Restaurant Reviews, Recommendations and Warnings (2004 to 2010)

Here’s a place to talk about the restaurants, snacks or meals you’ve eaten that were really terrific, just OK, or really bad. I wanted to talk about something that I’ve had recently (well, I ate it last year, but I had it again recently).

Besides the ono ono shake and waffle hot dog (and even not that so much anymore), there’s very little reason to go to KC Drive Inn. Well, I just found another reason to go there.

I’m talking about their chicken cutlet sandwich with brown gravy! It’s not the kind of turkey or roast beef sandwich where they smother the whole sandwich in gravy. The gravy is inside the sandwich, and it’s pretty good. The chicken is not always really tasty, but good enough. I don’t know, I just like the crunchy-ness, plus the gravy factor. This is something I think Mitchell will really like, as he’s a big katsu fan.

So what new place have you been to? Is there anything that you’ve tried that you would highly recommend?

407 Responses to “Restaurant Reviews, Recommendations and Warnings (2004 to 2010)”


  1. Mitchell

    That does sound like something I’d like. Reminds me of something they have at every plate-lunch counter in Hilo but nowhere in Honolulu: the gravy-burger.

  2. Reid

    Larri and I went to Murphy’s Bar and Grill last night. We also stopped in at O’Toole’s across the street to see the music line up for the night. Both buildings just give me a good feeling. I don’t know what it is.

    Anyway, I ordered the rib-eye and Larri got the gaelic steak. We also started with deep-fried calamari. The calamari is solid, nothing fancy. It was not the frozen calamari rings, so that was a good thing. A tangy cocktail sauce accompanied the dish.

    Both steaks came with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables. I liked the mashed potatoes and gravy. The mashed potatoes were definitely old school. They tasted home-made and didn’t have any kind of fancy seasoning or extras. The grazy was the light brown type. It was flavorful (almost a chicken stock taste) and not too heavy.

    I liked the rib-eye. Again, nothing fancy. It came out grilled with salt and pepper seasoning. I liked the way they cooked my steak, but I wish it came out a little hotter. The steak was also very tender. The dish was about $15 and I thought it was a pretty good deal.

  3. pen

    I visited “Moutard” on Waialae Ave. recently and was quite underwhelmed by them. They certainly didn’t live up to the buzz generated when they first opened. They are supposed to be a more affordable upscale restaurant. I had the duck with peaches and my friend had the spicy pork. It was ok, but not great. The waitstaff were very friendly and nice. Coffee was disappointing, although the desserts (pear tart and chocolate brownie) were ok.

  4. cindy

    After hearing some favorable buzz, my grandmother and I went to have lunch at Wailoi Tea Room in Manoa. The food was horrible.

    I had an Oriental Chicken Salad for $10ish whose main component was a large cold mound of over-cooked vermicelli topped with odd things (e.g. raisins and those pre-cooked chow mein noodles in a can). I actually had to return it.

    My grandmother ordered a Mahi Mahi special that had sat under a heat lamp for so long, she said it tasted like over-fried chicken. It was topped with a scoop of oddly tasteless potato salad mush. This entree was priced at about $13-$15.

    Judging by what we ordered, the raw ingredients and level of culinary skill applied hardly seemed to justify the price.

    Yikes.

    There was a reasonable crowd for lunch though, and neither of us ordered from the sandwich section of the menu (Maybe these are somehow wonderful?).

  5. Reid

    Last week, one of the senior citizens from the club that I advise told me about the restaurant with the best ribs in town. (He’s orginally from the mainland, and he likes bbq, so I figure he must have tried a lot of places.) He likes to go to Molly’s Smokehouse, but if you want ribs, he said the best place is Henry Loui’s in Mapunapuna. (Yes, I did ask him if they were better than Tony Roma’s. I even asked him if they were better than Big City Diners’ ribs)

    So Larri and I went there this past Saturday. The evening started auspiciously. Brickwood Galuteria(sp?) was there to greet us at the door. (He was waiting around for some reason.) Anyway, I started talking to him, and he said thatif I get the ribs, I should get the sauce on the side. Of course, I asked him if he thought the ribs were the best, and he gave me a sort of non-commital answer. When I asked him to compare it to Tony Roma’s, he replied, “This place is good” or something to that effect. (He also mentioned that he liked the porterhouse steak.)

    Anyway, we go in and this is one of those clean, sports bars–TV’s with games on and sport memorabilia on the walls. The ceilings are low, kind of intimately lit with booths and a bar set-up. I asked my senior citizen friend if you could bring you family there, and he said, yeah. He was right. It was a cozy vibe. Larri remarked that she was going to take her friends to this place.

    Anyway, I’m spending a lot of time talking about the ambiance and setting, so that can’t be good, right? Well…wait and see.

    We order the fried zucchini. It was OK, except they weren’t cooked all the way through and a little too thick. We ordered the full slab baby-back ribs.

    The meat wasn’t very tender or super tasty (but it wasn’t bad either). The sauce was unique in that it was a cross between Southern bbq and local bbq. There was a shoyu taste to the sauce, plus some green onions on top. The vegetables and mashed potatos weren’t that great, either.

    The ribs were OK on the first couple of bites, but the sauce was overpowering after awhile: oversweet, in the way that lemon chicken can be. (I forgot to tell the lady to put the sauce on the side.) At the end of the meal, Larri said, “I’m not bringing my friends over here.”

    Anyway, no way is it better than Roma’s or Big City. We’ll have to try Molly’s Smokehouse in Wahiawa. Maybe we should all go check it out.

  6. joel

    I’ve tried Henri Louis before as I had a gift certificate there from a golf tournament I participated in a year ago. I thought the service was a little bad…could’ve caught them on a bad night, but it didn’t matter all that much because the food was okay. I felt like the atmosphere is good, but and the food reminds me of a local style hawaiian food place. I ordered hamburger steak, my friends order some fish dishes and hawaiian food, lau lau, kalua pig. I tried some and it was pretty good. I’d probably go back if i was in the neighborhood and wanted a cool place to relax.

  7. Reid

    Yeah, it’s definitely a cool place to relax. The service was pretty good when we went, but it wasn’t very crowded either.

  8. Reid

    Larri, my niece and I went to Golden Coin tonight. It’s a Filipino place/bakery. They have a cafeteria/plate lunch (a la Patti’s) set up. I got the pork gisantes and this sausage. Both were good. I also tried their chicken empanadas, which are chicken turnovers. The crust was Ok, but not the greatest. The filling–almost like a chicken a la king with a little spicy=ness to it–was ono.

    Larri got the pork squash (They put those opae, which I didn’t care for that much) and gisantes. My niece got the sweet and sour meatballs (Filipino?) which weren’t that good, just OK. She also got the fried chicken which was sort of like Zippy’s but a little different. Oh, she also got the pancit, which I didn’t think was that great.

  9. Reid

    I tried the angus steak burger at Burger King for lunch today. It sounded like a cool concept, but it wasn’t that good. I actually prefer the regular hamburger patty first of all, so that’s not a good sign. They also put a kind of bbq sauce on the burger, with sauteed onions. The sauce wasn’t too great and the onions didn’t really add anything to the burger.

  10. Mitchell

    Do you know about Tae’s Teppan-Yaki lunch wagon, in the Kaheka Street Daiei parking lot?

    The chef used to be a teppan-yaki chef. The lunch wagon sells one thing: teppan-yaki-style, thinly sliced beef rolled up around thinly-grated daikon, resting on a bed of romaine lettuce. You get your choice of sauces (the wasabi seems to be the most popular, but I like just the salt and pepper), and your plate comes with a pretty good ponzu dipping sauce. It won’t stuff you to the gills, but for $5.50, you get a yummy-tasting, high-quality takeout.

    I like to take mine to the Daiei food court. What a menagerie of humans in various conditions!

    The posted hours are M-F, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., but I hear the food never lasts until closing. Give it a try. I’ve had it twice in the last three weeks, and am going again tomorrow night (my Bible study is a block from there, and I ride the bus from work).

  11. Mitchell

    The Cheesecake Factory: good, but not great.
    Highlight: the beautiful mosaic tiles that decorate the interior. I had a steak (pretty good) with mashed potatoes (pretty good) and grilled baby-bok-choi (good!). For dessert, I had a strawberry cheesecake (good, not great). But then, I’m not a fan of cheesecake, so it might have been wonderful and I’m just not refined enough to know.

  12. joel

    I’ve tried the teppan yaki lunch wagon many a times as I work right next to holiday mart. I sometimes get two plates because one just never seems to be enough for me. *if you already didn’t know about me I can eat so don’t let that fool you. The size of the individual plate is pretty decent* I actually talkstory with the cook as he is an avid golfer himself. He seems like a really nice guy and always laid back. I prefer the teriaki meat over anything else. sometimes I get the garlic, but teriaki is the best.

    I also went to the cheesecake factory, and I had the streak and mash as well. Loved the atmosphere, and all the dishes that I’ve tried were “above average” at best. They’re really good about variety, and the cheesecakes are awesome.

  13. Reid

    We were just talking about that lunch wagon place. I’m going to try and check it out.

  14. joel

    Reid I can pick one up for you after work if you like? he’s there most of the time just call me at work and let me know…

    joe

  15. Cindy

    The open market at Kapiolani Community College has been a pretty interesting place to get breakfast for $5.00. So far I’ve had Eggs Benedict from the Prince Hotel, pacific rim fusion-type udon from Indigo,and gourmet loco moco from Sam Choy’s (an egg and kalua pig in brown gravy over vegetable fried rice)…in addition to whatever the KCC culinary arts students offer.

    Besides some pretty upscale produce, there are artisan breads, fried green tomatoes, lumpia, incredibly expensive bags of gourmet mochi crunch…

    The open market hours are 8-2pm I think…though it seems to shut down by 11ish. It’s not very large and gets pretty crowded, but worth a look I think.

    Next week’s featured chef is Kelvin Ro from Diamond Head Market & Grill (on Monsaraat) doing another gourmetified Loco Moco.

  16. Reid

    Cindy,

    So how was the food there? I’ve heard of the market (and actually tried the kakimochi, which was pretty good), but I forgot about it until reading your post.

    Molly’s Smokehouse

    This is the Southern bbq place in Wahiawa. Larri, Jill, John (her boyfriend) and I went this past Saturday. The verdict is I was pretty disappointed. I had the bbq beef brisket and bbq chicken combo with collard greens and black eye peas. The brisket was nice and tender, but the smokey taste didn’t really sit well with me for some reason. The bbq sauce was OK, but it was basically like the kind of bbq sauce you get at McDonald’s.

    The black eye peas was a little mushy, kind of like refried beans. The collard greens was just OK.

    We also order the hush puppies which was good. We also ordered the pecan pie and the sweet potato pie. I had a friend in college who made a great sweet potato pie. It was one of the best pies I ate. Anyway, this was not even close to that. You could barely taste any of the sweet potato. The pecan pie mostly had that caro syrup filling with just a think layer of nuts on the top. I like my pecan pie with the pecans from top to bottom of the pie.

    All in all, it wasn’t a very good experience, but I’m glad I tried it.

    Ruby Tuesdays

    We also went to this place last night for Larri’s father’s b-day. It’s a new place in Mililani (where I Love Country Cafe used to be). It’s basically an American eatery–burgers, steaks, some pasta dishes and fajitas. It’s very much in the vein of Chili’s, so if you like that, you would like this place.

    I had the mushroom burger which was pretty good. The burger was thick and juicy. The buns were kinda thin though, and that made eating the burger a little difficult. Like Chili’s, the french fries were way too salty.

    We also ordered a spinach dip and cheese fries. Both were OK.

    Larri got the steak tenderloin which was pretty juicy and tasty (even though she ordered it well-done). Larri’s father got the rib combo–honey bbq sauce and Memphis rub. I liked the honey bbq sauce. The ribs were solid–meat falling off the bone.

    Larri’s mom got a pretty good shrimp alfredo pasta dish. The sauce wasn’t too heavy or overpowering.

  17. pen

    I really enjoy the blueberry-cream cheese scones and buttermilk biscuits from Diamond Head Grill & Bakery, so I was pretty psyched about trying their portobello mushroom and hamburger sandwich with grilled onions. It was good…not awesome…but good. A side order of fries is $2.00 but enough to share with a friend.

    I’ve also been to the teppan-yaki lunchwagon in the Daiei parking lot and found it to be so-so. The flavor was good (I tried the garlic and my mom had the wasabi which was too hot for her, but I liked it), but I felt like the meat was overcooked, so it got a little hard and tough.

    I’ve also had the seafood pancit from the Golden Coin on King Street and thought it was terrific! I went to a meeting and the food was catered from Golden Coin. I wasn’t able to identify everything I ate, but it sure tasted good (though I did stay away from the pork dishes).

    So, those of you who braved the Cheesecake Factory lines, is it worth the wait to eat there?

  18. Reid

    Penny,

    I tried the portobello mushroom burger, and I agree with your assessment. They’re kinda pricey there, too. So if you factor that in, I wouldn’t recommend them.

    For scones, I recommend Sconee’s in Kaimuki if you haven’t already.

  19. Mitchell

    I’d say the Cheesecake Factory is worth it just to say you went and tried it out.

    Ruby Tuesday’s: I haven’t eaten there, but I confess that I love places like that. I call it Yuppy food. What do you guys call it? In any case, it’s my favorite upscale casual dining. TGI Fridays, Dave & Busters, Chili’s. Yow.

  20. Mitchell

    The Weekly did a review of that new okonomiyaki place on that street they’re putting the Wal-Mart on. Anyone tried that? I am definitely going, as soon as I get my finances straightened out.

  21. Jenn

    I haven’t been to the place near the new Wal-Mart, but I’ve been to one okonomiyaki place on Lewers in Waikiki – Ta Ko No Ki, it was called, if memory serves. It has some interesting food and you can watch them fry it up at the “bar”. The okonomiyaki was tasty, but there was something in the sauce that I didn’t care for. I never did figure out what it was, however.

    I think the menu said they serve Osaka street food (?), like at the yatai stalls in Japan. I apologize that my info may not be correct because it’s been a long time.

  22. Cindy

    Oops. I forgot to mention that the open market at KCC is open on Saturdays. I liked the food there for the most part. It’s a cheap way to sample some pretty good restaurants and do a little shopping too.

    Oh yeah, now that we’re talking about Japanese street food, a guy from Japan that I played tennis with said that the best ramen was somewhere in the lower levels of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza. I can’t remember the name, but I think it starts with a “K.” I don’t know if I’ll ever go though because I never go to Waikiki.

  23. Reid

    Kiawe Grill

    What we had: Kobe Burger, Buffalo Burger and a cheeseburger and fries.

    I can see why Penny liked this place. The Kobe burger was good, but perhaps the cheeseburger was the best (the fact that it had relish, mustard and ketchup helped). The buffalo burger did not come with any condiments, and I didn’t put any on. I like pepper, but the burger had too much of it, as if it were hiding some kind of deficiency. The burger was OK, but not especially tasty.

    Both burgers were kinda on the dry side (and they didn’t offer a choice of how we wanted it done). I didn’t really detect a strong kiawe taste nor could I smell it in the restaurant.

    The place also serves Korean food. I saw some of the food, and it didn’t look like they flame-broil the food on a grill (like Kim Chee’s). They should though. I like the concept, and there’s potential there, but for now, Kua Aina still gets the nod.

  24. Reid

    Side Street Inn

    Of course, we got the pork chops. We also ordered the fried rice and a small order of chicken katsu. The katsu was solid, basically, a panko style katsu. The fried rice wasn’t so great. The SS saimin dashi taste overwhelmed the whole dish. You could barely taste anything else, and I would have liked to have tasted the char siu, portugese sausage and bacon. The fried rice was done in the peas and carrot style, with no egg (not a good thing imo).

    The pork chops were good, especially if you like roast pork, lechong style. They served the pork chops cut up in pieces. The chops were slightly cripy on the outside. The meat was a bit dry, but well-seasoned.

    Side Street is a bar, so they allowed smoking. Also, the sodas come in small, non-refillable glasses.

  25. Jenn

    Has anyone tried Gyu-Kaku? It’s the Japanese yakiniku with charcoal instead of the fry grill top. I’ve been there twice and the food is good, but if you eat a lot this place won’t fill you up. The portions are small so that you can try lots of different things. I recommend the Kobe beef and the bibimbap. If you like hot foods, the kim chee soup was good.

    I went to Cheesecake Factory for the first time last weekend. I agree with Mitchell – it wasn’t great. I had the Factory Burger and although it was Angus beef, it was practically overdone. What a waste! The french bread made it difficult to eat (too hard!). If I go there again, I’ll try a plate dish instead. However, my friend’s crabcake sandwich was a winner. And this is coming from me, and I don’t eat crab (and hardly any shellfish other than shrimp). The Fabulous Chocolate Mousse Cake was….oooooohhh soooo decadent. I loved it. I’m not a cheesecake person – I’ll take a taste and I’ve tasted a few of CF’s cheesecakes but I won’t order one. I’ve heard the best time to beat the line is between 4 – 5:30-ish.

    Sconee’s scones are good but sometimes I’m in the mood for something lighter. The taste is great but they are so heavy! Do they have lots of butter in them or something? Anyway, I still haven’t found a happy medium between Sconee’s heavy-but-tasty and almost everybody else’s tasteless-dry-and-too-darn-hard. My boss told me that Leonard’s has started making scones. She says they’re good but the Diamond Head Bakery ones are still tops on her list.

    I swear by D&B’s philly cheesesteak, a type of sandwich I don’t eat very often, but the meat was so soft! Yummy. The buffalo chicken wrap and the chicken-avo quessadias (I don’t think I spelled that correctly) were also very good.

    Oh, all this talking about food – now I want some dessert.

  26. Reid

    Funny you should mention Gyu-Kaku and Cheesecake Factory, Jenn. I went to Gyu-Kaku the other night. For the whole month of June they have 50% of all meats. I agree they don’t give a lot, but 50% off is a good deal. Personally, I like the harami cuts, and for some reason I love the mino (listed as a “tripe,” but it’s not mushy like other tripe I’ve had). The mino really doesn’t have a strong tasted and when you cook it, it becomes sort of like calamari in texture.

    I also tried the gyu-tongue (cow tongue) which they cut into very thin slices, so it cooks fast. It’s not the best quality meat, but it does taste pretty good.

    I also went to Cheesecake Factory with Penny and Larrilynn. I don’t normally like places like this because the food is not that good, and over-pricesd, but I enjoyed the food. The portions were pretty good, too. I had the pasta with bacon and chicken. Larrilynn had a steak and I can’t remember what Penny had, but it looked good. The calamari appetizer was also pretty good, too.

    The chocolate cakes are huge, rich and dense. I enjoyed it.

    Re: Cheesesteak Sandwiches

    People say Antonio’s has a good cheesesteak, and I think it’s OK. I like the one at Grilla’s. My favorite was at Ray’s Pizza, but they closed down. I haven’t tried the D&B’s version.

    Re: Scones

    I’ve never had any light scones. Sconees’ is really rich, but the other type I’ve had is also very heavy (Marie Calendar’s and Border’s, for example). They have a bisquick taste and heaviness to them. The one at the Moana Surfrider is good, too, but it’s in the same line as Sconees–really buttery and rich.

  27. Mitchell

    I’ve now eaten at Kiawe grill about six times, three times for burgers and three times for plates. Give it another shot, and get a plate. The steak, pork, and chicken plates are excellent–they’re loaded with that sweet kiawe taste, and the Korean veggies you get are filling enough that you can leave most of the gigantic mountain of rice right there on the plate.

  28. Mitchell

    Leo’s Taverna is no Olive Tree, but it’s located conveniently and is open until six downtown, so I’ve been going there frequently. I’m a big fan of its chicken kebob sandwiches and moussaka. The hummus is decent (nowhere near as good as Olive Tree’s) and the tzaziki is good (but again…).

  29. Mitchell

    Oh, and if you haven’t yet tried Tae’s Lunch Wagon and are considering it, you need to go during lunch hours now. It has a new schedule that eliminates dinner hours. Ten to two on weekdays. Guess the couple’s doing well enough to work just four hours a day now.

  30. Jill

    Not to interupt any chain of conversation but I just need to give a shout out for Buzz’s steak house salad bar. Mmmmmmm!! Yum. Garlic sourdough bread, whole chunks of avocado, hard boiled eggs, fresh crisp lettuce….sour cream dressing and so forth. Oh, and their three bean salad is amazing. I’m not a three-bean salad person (Who is?) but it’s really good. Okay, just had to add. You can proceed with your other conversation…:)

  31. Jenn

    I need a dining out partner-in-crime. It’s just a matter of time until I get withdrawals from all this eating at home.

    Hummus is great but sadly I’ve only tried CPK’s, and I just know that’s not the real thing. How is Greek Corner at University?

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Buzz’s but from what I remember, their dressings were amazing (I lean towards the Italian/vinegar and oil variety).

  32. Reid

    Jill,

    Yeah, I really like Buzz’s salad bar, too. It’s nothing really flashy, but I like it a lot for some reason. The vegetables are pretty tasty, for example I like the fresh spinach they serve. The lightly fried sourdough bread is ono, too.

    Jenn,

    You mean the hummus at Greek Corner? I like it, but I haven’t tried hummus at many places (Olive Tree, Pyramids, and they’re all pretty similar to me). I like Greek Corner’s food, though. I prefer it to Olive Tree and maybe slightly over Pyramids (although I like Pyramid’s chicken better).

  33. Jenn

    Reid,

    Thanks for the hummus review! I belatedly realized that Leo’s Taverna is right down the street from my office. In fact, one of my co workers frequently takes out from there but he only gets gyros. He’s not one for variety.

    I haven’t been to any of the other places you mentioned, but passed by them many times. Sadly, I no longer live in that area so now I sigh deeply…with regret. Have you been to Maharani? I think it’s by the King Street Star Market/Down to Earth.

  34. Reid

    I’ve also been to Leo’s, and I thought it was OK, but a bit pricey. Pyramids has a really good all-you-can eat deal for lunch.

    I have been to Maharani, and I really like it. It’s my favorite Indian place that I have eaten at in Hawaii.

  35. Jenn

    I tried the hummus the other day and it was good. I agree, the prices are a bit high, but I account for their downtown location as the cause. Unfortunately, I expect that factor to affect any future decisions to eat there.

  36. Reid

    12th Avenue Grill

    This is the new restaurant that is where the old Mongolian BBQ used to be off of Waialae Avenue. I really enjoyed this small cozy place. The lighting was intimate and the wood floors, wooden tables and availability of booths made this a very welcomed place.

    I would describe the food as slightly upscale comfort food: you got your steaks, pork chops, chicken dishes. The portions are good and the price range is between $10-$25 (most of the entres fall between $10-$20 range).

    I had the Rib-eye which was served with mushrooms and a light sauce to go with it. The cut was not too thick, and the prepared it just the way I like it (medium rare). The meal came with a thick potato pancake which was really good as well.

    Larri ordered a chicken and mushroom dish with mashed potato. What I liked about that was the grilled skin on the chicken. We also tried the kim-chee steak which was basically a teri steak with a spicy aftertaste. That too was also nicely grilled.

    The dishes that Penny and Grace had also looked good, but I’ll let them talk about that.

    All in all it’s a great atmosphere with solid food. This is the kind of place you think of when you think of a neighborhood restaurant.

  37. Reid

    When Don said that Imperial Palace had the best tonkatsu, I was intrigued. I mean, how good can it be? Well, I went there tonight with Grace. Grace got the regular tonkatsu, and I got the thicker cut. I thought it was OK, but nothing special. I preferred Grace’s dish. I don’t know if it was the best tonkatsu, but I did like it. I’d probably go there when I’m in the tonkatsu mood.

    Don, how’s their chicken katsu?

  38. Reid

    Sarento’s

    In 70’s Hawaii, if you wanted Italian food, you probably had to pay a lot of money. You also probably had to dress up. Than one day, in the 90’s, we saw the Paesano/Assagio phenomena, and that 70’s style restaurant was a thing of the past. Assagio’s offered similar quality and quantity (if not more) for cheapers prices. These places were for both formal and informal dining. How could those 70’s style restaurant compete?

    Well, some have survived, like Matteo’s. I would add Sarento’s to that list, even though I don’t think it was around in the 70’s. The food is solid, but it’s hard to go there if you know you can get something that tastes just as good for a lot less.

    Anyway, I had the opakapaka dish. I can’t remember what was on it, but it was OK. I remember Larri had this steak with a mustard sauce (a house speciality). I rry to stay away from dishes with a mustard sauce, as the sauce usually become overpowring after a while.

    We did get to eat a smoked salmon appetizer that was quite good.

    The restaurant is at the top of the Ilikai, so there is a view, and supposedly we were in the room with the nicest view. I don’t know. It wasn’t that great. The company was, however, so that made all the difference.

  39. Reid

    Malee

    Don and I went out for dinner tonight, and our original plan was to try Dew Drop Inn. Well, we got there ten minutes to 5, and they were supposed to open at 5. 5:05 and no one in sight, so we left. We headed towards Chinatown, and decided to go to a Chinese place, but on our way we remembered that Penny said that the best Thai place was in Maunakea Marketplace.

    It was kinda late, but we thought, what the heck. (Actually, we came after closing, but the cook lost track of time and just took our order. We had no idea when they closed.) I quickly called Penny on her cell to get some recommendations, and she said to get the Pad Pet and the Panang Curry. I also about this fried rice ball thing, and she said that was OK, too.

