I’m not a big grilled cheese sandwich fan, but I think I liked this the most. Then again, I only had a bite, and Larri said eating the entire thing was a bit much.

  323. Mitchell

    I don’t know if it moved or opened a second location, but Kahai Street Kitchen is in the old HK’s spot. Seating!

  324. Reid

    Yeah, Don mentioned this to me, and I was (am) really excited to hear this. But I just haven’t been able to really get out there. Let me know if you try anything.

  325. Mitchell

    I haven’t had a lot of disposable income lately, but I went by the new Foodland Farms in Ala Moana and had a few bucks for doughnuts and coffee. They have a doughnut fryer right there, which is pretty exciting.

    I had a bag (five or six?) small doughnuts with lilikoi sugar, and they were pretty good. That store is always crowded, but if you don’t go during peak times, there’s always a decent amount of seating. Plus free wifi.

  326. Reid

    Von’s Chicken

    We got the regular fried chicken and the shoyu fried chicken. The latter was good. I’d say it’s a couple of a notches above KFC’s hot wings. It’s kinda pricey, though. I might actually like this better than Dirty Lickin’s as well, although this is an apples and oranges comparison.

    Moku’s Kitchen (Salt in Kaka’ako)

    This is new restaurant by Peter Merriman. They have 50% off happy hour for appetizers, except raw items, with $9 pizzas. The food and vibe are in the CPK ballpark, with more of a local/Asian flavor. We went twice.

    Here’s a breakdown:

    Szechuan green beans: Very similar to Chinese style green beans. Ono.

    Chicken wings with tzaziki sauce: This something they’re known for. It’s basically a grilled rosemary chicken wings, with a little heat. They charred this nicely. It’s solid, but I didn’t think it was exceptional.

    Butternut squash ravioli with goat cheese: Another popular item. It was good, almost like a dessert. Maybe this was my favorite.

    French fries: Solid, hand-cut. (My daughter said it was good.)

    Pizza: We got the mushroom and roasted vegetable (with pesto). Both were good–similar in quality and taste to CPK.

    Potstickers: Solid, not exceptional

    Shrimp bisque: This had coconut milk, which made it like a Southeast Asian dish. It was pretty good.

    Merriman is also known for his cream pies ($8). The chocolate cream pie with macadamia nuts was good. It’s nothing surprising, but it’s well-made in my view, far better than Ted’s. The chocolate filling is dense, almost like a ganache.

    We also tried the strawberry, which comes with a whipped cream filling, with sliced strawberries on top with a guava glaze. (I could barely taste the guava.) This was just OK in my opinion. Crust and pies are a made in house.

    They also have live music at this time. On both occasions it was a guy on a guitar singing pop songs from the 70s and 80s.

    If we have another class get together, this would be a good place.

  327. don

    $8 for a pie seems pretty reasonable. I hope it’s not $8 a piece. Was the pie the size of Teddy’s or much smaller?

    Islands Burger (Ala Moana)
    I haven’t been here for years, and just went back (on Halloween actually). I really enjoyed their burger and I think they have the best bun for any burger I have eaten (that I can remember). I got the wheat bun and it was crisp (held together well), a good size (burger to bun ratio), and delicious. The burger itself is pretty darn good too, but I wouldn’t say it is better than other good burger places. We also got the Cobb salad which was good. I wouldn’t say CPK good, but close enough. The burger with the fries was like $14ish, which seems okay. The salad was about the same.

  328. Reid

    It was $8 a piece–but the pieces were kinda large. The chocolate cream pie was pretty heavy as well. I imagine some people could get by sharing it.

    We went to Island Burger, and I remember getting one that was good (not just the standard burger). I want to say that it was in the vein of Big City or Chilli’s–maybe a slightly better. Basically, it’s good if you’re there, but not good enough to seek it out when you’re hungry for a burger.

  329. Mitchell

    That Cobb salad at CPK is delicious. I wonder how healthy it is.

  330. Reid

    Senia is opening. Some of the dishes look and sound good. What I’m excited by is the Chef’s table. It might be too pricey ($165 per person), but I really liked the idea, and wish there were more non-sushi restaurants that did this.

  331. don

    Frankie Fresh and Island Burger (Ala Moana)
    I’ve been to both places pretty recently. Fresh’s burger, as Reid stated before, is more of the thicker burger. Island’s burger is more of the normal flatter patty. I think I prefer the thicker kind, like at Fresh, so I would give the edge to Fresh in terms of the patty. However, I think Island’s wheat bun and ingredients like avocado would sway me to say that Island’s burger is better overall. The biggest difference between the two places is Fresh offers a variety of patties (ie: lamb, beef, veggie, and pork), but limited in terms of choices of style or type of ingredients. I think Fresh only offered one type of “style” per patty type. For example, the burger came with bacon and Portobello, but if you don’t want any of those items, you out of luck unless you want to get a lamb burger. Island has a variety of different burgers, with the only choices being a veggie or turkey patty. I’m not a huge bacon guy in my burger. I love bacon, but it can be overpowering sometimes, which is another reason I probably lean towards Island.

  332. Reid

    So did you like Fresh? What about their fries? Did you try a shake? The shake is really good, but a bit overpriced. Actually, Fresh seems overpriced in general.

    Have you been to the burger place in Pauoa? Based on your comments, I think you gotta try it. I think it has potential to be your favorite. (They do not serve fries, though.)

  333. don

    Fresh is good. The fries was just okay. I think I like Island’s fries more. Fresh has the skinny kind, whereas Island has the more thicker fries (with the skin on them, I think). I didn’t try the shakes. Prices are about right since they serve them with fries and all their burgers come with fixings that other places will charge you for (ie: bacon and mushrooms (Portobello no less)).

    Yeah I have to try Burger and Things (?) in Pauoa. I think the bun will have to be great to be my favorite, but whatever because all burgers are pretty much the same. It’s not like it’s ramen and one has a huge taste advantage over another. To clarify though, I’m not talking fast food burgers like McDonalds and Burger King. I do like Wendy’s a lot though.

  334. Mitchell

    There is something about the flavor in a Wendy’s burger that seems to put it above other fast food burgers.

  335. Reid

    I’m a little surprised you thought the Fresh prices were OK. Actually, I more than a little surprised.

    If the bun is a big deal, I think there’s a chance Burgers and Things takes the cake. I don’t know, I really like the soft pretzel bun. It’s firm and robust, but also soft on the inside. This is crucial because their burgers (or the one I got) was super juicy–wet–really. I think they braise all their burgers. And, yes, it’s the thick type. I prefer thinner patties, but these were tasty.

    Wendy’s? I like their burgers, but I prefer Burger King. I would say by quite a bit.

  336. Mitchell

    I would think you would prefer the thicker burgers, Reid, since you like a char on the outside and rareness on the inside. That’s tougher to pull off with thinner burgers.

    I do like the flamed char on the Burger King burger, but the flavor of the meat itself for Wendy’s is like another league.

  337. Reid

    I don’t like the patties real thin–somewhere in between. For example, Kua Aina is probably my favorite. They’re not thin, but they’re not the stubby and thick-type, either.

    I don’t get the Wendy’s thing.

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