    The verdict? Penny hits a home run! I don’t know if it’s the best Thai place I’ve eaten, but you could make a case for it. And if you factor in the price ($6 for each entre, with rice), you can’t beat this place.

    The Pad Pet (don’t let the unappetizing connotations disuade you) is a chicken dish with a pad sauce (like the kind in pad thai). The sauce was really good. I felt like I could eat that with just rice.

    The sauce in the panang curry was just as good. We got the dish with shrimps, which I didn’t care for as they came in the shells. The panang curry is served in a large bowl about the size of large saimin bowl. It almost looks like a soup. Anyway, I had to get extra rice so I could eat the sauce. Let me tell you, as good as the sauce was panang curry is not meant to be totally consumed. I almost drank that think like ramen shiru, (That’s how good it was.) but you can’t do that! (“The man ate bacon everyday of his life. You can’t do that!”) Talk about law of diminishing returns.

    Anyway, I really for quality, quantity and price, you can’t beat this place.

  40. Reid

    Laverne’s(Hawaiian food)

    The comment about Highway Inn on the “Best Foods” thread reminded me of another place Larri have been going to often: Laverne’s in Waipahu. It’s a Hawaiian food place where the food is OK, but the prices are great. For like $7 you can get a plate with lau lau, kalua pig, lomi salmon, haupia and rice. It’s not rinky-dink portions either.

    The food can be a little salty at times (the chicken long rice is usually on the salty side versus the bland side, which, I guess, is better), and the luau leaf is not as good as Yama’s or Young’s, but it’s OK.

    They’re service is pretty fast and the food is affordable with good portions, so we go there a lot. I’m still disappointed that the Waipahu Yama’s closed down though.

  41. Reid

    Legend’s Seafood Restaurant (Chinese Cultural Plaza)

    Honolulu Weekly readers voted this as the best dim sum restaurant, so Larri and I went to go check it out. Plus, some of Don’s (Tracy’s?) friends said this was one of the best Chinese restaurants. Larri and I went there yesterday, and it was packed. A good sign.

    First let me talk about what I liked. They definitely do a good job of preparing and cooking the food. For example, we ordered these shrimp taro rolls, and they were incredibly light. Other times I’ve tried taro rolls they have been drenched in oil. This taro was delicate fried, even the taro didn’t seem too heavy.

    In the Weekly review, they mentioned the look fun, so we decided to try that. The one time I’ve tried look fun, I didn’t really care for it, so I haven’t tried it since. Well, this turned out to be one of the best dishes there. We got the scallop look fun. The scallops were firm not mushy, and the noodles were really silky and smooth. I’m still not a huge fan of look fun, but this was good, and I appreciated the way they made it.

    Here’s a break down of the stuff we got:

    Shrimp taro rolll–this was OK. The shrimps were kinda small, but I was impressed by the way they cooked it.

    Scallop look fun–one of the best dishes, although I’m still not a huge fan of look fun. The dish has great texture, and the scallops were cooked well.

    Spring roll–not very good; there was mostly vegetables in this dish, and they weren’t very tasty. The rolls were a bit oily, too.

    Shrimp won ton–good (Just as good as Mei Sum’s, although Mei Sum’s shrimp is a lot bigger). The best shrimp won ton’s I’ve eaten is at Eastern Garden.

    Pastry BBQ pork–a little turnover with char siu in the middle. This was OK, but again well-made. The pastry crust was buttery and flakey. I think it tasted too much like a dessert.

    Seafood roll–I don’t know if this is the correct name, but this was basically a seafood half moon. It was OK, but then again, I don’t usually care for this style of dim sum.

    Custard tarts–flakey crust but the custard wasn’t sweet enough for my tastes.

    Now on to things I didn’t like. One thing that stood out for me was that it was really hard to get the things we wanted. The restaurant was crowded so we to wait for the items we wanted. The dishes we wanted weren’t always on any of the carts as well, and we didn’t feel comfortable ordering dim sum, partly because it was so hard to get a waitress. (It took a while to get our glasses filled.)

    This really highlights what makes Mei Sum–Larri and I’s favorite Chinese restaurant–so good. At Mei Sum, you can put in an order of dim sum, and they bring whatever you want to your table. Plus, their food is very good. All in all, I think Legend’s does a good job of cooking their food, but the taste and price would not make me choose them over Mei Sum.

  42. Reid

    Bobs’ BBQ

    I’ve eaten here before, but I recently read that Honolulu Weekly readers voted this as the best place for ribs. I had never tried the ribs before, so I decided to give it a shot. The verdict? It wasn’t that great. The sauce is too tangy-sweet for my tastes, and the ribs (beef and baby-back combo) were a little too firm and not so tasty. In addition, there wasn’t that much meat on the bones, especially for $12 (I can’t remember exactly), but it was around there.

    Bob’s also sells Korean plate lunch dishes, which I never tried.

    We did try the shakes, which were OK. They basically taste like a softer version of a fudgsical(sp?).

    So far Tony Roma’s still has the best ribs I’ve eaten.

  43. mitchell

    a few quick restaurant notes:

    Inspired by Reid’s mention above of Grilla’s, I tried the Philly cheesesteak there (about a month ago), and wasn’t that impressed. Then, about a week ago, I had the Philly at Antonio’s again (I had one there about two years ago) and it was better than I remembered it. Still the best dang Philly I’ve ever had.

    Had a little sampling at Mei Sum with Reid, Larrilyn, and Penny, and they have this thing that’s like a potato croquette, but it’s made with taro and has a little bit of pork in the center, and it’s not fried in breadcrumbs, but in this dark orange filamenty something. It was heavenly. I think I dreamt about it that night.

    There are two A&W restaurants on Oahu: one at the Moanalua Shopping Center and one in a standalone building near the Mililani Wal-Mart. I’m not a huge fan of the food there (it’s well-conceived but carelessly assembled, and that annoys me), but the milkshakes are little frosted sips of paradise. Seriously. I watched a guy scoop real ice cream into a stainless-steel shake-cup and blend it right there in front of me. Then he poured it into a wax-paper cup, added some whipped cream, and threw a cherry on top. Not your typical fast-food shake.

    RE: Bob’s. If I go to the one at Stadium Mall, I get treated really nicely because I taught the owners’ kids at HBA. The one on Houghtailing, which has a different ownership, is the one I go to, though, since I walk past it every day. I don’t know why a breakfast order just about anywhere you get it of Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice always costs as much as it does for the four or five slices of sausage you get, but at Bob’s you actually get TOO MUCH Portuguese sausage. That’s a nice thing to experience once in a while.

    There’s a Thai place I have seen for years at Windward City but have only recently tried. It’s called Chao something. The chicken pad thai was pretty good, but not as flavorful as at Pae Thai. I had this other dish called honey beef, and it was quite different. I liked it. The beef was cooked tenderly to a medium doneness after having marinated in some kind of honey sauce. It was served alongside fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and onion and with a tangy, ketchupy dipping sauce. The service was great, and the food carefully prepared. I’ll definitely go again.

    There’s a plate-lunch takeout place on North King, near the Kalihi post office, called Richie’s. It’s so-so, but for your so-so food, you’ll pay a buck or two less than what you pay for the same so-so food you might get at other so-so places. The breakfast special is especially reasonable, with a home-made corned-beef hash patty, rice, two eggs, and a small drink for just over three bucks. For lunch, the chili and the boneless chicken plates are notably inexpensive and filling.

    Sometimes, cheap is best.

  44. Jenn

    Mitchell: that taro thing is called a taro gok. It’s one of my favorite dim sum dishes! If you like scallops, Mei Sum also makes one with taro and just a scallop in the center. It’s quite good but depending on the day, it may be oily.

    Mei Sum is okay but my favorite is still Legends Seafood Restaurant in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. It’s slightly higher in price but the atmosphere (noisy! lots of Chinese families talking story very loud!) and the quality, flavor and consistency of the food gets me all the time. In my opinion they have the best bi dan jook (preserved egg and pork)!

  45. Reid

    Jenn,

    Can you order any dim sum at Legend’s? Or do you just have to select what’s on the carts?

  46. Jenn

    Reid,

    I think Legend’s has pretty much everything, although each dim sum house has their own specialties. What kind of stuff are you looking for?

    Legend’s definitely has all the standard fare on the carts – har gau (shrimp dumpling), sui mai, look fun, taro gok, custard tart, nai wong bao (custard bun), char sui bau, jin dui, harm sui gok (deep fried mochi ball with meat in the middle), jook…sorry, I’m totally giving a menu list here. They also have the parboil and fry carts that come out around 10 on weekends.

    Maybe you can give me an idea of what dishes you like and I can tell you if I’ve seen any of them there.

  47. mitchell

    I think what Reid is getting at is that at most dim sum places, you never get to order anything–you’re subject to whatever comes out on the carts and if you’re hoping for something in particular, you just have to wait and hope.

  48. Jenn

    Mitchell,

    Thanks for clarifying. Unfortunately yes then, you are at the mercy of the cart contents. But you can always ask the ladies for certain dishes, to which their response will probably be, “Not ready yet. 10 minute, 10 minute.”

  49. Reid

    Mitchell is right about what I meant.

    Having to wait for specific items to appear is a kind of a big drawback for me. That’s why I like Mei Sum so much. You’re not at the mercy of whatever is on the cart. You just choose whatever you want, and then order it. We usually go when it’s not so busy, and even when it is, it’s not that bad.

    Has anyone been to Panda on Keeaumoku? This is not the Panda, a la Patti’s Chinese Kitchen restaurant. This is a dim sum place, and I heard it’s good.

  50. Jenn

    I haven’t been to Panda in years. From what I remember, the service was so-so. Carts didn’t come around much. This applies to nearly everywhere during the peak hours, however.

    Golden Palace, the old Sea Fortune, has some really cheap dim sum ($1.50 each plate, almost all sizes). If you’re not too picky about quality, that’s a good deal. They had a lot of stuff available when I went, but that was before the huge lunchtime crowd.

  51. Mitchell

    R:

    I went to Panda’s once, and it seemed like one of those places that’s very good but specializes in food I don’t like, so I can’t give a meaningful opinion.

    However, I did order, with quite a bit of excitement, the sweet and pungent pork. It was nothing like what I had in Seattle at China Village.

  52. Reid

    I’ve been checking out a site called chowhound, and someone there mentioned a great Mexican restaurant in Hawaii called, Los Tres Hombres. He said it was on the Windward side and only open on the weekends. He didn’t really give good directions, so I’m not exactly sure where this place is. However, he did say that he grew up eating a lot of Mexican food in San Diego and has traveled extensively to Mexico. According to him this is a really great place.

    On the other hand, the place almost sounds like the guy is cooking out of his backward, so that makes the cooking seem a little sketchy. Plus, the name of the “restaurant” doesn’t help either.

    Has anyone tried or heard of this place?

  53. Mitchell

    I took a walk yesterday from Sam’s Club in Pearl City to Safeway in Waimalu, stopping for lunch at Diego’s in the Pearl City Plaza (it’s one of those little buildings near the Iglesia Ni Cristo church building). The people who work there say they do things “San Diego Style.”

    For just over seven bucks, I had a combo plate with two “rolled tacos” and a carne asada burrito. The combos come with a medium drink (they give you a choice between a 12-oz can, a medium-sized fountain, and a bottled water, something I found pretty interesting) and two small sides of beans and rice.

    I didn’t know what a rolled taco was, but it turned out to be a fried taquito, very crunchy and very good. The rolled tacos were served on a little bit of shredded lettuce and with some sour cream on top–a nice touch. Until Saturday, I’d only had taquitos frozen and then brought home and deep-fried, so these tasted quite good.

    The burrito was a monster, I tellya. The flour tortilla was a bit on the doughy side, but that turned out to be good because the little strips of steak were quite saucy, and there was a LOT of meat. In fact, the whole, gigantic burrito was just saucy meat and tortilla, with some bits of what looked like basil or lettuce spread throughout. If you like your burritos stuffed with six or seven different ingredients (and I do, too), this is not for you. If you like a lot of meat, here’s your burrito, man.

    The beans and rice were the best-tasting beans-and-rice sides I’ve had in a Mexican restaurant. I don’t know what they did with the rice, but it was sticky and yummy.

    Huge ups from me if you want tasty, simple Mexican food. The counter service was very nice, too. The prices are low enough that it’s definitely worth a little try, especially if you’re in Pearl City with any frequency.

  54. pen

    Mitchell, I went to the Mexican restaurant near the Kaheka Daiei, across from where the new Palama Market will be. I had a carne asada burrito and the hibiscus-flavored soda (Jurrito’s brand?). Together they were almost $9. The burrito came with some fresh salsa that was pretty good. All in all, I felt it was kind of expensive for what it was (no way enough food for Reid) and the flavors were okay, but nothing special. I know you’ve been there…did you enjoy it a lot?

  55. Mitchell

    Penne:

    I thought the tortillas that wrapped my soft tacos were quite good, and I liked the fresh salsas. You’re right about the pricing, but maybe because I’ve been spending so much on food lately, I didn’t think it was unreasonable. How was the hibiscus soda?

    We should do a Mexican food road-trip one day. Just hit all the little holes-in-walls for a taco, burrito, and some third thing, each of us sampling and rating as we go. Maybe we could combine that with our Shave Ice excursion…

  56. Reid

    That’s a cool idea, Mitchell. We might have to do two trips though. Are you guys up to looking for Los Tres Hombres?

  57. pen

    Count me and my hot sauce in, amigos!

  58. Reid

    (Here are two posts incorrectly posted in the “Restaurant Reviews–Other Than Hawaii” thread:)

    Izakaya Nonbei

    Chef Mavro called this one of the best restaurants in Hawaii. This was the second time I went there, and, honestly, while the food was good, I don’t understand his comment. Grace really loved this place, though.

    For those of you who don’t know, izakaya places basically sell heavy pupus or dishes that are ala carte. It’s not cheap here. (We ordered five dishes that came out to $50. The portions are not very big either.)

    You also have to either sit on the floor (tatami mats I think), square communal table or at the bar. It’s a place for drinking and eating. I didn’t care for that communal, bar-like aspect.

    Here’s what we had:

    • Fried oysters
    • Matsutake (mushroom) soup–with a piece of shrimp, fish, pork, green onions and the matsutake
    • pan fried moi–seasoned in salt and garlic; the skin had a nice cripness and the seasoning and the fish was really good
    • spinach

    Grace really loved the soup, and I thought it was good, but not as good as she did. The soup gave me a really good feeling, more than a “good taste” if you know what I mean.

    I liked the moi, although moi is a mushy fish that you eat in small pieces. I don’t care for that aspect of it.

    Everything else was good, but nothing extraordinary.

    A bunch of us went to Bozo, the new teppan-yaki place in Kaimuki (next to Sis Kitchen). They have a really small menu, and the prices are a bit too high for what they serve. Basically, it’s like a little cheaper Tanaka of Tokyo. Most of the main dishes are combo steak dishes (around $17). Strangely enough, I don’t think you can order steak by itself. I thought the steak was good, but not worth the price. It’s funny though, because I wouldn’t mind eating there again.

  59. pen

    Bozo was reviewed in the Weekly who praised it for the tempura. The reviewer felt it was worth it just for that. Was it that good?

  60. Reid

    Sorry, I missed your post, Pen. No, the tempura wasn’t that good (or I would’ve made you try it :). I’m surprised that the Weekly reviewer said that. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t go there for that.

    Bankok Chef

    Don claims that this has the best spring rolls, so I had to try it. My first attempt went awry as the lady taking my order thought I said “summer rolls,” and I didn’t have time to change the order. (I don’t care for summer rolls, but these were OK, I guess.)

    Luckily, Grace picked up the rolls a few days later and gave me some to try. I thought they were pretty good, but I don’t know if I would say they’re the best. I guess, you could consider them one of the best. I think Bale (at least the one in Pearl City) makes a really good chicken lumpia. That’s one of my favorites. But ultimately, I would have to say that Gulick’s is the one I like best. Their lumpia is a good size, well-made (not oily) and they put slices of cooked potatoes, which is a nice touch. All of these spring rolls/lumpias are good though. At Bankok Chef you get 6 spring rolls (the smaller Thai sized ones, as opposed to the larger Philipino version) for 4 something. Grace also order the phad thai. I don’t know how it tasted, but for under $5 that was a lot of food.

  61. Reid

    The Patisserie

    This is that bakery in Kahala Mall that also serves German food for lunch and dinner. Larri and I went to this place several years ago for dinner, and it was pretty good. I also noticed that they serve sausage sandwiches, so I wanted to try those one day.

    Well, my chance came up yesterday when Don and I went there for lunch. They had two kinds of bratwurst, veal or beef. I got the beef, along with a side of potato salad and clam chowder. I was disappointed by the sandwich as soon as I saw it. First of all, it was served on two slices of bread, instead of a roll. Second, they sliced the sausage length-wise reducing the sausage into cold-cuts. Eating the sandwich did not improve matters. The texture and sensation of biting into a juicy sausage is usually the best way to eat a sausage in a sandwich. (Sausage in patty form can be good, too.) The actual flavor was OK, but it tasted like a decent beef hot dog, so that disappointed me a little. The best part of the sandwich was the rye bread it was served on. (You get to choose the bread.) Sometimes the taste of rye bread can be strong, almost harsh and overpowering, but the flavor was almost sweet, gentle taste. Plus, the bread itself had a lighter, fresher quality to it. Don first raved about this after taking a bite, and I agreed with him.

    Because the potato salad looked appetizing, we both ordered that. The potatoes were cut into circular discs, au gratin style, and there were what looked like bits of ground beef. Although the wine or vinegar got overpowering after awhile, the flavor (no mayonnaise) was pretty good. (They served two slices of buttered rye with the soup, and that was also very good.)

    The clam chowder was a bit runny for my tastes, and while it was OK, I certainly didn’t agree with one customer who said this was the best clam chowder. All of this came out to $12, so it wasn’t cheap.

    Don’s meal was a lot better. He ordered the meat-loaf sandwich, and it was quite tasty. The only problem I had was the meatloaf didn’t have any gravy.

    Later that evening Don, Tracy and I went to another place I’ve been wanting to try: Dew Drop Inn. After years of staring at this place from Auntie Pastos and wondering what this place was like, and after our first failed attempt (see in some post above), Don and I finally got to try this place out.

    According to Tracy this place was Nothern Chinese cooking, and if you’ve been to Pine Land, this place has some similarities. For one thing, they cook with cucumber in their fried noodle dishes. Something I don’t see very often at the Chinese restaurants I go to.

    I liked the fact that they had dishes I had never seen before either, particuarly these sesame seed flat bread served with a chicken or pork entre that looks and tastes similar to a mu shu dish. We ordered that, and besides the plum sauce taste, it did taste was very similar to mu shu pork. Tracy said that a lot of the Nothern Chinese eat bread with their dishes, and the sesame flat breads were similar to Indian pratha, flaky but not as buttery. Sesame seeds also cover the outside making them look (but not really taste) like gin doi.

    We also ordered three other dishes: the drunken chicken, pan fried noodles in vegetables and seafood and sizzling platter of lamb. I liked the the wine sauce (strong) in the drunken chicken dish which was basically ginger chicken with the wine flavor replacing the ginger taste.

    The lamb was served with that garlic sauce you frequently get with sizzling platter beef dishes. It was also served with beansprouts and broccoli. The lamb wasn’t gamey at all, and it was also prepared in that kind of mushy style Chinese people serve their beef–more like “blobs” of beef, instead of thin slices. That doesn’t sound appetizing, but it’s quite good. I think they pound the meat or do something to tenderize it because the meat is usually soft and tender (although sometimes it can be chewy).

    The noodle dish was probably my favorite. The dish can with udon noodles that were lightly crisp on the outside, and almost hollow tasting. In retrospect, I wish there were more solid. The sauce also had what tasted like the dashi in the udon shiru. I liked that part of it. The dish was a bit pricey (with seafood, $12), and I wish they served more noodles.

    The other dishes were in the $7-$10 range, so it’s not exactly cheap, but I enjoyed the meal, and I would go back there again.

  62. Reid

    Bogart’s

    This is a coffee place on Monsaraat St. that’s been in that tiny strip mall for a while now. I’ve been there before, but never for the food. They have quite an extensive breakfast (including waffles) and lunch menu. I remember that some of the items might appeal to Larrilynn, so we decided to check this place out.

    I was expecting college coffee house food (like at Volcano Joe’s or other college coffee places that serve meals). I ordered the chicken and avocado salad ($10), and Larri got the Tuscan chicken sandwich. The sandwich came with a Mediterranean grilled chicken with parmesan cheese for about $7 or $8. (Some ruffles chips on a plate comes with it.)

    The salad was a pretty good side with lots of huge chunks of chicken and avocados. (I think you could have an avocado and/or a piece of chicken with every bite.) Spinach, romaine lettuce (I think) and some tomatoes completed the salad. The chicken was moist and seasoned well, which was surprise. We’re not talking great food, but it was better than I expected.

    The breakfasts looked better, and maybe we’ll go to try some of them. The bad thing is the place closes at early (8 on the weeknights and 6 on the weekends, I think).

    Diego’s

    That evening we went to Diego’s because of Mitchell’s recommendation. I got the chorizo (and eggs) burrito. The burrito was suprisingly tasteless. It was like someone boiled all the flavor from the sausage, and the eggs didn’t have a strong egg taste, either. I also orded a carne asada tostada. That was pretty good, although the carne asada was a little too rubbery at times.

    Larri got the combo plate with two rolled tacos and a Mexican sandwich, the name of which I forgot. It was a like a small sub-sandwich roll with shredded chicken, and I can’t remember what else. Great idea, but I would have liked it more if the bread was a little toasted, and the chicken was hotter and more plentiful. All in all, I’d go there again.

    Oh, the rice was pretty good (sticky like Mitchell said), although I think Quintero’s rice is more flavorful (although they’re not always consistent).

  63. pen

    The sandwich is called a “torta.” I ate at Diego’s previously and had their carne asada plate. It was A LOT of food! The meat was well seasoned and it came with refried beans and rice. It was really yummy!

  64. Reid

    Larri, Penny and I went to 12th Avenue Grill again last night.

    I got the fish special: balsamic glazed salmon stuffed with crab, served with fresh spinach and other vegetables. This was basically a salad (no starch), and it was pretty good, although nothing special. I also tried the tomato-basil soup which basically tasted like tomato sauce soup. It was actually better than I’m making it sound.

    Larri had the kim chee steak and ceasar salad. I liked the ceasar because it wasn’t sopping with dressing. Penny said the anchovy taste was too strong, but I didn’t think so. The kim chee steak was pretty good. The side of kim-chee is really interesting, as it’s almost like sauerkraut. Penny said that they did put sugar and vinegar in there, but there’s also that kim chee taste, plus a little smoky, bbq flavor from the steak. Pretty interesting.

    The best dish by far was what Penny got: the spare-ribs, and I have to say that I think that’s the best dish on the menu that I’ve tried. It’s not the type of spare-ribs you see at Chinese restaurants. This was more like an osso buco. I’m not sure how to describe the sauce although I know it was beer based. The dish came with mashed potatoes and vegetables. For under $20 it was a good deal. The portion is pretty good, especially if you get a salad or soup.

    We finished our meal with a carrot cake (super moist, almost like a banana bread), and the apple crisp. That came in a flat tart dish. It was one of the better apple pie dishes I’ve had (although it might have been a little too sweet).

    Once again, the ambiance is really wonderful here, making it a perfect date restaurant or a small group meal.

  65. Mitchell

    Some recent tries:

    Mediterranean Cafe downtown, next to the Hawaiian Electric building. I have had the chicken souvlaki sandwich, which was heavenly–chicken kebobs on pita with a cucumber-tomato relish, hummus, lettuce, and roasted pepper. The one major oddity was a slight banana-taste on the chicken. The next day (this is how I do things) I had the chicken shawerma plate, which was even better. The hummus here is a bit on the bland side, but quite good, and the pitas are wonderful. The thing that surprised me was the flavorful rice. The chicken, roasted veggies, hummus, and rice made a really, really nice combo. As I paid for my order, I was given a home-made oat cookie (“no eggs and no butter!”) that I ate later for a snack, and that was really well-made, too. The tables have little cards proclaiming the home-made honey ice-cream, but I haven’t had a chance to try that yet. Five more days of vacation, though.

    Abbe Brewster Caffe‘s best draw is the free wi-fi, but the food is a close second IF you don’t mind paying. The menu is limted, but what’s on it is carefully made, with impressive attention paid to details. The chicken karaage dinner is my favorite thing on the menu (ten bucks)–it comes with a lightly dressed salad, a small scoop of brown rice, and a rather unique shoyu-potato-salad. I’ve had several of the sandwiches and the battered beef (which is really just well-made meat jun), and everything has been tasty and thoughtfully assembled.

    Three days a week, there are dessert parfaits, which, again, are presented in a lovely manner. I had the apple (after being told the pumpkin was sold out), which was a nice apple-pie filling with a sweet wafer, whipped cream, and sugar-cinnamon-coated pecans. They’re a bit costly (nearly six bucks, if I remember correctly), and I believe that if what you want in a dessert is something to fill you up, you’ll be disappointed. If, however, you’re like me and you just like a little taste of something, you’ll find it yummy, if a bit expensive. There is also coffee, of course, and tea (I believe the ownership considers itself a tea-bar), neither of which I have found particularly impressive, and the normal assortment of muffins, brownies, and scones (which look a LOT like the muffins, brownies, and scones at Paradise Bakery, and that’s not a bad thing).

    Here’s the thing: If I paid these prices in most places, I’d consider them quite inflated. However, the atmosphere, the vibe, the friendliness of the staff (particularly the owner, who, according to the Weekly is a biochemist), the free wi-fi, and especially the care with which everything–and I mean everything from the food to the decor to the bathroom–is handled make it a recent favorite hangout for me. The crowd is generally very nice, too. It’s on Piikoi, between the Blockbuster and I Love Country Cafe. Closes at 8.

    Boba Loca across Puck’s Alley. I’m no expert on boba, but I really like the black boba teas there.

    I’ve now eaten at the Thai place at Windward City several times, and have never been disappointed. Now, though, I always get the same thing: yellow curry on sticky rice.

    I haven’t been back to Rada’s Piroski for a long time, but they were remodeling the last time I went by–something that encourages me. They wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t thriving, and they’ve been there for what seems like ever.

  66. Reid

    12 Avenue Grill

    Yes, we went again. Before I give a description of the dish I had, let me give some tips to those of you who are considering going here:

    1. Don’t go here with more than four people unless you don’t mind waiting for an hour or more. (We had eight people and waited for an hour and a half!)
    2. The restaurant is pretty loud, and the acoustics are such that it can be hard to hear someone who is sitting several seats away. It’s not the place for a quiet, romantic meal.

    OK, last night I havd the duck. For $25 it as kinda pricey, and the portions weren’t very big (which the waiter warned me about). The dish really reminded me of collared greens with bits of smokey ham-hocks. The duck was a boneless breast with skin and super smokey. The smokey flavor wiped out the duck taste. (The owner’s wife said it wasn’t supposed to be this way.) The entre comes with a sides of greens (can’t remember the name) which reminded me of collared greens. The starch was a cornbread stuffing with sausage. (The sausage was OK.) I was deciding between the duck or the pork chop ($18). Next time I’ll try the pork-chop.

    For dessert my niece got this blue-berry sour cream pie, with walnut crumble. It looked like a coffee-cake, but it was really moist. It was better than the pear crisp (apple crips except with pears). Btw, they serve a fruit “crisp” every night. Recommended.

  67. Mitchell

    After months and months of intending to, I finally checked out Gyuu Kaku on Kapiolani Boulevard, and I loved it. The premium kal-bi by itself was totally worth it–especially at happy hour, when it was half-price, but everything we tried was terrific. We had the vegetable assortment (overpriced for what it was, but still yummy), several plates of every variation available of the premium kal-bi, the skirt steak, the miso chicken, and a couple of the other normal dishes. We finished it off with the grilled pancake dessert with green-tea ice cream and azuki-bean ice cream.

    Expensive, yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

  68. Mitchell

    Hey, Diego’s Taco Shop, that place in Pearl City, is now also open on King Street, across from the Moiliili Longs, immediately adjacent to Old Stadium Park. Looks like it’s open into at least the early evening, too–I drove past it at about seven-thirty and it was still open.

    At senior camp, we had hot dogs for dinner one night, and they were those all-beef numbers they sell at Costco. Man, those are delicious doggies. A buck-fifty for a jumbo all-beef plus a refillable drink at Costco is a deal and a half, I tellya.

    I just returned a DVD at Diamond Head Video and was reminded of a plate lunch place I like: JJ’s, which is in between the Love’s Thrift Shop and the Subway. The food is above-average (especially the lau lau combos) and the prices average. Plus, they give a lot of food. Too much, if you ask me.

    I’ve been to Sam the Man’s, which is down on School Street near Don’s brother’s service station, and while it doesn’t suck, it does come pretty close. The service is friendly, though, and it’s convenient (plus, it’s open ’til nine), and the portions are huge, so if you don’t mind LOTS of slightly sub-mediocre food, well, here’s your place.

    I reviewed the newest Cheeseburger Waikiki here, if you’re interested.

    They’ve opened a new New-York-Style deli on 11th Avenue–anyone heard anything about this place?

  69. Mitchell

    Hey, this thread was begun exactly a year ago.

    Last year, I wrote of a plate lunch place on King Street:

    There’s a plate-lunch takeout place on North King, near the Kalihi post office, called Richie’s. It’s so-so, but for your so-so food, you’ll pay a buck or two less than what you pay for the same so-so food you might get at other so-so places. The breakfast special is especially reasonable, with a home-made corned-beef hash patty, rice, two eggs, and a small drink for just over three bucks. For lunch, the chili and the boneless chicken plates are notably inexpensive and filling.

    Richie’s has become something of a regular stop for me, not because it’s gotten any better, but because it has a few other things to recommend it: First, it’s open until 11 at night. Second, it’s got a drive-through. Yes, a drive-through plate-lunch place! You know, for when you get those late-night munchies and you don’t want to get out of your car (and I would strongly recommend against getting out of your car in this neighborhood). Four bucks for two sizable slabs of breaded boneless chicken covered with gravy at ten-thirty in the evening without leaving my car. Consider me a fan.

  70. pen

    808
    Last week a friend and I ate here. I had the cold cream of asparagus soup which was good, but very rich. So rich that I couldn’t finish the bowl, although I ate the asparagus spears. Yum. My friend had the salad which came with two dressings: Yuzu (citrus) and a squid mayo dressing. It was quite good w/ the mixed baby greens. You could mix and match the dressings. I know squid mayo may sound a bit unappetizing (it did to me!) but it was actually quite good.

    I had the lamb which was done “hunter” style. It was kind of like a tapenade crust around the lamb. It was cooked very well and it tasted awesome! I really liked it. My friend had some kind of spaghetti thing with fresh arugula on it. She really liked it, although I thought it was kind of plain.

    For dessert we split this taro thing in puff pastry with chocolate sauce. It tasted better than what it sounds like. My coffee came in a french press and was good, except I wished it was a little hotter.

    The wait staff is very friendly. In the middle of our meal, my friend was on the phone for a bit and the waiter came over and talked to me a lot. I really just wanted to sit and eat, but he kept talking. He was very nice, but I had a difficult day at work and was happy to just sit there by myself and eat. Of course, he had no way of knowing that.

    808 also sports a full bar. It is a bit expensive and the only other customers I saw that night were Japanese tourists. Still it is a nice place, with a pleasant/comfortable atmosphere. One problem is that there is no parking. You just need to find parking on the street, which on Kapahulu is no easy task. The manager said they were currently in negotiations with the bike store across the street to use their parking, but that isn’t settled yet.

  71. Cindy

    Town
    9th and Waialae

    After a very flattering review in the weekly last week and a fair amount of advance buzz, my friend and I tried this place out.

    I have to say, having grown up in the area, it was weird to be sitting in this urban-hip stainless steel tabletop and industrial-minimalist-chic little cafe. Although there have been lots of better restaurants popping up on Waialae in recent years, I don’t think any have been this ambitious.

    There is quite a lot of diverse and global culinary influences evident in the menu, and they make a point of using local produce (organic when possible) as well as free-range meat, etc.

    My friend had deep-fried salt cod dumpling things that were golden racquetball sized spheres coated in panko. The fish was mixed with potatoes giving them a consistency like croquettes. She ordered them because the cod dumplings reminded her of her childhood in Jamaica, and she liked them a lot.

    I had a simple green salad (mesclun and some goat cheese with bits of pancetta in a simple balsamic vinagrette). It was clean, sharp and balanced.

    My friend ordered a pan-fried porkchop with fennel salad ($16) while I opted for mahi with spring vegetables in a butter and caperberry sauce ($19). Both were very nicely plated, though I was a little sad that my friend’s porkchop took up half the plate while my mahi looked half the size and costed three dollars more 🙁 . It was perched on a bunch of largish vegetables though (asparagus spears, carrots that were yellow(?) and kind of bigger, but not the big hard kind (teen carrots?), etc. I had no clue about the caperberries until I recalled watching Bridget cook dinner in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”

    We split a buttermilk pana cotta for dessert, which was sort of like a cream-cheese-ish jello-mold.

    This place is on the pricey side and the crowd was definitely of the well-heeled persuasion, but it had a nice vibe. I think it’s comparable to 12th Avenue Grill, and definitely worth checking out. It’s kitty-corner to Champa Thai across the street from the open market, and has some parking in a lot in the rear. They serve breakfast and lunch.

  72. Richard

    Can any body suggest me a good place for steak, seafood and kalua dinner?
    I am going to Honolulu this weekend, and I need some information about food. Thanks for your suggestions and help in advance

  73. Reid

    Shoot, sorry no one helped you on that, Richard.

    What would people recommend to Richard? (Or does that explain the lack of response?) I would have difficulty thinking of a restaurant I could highly recommend. (I’m thinking of a steak and seafood place.)

    I’ll think on that more and try to respond later.

    I wanted to post some comments about two places: A Taste of New York and Bob’s Big Boy.

    Since Larri and I love deli sandwiches we had to try “Taste”. I think Larri got a reuben or corned beef, and I got a pastrami. The sandwiches were huge, larger than Brent’s, but they weren’t cheap either. I believe they were close to $15. The only other thing you get besides the sandwich is a bag of chips, not rrench fries, but chips. (This was a while ago, so I don’t know if things have changed.) The meet was a little too fatty and the sandwich seemed sloppily prepared, which took away from the taste and overall eating experience.

    We also tried their a huge slice of cheesecake. It’s about $9, but it’s huge. It was also one of the better tasting cheescakes I’ve had. The texture and flavor of the cheesecake was good, but it was also the flaky type of crust they used that was really good. (We went a second time just for the cheesecake, and it wasn’t as good.)

    They really need to bring their prices down, or add more value to the meals.

    (On a side note: There is a recently rennovated downtown space on the corner of Nuuanu and Pauahi. I just want to say that I hope Brent’s opens another restaurant there. It would be a great place for a restaurant like that. Or maybe a really good neighborhood Italian restaurant. Or a place like 12th Avenue Grill.

    I’ve seen that Starpoint Cafe, kitty corner to the space I’m talking about, already went out of business, too. I hope another good restaurant or store gets in there.)

    OK, now onto Bob’s Big Boy. If you’re looking for an alternative to Zippy’s, and you don’t mind driving to Mapunapuna, I recommend this place. To me, they have the best pecan pie, so if you’re a fan, I’d go here. They also have good looking local style dishes in the mode of Denny’sDiner’s making their version of a Big Mac, and that pretty much describes the burger. Why that would get on the list of best burgers is beyond me.

    But this is a 24 place, and if you’re headed toward or coming back from the Leeward side late at night this is a great change-up to Zippy’s.

  74. Reid

    We went there again. This time I had the hot dog ($8). It’s a foot long, but I could go to Sam’s Club and get a beef frank just as good and way cheaper. Larri, got the Reuben. It was OK. It’s not worth the price.

    The only reason to go here is to get the cheesecake. Again, that’s $9, but you can share it between 2-4 people. (And if you want to try the cheesecake, go there soon because I don’t foresee this place lasting very long.)

  75. Reid

    Hmm, I’m still stumped with a good steak and seafood recommendation. The only ones that come to mind are chain steak restaurants like Stuart Anderson’s, Outback, Ruth’s Chris or Red Lobster, but I don’t think someone from the mainland wants to go to these places (plus, these places don’t have kalua pig).

    I haven’t been to Hy’s Steakhouse, Nick’s Fishmarket, John Dominis or D.K’s, so I can’t comment on these places. (Anyone? Anyone?)

    Larri and I like going to Buzz’s, but I wouldn’t say they have super great steaks. (They do grill them with kiawe (mesquite)). What they do have is the best New England clam chowder I’ve tasted on the island, and probably my favorite salad bar. I’m not sure why it’s my favorite, but I like the fresh ice berg lettuce and spinach. They also have a good sea-salad, green beans, and tasty sour cream for the salad. I don’t know, it just adds up to a really good salad. The fried sourdough bread helps, too.

    Buzz’s also has one of my favorite shrimp scampi’s. I don’t know what it is about the sauce, but I really like it. I also like the fact that they serve it on vermicelli noodles. (This is no longer on the menu, but they’ll prepare it this way if you ask them, too.)

  76. M

    Went to L’Uraku tonight for the first time, as a sort of kick-off and psych-up for NaNoWriMo. I used the gift certificate I got as part of my prize when I got the honorable mention last year from Honolulu Magazine‘s fiction contest. I thought it was a good combination for the invocation of the muse.

    I had the tofu puffs for the appetizer — very, very good! It was tofu with a sort of baked-mochi outside (the menu says it’s deep-fried very quickly) and a yummy mushroomy sauce. Five bucks.

    It was a generous gift certificate, so I ordered the filet mignon; it’s a cut I don’t get very often, and while this was very good, it wasn’t as good as most places I’ve had it. It was served with a nice daikon-ponzu sauce and a side-dish of rice. Twenty-eight bucks.

    Dessert was the bread pudding, which is served with a scoop of azuki ice cream and a small relish of fresh fruit. Not bad, but not nearly as good as Kakaako Kitchen. The azuki ice cream was great — I’m guessing Bubbies’s — and I realized that this ice cream is only good as part of a larger dessert. It’s not great by itself, but it’s a nice companion.

    I banged out about fifteen hundred words while I ate, so a very productive evening all around.

    I suspect Reid would find the place disappointing (but then I think I’ve heard him say that). I thought it was slightly overpriced, but only slightly. The service was very attentive, the decor quirky and fun, and the food carefully prepared (you know I’m a stickler for that). Most of the stuff on the menu is seafood, so a seafood lover might have a completely different take. It says something about a restaurant when the filet mignon is the second-to-last item on the menu, just above the vegetarian dish!

  77. Reid

    Yeah, I didn’t care for this place. The decor is a little too colorful and wild (although I like the upside down umbrellas concept). That’s not really a big problem though. I just didn’t get all jazzed up about the food, especially for the portions and price.

    I haven’t been very happy with neo/fusion Japanese cuisine. (The again, I don’t get too thrilled with fusion foods in general.) Maybe Larri and I just ordered the wrong things went we went. (I think we both ordered fish dishes.) Has anyone tried the lobster tempura? Again, the food was OK, just nothing I would rave about. Don really likes this place, though.

    Speaking of neo-Japanese fusion, has anyone tried Bistro Sun on King St. across from Puck’s Alley? Penny, Grace, Larri and I went there several months ago, and the food was pretty good. It’s in the Kit n’ Kitchen vein–although better quality and a bit more expensive. They have stews, pastas, steaks, gratins and other ecletic items. The quantity is decent, too.

    The only thing is that the ambiance has a weird “Asian cult” vibe: yellowish walls, with a colorful portait of the owner (I would guess), giving it a shrine-ish feeling. The wait staff seem a bit odd, too.

  78. pen

    L’Uraku is more affordable for lunch. The last time I was there, it was 3 courses for under $20, I believe. The main dish was kind of a smaller portion, but it was just right w/ the salad/appetizer and dessert. (No left-overs). [Aside: Ahem, Mitchell, when do I get to read your story?!?]

    Even though Bistro Sun was a little better, I think I would rather go to Kit ‘n Kitchen because it is cheaper and a lot less strange. I really was not vibing with the obsequious head waiter and I did not like the way they handled a problem with our bill.

    A few doors down is another restaurant called Spices. They are a little pricey, too, but the food was pretty good (Heavy Thai influence). My friend and I shared the stuffed chicken wings, a spicy fried rice dish, a somewhat soupy wok-fried beef dish and something else I can’t remember right now. The beef was a little overcooked. The highlight was dessert where they have homemade icecream in flavors like: green apple curry, chili lemongrass, and this leaf thing that tastes a little like vanilla. That was pretty yummy.

  79. pen

    Grace and I checked out Inaba on King Street this weekend, based on its positive review in the Weekly. They have a limited menu and it is a little pricey (both our dinners were just under $20), but it was good. We both had tempura (2 shrimp and a variety of veggies lightly battered, not oily). Mine came over rice with sauce all over, but Grace’s rice was separate and her tempura came with 3 “dipping” salts: curry, green tea, and sea (I think). The meals also came with soba (hot or cold) which is made there fresh every day. It had a nice chewy consistancy, but I am not enough of a soba expert to know if it was extraordinary or not. There were also some tsukemono dishes (the nasabi and kimpira ones were particularly good, imho). At the end of the meal, they did something I had never experienced before. They brought the starchy water the soba was boiled in to the table and told us to pour it into our soba dipping sauce (which was delicately shoyu-y) and drink it. Our waitress said it was for good health.

    This weekend, I also went to Town on the corner of Waialae and 9th Avenues. I really enjoyed my meal there and definitely want to go again. They also do not have a very large menu, but what was there seemed to all be really, really good. Prices were reasonable, too. I think the most expensive entree was the strip steak ($22).

    Starters: I had their Ma’o salad (organic greens, pine nuts, grape tomatos, etc.), which was good. My friend tried their avacado and mango salad over butter greens. That salad was good, too. It came with a green goddess dressing which was like an herbal ranch dressing. It was quite good. We also had flat bread grilled with mozzarella, halved grape tomatos, kalamata olives, herbs and olive oil on top. Ono!

    Main courses: I had chicken that was brined for 24-hours then seasoned and pan seared. It came with grapes and torn bread. That torn bread thing was awesome! I think it had the pan drippings from the chicken on it, and then finished in the oven or broiler. A friend had the oxtail risotto, which came with two braised oxtails. It had small pieces of boiled peanuts in the risotto. It was very tasty. Two other friends got the cavatelli (curled pasta with ridges) in a bolognese sauce(hearty tomato-based meat sauce).

    Dessert: the buttermilk panna cotta was the clear winner. It came with this viscous citrous sauce that looked like honey, but wasn’t. It was terrific! We also tried the apple-crazin crumble (ginger in the crumble was a nice touch) and the grapefruit-campari sorbet (very tart and refreshing on the palate).

  80. Reid

    Thanks for the reviews, Pen. I was curious about that oxtail dish. Was it similiar to an osso buco? Did it come with a sauce/gravy, and, if so, what was that like?

  81. pen

    Reid, the oxtail dish did not really have a sauce. While the oxtails themselves were braised, they are placed on the risotto, which was creamy, but not soupy.

  82. Jill

    Hi Again-

    I didn’t get to read the entire list of postings but just wanted to put in a plug for Tokkuri-Tei! Anyone ever been? It’s Ala Carte Japanese food. Excellent Sushi. Kinda pricey for my standards, but delish! I love it! Lots of selection. Not a place to go if your are starving, but great place to try a variety of tastes.

    A must-order: Ask for the Sam Choy’s poke contest winner appetizer… It’s like 11 bucks for these little pan-fried musubi things w/ poke, chiso, and this killer sauce. So yummy!

    Other favs: miso nasubi, pork-wrapped enoki (kushi-yaki style), etc., etc.

    It’s kind of a beer-drinking, hole in the wall sushi place located on Kapahulu in case you don’t know where it is! Make reservations. It’s always packed. …yummy!!

  83. Reid

    Jill,

    The poke dish sounds good. I wouldn’t mind trying this place, but this is not the kind of place that Larri likes. (Are there items that you think she would really like?)

    Have you checked out Izakaya-Nonbei? I read that Chef Mavro said this was the best restaurant in Hawaii. It’s in Kapahulu, too–on a side street off of Kapahulu Ave.

    Los Chapparos

    This is a three-month old Mexican restaurant on Beretania (close to Fuji-pan bakery). I went with Grace who ordered the mole as usual. She said it was pretty good. My basic reaction is that the food was OK, but pretty generic. Aren’t most of the Mexican places in Hawaii pretty much at the same level? I like Quintero’s, but they’re not that much better than many other places.

    Anyway, if there is something unique about the place it’s the fact that you can get a combination plate (the usual selection of burritos, tacos, enchiladas, etc.), but you can substitute the beans and rice with a soup or salad. I wanted to try their posole (a pork soup with hominy), so this feature appealed to me. For about $15, I got the chicken enchilada in a green sauce, pork burrito and shrimp quesadilla. The shrimps were tiny bay shrimps that you could barely taste. Bay shrimps are normally, so this was tiny, tiny shrimps. The enchilada and burrito were generic. The posole was pretty satisfying though. Good chunks of pork in a really homey, comforting soup. The hominy wasn’t a dominant flavor eithre.

  84. cindy

    I love Tokkuri-Tei!

    Recommendations:

    “Japanese name for Halibut” Suimono (clear soup)

    Shiso-Maki (Looks like…um…pork lollipops?)

    Other small Japanese restaurants:

    Yamachan (on King St.) Excellent sushi and pretty good teishoku for reasonable prices (sushi is a little pricey, but the quality is quite good).

    Hidechan for hole-in-the-wall homestyle Japanese/Okinawan no-frills home cooking.

    Wasabi Bistro (Also in Kapahulu…great value for price….best deals at lunch). Excellent fish, and their tempura is well done.

    *Hey Penny. I encountered drinking the soba-water when I was in Sapporo as an exchange student a million years ago 🙂 I believe it was placed on the table and offered like tea usually is. I think buckwheat is supposed to be really healthy for some reason, so the water it’s boiled in is very vitamin rich.*

  85. Reid

    Where’s Hidechan? Is that the one on Young Street? I heard there’s an Okinawan place there. You know, even though I part Okinawan, I don’t think I’ve eaten very much Okinawan food. If you or anyone else knows of any good Okinawan places, let me know.

    I finally went to Wasbi-Bistro for my birthday, and I thought they had some pretty good dishes, particularly the seafood baked mayonnaise style dishes. It’s not cheap though.

    One of the best small Japanese restaurants–best Japanese restaurants, period–that I’ve been to is Maguro-ya. As the name suggests, their speciality is maguro (ahi). I’m not a huge fan of ahi, so I’ve never been too interested. But we had a dinner there for my dad, and I really loved the maguro belly. Man it was cooked to perfection: the meet was so tender and moist; and the cut was not too thick. The tempura, although not super large, was well done, and the tempura sauce was a killer. Actually, we had the tempura with shiso which was chopped up shrimp (not very small pieces), mixed with shiso and fried. It sort of comes out in a glob, like vegetable tempura. That’s the only dishes I’ve gotten there, but it was really good. No, that’s not correct. I did get some nigiri sushi, and I thought it was OK, but nothing exceptional.

  86. cindy

    Hidechan is on the corner of King and Hausten St. A couple of blocks from Down to Earth. Parking is really limited. I’m not really familiar with Okinawan food per se. I know they do Pig’s Feet soup and offer bittermelon stuff (goya).

    Maybe I’ll try Maguro-ya (on Waialae right?) I’ve passed by at least a thousand times since it’s opened probably. What put me off was my perception that it was a sushi/sashimi specialty place. I am totally squeamish (I’m ashamed to admit) about raw fish…so I thought there wouldn’t be anything much to eat (Unless I took it home and cooked it later!)

  87. Reid

    Oh, I think Don and I went to Hidechan. It was OK, but basically a generic mom-and-pop Japanese restaurant. I kinda like Yagura in Liliha, but it’s basically a mom-and-pop Japanese restaurant, too.

    Don’t worry about Maguro-ya. My wife doesn’t like raw fish, and she likes that place. The menu is not very unique or creative, but what they do, the do well (at least the maguro belly and shiso tempura).

  88. Mitchell

    Hidechan is very good. It’s simple, normal, family-style Japanese food. The katsudon doesn’t blow you away, but it’s exactly what it should taste like and it’s carefully prepared. And everyone who works there reminds me of my mom. Yakitori’s good, too.

    I like Yagura, too. I don’t think it’s as good as Hidechan, but it just misses by a little.

  89. Reid

    Mitch’s Sushi
    524 Ohohia St. (off of Nimitz near the airport)
    837-7774

    There’s bad sushi (i.e. Kozo’s), good sushi (i.e. Zippy’s) and then there’s the sushi and sashimi I had at Mitch’s Sushi. This was definitely the best sushi I ever had.

    I heard about this place from an article in Honolulu Magazine. John Heckathorn raved about this place, and I specifically remember him praising the sashimi lobster tail and lobster miso soup. I really wanted to try that.

    So Don and I finally got around to going to this place. We both ordered the special mea ($75 per person). First, we had a dish of mushrooms and some kind of vegetables. If you’re familiar with nametake, the dish was very similiar. Mitch, the host–a St. Nicholas type of person–brought in a live New Zealand spiny lobster. The sushi prepared the tail for us, along with some fresh wasbi. (Don really raved about this, but I thought it wasn’t much different from other wasbi I’ve had.) The chef told us we should put a little wasbi on the lobster and a little shoyu (versus dipping the lobster in a wasbi-shoyu mixture). So that’s what we did. I was a little disappointed by this because I didn’t think there was much taste. I was anticipating a sweet tasting meat, but it was pretty tasteless.

    The next dish was an assortment of sashimi: hamachi, uni, maguro, toro, abalone, tako, ika, salmon, and I can’t remember what other stuff was on there. The uni (sea-urchin from Alaska according to Mitch) was the best I’ve had. It was really rich and tasty–similar to the “miso” in crab or lobster. The uni was pretty firm and not just liquidity. The salmon was also very good. There was a strong salmon taste, and the slice of fish just melted in your mouth. The pieces of fish were good, but not exceptional. (The texture of the tako was very good though, not really rubbery). I was disappointed in the hamachi (I prefer Zippy’s).

    After that the chef prepared various nigiri for us. By the far the biggest winners were the three selection of tuna we had: maguro, toro and the really fatty toro–this particular fish was from Spain. Well, two huge thumbs up for Spanish toro! When Don and I raved to Mitch about these pieces, Mitch responded by saying, “Oh they’re lovely, almost buttery,” which hit the nail on the head. Not only was the taste really fantastic, but the texture of the fish was perfect: the purest tuna taste just disolving into your taste buds. Yeow!

    Don also loved the scallops, and I thought they were good, but not as good as he did. There was some other nigiri that was good, but those tuna nigiri were the clear stand-outs.

    Oh, before the sashimi platter, we did have something called “van-van.” This was a white fish, with shimp and salmon baked with one of those tobiko-mayo sauces. The sauce was kinda too heavy, but the seafood inside it was very good.

    Towards the end of the meal we got to eat the body of the lobster with miso soup. The lobster was decent, but the broth was really tasty.

    All in all, it was worth the $75. This is a great place to take visitors to, but it is a really small place so you should call ahead for reservations.

  90. Reid

    JJ’s Diner

    This is the Kapahulu plate lunch place next to Diamond Head Video. I got the garlic chicken, which was basically a boneless chicken dish with a ketchupy sweet, hot, garlic sauce. The dish was OK, nothing great. Kevin got the garlic ahi and shrimp combo. The shrimp looked like the kind you get from those Kahuku shrimp trucks. The ahi was OK: thin slices that were overcooked. The garlic ahi at Irifune is probably better. The pictures of the other entres reminded me of L&L’s.

    I also went to this Chinese noodle place on Hotel and Nuuanu with Don. It was pretty cheap ($5.50 or something like that) for a bowl of house special noodle soup (pork, chicken, shrimp, vegetables). Don said that they make their own noodles, but they’re not super tasty. He recommended the dish because of the soup base (and the price). The shiru was kinda salty, but pretty tasty. He was right about the noodles. They were bland, and, I suggested they were notable for their texture and consistency. But on reflection,those qualities weren’t notable.

    We also got an order of chicken wings (under $6). It was done in a spicy sauce. The skin was not crispy and the chicken was a bit oily, but it tasted fine. All in all, a pretty good deal, but nothing to get really excited about.

    Don, what was the name of this place?

  91. Mitchell

    I like JJ’s. They have some pretty good mixes (I like the lau lau mixes with a good chicken dish), and the basic chicken plates cost less than four bucks. Four bucks for chicken adobo or shoyu chicken is a good deal, and not too many plate lunch places have chicken adobo. Heck, chicken adobo and lau lau is a great mix; don’t know where else I’ve ever had it.

  92. Reid

    Are you sure they cost less than $4? I don’t recall that, unless you’re talking about the mini-plates. How was the lau-lau? I get leary of eating lau-lau at these type of places, as they can be really bad.

    Btw, there’s a website called Chowhound, where people talk about different restaurants across the country. They have a section called “Going Downhill.” Basically, it’s a thread (I think) that discusses places that were once good, but not any more.

    Since Mitchell brought up lau-lau, that made me think of a restaurant I wrote positively about here called, Laverne’s. It’s a Hawaiian food place in Waipahu that is cheap for Hawaiian food. I liked going there until I had a bad experience with their lau-lau–on two separate occasions. I don’t think I’ll go there again.

    But I really wanted to write about my experience at South Shore Grill on Monsarrat. The Honolulu Weekly wrote a review about their burgers. Here’s what they said about the burgers:

    The South Shore Grill Burger ($5.75) starts with a handmade patty that must weigh in at nearly a half-pound. The patty is cooked to your liking—we asked for rare and got rare, which is not always easy in these food-frightened times—then topped with fried onion strings and chef/owner Linda Gehring’s signature chipotle aioli and a heaping portion of slaw. The resulting messy masterpiece is served on homemade ciabatta bread, and is something both to behold and, on a more fundamental level, to hold.

    We said messy, and it is. In three trips, we’ve never had a burger that didn’t fall almost entirely apart by the time we were halfway finished. There may be room to go a little bit easier on the slaw and the aioli…the ciabatta just can’t handle that much sauce.

    It sounded good, so Larri and I checked it out. The restaurant is located where the Teddy’s Burgers used to be and basically has the same set up. They also serve some plate lunches (kalbi, mahi, salmon) and an assortment of sandwiches, some of which I want to try later–for example, the caprese sandwich, various chicken sandwiches (one with pastrami and one with mac-nut pesto), etc.

    But we went for the burgers. HW described it as a “masterpiece” in the article. After the first bite, I thought they had a case. The sauce was really flavorful and the crisp slaw (including some red peppers) added a nice texture. However, after a while the sauce got to be a bit overpowering. (Larrilynn complained that her burger was too salty). I like the taste of the burger to dominate and here the sauce and slaw/chipotle-aioli just takes over. I looked into my plate and there was a puddle of that sauce. The ciabatta bread was a nice combination though.

    We also tried a fish taco ($3). The taco had the same sauce/slaw wrapped by two flour tortillas. It’s a good combination with the fish. Larri liked this, and I liked it except I didn’t care for the fact that the fish was deep-fried. (The fish seemed to have lost the batter coating in the middle section of the taco, and I liked that part better.)

    Finally, we picked up a chocolate cake to go. It was huge, and, out of all the food we tried, this was the best thing. It was really dense and pretty moist. Apparently, the bake different desserts daily, so the cake might not be there, but I’d go back for that. (Unfortunately, they do not serve any milk.)

    I’d definitely give this place a shot, especially if you’re into burgers.

  93. Reid

    Harbor Village Cuisine
    (located in Koko Marina)

    I can say with some confidence that this is the best Chinese food I have had. I enjoyed the food at Eastern Paradise (on the corner of King and Keeaumoku), but the HVC was better. To be fair, we had a set menu for ten (at $30 a head, it’s a very good deal). Marc was back in town, and it was his last night. Don recommended Fook Yuen, but they were booked until 8, so based on Don’s girlfriend, Tracy’s recommendation, we decided to go to Harbor Village Cuisine. Tracy said they she preferred this place to Fook Yuen, going so far to say it’s one of her favorite Chinese places. Coming from someone who is from China and likes food, that’s saying something.

    Let me go over the whole menu.

    We started with the sharksfin soup with these small mushrooms. If you’re familiar with nametake, it’s the same type of mushroom. The soup came with shrimp and other seafood. It was one of the most tasty sharkfin soups I had.

    That was followed by the “wine soaked” chicken–in the ginger chicken style– with jellyfish. This was the weakest dish, imo. A strong wine taste would hit at the initial part of each bite, but would quickly disappear leaving a very tasteless chicken flavor. The jellyfish was OK. (I preferred the ones I had at Legend’s.) it came in a sesame seed sauce similiar to the type you get with Korean vegetables. The jellyfish looks like udon noodles and tasted like another type of Japanese food, which I can’t think of now.

    Luckily, this was followed by tasy Peking Duck. This was good, but nothing exceptional.

    Garlic Roasted Crab and Lobster in butter, garlic sauce over e-mein noodles came next. The roasted garlic looked like a mound of thick dust particles covering the crab. The crab was just OK, if a bit salty.

    The lobster was much better. But the best food of the evening was the e-mein with the butter, garlic sauce. Folks, this is my favorite Chinese noodles I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were slightly al-dente, and very tasty, sort of thicker than linguini. The sauce and noodles had a bit of the saimin-dashi flavor. That may not sound appealing, but it was super good. Bits of green and red pepper was also in the sauce. Btw, this is not part of the regular set menu. The regular menu has the lobster in a black bean sauce without the e-mein, but thanks to Tracy we had the sauce changed and the e-mein added–a masterstroke!

    I almost didn’t care what we had after this, but the honey walnut shrimp that followed was pretty good (not better than Little Village Noodle Shop). The batter was not and crispy, not too oily. The mayo and honey taste was a bit muted for my tastes.

    Porkchops came next, which was prepared like sweet and sour pork. The meat was very tender and tasty.

    The second best dish of the evening was the flounder. Chunks of the fish fried withe skin on came in a basketball made up of the skin and tail. The dish also came with brocolli and other vegetables. The fish was really tasty–with bits of crispy skin, along with a light batter. It was really, really good. I even didn’t mind the sauce, not very overpowering or oversweet. I would love to go to this place and just order the flounder and the lobster e-mein.

    At this point I was really full, but we still had the abalone dish with mushrooms and baby bok choi (?). This was good, too, reminding me of my aunty’s recipe, but I was too full to enjoy it.

    As overkill, we also got the duck meat from the Peking Duck. This followed by a choice of tapioca with bits of melon or almond float (nice strong almond flavor, chich is not always the case). Both really refreshing desserts.

    Two big thumbs up for this place. Don and Tracy also recommend the lamb w/leeks, so I’ll try to go back and try that. Hopefully, I can get the lobster (butter garlic sauce) on e-mein!

    On a sidenote, I can’t remember a time when Don and I agreed so much on a meal. I said that the emein was the best followed by the flounder; everything else was equal, while the chicken was the worst dish. Don agreed, although he may have liked the flounder a bit more.

  94. Reid

    Fritz’s Deli and Fine Sanwiches
    (On Dillingham near Zippy’s)

    Being a fan of deli sandwiches, I wanted to check this place out, especially since I’ve been working in Kalihi. Some one told me that his/her European professor claimed this was the best bread in Hawaii.

    I finally got to check this out with a co-worker the other day. When we entered the store, we could see racks of unsliced German bread (which they will slice for you) and a glass case of pastries. But we were there for lunch, so we proceeded to order sandwiches.

    I got the turkey on sourdough ($5+) while my co-worker got the vegetable sandwich ($5). My sandwich came with two slices of turkey, so it wasn’t the NY style. 🙁 It also came with cabbage, and tomato. While the sourdough wasn’t very sour, I enjoyed the sandwich. The turkey was really flavorful and the mayo(?) and cabbage seemed to work well. The bread also was pretty good, despite the fact that it tasted like white bread. (The bread wasn’t as memorable as the pumpernickel at The Pattisserie.)

    My co-worker really liked her sandwich. Her sandwich, on wheat, came with fresh spinach, tomatoes, cabbages and olives, and some kind of vinagrette. Both sandwiches weren’t very filling, and, at the price, you’re not getting the best deal, but we enjoyed the sandwiches nevertheless.

    I think I might have liked mine because I frequently eat turkey sandwiches at Subway’s, and the vegetables and mustard usually overpower the turkey.

    Another thing. There was only one worker, and so our service was pretty slow, even though there were only two other parties in the place.

    This is not a place I would go if you’re hungry, but if you want to try different German breads, this might be a good place.

    Highway Inn
    (Waipahu–mauka of McDonald’s)

    Larri and I walked into this place once and walked right out because it seemed too expensive. Gregg, Don and I recently checked this place out because Gregg wanted Hawaiian food.

    We all ordered the lau-lau combo (at $9.25 each). The meal came with rice or poi, lomi-salmon, pipikaula, and haupia. We also ordered a side of squid-luau ($3.65)–because the waitress said this was a popular dish–raw onions ($.50), and I got a side of kaula pig ($3.85).

    The verdict? This is good Hawaiian food with very little to complain about. The lau-lau was tasty–you had just the right amount of porkfat, good portion of butterfish (although that lacked flavor). The leaf was solid, too, if a bit dry.

    The squid luau was also pretty good. The taco was pretty firm, not mushy. And the flavor of the luau was good. If you don’t like your squid luau with a lot of coconut milk, you’ll like this.

    I also enjoyed the kalua pig, even though it was the smoked flavor variety. It had the righ amount of “smoke,” and it wasn’t too oily.

    The waitress said people liked their pipikaula, and I can see why. It was basically like chopped steak, pulehu style–very tender and not at all like jerky.

    In terms of flavor, you can’t really complain, but you’re not going to get a lot of food. (The rice was kinda small, too.), unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money. There are other places where you can either get a better value: either better quality or quantity. You can go to Ono Hawaiian and better quality, quantity and the same, if not, lower price. However, if you’re trapped on the Leeward side, and you’re desparate for Hawaiian food, this is not a bad place to go.

    Has anyone tried Huggy’s in Pearl City? Larri catered through them for her father’s birthday, and for the price, they were really good. Supposedly, they serve meals during the day, too.

    except the portions are not big here, so don’t go for the quantity.

  95. Mitchell

    It always surprises me that Highway Inn is still right where it was when I was growing up in Waipahu. I mean, a place like that might be pretty good, but does one really expect it to endure for 20+ years? That convenience store, Roadrunner (I think it’s called) has been there at least since I was in sixth grade. Amazing. We would go there for candy or gum and also because the dumpster would often have, um, certain publications that were difficult to get ahold of at the time.

  96. Reid

    Think about it: there aren’t any places to get Hawaiian food on the Leeward side–from Pearl City to Ewa and Wai’anae. They have a monopoly of sorts, especially since Yama’s is no longer in Waipahu. You’ve got to go into town to get good Hawaiian food, and that can be too inconvenient. That’s why I’ll be going to Highway Inn.

  97. Mitchell

    Yeah, but does that look like somewhere you’d expect a restaurant to survive for twenty-plus years? I only lived there for seven years, but I can name a whole bunch of stuff that came and went in that same little strip (you can actually see it from where my house was).

  98. Mitchell

    Who’s up for checking out Loulen’s on a weeknight sometime next week or the week after?

  99. Reid

    I’m interested.

    As for HIghway Inn and the strip mall it’s in, that place is pretty crummy, but, then again, so are a lot of the strip malls in Waipahu.

    Ige’s
    (Diamond Head of Buzz’s in Pearl City)

    Penny, Kevin and I went to this place several nights ago. I’m pretty sure it’s the same Ige’s that does catering (saw shoyu pork on the menu). Basically, this is Zippy’s with different menu items, including some high end entres (i.e. spencer steak and a seafood casserole, both at $17). Unlike Zippy’s, however, customers can mix entres (except for the high end dishes) and they also get to choose two side dishes–salad, rice, mashed potatoes, soup, etc. The meals also came with a side of corn and several andagi at the end of the meal. That was a pretty good deal at around $8-$10 a plate. They also have specials everyday.

    Penny got one of Wednesday night special, Korean chicken. I got the turkey a la king, and Kevin got the saimin. Penny let me try one the chicken, and it was good–not too oily, not too much batter and not too sweet. They gave quite a bit of chicken, too.

    The turkey a la king disappointed me. It was more gravy over the turkey, instead of a creamy sauce. The portion was pretty big though. I didn’t get to try Kevin’s saimin, but it didn’t look like anything special.

    Although there is a bar, and the place looks like a warehouse converted into a restaurant, there were a lot of local families (mostly Japanese, giving it a very “Pearl City” feel to the place).

    All in all, a place worth checking out if you want an alternative to Zippy’s and Big City Diner. It would be cool if they were open 24 hours.

  100. Reid

    Aaron’s
    (top of the Ala Moana Hotel)

    If you want great service and a nice ambiance (huge glass windows giving you a nice view), then this is the place for you. That’s what you’ll be paying for in the $30 plus entres. The quantity and quality of the food is not remarkable or markedly better than what you could get at places with entres starting at $20 (or even lower).

    I think you would call this food continental, but I”m not sure. Basically, you can get steak, fish or seafood dishes, prepared in more traditional ways. (Read; not heavy Pacific-Rim fusion). This is one of those places that I mentioned places like Assagio’s and 12th Avenue Grill have done damage to. (They even had a live band, which, for some reason, reminds me of those high-end places that were popular in the 70s and 80s.) The food at Aaron’s is good, but not $30+ good. (In a way the restaurant reminds me a lot of Sarento’s.)

    OK on to what we had. I had the french onion soup and Larri got some kind of spinach salad with goat cheese and papaya. The French onion wasn’t hot enough and it was kinda disappointing. (I prefer Kincaid’s.)

    My brother ordered the kalua pig postickers, which were pretty good. The meat was tasty and smoky. Jill got a chicken soup–done in a clear broth with lots of herbs and minced vegetables. Pretty good, but not remarkable.

    For entres, I ordered the opakapaka, Chicago style. The means the fish came in with shrimp, mushrooms in a light sauce (can’t remember). This was served over a bed of saffron rice. Larri ordered the steak. with mashed potatoes. The opakapaka was highly recommend by the waiter (very personable and nice). The “paka” was one of those thick filets, and it was moist, but not super tasty. I thought the “Chicago” prepartion was just OK, too. Personally, I don’t normally like really thick filets of fish (beef or pork for that matter, too).

    Larri’s steak was OK, but again not worth the $30+ by itself.

    The highlight of the menu was the banana’s foster. Larri and I had this in New Orleans at a place called Brennan’s. It was pretty disappointing, but the waiter raved about this. I still didn’t get it, but someone else did. I goofed. This was really ono, particularly with the vanilla ice cream and macadamia nuts.

    I got the creme brulee instead, and it was pretty bland. Joel got some dark chocolate cake with chocolate sauce. Again, OK, but nothing great.

    To sum up, I wouldn’t recommend this place unless you really want a nice ambiance and good service, atlhough there might be better places for this.

    There’s only one high end place where I thought the qualty of food matched the super high prices. That place was Padovani. Unfortunately, a friend of mine told me they’re going to close soon. Hopefully, I’ll get to go one more time before they do.

  101. Reid

    Tokkuri-Tei
    (on Kapahulu; mauka of Zippy’s; next to Dave’s Ice Cream)

    I think Cindy and Jill had things to say about this place, and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed the food, too. Jill mentions that this is a ala carte (small plate, tapas, izakaya style), and that’s correct. You’re not getting a great ambiance, and it’s kinda squishy.

    However, I didn’t realize this was going to be a contemporary Japanese cooking. By that I mean, cooking using mostly traditional Japanese techniques and ingredients that leads to non-traditional dishes. For example, Penny ordered a stuffed portabello mushrooms. The mushrooms were stuffed with fried rice. The rice had a kind of creamy, shoyu taste. (Creamy is not the right word.) This was one of the better dishes.

    I ordered and enjoyed the salmon skin salad ($10). The salad came with nalo greens, raw onions, with tobiko and grilled skin (with some salmon meat). The salmon was a little more cooked than I would like, but, otherwise, I enjoyed it.

    Other dishes we tried:

    Chicken gizzard($2) The waitress was nice enough to get half the order grilled and the other half deep fried. I preferred the deep fried style, although the grilled version had more of a chicken taste. (There wasn’t much taste in the deep fried version.) Penny and Mitchell said it was like cartilege, but it was less rubbery. Cartilege can be almost impossible to chew into tiny bits, You can actually grind up the gizzards. I liked these.

    Mushroom wrapped pork Jill mentioned these kushi-yaki dishes (skewered and grilled) and they were pretty good.

    Okara BanbanThe lleftover of the the tofu with seafood flavoring. It tasted too close to regular okara for me to get into.

    chicken karaage boneless fried chicken. OK, nothing special.

    Udon tempura Grace got this and seemed to enjoy it, particularly because she had a very unsatisfying experience with udon earlier that day. It looked pretty standard to me.

    Seafood spring roll The fried skin was really interesting. It was light. It looked like tempura batter fried like taro gok(?)–that Chinese dim-sum dish.

    I can’t remember what else we tried, but I enjoyed the food. I want to go back and try some other dishes.

    As Jill mentioned this is not a good place to go if you’re hungry, unless you’re willing to spend a lot. (I ended up shelling out $40.)

    One last note. The cooking here is a nice contrast to Japanese fusion places like Kai and Shokudo. Here the blending is not so radical. The conetmporary approach is a lot more subtle, I think. There may not be a huge difference, except in the results.

  102. Reid

    Town

    Like others, I thought the food was quite good here. The entres are all around $20. I thought the portions were a bit small, but sufficient (if you’re…well, if I’m not that hungry).

    Larri got the same salad that Penny mentioned with the green goddess salad. It came with avocados, papayas, and I can’t remember what else. This was OK.

    We also got the mussels, which came in a zesty broth. Not as good as the first time we tried this, but still solid.

    I wish I remembered Penny’s review. I would have tried the torn bread with chicken. Instead I got this pasta dish with a beef stew like sauce. I think it was called papardelle with pork sugo ($15). The pasta was like flat sheets cut in to rectangles.

    Larri got a risotto with mushrooms and sausage ($17). The sausage had a light smokey taste and came in a light creamy type of sauce. This was also good.

    We tried a bunch of different dishes for dessert: chocolate almond torte, panna cotta and vanilla gelato. The desserts were just OK. I didn’t care for the panna cotta as much as Penny did. It sort of was like a haupia with a cheesecake taste.

  103. Mitchell

    Penny, Grace, and I checked out Loulen’s on North King last month.
    It bills itself as “continental and Filipino” cuisine; apparently, the Filipino owners were schooled in France.

    We were feeling adventurous, but not THAT adventurous, so this is what we had:
    Lumpia — I can’t remember what they called this. It wasn’t just “lumpia.” Anyway, the lumpia were rolled tightly in thin rolls, kinda taquito-sized. They were light and crispy, with a very flavorful filling, served with some sweet-sour sauce. Definitely the best thing we tried.

    Pancit — light rice noodles stir-fried with veggies and chicken. Tasty.

    Some kind of steak dish (Steak Tagalog or something like that) with a tart sauce. The sauce didn’t stick well to the meat, but it was good. The meat was kind of tough, and without the sauce wasn’t very good at all.

    Chicken Cordon Bleu — pretty standard for what it is.

    Service was attentive and the place was clean, but I wasn’t thrilled with the big-screen TV that dominates the room. Prices were a bit high (eight to twelve bucks per entree) for what we got, but going with a few others so that we could try several dishes was a winning strategy.

    I can’t recommend it, but it wasn’t bad.

  104. Mitchell

    Traffic coming out of Waikiki this evening was atrocious, so I pulled over into Daiei’s parking lot hoping for some Tae’s teppan-yaki. Instead, I saw another lunch wagon, this one called Tacolicious and selling tacos.

    There are three things on the menu: Steak tacos, chicken tacos, and veggie tacos. The tacos come in quarter-pound and half-pound sizes (three and six bucks each), are loaded with fresh, homemade guacamole, black beans, and Mexican rice, and are very, very good.

    I had a quarter-pound steak and a quarter-pound chicken. The steak was flavorful and meaty; it’s quality meat and I liked it a lot. It’s probably not as good as at Diego’s, but it is very good.

    The chicken soft-taco was excellent! Shredded and seasoned breast-meat covered with the guacamole, beans, and rice make this totally delicious. I think the texture of the shredded chicken just goes better with the soft taco. I actually cried out as I ate this thing, telling the large bald man in the wagon that this was a great taco.

    It was a cold and rainy evening, so it’s possible that my experience was heightened by the weather — you know how even mediocre saimin tastes great when it’s cold and rainy? — so I’m going back soon.

    Joel, you must have eaten here; what did you think?

  105. Reid

    Ciao Mein
    (Hyatt Regency)

    There is only one reason to go to this place, and that’s the opportunity of eating Chinese and Italian food at the same time. (It’s a combination that works pretty well.) The food tasted fine, but not exceptional, and it was overpriced. Here’s what we got:

    Risotto ($7.75): This was one of the best dishes–in taste and overall value. The risotto that night (it changes daily I guess) came with mushrooms and some kind of meat (can’t remember), covered with cheese.
    Szechuan eggplant ($9.75) Penny recommended this, and it was good, but you can probably get the same thing at many Chinese places for half the price.
    Campagolo ($16.50) This was a light tomato sauce with peppers and sausage that we ordered with rigatoni. The portion was good, but the quality was just OK. CPK serves a similar dish that taste better.
    Honey Walnut Shrimp ($22.75) Pretty standard fair, except the portions were small (like what you would get at a Chinese restaurant) and the shrimp wasn’t lightly deep fried, nor did the dish come with mayonnaise.
    Bisteca Di Manzo Alle Erbe ($26.75) This was a marinated steak with olive oil, garlic, herbs and pine nuts. The steak tasted really good (not too thick), but it only came with five pieces!
    Petti di Pollo ($17.25) Sauteed breast of chicken with provolone, boursin cheese and prociutto. This came in a kind of tomato cream and, perhaps, wine sauce that was really good. Portions were OK.

    All the dishes we ordered were first place winners at the “Taste of Honolulu.” Based on Penny’s advice, we also stayed away from the fusion dishes. As for the ambiance, it wasn’t anything that great. Ditto the service. So really the only reason for going to this place is the ability to eat Chinese and Italian at the same time. It’s a good concept. I wish another restaurant would open with the same concept with better value.

  106. pen

    Reid, did you try their tiramisu? I haven’t been there for awhile, but I thought they had some of the best tiramisu on the island.

  107. Reid

    Oops, I forgot to mention the tiramisu. Yes, that was very good. Not spectacular or unique, but just really well done.

  108. Mitchell

    I think Daniel Oshima’s father is (or was) one of the chefs there. Wonderful tiramisu. Some of the best I’ve ever had.

  109. Mitchell

    Sisters Bento
    Pensacola, between Beretania and Young
    (same building as Aunty Pasto’s)

    I had an appointment at Kaiser and time for a bite, and noticed this new place. It looks like a standard plate-lunch take-out, with all the usual offerings (about $5.50 to $5.95 for most items, or an extra item for $1.50 more). I ordered tonkatsu and karaage to go. Yes, that’s a lot of fried food, but the doctor had just given me my field-of-vision test, and I figured that if I was going to go blind, I might as well do it with clogged arteries, too.

    Just kidding.

    You know how Reid sometimes talks about how cool it feels to get little extras with your meals? My bento came with the stuff I ordered, plus some bean sprouts and pickled cabbage, a few pieces of vegetable tempura, and a side of kim chee. The rice was adorned with furikake, ginger, two pods of soy beans, and one more thing I can’t remember right now.

    The tonkatsu and karaage were good, but not great. The sides were terrific! I saw next to the fryer in the kitchen a small grill, so I’m thinking of going back and trying the grilled items. I have another appointment in six weeks.

  110. joel

    Mitchell, I’ve had an opportunity to eat the lunchwagon taco stand in Daiei only once and I thought it was mediocre. The bald headed guy actually stopped by in front of nevada bob’s to make flyers for kinkos only to offer some of his food to us in the store. I thought the meat was rather dry along with a lot of the other fixings. This was month’s ago however so he may have improved on the quality of his tacos–as you have suggested. I’ll definitely have to try it again sometime based on your recommendation.

  111. Mitchell

    Takuan. The other thing on the rice was takuan.

  112. Mitchell

    Nico’s at Pier 38.

    This is right next to the fish auction at which all the restaurants and markets purchase their fish every morning, so the fish you’re getting here really doesn’t get any fresher.

    Grace, Penny, and I went for breakfast. Now, I don’t like fish, but I had the fish and eggs, and I loved it. The fish was hebi (a spearfish) with a garlic-herb crust, and I would have had a second order if I’d had room for it. Penny had the loco moco, which was pretty dang good.

    The place is a sort of gourmet plate-lunch place (think Kakaako Kitchen), but I have only been there for breakfast. I liked it so much on that Friday morning that I went again on Saturday (the fish was grilled swordfish) and then again this past Saturday morning before the season’s final Oahu Mathematics League meet (grilled ahi). I’d like to try the lunch entree some time, but Grace went for lunch on a Saturday and said it was really crowded. I may have to wait for summer vacation and go on a weekday.

  113. Jill

    Forgive me! I couldn’t read all 112 comments above, so my apologies if someone had already mentioned this…I don’t doubt if they did…

    Sorabol! on Keeaumoku.

    To those of you who like butterfish:

    Sooo yummy there! I’m not a huge butterfish fan, but this was good. It comes steamed in this spicy red sauce with vegetables and you eat it with hot rice. Wow. Not greasy too. added benefit there. one order feeds 2 for about 15.00. Good deal.

    I also had the seafood pancake. Resembles Okonomiyaki. Also, yum.

    My fav is BiBimBap. Comes in the hot stone pot. Also yum.

    My recommendation is to go with the butterfish. My friend who is Korean, might I add, recommended it. 🙂 It’s certified! 🙂 Very delish. 🙂 fun place to go with lots of folks too. Sorry, if this is old news but it was great to eat there….

  114. Jill

    Oh!

    Tempura roll at Shirokiya! The tastiest tempura I’ve ever had…which honestly, I’ve not tried many, but soo yummy…Try it!!

  115. Reid

    Your description of the butterfish at Sorabol has piqued my interest. I’m going to make it a point to go there.

  116. Reid

    Nanding’s Bakery
    (On Gulick and King–makai side of King, behind Central Pacific Bank)

    Two of my friends from church mentioned one particular item here–Spanish rolls. I had never heard of the item or the place. They explained that Spanish rolls are rolled up bread with butter and sugar in the middle. The bread is basically the same as pandesal (sp?). They really raved about it and said that they are famous for this.

    I went to check it out yesterday–3 for a $1; they’re shaped like pig in the blanket and are about 3 inches long. The verdict? They were nice and airy and light. I also liked the fact that they weren’t too sweet or buttery. Supposedly they make this all the time, so you should be able to get it fresh. Mine tasted fresh, but they were hot out of the oven.

    Personally, I wouldn’t drive out of my way to try them–although it may be super good right out of the oven, but what baked good isn’t? I can see how other people really like these, though. I gave one to my co-worker, and she really liked it. One of the secretaries at Farrington confirmed that this is a well-known place and that everyone gets the Spanish rolls there. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

  117. Mitchell

    Nico’s at Pier 38 is open until 6 on weekdays now, meaning you can grab a late lunch or an early dinner. I’ve been twice this week. I had the grilled mahi with lemon-caper sauce Tuesday (yum) and the pork roast today (also yum). I have yet to try the desserts or soups, which reviewers have really liked. Didn’t see any soup on the menu today.

  118. Mitchell

    Pan-seared hebi today with some kinda lovely sauce. I swear, I don’t know who I am anymore.

  119. Mitchell

    Oh, and Jill, I love Sorabol. I’ve eaten there a zillion times. The dol dot bi bim bap rocks, and the yakiniku meals are great. But you left out the best thing about it: it’s open 24 hours a day!

  120. Mitchell

    Tae’s Teppan-Yaki has moved out of the lunch wagon to the location across Kaheka street where that taco place used to be (see Penny’s comment above, from October 24, 2004) and has added some items to the menu. In addition to the beef rolls, you can get a pork teppan-yaki roll with the same choice of sauces, and a “sukiyaki” plate that comes with a fried egg.

    Everything is $5.50, still.

    I had the pork roll and it was yummy. Can’t wait to go back and try the sukiyaki. Open every day from 10 in the morning to 8 at night! Hey, I think I’ll go again tomorrow. Who’s in? 🙂

  121. Mitchell

    The sukiyaki was good, but not as good as the teppan yaki. Worth a try if you’ve already had the other dishes and every one of the sauces. I didn’t mention the other day that now you can get, instead of rice, brown rice or “garlic rice” for a buck more. Get the garlic rice! It’s really good. I think the rice is steamed with the garlic in it, and I thought it was yummy. I was still there at 8:00, closing time, and the owner went out of his way to tell me to take my time. The people there are super-nice.

    This is one of my favorite places to eat.

  122. Reid

    What’s the hours and days they are open? I want to try this place.

  123. Mitchell

    10 to 8 every day. And be warned: You will not be filled up. However, if you like, you can take a short stroll across the street and get a chicken soft-taco from tacolicious, to top yourself off.

  124. Reid

    Larrilynn is a hooked on those Spanish rolls at Nanding’s.

  125. Reid

    Larri and I finally tried Tae’s. Mitchell was right that it wasn’t something filled me up. He was also right about the garlic rice. I think I could just eat a bowl of that and be pretty happy. (Well, not quite, but you get the point.)

    I got the wasabi, and while it was OK, I wished the meat was a little hotter in temperature. I also like that fact that that it came with a lot of green salad. That made the meal pretty refreshing. For what you pay for it’s a solid deal, and it’s stuff you can’t get anywhere else, so it’s worth visiting.

    Larri and I also went to Michel’s I’ll try to write a review later.

  126. Reid

    Michel’s at the Colony Surf
    (Next to the fountain at the Diamond Head side of Kapiolani Park)

    A long time ago I heard that Michel’s was considered one of the most romantic restaurants in the world. Since Larri told me that she wanted to go to a restaurant with a nice ocean view for our anniversary, I thought of going to this place. (The other choices were John Domnis and The Hanohano Room.)

    When we arrived into the restaurant, it looked like a typical Wakiki bar-restaurant on the beach. Yes, it was a little nicer–the tables were set more formally and the waiter wore tuxedos–but it still looked like a bar-restaurant right on the beach. It didn’t help that the beach side of the restaurant had those huge sliding windows that were open with an green and white striped awning draping over them. However, later on, when the sun went down and the awning reclined, the view of the ocean and sky was very nice. It looked especially nice when you pulled back from the window (we sat right next to it)–giving you the sensation of looking at a huge movie screen.

    OK, on to the food. Larri started with the Maui onion soup ($9). It came with a puff pastry crust over it. Not bad, but not exceptional. I ordered the lobster bisque ($11) which was flamed with cognac at the table. I liked the cognac in the soup, but again nothing really exceptional.

    We next split a warm spinach scampi salad ($16). This was made tableside and, if it weren’t for the small portions, this would have been a great dish. The dish came with shrimp, macadamia nuts, shiitake in a mustard, wine sauce (with some other seasonings I couldn’t pick out). I really liked this.

    For our entres Larri got the surf-and-turf–black angus filet tenderloin, half a main lobster stuffe with Dugeness crab ($49). I got the Beef Wellington ($42) which came with a foie gras mousse in a puff pastry with a truffle madeira sauce and blueberry-walnut chutney.

    Larri’s dish was pretty disappointing. It didn’t get to the table really hot, for one thing. My dish was OK, but the pastry tasted like white bread. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worth the price either.

    To finish off our meal, Larri got the chocolate souffle, while I got the apple tart. The apple tart was those really flat tarts with thinly sliced apples. It was better than I thought. Larri’s souffle was pretty good, but without the molten chocolate center a la Roy’s, it wasn’t as good.

    I’ve been to several restaurants in Waikiki hotels, and my experience has been that the food, service, and ambiance–while good–just doesn’t match up with the price you pay. You can get just as good dining experience–with more food–at a cheaper price at other places.

    So far the only place that has been worth the money has been Padovani’s. Too bad they closed down.

  127. Mitchell

    Nico’s at Pier 38 didn’t have a catch of the day that looked very interesting to me (Marlin tartare with a lemon sauce), so I had the barbecue chicken / chicken katsu combo plate. The katsu was good — crisp and meaty without being oily — and while the barbecue chicken was slightly overcooked, the barbecue sauce was REALLY good. It was like a cross between the shoyu-based Korean sauce and the mainland ketchupy sauces. I liked it.

  128. Reid

    We must have checked out Nico’s on the same day you did because I had the special–marlin tartare with lemon-cream sauce ($8.15). I thought tartare is a raw fish dish, but these were basically fish patties (two). The tartare and the sauce was OK, but not worth it at $8.

    Larri got the double-cheeseburger ($5.25, including fries). The burgers tasted like better quality burgers at old local eateries like Diner’s. Since you get fries with the meal though, it was a pretty good deal.

    Nico’s is not a cheap place though, especially the fish. Then again, if you’re getting top quality fish, paying $8 is good deal. I think people who like Kaka’ako Kitchen would like this place.

  129. Reid

    Went to Nico’s for lunch and had the ahi sandwich ($7.95 comes with fries or nalo greens). The sandwich is served on a french baquette (not really great, but good enough), lettuce tomatoes and a wasabi based sauce. The fish came pan-fried I think, and I really liked it. The bread, sauce, plus the good portion of fish did it. The nalo greens came with this sweet dressing that I liked, too.

  130. Mitchell

    I love the dressing at Nico’s. Get the greens when you order a lunch; the mac salad is pretty awful.

    I went today and had the grilled swordfish with coconut-saffron sauce. Delicious!

  131. Reid

    Yanni’s
    (Restaurant Row near the Row bar where Philip Paolo’s used to be)

    This is a Greek place that got strong reviews from John Heckathorn in Honolulu magazine. While the food was good, it was a bit overpriced. Larri and I started with a three dip appetizer–an eggplant dip, cod roe and I can’t remember the last one. This was solid, but at $7.50 was little pricey. We also tried Saganaki, the fried goat cheese. This was thinly sliced and pan-fried, giving the cheese some crispness. The consistency is hard and not too gooey. This was one of the best things we had. Larri also had a salad which was similar to standard salads I’ve had at Greek places.

    For entres, we split the mixed grill (around $28). This came with a lamb cutlet (on the bone), lamb-beef(?) meatballs, chicken and lamb sovlaki(sp?). The lamb was a little gamey, but I liked them, the cutlets the most. The best thing on the dish were the roasted vegetables and boiled potatoes in a garlic cream sauce. The vegetables came in some kind of tomato-oil sauce. It was super good. I could have eaten a plateful of the vegetables, potatoes and cheese, and I would have been very happy.

    The atmosphere is OK, on the dark side. I don’t care for the space very much. If the prices were closer to the high teens-low twenties, I could see myself going there more often.

  132. Reid

    Here some items that I tried and liked at well-known eateries:

    Spicy curry pasta at CPK. I really liked the sauce and pasta. I had this with shrimp and really enjoyed this;

    Chocolate Chiller–a triple shake at Baskin and Robbins. This is chocolate shake with hot fudge at the bottom and whipped cream at the top. The shake itself is very smooth and the addition of hut fudge is a great touch.

    Sugoi

    I remember this place because Matthey Gray, the Honolulu Advertiser food critic said they had the best garlic chicken. Mitsu-ken has a reputation for having the best garlic chicken, and I really liked their’s. The verdict? Well, saying which is better is a close call. The Sugoi version is not too oily and the skin is nice and crispy without too much breading/batter. The sauce is solid, although nothing really special. The boneless pieces are pretty meaty as well.

  133. Mitchell

    Grace, Penny, and I had to go to elections training, so we had dinner beforehand at the Green Door, one of the downtown eateries that’s been getting quite a bit of buzz this year. We at off of styrene plates with plastic utensils, and our food was served in top- and bottom-halves of styrene take-out boxes, so you’re not paying for ambience here. But the food, listed as Malaysian/Singaporean, was yummy. We had a chicken curry, a stir-fried eggplant/tofu dish, and a spicy jumbo-shrimp dish. For sides, we ordered the flatbread (can’t remember the name of it) and some coconut rice. The coconut rice was terrific, especially with the curry.

    There are only four tables in the place, so I’d recommend reservations. The three of us paid about twelve bucks each, including tip; we might have paid considerably more for the same food at a nicer restaurant (you know, one with dishes and plates), so I think it was a good deal.

    I got together with Penny and some old friends visiting from China yesterday, and we checked out the new NeoNabe place on King Street, next to Bunmeido. It got a favorable write-up in the Advertiser Friday, mentioning that it was catering to the “after club” crowd. It’s open ’til two on weeknights and open until five in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays!

    It’s basically shabu-shabu with flavored broths. Sorta pricey, but with quality ingredients. Not quite the quality of Gyuukaku, but in that neighborhood, I’d say. I love eating like this, because you get pretty dang stuffed, but you don’t feel like you ate anything that was bad for you. Five of us dined for seventy bucks, including a tip, but I have a feeling that most nights it would have cost a little more, especially if you’re like me and like the expensive cuts of meat.

    Definitely worth checking out. I think it’d be a great date restaurant.

  134. Reid

    Wahoo Fish Tacos

    OK, not great. It’s not a place I have any strong desire to return to. I can’t even remember what I had. I think it was some kind of fish taco.

  135. Reid

    Other good items that I recently liked:

    The potato burrito at BC Burrito (replacing Eddie’s on Waialae Ave.). The potatoes are in the home-fried style. They come with guacamole, cheese and salsa.

    The forty-niner pancake at the Original House of Pancakes. This is basically two huge crepes, but sweeter and tasty, overall, than crepes I’ve had in the past.

  136. Mitchell

    Ben & Jerry’s at Ward Centre!

    This is my new favorite ice cream place. Yes, I still like Cold Stone, but man. The ice cream here just rocks. I don’t think the quality is any better than at Bubbies, but I like the flavors better. I go to Bubbies and I almost always know exactly what I want. I went to B&J’s and had a difficult time choosing.

    Grace pointed out to me that for what you spend on two scoops at the Scoop Shop, you can get a whole pint at the supermarket. This is true, but (a) if you do that, you’ll be eating ice cream in, and not out, and (b) you won’t get to try different flavors, some of which the have at the scoop shop but don’t have at the grocery store.

    I had a scoop of coffee and a scoop of Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, and was really, really, really happy with the Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. You know that oatmeal cookie taste that’s kinda cinnamony and kinda honey-y? It was like that. Maybe even a little bit of ginger; I couldn’t tell. But the ICE CREAM part of it tasted like a very tasty oatmeal cookie. The cookie chunks were just gravy. Not Wavy Gravy — that’s a different flavor.

    The service was not as good as at Bubbies, and of course the ambience wasn’t as good, but I liked the cow theme and the surfing cows on the mural. The scoops could have been a bit more generous, but I’m willing to overlook that.

    There’s a new apple pie flavor that i’m dying to try, too.

    I have two favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors, and one of them was in the shop: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The other, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, was absent, but I wouldn’t have gotten that anyway; too many other flavors in the display case that I’d never had!

  137. Reid

    The oatmeal cookie chunk sounds good.

  138. Mitchell

    IHOP!

    Penny and I checked it out on an impulse. The parking in the hotel is RIDICULOUS. Tiny stalls in narrow driving alleys made it a challenge, even with the VERY helpful assistance of the parking attendant and a special wide stall reserved for vans. The ramps going from one level to the next are STEEP. Holy cow.

    Penny had the Pancake Combo, which was her choice of two same-type pancakes (she chose the Harvest Grain & Nut), the breakfast meat of her choice (bacon), hash browns, and three eggs (over easy). Her pancakes were good — nutty and grainy, just as you’d expect.

    I had the country-fried steak and eggs, which came with three eggs (sunny-side up) and two buttermilk pancakes. The steak was okay, the eggs pretty good (a little on the runny side for my taste), and the pancakes yummy. My favorite part of this whole meal was trying the different syrups. There were pitchers of blueberry, butter pecan, boysenberry, and strawberry syrup on our table, and the waiter brought hot “maple” syrup (no idea if it was maple or maple-flavored). It was just really fun tasting and commenting on the syrups. My favorite was the blueberry.

    Worth a trek into Waikiki if you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere and you feel pretty good about your parking.

  139. Mitchell

    Koa’s Pancake House
    Moanalua Center

    You’ve eaten at its other locations, so you know what to expect.
    I had blueberry pancakes (short stack) and a large drink for under five bucks.

    Haven’t tried anything else there yet. This place just opened yesterday. Opens at 6, closes at 2, if you wanna check it out.

  140. Reid

    Soul de Cuba (across from the Hawai’i Theater)

    I wanted to like this place, but it really disappointed Larri and me. When I eat Latin food, I’m expecting a lot of flavor and kick. The food here was bland (at least relative to my expectations). We got the mixed sampler–which came with three shelled shrimp, a deep-fried crab dish and an empanada–normally a pastry turnover with a meat filling. The meat filling was good (probably the best thing that we got), but the shells weren’t of the flaky, pastry variety. Instead, they were Oriental style wraps a la mandoo, gyoza. The other dishes weren’t bad, but just mediocre.

    The main dishes weren’t any better. Larri got a shredded pork dish. If you’re familiar with shredded bbq pork people serve in sandwiches, this was a lot like that, including a tomato based sauce. They could have put more sauce, but I guess it wouldn’t have mattered much because the taste was lifeless.

    I had a steak. The quality of meat was very similar to the type you get at standard plate lunch place. Both dishes were served over rice (white or flavored in a similar way to the kind you get at Mexican places). You also had two pieces of fried bananas.

    I did like the small intimate size of the room. (The chairs seem out of place though.) I really wanted to like this place, but alas. It was way too expensive for what we got, too. I would try different entres if you go there.

  141. Mitchell

    I’ve been told that this is what authentic Cuban food tastes like. I don’t think “bland” was the word used in reviews I’ve read, but the idea is the same. Except these other reviewers liked it.

  142. Reid

    Well, if you try it let me know. The food didn’t just lack a lot of seasoning and spices, but it tasted lifeless–the stuff we had anyway. I ate at a Cuban place in NY, and it wasn’t rich with herbs, spices, etc., but it had a lot more vitality.

    Btw, Larri and I also tried Ben and Jerry’s. I wanted to try that Oatmeal flavor you tried, but they didn’t have it. Instead, I got their cookies and cream in a cookie sundae ($6+). It was really way too expensive and not that good. The ice cream just tasted like good store bought ice-cream which is what it is, I guess. Maybe I just got the wrong flavor.

    Larri tried several different flavors and when it came time to order I could tell she didn’t like any of the flavors, but was going to just order anyway out of guilt for sampling so many, but she decided against it. Good thing.

  143. Reid

    On a more positive note, Larri and I went to KJ’s. I know Don and Mitchell raved about this place particularly the quantity. Well, not just the quantity: Don told me that he preferred their fried chicken to Zippy’s. Really? Well, after trying their fried chicken, I might agree with him. The skin is super crisp, not all battery and the meat is flavorful. As for the quantity, the chicken plate ($6) comes with six thighs! That’s unbelieveable.

    The place also seems to have a mainland approach, similar to Bear’s. In addition to “macaroni” salad–actually, it’s a spaghetti salad with tuna–you can get corn or green beans. I like that option and went with the green beans.

    I didn’t get the fried chicken plate, but a mix of kal-bi and Korean chicken (little drummettes). They were just OK. Larri got the stuffed cabbage and fried chicken. The stuffed cabbage came with a beef and rice filling. It was solid. The next time we’re going to picnic on the Windward side, we’ll have to bring some KJ’s fried chicken.

  144. Mitchell

    You gotta try the furuikake chicken and the miso chicken. Yummy.

  145. Joel

    KJ’s is my favorite plate lunch place on the windward side. Everytime we golf on that side of the island we like to throw down the $5.00 ny steak special. We(2 to 3) of us split the chicken plate as well. It’s a great combo and grinds!

  146. Reid

    Is the NY steak good or is it just average?

  147. Joel

    the ny steak is just as good as a sizzler ny steak IMO, but for only $5.00! It reminds me of pablo sato’s steaks or any other time’s steak. It’s a nice compliment to get w/ the fried chicken

  148. Reid

    I really enjoyed the apple-fried caper–risotto and salmon ($19) at Town. Once again the portions were on the small side, but this was well done, particuarly the risotto. The apple gave a hint of sweet and tartness to the extent that you may not know there were apples in it. That plus the capers just made for a nice dish.

    Penny’s rib-eye ($23) was also solid.

    This is not a place to go if you’re (I’m) super hungry, but the cooks know what they’re doing.

  149. Reid

    One of my favorite places now is India Bazaar, across from the Old Stadium Park in Moiliili. For $6.50, I get three vegetarian choices, plus rice. The food is so flavorful that I could see myself becoming a vegetarian if this was the food I had to eat. I usually get the potato “stir fry”–which is basically cut potates with some carrots, and other vegetables. Of course, this is nothing like Far East Asian stir-fry; spinach and lentil and the mushrooms and potato (a little spicy). The rice is done in a sort of rice pilaf way, but more tasty and flavorful. They have about nine choices, only one chicken dish.

    It’s a perfect lunch place for me because I don’t like getting stuffed when I work.

  150. Reid

    Larri and I went to Town again.

    I ordered the white risotto with Hamakua mushrooms and asparagus ($18). This was really good! I thought I detected a kind of grilled, smokey, kiawe taste to the asapargus, but when I mentioned this to the waitress, she thought it might of been truffle (probably a nice way of saying we don’t have a wood burning grill you idiot).

    Larri got the stuff porkchop (ricotta and Swiss chard–a kind of mildly bitter greens) with asparagus and mashed potatoes. This was just OK, nothing special, but not bad either.

    The portions are still not the greatest, but if I’m not super hungry (which I wasn’t) it’s good.

    Don, you should try this place again. Go for anything with risotto. I think the cook really has a sophisticated sense of blending flavors versus ingredients and flavors from different cultures, i.e. pacific rim cusisine.

    I still don’t care much for the stainless steel tables and overall ambiance.. (It’s not a place I’d want to invite friends for a good convesation.)

  151. Reid

    Joel said that he liked the NY Steak and bbq chicken combo at HK’s, and I finally got to try it. I didn’t care for the steak very much; the quality of meat wasn’t that great, and they overcooked it. The bbq chicken is the best around, and I love Asian-style bbq chicken.

    Really, HK’s is one of the best plate-lunch places, especially if you like teri sauce (beef, pork, chicken). They flame broil there food and the sauce is just..perfect; maybe a little sweet for some (like Larri). Their mac salad is also very good.

  152. Reid

    I had one of the worst–let’s just remove the “one of”–dining experiences ever. The restaurant? Makino Chaya. Larri and I went there for birthdays of two friends. We went there before for another friend’s birthday, and while it wasn’t good, I don’t remember it being this bad. (The only other place that comes close is Todai.) Why was it so bad? Well, you know how good cooks say the secret to a dish is love. Well, what you have is that exact opposite here–not hate, but contempt or even indifference. These guys don’t care how the food tastes it seems. At times there are certain dishes that are OK, but then you go back to the same dish and then it tastes funny: like slightly frozen; too salty; too oily or something. The restaurant is all about one thing: quantity. I’m reminded of the joke in Annie Hall about the terrible restaurants: it’s bad and has such small portions. Makino Chaya’s is bad, but they give you a lot! That should be there slogan: We serve bad food–but a lot of it!

    Anyway, when I realize the food is cooked this way, I started to get queesy. It’s as if an illusion was broken. But that’s not the worst of it. What made me really sick is seeing all the people in that place. The place was packed. We sat in the middle and the tables are almost touching each other. You see all these people scarfing down mounds of this crap; long lines of people just waiting to get in so that they too can chow down on this sludge. That’s what really did it for me. It’s like the spell was not broken for these people. It was a like a nigthmarish sci-fi scenario–soylent buffet! “Makino Chaya food is made out of people!”

    Anyway, I would never go there again, even if someone paid me.

  153. Reid

    Foodland–fried chicken

    Yes, that Foodland. For those of you you who like KJ’s fried chicken, you should try these. They’re very close in taste. I don’t know if all the foodlands are the same, but we tried the one in Pearl City. The funny thing is that on the day we tried KJ’s my cousin brought over the Foodland version. I was like, “Hey, this tastes just like the chicken we ate…No, it can’t be.” Well, I went a second time, and, sure enough, they were as good as I remembered them. $10 for 10 pieces.

  154. Mitchell

    I’m on vacation and itching to try something different. Someone plan something! Oh wait. Maybe I can plan something. Are there any restaurants getting good buzz lately?

  155. Reid

    I wanted to try Pearl, a hip tapas bar. The menu looks good, but pricey.

    I also wanted to try Du Vin, which has one of the coolest ambiances. It’s more of a wine place.

    There’s also the burger challenge that we never completed.

  156. Mitchell

    Where’s Pearl? I’d love some hip tapas.

  157. Reid

    It’s in Ala Moana slightly below Macaroni Grill on the Mauka side of the shopping Center. It’s kind of a hip trendy.

  158. Mitchell

    Is there a weekday when people are off? It might be fun to turn the hamburger challenge into an all-day thing, don’t you think?

    Some friends of mine tried Du Vin.  Review here, photos here.  I’d love to give that a go, too.

  159. Reid

    I’d love to do the burger challenge as an all day affair. I think Penny may be off on Wednesday this week. Larri and I should be available.

  160. Reid

    Larri and I tried the new Mexican restaurant on School Street near Houghtailing. I think it’s called Mexcio Lindo.

    Anyway, it was not bad. Larri had a burrito with fish and shrimp in a kind of garlic cream sauce. This wasn’t one of those burritos stuffed with rice and other stuff. It was mostly fish, shrimp and the sauce. Larri said that they had quite a bit of shrimp in there.

    I had the crab enchiladas which were OK, but nothing to write home about. The enchiladas were meaty then I expected, so that was a good thing. Both plates were around $12-$15.

    For some reason, I liked the atmosphere of the place. It was brigthly lit and I guess the decor–kinda Western looking with some Mexican earth pastels–created a warm vibe. There was also a guy playing guitar and singing. Usually, I don’t like this style of live music at a Mexican restaurant, but this guy could sing and play pretty well. He had an agressive flamenco style that reminded me of the Gypsy Kings. Still, it was a kinda hard to converse, especially since we were seated right next to him.

    This restaurant doesn’t stand out from other decent Mexican restaurants in Hawai’i, but it’s not bad. They also seem to have a decent number of seafood dishes that you don’t normally see at other places. The rice–which I really like at Mexican restaurants–was just OK, too.

  161. cindy

    ICHIRIKI

    You know how shabu-shabu and nabe-style cooking in general can be pretty darn tasteless despite the high quality ingredients? I read a review in the paper that claimed these Japanese chefs with roots in Hawaii spiced it up to suit local palates, and was pleasantly surprised. The “pirikara” broth with some chiles and garlic is reccomended. We tried the “must try” paper nabe that is supposed to absorb fat….but couldn’t sense a difference. I guess we’ll just have to go back and try a regular metal pot one.

  162. cindy

    SATURA CAKES

    New neo-french japanese bakery across Border’s Ward. Good coffee and tea with free WiFi open til about 10pm. Pastry is pricey but worth a try–not too sweet and high quality. Not quite as pretentious as the other new place that opened in Ala Moana. The mille crepes are a specialty.

  163. Mitchell

    I’ve been curious about that place. Free WiFi is definitely a draw for me.

    Reid, that Mexican restaurant on School St. is just called Mexico Restaurant. The owners also own a Mexican restaurant in Kailua called something else (perhaps Mexico Lindo); that’s why you see it written on the backs of their shirts.

    The early reviews say to stay away from the standard fare (you know what they mean…the stuff that’s on all the Mexican menus) and go with stuff you don’t see just anywhere, like the seafood stuff.

    I’ve been there three times now, and it’s good enough. I believe once the bar opens, the place will be hopping. The only thing I’ve had there that I really liked was a chili rejeno. The fried ice cream could be the best I ever had, but the ice cream’s a little too melty.

  164. Mitchell

    Sam Sato’s in Wailuku.

    It’s simple, inexpensive, filling fare. The wait-help is friendly, as is the predominantly local clientele. You’ll probably have to wait a while if you go during lunch hours, but it will be worth the wait.

    The “dry noodle” that’s been discussed in every review you see online is an eggy wheat noodle of the sort that saimin is made from. It comes in a bowl (three sizes: small, large, and double) with chopped green onions, char siu pork, and a few mung bean sprouts. The noodles are not exactly “dry,” as they seem to have been fried in a small amount of oil to get them cooked. We all ordered the small for just over four bucks.

    They are served alongside a small bowl of broth. The idea is to take a few noodles with your chopsticks and dip them into the broth. My friends and I noticed others pouring their broth over the noodles. I found the best method to be dipping the noodles half-way into the broth, picking up enough to flavor the noodles a bit but to maintain the dry character of the noodles. The broth was good enough to drink when I was finished with my noodles, and that’s exactly what I did. I must not be the only one, because the broth comes with a ramen-style Japanese soup spoon.

    We also ordered the BBQ meat sticks ($1.20 each), which were lean and tasty. I thought the meat was a bit too saucy, but I know lots and lots and lots of people who say that’s the way they should be. They were a nice companion to the noodles.

    For diners who aren’t into noodles and whose companions insist on a visit to Sam Sato’s, there are a few traditional plate lunches on the menu, but I didn’t see a single person in the restaurant order any, so I can’t comment on those.

    One thing not mentioned by other reviewers is the larger room across the small waiting-area courtyard. It seems that with a group of a large-enough size (it looked to me like twelve to fourteen people could be seated), reservations can be made, so if you’re with a lot of friends, this might be a cool way to experience Sam Sato’s.

  165. Mitchell

    Las Pinatas in Kahului.

    On the recommendation of a colleague, my friends and I tried Las Pinatas in Kahului on Maui. I had two chili rejenos and my friends each ordered the chimichanga. We also ordered a plate of nachos (with grilled pork, beans, lettuce, and sour cream) to share, but we were pretty much too full from our orders to enjoy the nachos.

    The food’s decent and the prices are pretty good (ten bucks for the two-rejeno plate with beans and rice; eight bucks for the fancied-up nachos). Extras cost extra (sour cream and guacamole), but there is a pretty nice salsa bar for dressing up your orders. A very impressive assortment of Mexican beers is available.

    When you’re on vacation, you can’t eat every meal in a fancy restaurant. For those more casual meals, you could do a lot worse than Las Pinatas.

  166. Mitchell

    Blue Marlin Harborfront Grill and Bar

    The Blue Marlin Harborfront Grill and Bar is one of the few restaurants in the Ma’alaea Harbor Village still in operation, or at least open during lunch hours. With an open view of Ma’alaea Harbor and pretty waitresses, the scenery is quite nice.

    A place like this needs to be judged on its more expensive fare, but my friends and I were in the mood for burgers. A major thirty-dollar lunch has its time and place; however, we were itching to get to the aquarium and while this was perhaps a great place for it, it was not the time. So we all had burgers at about ten bucks apiece.

    And they were okay. Served alongside some seasoned fries, the burgers were tasty if slightly dry. Our water-glasses were never empty and the service was friendly.

    Clearly, to give it a fairer review, I’d need to go back and try some of the seafood.

    Note: The address is Wailuku, but don’t look for it in Wailuku. It’s in Ma’alaea, next to the Maui Ocean Center.

  167. Reid

    I went to two places known for healthy cooking–Well-Bento and‘Umeke Market.

    I knew about Well-Bento for a long time, and I always wanted to try there, but just never got around to it. I think the main reason is the location. It’s behind the convenience store next to the Mo’ili’ili Ezogiku. There’s a India Iimports-type store in that place. Anyway, it’s a bad location: the parking’s terrible, and I guess, I never had a reason to go there.

    Anyway, I’m glad I did. I’ve been there four times already within the past two weeks. The plates are kinda pricey at $8-$9, but the food is good and filling. All the plates come with brown rice covered with a tahini–which is a kind of “creamy” sesame sauce–I think it’s sesame, although I don’t detect a strong sesame taste. Also, while the sauce taste creamy, they do not use any dairy or meat products. This sauce is really killer, and, to me, it’s what makes everything so good. Plates also come with some carrots, sauteed potatoes and on gobo. Oh, yeah, I can’t forget the mac salad (no mayonnaise) and coleslaw (no mayo). To me and one of my workers, you can’t tell the difference, but Larri disagrees.

    I said they don’t use meat products, but that’s not true. They have “transitional” plates where they serve grilled chicken, salmon (white some tamari–basically a kind of teri sauce–and olive oil), hamburger steak or steak. The chicken comes in three sauces–cajun, Southern bbq or tamari.

    They also have grilled tofu, tempeh (which is a kind of flour product that has the texture and consistency of aburage) and seitan (which are soy patties). I’ve had all three in diffferent sauces. I liked the tofu in Southern bbq (which was a surprise) and the tempeh in a scallopini sauce.

    The sauces are really key to the dish. They’re super flavorful and make you not miss the meat. The cooked side vegetables are also bursting with flavor. The reviewer in the Honolulu Weekly, Grace, Larri and I all remarked about the flavor.

    I also had the salmon which was good (not overcooked and overpowered with sauce) although nothing unique. The chicken was OK, but not as good as I was anticipating. The food is good here, and filling. After eating a plate, I feel full, but not grossed out. I also don’t get hungry for a fairly long time afterward. I recommend trying this place.

    ‘Umeke Market

    This is in a little strip mall sort of across the street from Kahala (Hawaii Kai side of the strip mall with Antonio’s). It”s basically a health food store with a deli. They also have a few tables to eat at, and I was surprised by the ambiance of the place. I felt like eating there would be kinda cool–not for like a nice dinner, but a casual lunch or dinner, maybe.

    The food is upscale, similar to what you see at Diamond Head Grill. Like Diamond Head Grill it’s not cheap, but “Umeke seems to emphasize organic products and more healthful dishes. (They had a soup that was for cleansing your body. I can’t remember what was in it, but it sounded good, or at least edible.)

    They had a lot of sandwiches–the turky hummus focaccia caught my eye–and soups. They also have pre made dishes you can get like meatloaf, free range chicken curry or rosemary style. I had the salmon salad ($8) and a white bean stew ($4.50). The stew was more like a soup, and it should have been called white bean-rosemary soup. Rosemary was the dominant flavor besides the beans. (There were also some carrots and garlic, I think.) They also have a dinner menu, but I can’t remember what’s on it. I definitely want to go try some other stuff.

    In a way, my interst is a bit weird because the place is similar to Diamond Head Grill Deli, and while the food looked good, it just seemed overpriced. ‘Umeke is very similar, but I think it’s the vibe of the place. I liked the lighting, signage and I don’t know what else.

  168. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Sam Sato’s sounds good, especially the noodles. I don’t know if you knew this, but in Japan, they eat somen like this. In Hawaii, people just dump the sauce over the noodles, but in Japan they have a separate bowl for the shiru. They also add other chopped ingredients in the sauce, such as fried egg, green onion, nori, wasabi, chicken, etc. I really loved eating somen like this. To me, it’s the only way.

  169. Mitchell

    My mom is from Japan, and she NEVER makes somen like this. Soba, yes, but not somen. At least, she never made it for me this way.

    Umeke Market is very popular with a few colleagues of mine who live in East Honolulu; they often pick dinner up there on the way home.

  170. Mitchell

    Holy cow.

    Cindy, Penny, Grace, and I checked out Ichiriki (reviewed by Cindy a few comments up). I loved it. I mean, I love every shabu-shabu place I go to, it seems, but yeah, this was really good. Penny and I shared the pirikara broth in the kami pot ($43 for two) and it was delicious. I love, love, love eating this way.

    We didn’t make reservations and got in anyway, but I wouldn’t recommend this course of action.

    An unabashed, unqualified recommendation.

  171. Reid

    It could be that your mom was influenced by local conventions. Or it could be the way they eat somen in the place I was in (Saitama prefecture).

  172. Reid

    Tried the turkey-hummus-foccacia sandwich and butternut squash soup at ‘Umeke Market. Wasn’t that good. The foccacia didn’t have a very strong herbal flavor; it was more like plain bread, only chewier. The cardomon(sp?) overpowered the soup. We also got a baked cheetos type of chip which was pretty good.

  173. pen

    Cindy and I went to Bombay this past week. It’s located in Discovery Bay in Waikiki, across from the Ilikai and next to Shanghai Bistro. I think we both enjoyed ourselves overall.

    Food: Quite good, but a little on the expensive side. We had samosas (they were big and stuffed with mashed potatos and peas). They came with 2 dipping sauces: a rather sweet, slightly tangy tamarind sauce and a fresh, herbal slightly spicy cilantro sauce. Both were good, but I liked the sharp taste of the cilantro sauce a little better.
    We also ordered the chicken tikka masala (a house specialty at $16) and baingan bhartha (baked and mashed eggplant cooked with onions, tomatoes, and spices at $12) which was a little spicier than the more mellow chicken tikka, which had lots of tumeric and was in that milky curry sauce. I enjoyed the baingan bhartha more and Cindy liked the tikka masala better. Both entrees came with a scoop of basmati rice and a micro salad…and when I say micro, I mean micro. It was litterally 5 small ripped pieces of manoa-type lettuce and 6 slivers of purple cabbage. As Cindy said, it was more “garnish” than salad.
    They had a special garlic nan that day. Cindy and I shared one…it was very good. Not overpowering, but garlicky.
    We also both had the mango lassi, which was yummy, cool and refreshing. If we go back, we decided to make sure we order our dishes “spicy” because it would have made the dishes taste better.
    We ended the meal with gulab jamun (2 fried golf-ball sized dough balls swimming in a not-as-sweet-as-it-looked pool of honey, about $5), mainly because the Weekly reviewer raved about it (Cindy and I were both full already). It was okay…not as good as the reviewer made it out to be, but worth trying.

    Service: Not that great. Our samosas came after our main dishes (and we had to ask for it). There was some mix up as to whether our waiter put in our order (the other guy said we were not charged for it), but when we asked our waiter directly, he acted like he knew we wanted them (he didn’t write our order down). The wait staff was not particularly responsive or helpful (I asked about this chicken 56 appetizer and the waiter wasn’t too enthusiastic…I still want to try it!) and he never asked us if we wanted our dishes “spicy.” The water-filler dudes on the other hand, were right on their game (Mitchell, you would love it!)

    Ambiance: Pretty good. A little dark and some of the tables are a bit close together, but not unlike many other restaurants (Alan Wong’s, 3660, etc.) The space seems open and friendly and a little sophisticated with the dark wood furnishings). It’s Waikiki, so everything from people dressed up for a special occasion to tourists in shorts were there. I felt comfortable and relaxed. You can sit and talk. (In fact the table next to us had two guys that were complaining about the food…something about the crab tasting like tuna and some other stuff. It seemed like they planned to eat there, but after having the appetizers and experiencing the clumsy waiter who had cutlery clanging all over the place, decided to get their check and not have dinner there…oh well…)

    Overall: Worth going a second time and trying some other dishes…perhaps the chicken tandoori or grilled lamb. It’s a little expensive and the wait staff leaves a bit to be desired, but I did feel satisfied when I left. Cindy and I walked from my apt. (isn’t it terrible when you anticipate your gluttony?) which really helped after that meal! Anyone interested in checking out Bombay let me know, because despite some hiccups, I’d like to go again!

  174. pen

    Some friends and I checked out Robata Grill on the corner of University Avenue and Dole St. They have “validated” parking (they double or triple park your car in the lot).

    Food: Different. This is a Tsukeuneya-style restaurant (indicates a region in Japan that prepares this type of food). Tsukuneya-style involves chicken ground with mountain yam (yamaimo?) and a plethora of spices, then grilled or fried in various meatball-like forms. The prices on the menu are for one portion, but when you order the tsukuneya, you must order a minimum of 2 orders. Of course, we had to try the house specialty (tsukune), so we had the “teriyaki” version ($4.50 for 3) which was the ground chicken mixture mashed onto wooden skewers and grilled with a teriyaki glaze. We also tried the “mixed cheese” version ($5.00 for 2) which was supposed to have cheese in the middle of the chicken mixture, which was subsequently mashed on a wooden skewer. Ground chicken and cheese may sound odd, but I was willing to give it a try because I love cheese; and after having the awesome cheese/lotus root thing at Kai, I was willing to be a little adventurous. There was a trace of pale yellow melty-cheese like substance when I bit into the skewer, but that was it. I couldn’t taste the cheese at all. They also stuff the chicken/yam/spice mixture into “shiitake mushrooms” ($5.00 for 2) which was awesome. I really liked that one.
    The menu offers more than tsukune, though. We shared the “tofu dengaku” ($6.50) which was grilled with some kind of yummy sauce on it. I normally am not a tofu fan, but I ate two pieces. The “steak” ($26.00) was pricy, but good. Well-flavored, cut into strips, it came on a cast-iron platter with fresh beans, carrots and what looked like frozen french fries from a package. Obviously, the french fries were unnecessary (and bland and a bit mushy), but the rest of it was good. We also tried the “veggie kamameshi” ($8.75) which was rice cooked in a pot with veggies. The rice was not really koge on the bottom (which is the way I like it!), but just a pale brown. It comes with a dashi broth that you can pour into your rice and eat it like chazuke (my apologies if I am spelling these words incorrectly). It was quite flavorful.
    My friend tried the “panna cotta” ($4.75) for dessert. My suggestion is that you skip it and go to Bubbies or something instead. The panna cotta was a little too hard (gelatinized) for me. Also, it came in a glass and was topped with this unnaturally bright red syrup that tasted a bit like cough syrup to me.

    Service: It was pretty attentive, but they did not come around with the water enough. The water was served from these jugs that had charcoal in them…for purification. The wait staff was pleasant and they are willing to explain everything on the menu to you.

    Ambiance: Quite relaxing. There is a bar in the front with an assortment of alcoholic beverages and, of course, sake. The lighting is soft without being too dark and there is a separate “tatami-like” room that is screened off in the back, if you have a group and want some privacy. There is a long bar as soon as you enter. There were a lot of Japanese-speaking people there, as well as a menu in Japanese.

    Overall: It’s a little different from other izakaya-type places, so worth a try. Personally, I think I would prefer to eat at Kai or Tokkuri-Tei on Kapahulu Ave.

  175. Reid

    Wow, two really good reviews by Penny. Thanks!

  176. Mitchell

    Natsunoya Tea House
    Makanani Street (Alewa Heights)

    You all know where this is. It’s a party room, but has recently begun selling okazu in the mornings (6 a.m. to 1 p.m.) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. As okazu goes, it’s a bit on the pricey side if you ask me, but the food is GOOD. Strong recommendation from me. I’m still working my way through the various offerings, but so far I really like the garlic chicken and the hamburger steak. There are a few premade bentos available for grab-and-go, and I’ve availed myself of a few of those. Good stuff.

  177. Reid

    Mac 24/7
    (Prince Kuhio; free parking)

    This is the relatively new 24 hour upscale diner. I read about the hubcapped sized pancakes, so I was intrigued. We had the “Elvis,” which came with a peanut butter sauce and bacon (chopped). The sauce was drizzled with the sauce and the bacon is spread over and between the pancakes. You get three huge pancakes that could feed 4-6 people. The pancakes itself were kinda bland and unremarkable, except for the size.

    I liked the peanut butter sauce, and it was an OK match with the bacon. I needed more sauce, which they gave on the side.

    Larri and I shared that, but she also ordered the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. The soup was really strong and kinda creamy; the kind that could pass for a marinara sauce. The sandwiches were unremarkable.

    The decor has that contemporary “cold” steel, marble minimalist look. If you like that sort of thing, then you’ll probably like the ambiance here.

    Oh, the service was not very good. We were at the counter, and they were really slow. The bartender was nice enough, but I think the problem could have been the set-up.

    They have some other things on the menu that looked interesting–e.g. lobster pot pie. The saimins were also super huge.

  178. Reid

    Souvaly
    (Pearl City; next to Flamingo’s)

    This is a relatively new Thai restaurant in Pearl City. For some reason, there aren’t many Thai places on the Leeward side, which is a shame, as I love the food.

    Anyway, a friend of mine works here and she gave us some recommendations. One of her favorite dishes was the pineapple fried rice. That’s right, pineapple. She first thought it was a dish designed to appease caucasian palatte. She discovered that they actually make this in Thailand. (Actually, I don’t know if it’s from Thailand. The restaurant serves dishes from other Southeastern countries–e.g. Laos). The dish comes in a scooped out pineapple, and includes cashews and raisins. You can order this with chicken, beef and shrimp. We got chiken. It was a pretty good, even though I don’t like raisins. The pineapple added a nice freshness.

    With the fried rice, we had “holy basil.” I can’t remember all the ingredients, but the dish has a strong basil flavor. We ordered ours with beef, and I liked it. We also had the sweet chili basil sea bass. The sauce was a sweet (a little too sweet) with a nice bit of heat.

    The best dish was the dungeoness crab curry. This comes at the market price (which was $45 that night). The best thing is the sauce. It’s a kinda of sweet, peanutly curry sauce. Plus, they have sauteed onions and peppers. The crab guts and extra crab meat are all sort of mixed into the sauce, too. Seriously, I could have just eaten the sauce over rice and I would have been happy. I don’t know if the sauce is better than the Pad Pet at Male, but I think it edges it a bit. (I haven’t tried the pad pet in a long time though.)

    They have some interesting things on the menu, and I wouldn’t mind going back again.

    Oh, the ambiance is sort of classy (like Hale Vietnam), but I think you could dress casually.

  179. pen

    Restaurant Epic has re-opened and it is great. Four and a half stars!

    Food: Amazing. There were a few hiccups, but only 1/2 a star’s worth. Reid, Larri and I checked it out last night. We tried a special appetizer of escargot with mushrooms, pancetta, and bleu cheese in what seemed to be a veal demiglace. Couldn’t really taste the pancetta. The sauce was awesome, but slightly overpowered the escargot, which seemed a bit overcooked. We did not care if it was uncouth, we both asked for extra bread just to eat that sauce (I know, I know, since when did we care about couth?)
    The Epic sushi roll boasts scallops and crab, but they are not in the roll. I think the scallops were made into a mousse and put atop the sushi along with a crab/mayo salad and it was topped by caviar.
    Reid had the Saikyo Miso Syle Butterfish. When the wait staff asked how he liked it (it is supposed to be one of the more popular items on the menu), he responded that the rice was a little salty and there was too much of a citrus bite (yuzu?) in the sauce. He said the fish was fine, but something that you could have anywhere.
    I had the Daube or beef short ribs braised in a dark, meaty, slightly teriyaki-ish (sweet) sauce served with sauteed vegetables and potatoes lyonaisse. Yum! The meat was so tender and flavorful and just fell off the bone.
    They also offer steaks, a lot of fish and seafood dishes, a duck dish that looks great and also a rack of lamb that I will have to try at some point. The surf and turf and seafood combos allow you to try different things and does not cost much more than a regular entree.
    For dessert we ordered the Swiss Apple Tart, which was good, and made with fresh ingredients, but nothing especially noteworthy. It came with vanilla icecream and went well with the hot, rich coffee. I, of course, needed my chocolate fix and ordered the chocolate souffle. It was good, but just a bit eggy for my taste. I think Roy’s still reigns supreme. (I am being overly critical, because the food was of such great caliber that the tiniest imperfection was noticable).
    When our waiter brought out a lemon sorbet with fresh strawberries, we thought he brought it to the wrong table. But then we found out the manager (or whomever it was my Reid gave his butterfish review to) comped us the sorbet due to Reid’s disappointment with his dish (which did not stop him from cleaning his plate, mind you. In Reid’s defense, he was asked his opinion before he gave it.

    Service: Thus, service was excellent. Very attentive without being claustrophobic. They really care about what you say about their food. The wait staff was friendly, knowledgeable and quick to respond to any requests. Superb!

    Atmosphere: Very cool vibe and classy. Dark lighting, but there was a warmth and intimacy to it. There was enough open space so you do not feel confined or part of the next table’s conversation. It is relaxed. You feel like you could stay all night and talk if you so chose. People were there in “date” clothes, there was the after work crowd and some were even in t-shirts and shorts.

    Overall: A bit pricey, but worth it. The service is top-notch, the food is innovative, with lots of strong, bold flavors (our waiter told us the chef is a saucier, so the sauces were all awesome, except for the yuzu in the butterfish sauce, apparently). An overall relaxing and enjoyable dining experience. I will definitely go back!

    Note: The lunch menu is quite a bit different from the dinner menu. There is very little overlap. Some things offered at lunch, but not at dinner: Calamari Fito, Cassoulet of Wild Mushrooms & Escargot, Grilled Basa, Kobe burger, Panini, Bouillabaisse, Veggie Ravioli, Ahi Nicoise, Asian Pesto Steam Tofu. None of the dinner meat (including chicken) dishes are offered during lunch except for the short ribs.

  180. Reid

    Just a few comments to add to the Epic review. I talked to Penny after reading her review, and I think she would agree that she was gushing a bit. (In her defense, she said her original review sounded too harsh.)

    The food is not great, imo, but the entres look interesting–so much so that I do still feel enthusiastic about the place, even if the dishes weren’t entirely successful. What do I mean by that? The biggest problem was the combination of ingredients not really forming a satisfying whole. For example, the sauce with the escargot was really good, but it didn’t really match well with the escargot, imo. The approach is also different, which I liked, but it just didn’t work well. Same with teh butterfish. The butterfish was basically standard misoyaki that you could get at a decent Japanese restaurant, with that tangy sauce. The sauce was a little over powering, and didn’t quite fit with the fish, imo. The food wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t come together completely.

    The ambiance her is also very appealing, and that’s another reason for going to the restaurant again. Plus, I love the downtown area, too.

  181. Reid

    Chef Mavro

    After reading that this was listed as one of the ten best restaurants in the world by Fodor’s Choice, I was curious to try this place. I had heard it was really good, really expensive with really small portions. (A friend said he almost walked out.) My co-worker gave me a certificate to the place, which gave Larri and I the perfect excuse to finally try this place.

    The restaurant only offers several different prix fixe menus–three, four, six or a special eleven course meal ($65, $71, $104, $150, respectively). You can also order a menu with a specific wine pairing with each dish, which raises the price considerably–but worth it, imo. Larri got the four course meal, while I got the six course. They actually encourage ordering this way, as it allows you to sample the different dishes. (Our waitress, Sara, was friendly, patient and put me us at ease (read: not snobby).

    Before any of the dishes arrived, the waitress brought out dinner rolls. It was those small, round crusty types. The bread was a bit sweet in the Assagio mode. Solid.

    Next, they brought out tiny cups of vichyssoise(sp?) with celery and a lemon foam. We mixed the soup and drank it from a thick straw. It was OK. (Larri didn’t care for it.)

    The next dish was the first course. Larri had the maitake mushroom and aspargus salad. This dish came with hamakua maitake, jumbo asaparagus, braised salsify, poached quail eggs and summer savory essence of asparagus. Larri didn’t care for it, and I just thought it was OK. I think this was the first time I had quail eggs. I was surprised by their mild flavor.

    My first course was seared hudson valley foie gras on spiced mango, frise lettuce tossed with foie gras glaze and mango bread. I had this was the a bordeux. This mango and foie gras pairing was nice although not spectacular. The wine was a highlight for me. I loved it! It was a sweet wine, that was a nice complement to this dessert like dish.

    Larri’s second course was the day’s catch–haupu’upu (I think that’s correct; it’s a type of sea bass) in a raite sauce with fricassee of English peas, manoa lettuce and bacon. Our waitress said she loved the texture of this dish, one of her favorites. Larri and I were both disappointed a little. It wasn’t bad, but it was a bit mushy. The flavors of both the fish and the sauce were just OK.

    I also had a fish dish, a confit of hamachi escabehce, accompanied with baby carrot, turnip, shallot, marinated with coriander, garlic, thyme and fried celery leaves. I love hamachi, but either the fish lacked flavor or the other ingredients overpowered it. I did like the crunch and taste of the vegetables. The highlight was the wine once again–a white wine from Hungary. So far the food was OK, but nothing really special. Besides the wine, I’m not so impressed.

    I also had another seafood dish coming, Keahole lobster a la coque. This came with sauteed leeks, garlic shoots, white asparagus, avocado mousse, star anise lobster essence. The lobster was kinda dull, but the star anise added a nice subtle flavor. Add the vegetables, which came in a mustard type sauce, followed by the avocado and wine (pinot noir), and you had a really nice combination. None of the components were outstanding, but together they really made for a nice combination. This was the best dish so far.

    Now on to the “main course”–the meat dishes. Larri had the Snake River farm Kobe-style beef. This came with a short-rib, pancetta Brussel sprouts, truffle accented celery root puree, pinot noir sauce. This was killer! I could have eaten each part of this dish separately. The kobe-style bavette was really good in the wine sauce. Normally, I don’t care for sauces, but this was enhanced the existing flavor of the steak without overpowering it. It was extremely tender, too, making it one of the best steaks I’ve had. Usually, when I go to a restaurant specializing in steak, I don’t feel like the steaks are worth the price. This is the first time I didn’t feel that. The short rib was solid, too, although Larri and I felt like 12th Avenue’s original version was just as good if not better. The Brussels sprouts with pancetta were awesome, too. They reminded me of cabbage and bacon that my mom makes. The celery root puree might have been better. It had the consistency and look of really soft mashed potatoes. With the truffle essence, this was outstanding. Unfortunately, Larri wasn’t as enthusiastic about this dish. (She thought it was just OK.)

    For my dish I had the roasted mountain meadow lamb loin. This came with spiced green olives, chickpea puree and confit big wave tomato. The spiced gren olives were crushed and sprinkled on top of silver dollar sized lamb. The lamb (a bit gamey) and the chickpea puree was just OK. The big wave tomato (which the waitress said took fourteen hours to cook) was awesome–sweet, concentrated tomato flavor! I was a bit disappointed at first, but taking a bite of all the ingredients together, and I started really enjoying this dish, especially finishing it off with the wine (a red from WA). It wasn’t very daring, but it made for a very satisfying combination.

    My dish was followed by Big Island goat cheese mousse. This came on top of a anis-biscotti and white peach with maple syrup accent and hirabara baby greens. The wine was a Spanish white wine. There was a huge dollop of goat cheese, which I probably should not have finished. It went well with the peach, maple and biscotti. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I ate less of the cheese. The wine was awesome once again.

    I think after this dish they brought up watermelon in champagne gelatin with some mint. Good and refreshing.

    Finally, dessert. Larri had the lilikoi malasadas with pineapple-coconut ice-cream with guave coulis. The waitress this was dish was on the original menu, and I can understand why. It not only has that tropical-Hawai’i thing going, but it’s good. The malasadas were lightly fried (they were filled with lilikoi cream), and just tasted yummy with everything. Not super daring or original, but good nonetheless.

    I had the chocolate feuillantine. This was a hazelnut chocolate marquise (basically a bar of chocolate), chilled mocha parfait (a small block of ice-cream), espresso granita (shaved ice on the top of the parfait) and a small dollop of grapefruit marmalade on the side. This is not a dessert I would choose, but all the ingredients worked nicely together, again, especially with the wine.

    OK, so the verdict? I loved this place. The best fine dining experience I had was at the now closed, Padovanni’s*. This is definitely up there–the wine being a big reason for that. Imo, the quality of the food here is definitely above restaurants like Roy’s and Alan Wong’s–primarily for the blend of blend of flavors. Then again, I never had wine picked specifically for each dish–at those places.

    The wine was a huge part of my enjoyment of the meal. It’s really interesting the effect the wine had on me. It wasn’t just about taste, but the sensation that you get from drinking a good wine. Your taste buds sparkle, become more alive. The scary thing is that I could have drunk bottles of the wine I had. (That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get into drinking wine.) Just writing about this makes me wish I could drink some more now.

    The other part of my enjoyment had to do with the blending of different flavors, the way these flavors and textures formed a complete dish–especially when the combinations seem unnusual or improbable. This is just as much a stimulation of the mind as the pallette, and it takes real skill and artistry to pull this off. There are dishes where the individual components can taste good, and, in fact, the entire dish tastes OK, but they don’t come together really well. (See the review above regarding Epic.) When you find a chef that can bring these flavors together in a subtle and sophisticated way, it can be a real pleasure. If you don’t care about what I’m talking about, then Chef Mavro is probably not worth the price.
    The portions are small, although I was full by the end of the meal. (However, Larri and I ate a two or three pork hash and half moon three hours before the meal.)

    Some comments about the service and ambiance. The service was very good. They were real attentive about refilling water and rolls. Our waitress wasn’t stuffy and basically didn’t bug us. The ambiance reminded me of a Waikiki hotel–you had nice vases of tropical flowers and paintings of Hawaiian themes.

    *
    I’ve been thinking about the difference between my experience of Padovanni’s and Mavro’s. I longed for the food at P’s days after we ate there. With Mavro, it was the combination of ingredients, but mainly the wine that sticks in my mind. In one sense, the individual components of the dishes at M weren’t very special but the combinations really worked well together. At P’s it was different. Well, I had the salmon confit, which was almost like a broth-stew. Larri’s steak with foie gras was killer by itself. At M’s you have a mini meal with starch, vegetables and an entre and they’re good together, but not individually. I’d go back to P’s just for the food. I don’t know if I’d want to go back to M’s without the wine.

  182. Reid

    Helena’s (School Street; across from Mitsu-Ken)

    This is a Hawaiian food place that I’ve seen for a while, but I never really heard anything about it. Recently, I read a review about their really good squid luau, and one of the secretaries at Farrington said this was her favorite Hawaiian food place.

    The verdict? The squid luau is ono. It’s definitely the best I’ve had (except for maybe one homemade version from a friend). In addition to the squid luau, we got the chicken long-rice, short-rib pipikaula, lau-lau, kalua pig, poi/rice and haupia. The chicken long-rice was good, especially if you like your long-rice gingery. They had the right amount of salt and didn’t skimp on chicken. I’m a short-ribs fan, and so I really enjoyed the pipikaula treatment. Basically, the ribs were like kal-bi except without the sugar and garlic (I think). I was happy with the lau-lau because I thought they were going to be smaller. The pork was tasty, although it overpowered the fish. The luau life wasn’t that great either, but not bad by a longshot. (Yama’s and Young’s still have the best.) The kalua pig was solid, too. The menu says they cook it in an imu, but I thought I detected that liquid smoke taste. Whatever it was, I liked it. The haupia was good, but it was a bit jello-y, and lacked the afterkick that is in the best haupia I’ve had, the one at Yama’s. The whole meal came out to about $26, and we were pretty full.

    Helena’s serves combination plates, but none of them have lau-lau. Anyway, this is definitely one of the better Hawaiian food places out there, especially for their squid luau. Oh, I forgot to talk about that. Basically, they get the right balance of coconut milk and whatever other flavors in there. You can tell they take care in their cooking here, which is a good sign.

  183. Reid

    I sometimes complain to Larri about the dearth of good restaurants on the Leeward side. Well, I recently discovered two places that deserve more attention.

    If you haven’t heard about it yet, you need to check out the tasty chicken at the newly established restaurant, The Alley at Aiea Bowl. Yep, the bowling alley. They’ve created a slightly upscale dinerish space in the mode of the nicer Zippy’s restaurants. Like Zippy’s The Alley serves local Japanese-American food. The one dish that sure to be a hit is the tasty chicken which is basically a boneless deep-fried chicken karaage. The batter is on the whiter and lighter side with sweet and spicy sauce. The price for a plate is around $9, but the portions are large. I believe this dish can challenge Mitsu-Ken and Sugoi’s garlic chicken (And don’t even mention En Fuego’s).

    I can’t remember the other dishes, but most of them are standard stuff. They’re garlic fries were pretty good. Instead of using minced garlic, I think they just use garlic powder or salt. They also serve ochazuke bowls, which I never tried. Finally, they have some fancy desserts. The waitress recommended a lemon tart/cake that was quite tasty. It was one of those sponge cake layered things, with some crispy crumbling on top.

    The other place I want to mention is Young’s Kal-bi. This is located in the strip mall, makai of Aiea Shopping Center. I haven’t tried many of their dishes, but they have one of the best Korean bbq chickens I’ve tasted. No, it’s not flame-broiled like Kim-chee, but I like their sauce better. They also give you a huge amount–six pieces (the rices comes in a separate container). I think I tried the meat-jun, but it was just OK. Anyway, I love bbq chicken, so I had to mention this place.

  184. Reid

    Downtown @ HiSAM

    HiSAM stands for “Hawai’i State Art Museum.” Downtown is the second restaurant (as far as I know) by Ed Tenney, owner of Town. When this placed first opened up, Larri and I went down to check out the menu. We weren’t that impressed, so we never had a strong desire to go back.

    This summer we decided to give it a try. Luckily we did. The first time we went the restaurant was closed, so we didn’t see the anti-pasti, panini and quiche sandwiches they had out on the take-out side of the restaurant. For around $8 you can get a variety of combinations of anti-pasti (mostly three choices out of a selection of about six items) with either panini, quiche or soup. (I believe they also have a soup and sandwich combo.)

    That’s what Larri and I went for. I got a vegetarian quiche with carrot-hummus, mushrooms (in olive oil), and I can’t remember the third thing. Larri got the ham panini sandwich and soup with some sides. I can’t remember the sides she got now, but we were both satisfied. The food seems to have a strong mediterranean flavor.

    The sit-down section’s menu is pricier–up to $16–but I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.

    On First Friday’s they also serve Spanish tapas. We went this past Friday and enjoyed it. I’ll try to list everything we ate with some commentary:

    –ham and cheese croquettes: basically what the name says. They were about the size of large silver dollars; didn’t seem very Spanish; (4 pieces for $4)
    –opelu: this was cured with olives and oranges. The flavors blended well together, and I was surprised to like this. (two small slivers for about $6)
    –squash blossoms with ricotta: deep fried. Yum! (three small pieces for $5, I think);
    –stuffed pepper: I forget the name of the pepper, but it was basically a tiny red pepper stuffed with ahi (like shreded tuna) and potatoes. It was OK.
    –apple and bloodsausage risotto: I like Kenney’s risotto. His use of fruit really brings a sutble flavor and texture to the dish. The sausage, ground finely, was nice a zesty (I think this was $6-$8; Larri liked this, too).
    –Larri also ordered a sandwich with anti-pasti: mushrooms, lentils and a roasted vegetables. The sandwich was just OK; anti-pasti was better.

    I can’t remember what else we got, if we got anything else. But the bill came out to about $50 with tip, and we tried a lot of stuff. The other thing is that I didn’t feel really grossed out after the meal, even though I was really full. It’s definitely a place I would check out again. Hey idiots, let’s go on the next First Friday!

    Oh one more thing. I like the ambiance, but there’s something that bugs me; I think it’s the concrete floor. The music is piped through some horrid speakers that makes you feel like you’re in Gems. But I like the modernish and spare furniture and design of the place (except for something–the floor?).

    Up next: review of ‘Elua

  185. Reid

    Downtown @ HiSAM (con’t)

    We went again last night, another First Friday. The menu was not very appealing, so we only got a few stuff:

    fried ricotta stuffed squash(?) blossoms (good)
    beef carpaccio with black truffle oil and maui onion (OK)
    maderia chicken with cous-cous (Very good)
    Dates wrapped with a type of ham (good)
    deviled eggs (like any other deviled eggs)
    ham and cheese croquettes (OK, pretty standard)

    Normally, I don’t care for roasted chicken with the bones or cous-cous served as the starch, but the Madeira chicken above is an exception. I also don’t like nuts in the grain, but, again, this dish is an exception. The flavors are really good in this. There were also bits of fruit (pear?) in the cous-cous that worked really well.

    There are certain items at both Town and Downtown that just don’t work very well, and if you get those items you won’t think highly of both places. But there are dishes that work really well. So far it seems that the Mediterranean stuff are really good–brown rice tabouli, and the Madeira chicken. Kenney’s risottos are also very good.

    Now on to ‘Elua (where the old L’Uraku was on Kapiolani)

    I haven’t been enthusiatic about writing about this place. Perhaps, it’s because my original experience at a Padovanni restaurant was so memorable, and this recent experience so forgettable.

    The service was not very good. We considered cancelling because they insisted that they could not accomodate one additional last minute add on. The restaurant didn’t seem really crowded when we got there, although it filled up later. The waiter didn’t seem very knowledgeable about the food either, although that wasn’t a big issue.

    The main problem was the food, particularly at the prices they set. I had a veal dish, which was strongly recommended by the waiter. Yes, it was OK, but nothing that would make me come back. I also had the suggested wine with the dish, which I didn’t care for. Let me back up. I started with the terrine of foie gras, which I didn’t care for. The taste was kinda bland. Maybe that’s who it supposed to taste, but I didn’t care for it. The wine paired with the dish was OK. (It was almost $30!)

    The other dishes just seemed OK, too. A lot of people got a fish dish that had a Thai curry type of sauce, which looked good, but I didn’t get to try it. My niece had a paparadelle with wild board ragut. Good, but nothing great.

    By the way, “Elua divides the menu in two: on one side you can get dishes prepared by Phillpe Padovanni and the other by the chef from Donato (can’t recall his name). The Donato’s food tastes very similar except it seems a little more expensive. If you like the food, I’d go to his Basta Pasta, which is very similar (if not the same) at a cheaper price.

    Finally, the ambiance was really dull and drab. There were lots of dark wood and high leather backed chairs that made the place feel like an old cigar room/men’s club. I don’t know, but I didn’t like the vibe.

    I have no desire to return to this place.

  186. Reid

    Hank’s Haute Dogs
    (on Coral Street in Kakaako)

    I was excited to try this place because I like sausages, and I read that Hank’s was serving a variety of sausages–Portuguese, Polish, Italian, chicken, among others.

    Hank has local roots although he was supposedly a successful restauranteur in Chicago. Here are some of the “dogs” I’ve tried:

    Chicago dog: This came with the works, Chicago style–pickles, relish, tomato and onions. Hank’s brings the condiments from Chicago. (He told me that just by the smell he can tell if it’s from Chicago, or something to that effect.) The relish were a bright green and definitely had a different taste. (I can’t really describe it, but it had a fresher, crisper quality.) More importantly, Hank brings in the Vienna brand sausages for this dog. He told me that what separates this from stuff from Costco is the casing. The verdict? It was OK. I don’t care for all the condiments, and the dog was OK, nothing spectacular. I honestly didn’t think it was better than Sam’s Club’s polish or all-beef dogs. Plus, Sam’s is cheaper and a bit bigger. (Hank”s are about six inches)

    Bratwurst I wanted this grilled, but they do this boiled. I thought it was a little mushy and not kinda bland.

    Italian This was pretty good, although not something I would make a strong effort to get. (This is served only on Tuesday.)

    They have daily specials. According to Hank the favorite of the people working there is the rabbit. He thinks it has something to do with the spices/seasoning. That’s served on Wednesday.

    They also have a duck and foie gras dog, and Hank is excited about the a new seafood sausage he’ll offer soon.

    The dogs are between $5-$6.

    Oh yeah, one of the best things I liked was the dipping sauces he had for the fries–curry ketchup, wasabi-cream and some kind of aioli. They were all tasty.

  187. Mitchell

    About Young’s: That’s an HBA family. Sent two kids there, and I taught them both. This is the restaurant that used to be in Aiea Shopping Center, where the Jamba Juice is now. Good food. When I first moved back after I graduated UHH, I ate there quite often.

    Grace, Penny, and I went to New Mui Kwai on Liliha. Grace is something of an expert on the place, but Penny and I had never tried it. We had, of course, the honey-glazed walnut shrimp, which was quite good. Penny commented that she always appreciated it when the walnuts were sprinkled with sesame seeds, which these were. The shrimp were brought to the table with the tail removed, which I definitely appreciated, and you could see all the mayo the cook used right on the shrimp. I can’t honestly tell the difference between one restaurant’s take on this and any other’s.

    We also had a garlic eggplant dish that was very tasty and satisfying. I’m not sure what could have been done to ruin a dish like this, but you don’t have to have fireworks in your mouth for something to be good. I found this to be the most pleasurable of the dishes we tried.

    Finally, we had a sizzling barbecue beef platter. The beef was fine. Nothing to write home about, really, and I’d have liked more bell peppers, but neither was there anything to complain about.

  188. Reid

    Right now Young’s Kal-bi makes my favorite bi-bim bap (I get it with chicken). They load the vegetables, which includes the kim-chee daikon and tofu! I get mine without rice and more vegetables, and I usually add brown rice at home. I eat this almost once a week.

    Ichiriki

    Larri and I went here for lunch. I’m not a big nabe fan. A brothy soup with some vegetables and meat, just doesn’t seem to excite me very much. But I wasn’t that hungry, and I wasn’t crazing anything in particular. Thus, this was the perfect time to go for this. Plus, I was going to a party that night so I didn’t want to eat a heavy lunch.

    I tried the pirikara ($11 for lunch). I haven’t tried many nabes, but I enjoyed this. It came with cabbage, inoki mushrooms, one shiitake, one scallop, green onions, potato noodles and beef.

    While I didn’t LOVE it, I liked it, and it’s low-calorie make-up makes this a good dish–actually a good replacement for ramen, which I haven’t really eaten very much.

    Btw, Joel’s girlfriend is from Japan, and she thought the shiru was too sweet. I know what she means, but I didn’t have a problem with it.

  189. Reid

    Hank’s Haute Dogs pt 2

    I went this past Friday to try their lobster dog. The “dog” is made up of scallops, shrimp and fish in addition to the lobster. It also comes with the wasabi aioli sauce, takuan (real mild) and I think the Chicago relish. (The owner really tries to get the right condiments, so you should try what he recommends.) The concept of a seafood sausage appeals to me because I love seafood and I love sausages. However, most of the ones I’ve had in the past have been disappointing. The seafood is usually mashed and blended together creating a vienna sausage type consistency. The flavors are indistinct and bland.

    Not so with this lobster dog. The casing gives is a firmer texture, and the seafood inside is not so mushy (although it’s far from crisp), and the flavors really blend well. I must say the condiments also really add to the dog, too.

    However, the downside is that the dogs are not very big–similar in size to a typical oscar meyer dog. And they’re not cheap, coming in at a $10.50! They’re very good though–definitely the best I’ve had there.

    I also tried their rabbit and veal sausage. The owner said that this was the favorite of all the workers there. It was good, and up until the lobster sausage this was probably the best I had. Having said that, I can barely recall the taste of the sausage. The sausage was kinda mild in flavor, but the seasoning and condiments worked well with this. I can’t remember the price but it was over $5.

    I’m going to try their duck foie gras and kobe beef; the latter developed by Chef Dale from Bravo’s Top Chef program. According to the owner, Dale was one of the cooks at the upscale restaurant he owned in Chicago.

  190. Reid

    Mix Cafe (Berentania; between Fort St. and Bethel St.)

    I’ve been checking out several of the items at this place. The place is run by a Italian transplant (nice guy). On the menu are mostly breakfast and lunch items.

    I wrote about the waffles and pancakes in the pancake thread. They’re not the best, but they’re good. I especially like the fruit compote-like toppings. Recently, I tried several of his sandwiches:

    Roast pork: Most of the sandwiches come on baguettes. Bruno pairs the meat with a specific cheese; this one comes with stilton. The dish is accompanied by mixed greens and small side of roasted vegetables and tortilla chips. I thought the sandwich was decent. I liked the cheese, but I thought it overpowered the meat. (It would be nice if he gave a little more.)

    Mozarella, mushroom and tomoto: The cheese is of the buffalo variety. This was similar to a caprese type sandwich.

    Mix also serves several pasta dishes. I wanted to try his italian sausage dish since the owner told me that he makes his own sausage, but they ran out by the time I got there. Instead, I tried the meatball pasta, which came in a tomato sauce. The meatballs were OK. The pasta was the bow-tie variety, and it was just OK, too.

    The review doesn’t sound that great, and I wouldn’t say that I’ve been blown away, but I have a heart for this place. I guess, I like the owner; the quaint space and the menu he’s striving for.

  191. Reid

    Sushi Ten (Waikele Golf Course)

    Both Don and Marc raved about the yosenabe at this place and I finally got to try it There was definitely a lot of stuff in it, but the broth and flavor weren’t nearly as good as the one at Ichiriki. You get loads of vegetables and seafood though. It’s not something I have strong desire to go back to, though.

  192. Reid

    The Fat Greek (at the corner of Wai’alae Ave and St. Louis Drive)

    I had the chicken souvlaki ($10), and Larri had the gyros. We also ordered the hummus and (accidently) feta cheese (Larri wanted it on her salad)–which came with pita and two huge pieces of cheese. The hummus was just OK. The pita was toasted which was a good thing.

    I gotta say the souvlaki was very disappointing. At that prices I was thinking I was going to get a plate of food, similar to Greek Corner. Instead, I got a pita sandwich–which to me tasted very similar to Jack n’ Box’s fajita pita; the chicken tasted like it was fried on a grill instead of roasted. The tazijiki (sp?) sauce was bland. They did serve it with a zesty tomato sauce. That was pretty good. The dish came with a salad, which was OK. We also had a the baklava, which was OK (not as good as Greek Corner).

    The thing that bothered me was that at $12, I could get the chicken souvlaki plate at Greek Corner, with a bit more food (rice) and better quality.

  193. Reid

    Imanas

    Larri and I finally visited this place. I heard their chanko nabe was really good, so we tried that. The verdict? It was awesome! I’ve only had two other nabes (that I can recall): one from Ichiriki (the pirikara) and one from Sushi-Ten. The one at Imanas was definitely the best. You get your mixed assortment of meats and vegetables–shiitake, makina, shrimp, scallops, clams, chicken, pork, etc. The broth was very good, although I don’t really know if it’s really distinctive. (At first the nabe didn’t seem very big, but they keep replenshing the broth if you run low; they did it twice for us.)

    But the best part of the meal was at the end. You get to have udon or rice with egg. The waiter said a lot of people like the rice–so much so that people say that’s the part they wait for. Of course, we had to try it. When all the meat and vegetables are eaten, the waiter brought over some whisked eggs and rice; she dumped into the soup. After cooking for a couple of minutes the steaming porridge was ready. We added some sliced nori which came on the side, and Larri added copious amounts of the chili pepper flakes. It was delic! And there was a lot–so much so we couldn’t eat it all.

    The meal was $22 per person and you need a minimum of 2 people. Call in at 3:30 for reservations

  194. Reid

    Cafe Taj Mahal
    (Across from City Mill on Waialae Ave–the tiny strip mall with terrible parking.)

    This is a new Indian restaurant next to the new Greek restaurant at the bottom of Waialae Ave. It was pretty good, very similar in price and quality to Cafe Maharani. I don’t think I can remember everything we had, but we tried to the vegetable biryani (good) and the chicken tikka masala (OK). There was an appetizer that was like tasted like a chicken version of fishcake (spongy consistency). The parking was bad, but the food was pretty good.

    Larri and I actually went back to Maharani for a comparison. What we had there recently was better than the food at Taj Mahal. At Maharani we had the chicken biryani (disappointing–not very flavoful), chicken vindaloo (good), shrimp DoPiaza (really good–it’s tomato based with onions; it’s almost like Italian and Indian fusion) and the mixed vegetable masala (good).

    Tango

    This is that new-ish bistro near Ward Centre, right next to PF Chang’s. I was disappointed in this. The menu wasn’t very exciting, and the execution didn’t change my mind. We started with the crabcakes with portabello mushrooms. Just OK. We also tried to salmon dish (havlax?)-which was cured salmon with mustard and some potato salad. The salmon was way too salty for me. I didn’t finish it.

    For the entres we had the risotto with shrimp and asapargus. Good, but not great. Larri had the braised short ribs. The cuts of meat and the texture was a lot like Ige’s shoyu pork. It was OK, but not great. Penny had the duck which was alright. I didn’t care for the sauce.

    For dessert, we tried the creme brulee, kona coffee cake and I can’t remember the other dish. It wasn’t that great. I don’t have any desire to give this place another shot.

    On a side note: we recently went to 12th Ave Grill for dessert. They served a ginger souffle with chocolate layer in the middle. The ginger was subtle and there was subtle carmelized flavor on the outside. One of the better desserts we’ve had there since Lisa Siu stopped doing their desserts.

  195. pen

    Cafe TajMahal aka Maharani, Jr. was good. I liked it, but if it were a sitcom sibling, it would be Jan Brady to Maharani’s Marcia Brady. Similar, but Maharani is the one you’ll remember after the evening is over. One great thing about TajMahal is that their service is speedy compared to Maharani (where the wait to be seated, the wait to get your order taken and the wait to get your food after you’ve ordered is an ordeal).

    In defense of Tango, it is a great cafe. They’re open for lunch and breakfast on the weekends. I think their food is thoughtful, well-portioned and seasoned well. I agree with Reid re: the gravlax thing. That was horrible (although I am not a fish eater). The rhubarb crumble is good (it’s not in season now, so they have some other fruit). I’ve been there 4 times and really enjoy the food there.

  196. Reid

    Someone else should go to Tango and be the tie-breaker.

    I want to give some props to Don and Tracy for recommending Hula Boba, a shave-ice and bubble tea place. (There are two locations that I know of, one in the Waipahu Town Market, where the old Bigway used to be and the other on Pauahi Street.) They have a shave ice where the ice is basically powered vanilla ice cream, packed into a ball. The toppings are various fruit preserves/jellies, but a little more runny than your typical jam or jelly. I got the strawberry and azuki combo. Larri got a mango and melon combo. It was a little sweet, but not sweeter than your normal shave ice, but it was good. Oh, the ice is probably covered with sweet cream, not vanilla ice cream. If you like Ice Garden, you should give this a shot. I think I like this place better.

    Larri and I also tried Stage for lunch, since Penny raved about their burger, saying it was one of the best she had. The burger came with guacamole, aioli and bacon. I agree those flavors were great and the burger was OK (Larri ordered it medium-well, and I found it dry)–definitely better than Pineapple Room’s. The bun was kinda mediocre. I don’t think it was the best, but it was good.

    I had the lunch prix fixe for $23. I got the tomato soup, which had just the right flavor–not too acidic, not to sweet and not too creamy. I followed that with the lamb ragu, which was pretty disappointing. The fettucine was flavorless and had the consistency of old rubber bands. (I like al dente, but these tasted stale.) The lamb was a bit gamey and the sauce was just OK; it had shiitake, which I didn’t think was a good match. Finally, I got the brownie dessert, which came with ice cream. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. Larri had the apple pie sundae, which was basically apple pie with ice cream. It was good, but nothing spectacular.

    That’s basically my impression of Stage: OK food, maybe even good, but nothing to get excited about and definitely not worth paying a lot of money for. (Even the dinner menu seems boring.)

  197. Reid

    Buon Amici (on Waialae where C&C Pasta Factory used to be)

    We went twice. The first experience was good and the second was less impressive. Here’s a quick run-down of the entres we tried.

    The first time we had the baked brie (around $7-$8, I think). It was just OK, nothing spectacular. Larri also got the spinach salad which came with mushrooms and pancetta and cheese. I thought it was pretty good, while Larri really like it.

    For entres, my brother’s wife got the vegetable risotto. I got to try a bite, and I thought it was good. The risotto was on the dry side, but it had a nice herb flavor to it. Everyone liked it (including Grace, who got it the second time we went).

    I got the beef tenderloin with seared foie gras. I’ve had this before at Padovanni’s, and I loved the dish. Here the tenderloin just OK, but the foie gras was really good. It reminded me of the Padovanni dish. I liked that part of it. The dish came with a good size helping of mashed potatoes.

    Larri got the wide-noodle pasta which I think came in a kind of pink (tomato-cream?) sauce and fennel sausage. Larri never liked fennel in her sausage, but she liked this. (I did too.) The pasta had that nice fresh chewiness. After eating the bland pasta at Stage this tasted great. (Unfortunately, we could not get this with the wide noodle (paparadelle?), so Larri got this with fettucine).

    However, on our second visit, when Larri got the roast chicken with pasta and tomatoes, the pasta was a bit overcooked and…watery. The “sauce” just seemed to be comprised of the leftover water from the cooked pasta. The boneless chicken was also salty and not very noteworthy.

    On my second visit I got the lamb chops, which came with portabello mushrooms and a substantial pile of mashed potatoes. The portions were good, but there was nothing noteworthy about the taste. I felt the same way about the rib-eye. (The meat dishes are in the close to $30.)

    Also, on the first visit my brother got the special, a steak pasta with cream sauce. As you would expect the sauce was kinda heavy, but the noodles were good and the steak was…well, steak.

    Finally, Penny’s friend got the three meat spaghetti, which didn’t taste bad, but did not impress. (The dish tasted like anyone’s mother could have made it.)

    Overall, I’d say don’t go here if you want to be wowed by the food; the taste or the creativity won’t blow you away. But the restaurant has a nice ambiance (it wasn’t crowded when we went, and so the noise level was perfect) and the portions fit what you pay for. Most of the stuff the food is not bad either. I’d go here a change of pace from other Italian places like Assaggio’s.

    Btw, we also went to Town again recently. Now, Town is cheaper than Buon Amici, but they give less food. However, when their dishes work, they are really impressive. I’ve talked about cooks who know how to blend flavors and textures in original and sophisticated ways versus cooks who can make simple dishes that taste good, but lack originality. The cook at Town is one of those guys taking that approach with what is basically comfort food.

    I got to try the roasted chicken with torn bread, that’s more of a simple dish, but I’ve heard people rave about it, so I gave it a shot. I enjoyed, even though I don’t like eating chicken on a bone (there weren’t many bones anyway). Grace had the oxtail risotto which was good. To me, if you like risotto, you should try the ones at Town. They really do a good job. I think Larri had the mon-chong which was delicate and flavorful (although I can’t remember how it was prepared). (The fish dishes are on the smaller size here). Oh, and the house-salad–mango, avocado, almonds (or walnuts) and the “green goddess” dressing is killer. The portion is small, but it’s really good. Don, if you’re reading this, you should give this place another shot. (Don’t go when you’re starving though.)

  198. Reid

    Sugar Rush

    Larri saw this bakery featured on KHON’s Morning News with Manolo Morales. This is a bakery that makes petite cupcakes. Now, normally, I don’t like the word petite to describe food, but in this case, I liked that aspect of the desserts. Think of the way the bit-sized shapes of Famous Amos makes the cookie enjoyable and you get the same idea.

    The problem is what you have to pay for them–between $2.50-$2.75 for one! The taste is not worth it imo, although they’re not bad. Here’s some of the ones we sampled:

    oreo cheesecake
    pineapple cheesecake
    Haole brownie
    red velvet cupcake
    chocolate red velvet cake (This was like a small slice of cake.)
    chocolate macadamia (w/caramel)

    I liked the oreo cheesecake the best, but both cheesecakes weren’t very cheesy or dense. The red velvet cupcake was the only dessert that didn’t work in the small size, I think. I just wanted more of it, I guess. (I think I would have felt the same with less dense cake-like desserts.)

    I guess, it’s worth trying once, but it’s not a place I frequent.

    Poke Stop (next to Sizzler’s in Waipahu)

    Earlier I gave a luke-warm to negative review of this place, but I’ve been trying different things, and it’s become a favorite–primarily because they serve brown rice and fish dishes. They actually have some good combinations. What got me into this place was the Sushi De-Construction Bowl (for about $10). You get seared ahi cajun style, creamy spicy poke (mayo sauce is good), tako and one shrimp. The sauce from the poke goes well with everything, especially the shrimp, I thought.

    They usually have a special featuring a trio of items: crab cake, soft shell crab and a fish. Larri really likes this one. They have a few meat items like kal-bi and smoked meat. (They also have a rib-eye down in a prime rib, salt crusted style, which I haven’t tried.)

    I also liked their TNT fries, which is crinkle cut fries with cajun spices in a mustard mayo sauce. It was kinda pricey (between $4-$5), but I enjoyed it.

    They have a lot of specials involving fish, and when you go there they encourage you to sample the various pokes they have. The cooking style has a slightly upscale approach, like Kakaako Kitchen. If you like Nico’s, you should give this place a shot. I actually prefer this to Nico’s.

  199. pen

    Obviously by reading Reid’s review of Buon Amici, I was there on his second visit. For the most part I agree with him (that chicken and pasta dish was a study in salty and blandness). Grace’s veggie risotto was good. Creamy and had tiny apple chunks inside and the veggies were big and sauteed on top (not mixed into the risotto), which looked like it would have made a nice textural contrast with the soft rice. My ribeye was huge and I enjoyed it for lunch yesterday. Good, but not as great as Le Bistro.

    Reid didn’t mention 2 dishes, so I’ll talk about those. One was the calamari appetizer. It was lightly battered and fried crisp. Good, but not great. There was some kind of mustard/salt thing sprinkled on the outside lip of the dish that tasted pretty good with the calamari. Good, but not outstanding.

    The other dish was the spinach salad, which I liked. It had lots of goodies (no skimping on the bacon and such), but it was a bit overdressed, which resulted in oily spinach leaves. Everything just kind of slid off the glossy leaves. It tasted good, just a tad too much oil.

  200. mitchell

    Holy cow, this thread is four years old!

  201. Reid

    Have you tried the Sizzlin’ Steak place (or something like that) in Kalihi yet?

    Penny,

    I forgot to mention the calamari. Yeah, that wasn’t great, but it was one of the better dishes I think. That mustard (and I don’t know what else) sauce on the side was good, too.

  202. pen

    If any of you are downtown, there is a new Okazuya a few doors makai of Nuuanu Okazuya on Nuuanu Street (half a block makai of Vineyard Blvd.) It’s called Jasmine Local Deli.

    My advice…go to Nuuanu Okazuya. The prices are slightly cheaper, there is more variety and the food is a bit better.

    I was going to Nuuanu Okazuya to pick up my lunch when I saw Jasmine and thought I’d try something new. I tried the furikake chicken (which is huge), the kabocha (soft, but not as much flavor as Nuuanu’s), hamburger patty with katsu sauce on it (pretty ono), and a musubi. No fried rice musubi and the variety of hot dishes Nuuanu offers. Jasmine does have different kind of sausages and egg dishes.

  203. Mitchell

    Blazin’ Steaks opened up in Kalihi near the end of last year in a spot that had previously housed several bad Filipino restaurants. I was at a picnic in December and someone brought steaks from that place, and I was hooked. I was surprised by what I saw when I got in there: They really cleaned that place up. It hadn’t been gross before, but you could see that a lot of effort (not to mention expense) was spent to make it look a lot better. It’s decorated in kind of a biker-bar style, ‘though the decor is really sparse. The entire room is dominated by diamond-plate and a huge, loud television.

    But whatever. You’re there for the steak. Six bucks buys you half a pound of sliced, grilled steak, a side salad (iceberg lettuce, mostly), and a drink. For the same price, there are fish and chicken dishes, too, and you can choose the sauce they are prepared with. I haven’t tried any of those.

    What I have tried is the full-pound steak plate for ten bucks. I planned to have the leftovers for breakfast the next morning but there weren’t any. :sheepish:

    Good steak, simply prepared. They just opened a restaurant in Kapolei, too, so Reid should have an easier time checking it out.

    Kapolei’s also got a Koa Pancake House now, I hear. You already know what you like there, but if you like vinegar (yum!), try the vinha d’alhos.

  204. pen

    Is Blazin’ Steaks run by the same people that run the steak kiosk place in Ward (by the Starbucks by Wahoo?) Is that the kind of steak they serve? You can pick one of 3 or 4 different kinds of sauces for the steak (teriyaki, korean, etc.)

    Speaking of new places opening up in Kalihi, Kam Shopping Center is sporting Church’s Chicken, which according to your on-line journal, you were less than impressed with. I tried it once and I liked it. The chicken was crispy but not overly breaded and juicy on the inside. I especially liked the honey biscuit, which is dripping with butter and honey. I have not tried the fried okra, but plan to the next time I’m in the area.

  205. Reid

    Thanks for comments on Blazin’ Steaks. I believe they’re opening one up near my house in Waipahu.

    Penny,

    There’s also a Church’s in Pearlridge. I tried it and thought it was OK, nothing special.

  206. Reid

    Sushi Sasabune

    I’ve been wanting to go to this place for a long time, and I finally got the chance (and excuse) when Marc came home for his sister’s wedding. I’ve enjoyed Mitch’s, but I’ve heard Sasabune was just as good, if not better.

    I was also eager to try to the omakase style. For those of you who don’t know, omakase is a way of eating sushi and sometimes small plates where the chef selects the sushi, ostensibly based on the best ingredients of the day. At Sasabune, the dishes keep coming until you stop them. That can make things quite expensive if you’re not careful.

    The other I was curious about was the chef’s “nazi” reputation. Supposedly he is very picky about not only the way he makes the dishes, but the way his customers eat them. For example, a friend of mine went there and when served a particular sushi he and his girlfriend were told they couldn’t use soyu. I could see how that would be irritating. Anyway, I was prepared for this sort of thing, and I went willing to “play by these rules.”

    On to the food. I’m not going to review every dish that was offered because I honestly can’t remember every dish. (Mitchell took pictures and if he posts them, I’ll try to comment on the ones I remember.) I will talk about the highlights and other dishes I remember.

    Before I begin let me just briefly say something about the criteria for judging sushi. The most important thing in my opinion is the taste of the fish. I want the taste to be fresh and vibrant. The fish should be a concentration of flavor, not bland or old, as if the fish flavor is already taking it’s early steps toward decay. Next, I’d say the texture of the fish is crucial; is the flesh cut cleanly; does the fish disolve in your mouth; does it feel good in your mouth? Almost as important as texture is the quality of the rice. I’m looking for good tasting sushi rice, not too sweet. Also, the texture shouldn’t be too gummy or hard (obviously). Finally, we have the condiment that go with the sushi/appetizer. In sushi these are things like the shoyu, wasabi, shiso, sesame or sometimes other sauces.

    OK, so how did Sasabune rate? As far as texture goes, this was the best fish I’ve had in sushi in terms of textures. The fish felt really good; it was a pleasure to chew them. They certainly made me feel that there was great skill in preparing the fish. The rice was also very good, probably the best I’ve had. At Sasabune, the chef serves the rice slightly warm. The first sushi we had I thought it was too warm, but after that I thought the temperature was just right (still warmer than I usually have it). The rice also had a nice texture; I could feel and taste individuals grains of rice and the rice was not undercooked. If there was any sweetness (I can’t recall) it was subtle; the main taste was the rice. In addition to the rice, the condiments accompanying the dishes were also tasty and well-done. Several of the dishes came with the a ponzu sauce–the first dish with sashimi, a baked oyster and the baked lobster. The sauce was the best ponzu I’ve had. Ponzu can be tart, but this has a perfect blend of tart and sweetness. Ono! Other dishes came with shiso, sesame, chili and daikon oroshi (I think) and they really complimented the dishes well. Everything I’m describing so far indicated to me that we had a chef that had skill and care for his customers.

    As you can I guess, my not talking about the flavor of the fish is not a good sign. This is probably was the most disappointing part of the experience. With some exceptions–notably the signature dish, which was the scraped toro and onion (?) (somebody help me out here)–the fish was kinda bland. If I was being diplomatic, I would describe a lot of the fish as subtle. So many of the sushi came this way that I began to wonder if that’s how some people like their sushi. Don’t get me wrong: the sushi tasted good, but I felt like the flavor of the fish was “too quiet.” It was not centerstage. Sometimes, like the first dish, the sauce or condiments were at the forefront. That kinda frustrated me.

    Here are some things I liked: the sashimi in ponzu (I think it was two different types of ahi); crab stuffed ika; the aku nigiri; the toro (mashed); baked oyster and lobster; the crab roll). That’s the dishes I can remember. Marc and I went the longest and I think we ordered about 15 dishes. Marc and I ended up paying about $150/per person.

    My review sounds kinda negative, but I did enjoy the food, even if I was disappointed on some level. I think I would go back, but I need to give Mitch’s another shot. So far, the Spanish toro and chu-toro over there are the best tasting fishes I’ve ever ate in my life. That’s the gold standard. Sasabune didn’t meet it, but maybe it was an off day. If anybody wants to take me for round two, let me know. 🙂

  207. Reid

    Mililani Golf Clubhouse

    My sister’s boyfriend told me about this place, and I’ve been meaning to go. We finally went a few weeks ago to try Alonzo’s Hawaiian steak. It’s basically a teri-steak. It’s very soft, a bit too soft; My description of the texture was rubber that’s not chewy. They also a fried pork loin–fried pata–which is like lechon kawali (crispy roast pork with tomato and onions) that I want to try.

    On a side-note, we gave Molly’s Smokehouse a second shot. I liked the beef brisket a lot better this time. I got the baby-back ribs. In my earlier review, I said the sauce was close to McDonald’s bbq sauce, and I still think that’s true. I thought the ribs were OK, but they reminded me of ham more than pork ribs, and I’m not a big ham fan.

  208. mitchell

    I’m still cementing my thoughts about Sushi Sasabune, but I do have to say that I think the meal we shared there is the best meal I have ever had, and I’m so glad I stopped when I did. I was still full the next day, but I didn’t really feel full when I put the brakes on. I felt I could have eated a LOT more than I did, but it turned out to be the right amount in retrospect. It’s a good lesson for me to remember in the future. I fear I may be spoiled.

    The omakase style of dining was awesome and definitely added to the experience. I appreciated the descriptions by the waiters and the advice on how to eat the sushi. I loved not knowing what was coming next, too.

    I chatted with Todd the other day and he said it wasn’t Sung who was told not to bite her nigiri, but girls at the next table. They got angry and left.

    There are times when such snobbery is called for. This was one of those times. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford another meal there, but neither do I see a way for me NOT to go back. It was just too good.

    Oh, and the company was great, too.

  209. pen

    I had a tennis match at Leileihua HS this past Saturday (I lost) and afterwards my team went to Mililani Golf Clubhouse for lunch. The place was packed and I never even knew it exsisted. One of my friends had the adobo fried rice omelette, which was huge and yummy. I had the mushroom burger which came with crispy fries and was nice a juicy. Service was a little sketchy, but overall, big, tasty portions. The menu had Filipino food (adobo, pancit, pig blood), local food (garlic chicken, teri steak, loco moco) as well as American food (burgers, philly cheese sandwich, etc.) If I can ever find that place again, I would definitely go back.

  210. Mitchell

    Checked out the Bluewater Shrimp Truck that’s taken up residence at Waiakamilo and Houghtailing. $6.95 bought me a steak plate with caramelized onions, rice (with furikake), and potato salad (or tossed salad). There are combo options and other items on the menu (today there were pork chops, furikake ahi, crab, and a few other things), but for my first visit I just wanted a steak.

    The meat is tender (top sirloin, according to Nadine Kam at the S-B) and well-seasoned. I thought the onions were more of a distraction than an enhancement, but they were good, too. The potato salad was terrific, with bits of crab and slices of olives. The plate was very filling, but I have had very, very little appetite lately (I’m down to one meal per day since this past Saturday).

    If the budget allows, I’ll check this place out again soon. Gotta try the other stuff.

  211. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Have you tried the 49er pancake at Original Pancake House? It’s in the mall where the Bluewater truck is located. The 49er is now my favorite pancake. (Ask for it on the crispy side.)

    Btw, I got to sample the shrimp at the truck, and I thought they were pretty good, although Larri thought they were mediocre. The potato salad that you wrote about sounds good, though.

  212. mitchell

    That was actually on my list for today, but I’m recovering from bad Korean food and have only had an appetite about once per day, and it’s been late at night. So I didn’t go down there. Early next week, for sure, assuming I’m back in good health.

  213. Reid

    Let us know what you think of the pancakes. (They also have some other original items on their menu that might interest you, but try these first.)

    Re: Sasabune

    I forget to mention that the waiters were very pleasant and not pushy at all. (However, we didn’t eat at the bar, so we didn’t deal with the chef.) They didn’t tell us how to eat the sushi as much as “recommended” the way we should eat it. I also liked the omakase style–not knowing what will be served and then getting some description of each dish. By the way, when you hear about getting dishes selected by the chef, you may tend to think that he’s going to throw in something weird, like say, an ocotpus eye ball or something. But that wasn’t the way it happened when we went, and I tend to think that he won’t serve really weird dishes–at least not outside what typical fans of sushi will like (which can be weird for non-sushi eaters).

  214. Mitchell

    Here’s a photo of the steak plate I had at Bluewater Shrimp. Notice the furikake on the two scoops of rice. 🙂

    img_4923.JPG

  215. pen

    I went to “Off the Wall” in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center with some friends and really enjoyed it. The portions are on the smaller side, so hearty eaters may want to order appetizers or izakaya-style, since their entrees come in meals (with brown or white rice and salad) or pupu-style (no starch or salad). They have a full bar w/ various sake, etc. in the back and the food was quality.

    I had the arare karaake chicken, which was lightly breaded with cornstarch and deep-fried. Light, flavorful and juicy, they were yummy. The other dishes were the salmon which was brushed with sake and had a soy vinagrette/lemon sauce and a bacon-wrapped shrimp dish on skewers with a shoyu/teri sauce. Yum. We also tried the crab and artichoke won tons which tasted more of cream cheese than the (imitation) crab and artichoke.

    They specialize in Okinawan food: Champuru (stir fry) with bittermelon or tofu/vegetables, okinawan shoyu pork (2 days to make it) and Fukuoka-style tonkatsu (choy sum wrapped in abacon adn rolled in pork breaded and fried). They also have Kobe hamburger steak, grilled steak, soy miso chicken, spicy korean pork, etc.

    I will be going back to try more dishes. They’re open for lunch (take out) and dinner service. They’re closed on Sundays and Tuesdays.

  216. Mitchell

    Yeah. I’ve eaten at the Pancake House on many occasions. That’s sorta my hood. In the years when I was riding the bus to and from work, I walked from my house to Dillingham to catch the bus and usually walked home from Dillingham (via Waiakamilo/Houghtailing) after work. I just haven’t had the pancakes, because as I mention above, until recently, I just sorta thought it was wrong to order pancakes out. I do look forward to the 49er, but the first time I try it, I’m going to have it the way they bring it with no special requests.

  217. Reid

    Duc’s Bistro (on Maunakea, close to Berentania)

    I don’t like writing reviews of restaurants where the food neither really good or really bad. Duc’s is such a place. I’m going to list everything we tried and for the most part all the dishes were of the same quality: just OK. The restaurant is a French-Vietnamese restaurant that pulls more towards the Vietnamese side (although, according to our waiter, the food used to be more in the classical French vein). Here’s what we had: We started with seveal appetizers, a ground veal dish wrapped in la lot leaves (something like luau leaf, I guess); beef tartare (they used wagyu beef); and seared foie gras. The veal appetizer tasted similar to the filling in gyoza or pot-stickers. Mustard, onions and tomatoes over-powered the beef in the tartare. This is the second or third time I’ve had tartare and I have to say that each time, the meat is very bland. At $17, it was definitely not worth the price. The foie gras was the best. I enjoyed that. Larri also got a salad, but she didn’t comment on it.

    For the main course, we orded the dishes family style. We had a garlic olive oil green beans (not very tasty with a limp consistency) and roasted eggplant. I liked the smokey flavor from this, but it had a lot of seeds in it. The main entres consisted of a two fish dishes–one a basa, with a kind of sauce I can’t remember and the other a mild white fish (can’t remember the name) with a shiitake and sun-dried tomato sauce. The basa was a fresh water fish. The flesh had a similar consistency to butter-fish, but it also had a gamey quality to it. For meats, we got a lamb dish, steak and chicken with crab meat. The steak came with a peppercorn sauce. Everything was OK, nothing exceptional. The price range for each of the dishes ranged between $15-$20. We also got bread, which came fresh out of the oven, although they served it late, and mashed potatoes. These were good, real buttery and a little lumpy.

    I can say that that atmosphere is quite nice inside, which is a strong contrast to the surroundings outside. The place was pretty empty on a Saturday night though. You could probably get just as good Vietnamese or French food someplace else, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Short Reviews:

    I finally tried the Red Velvet Cake at CPK. Penny warned me that it wasn’t good, and I should’ve listened to her. (I was curious about it and the waitress raved about it so I took a chance.) The cake is nice and dense, like I prefer, but this was the most flavorless cake I’ve ever eaten. Resist the urge to try this.

  218. Reid

    Penny,

    We tried to go to Off the Wall, but they were closed! It has not been a good day to try new places. We tried to go to Panini Cafe, which got a good write up about their soups, but we went there before they were serving lunch. (Hey, it’s soup; wouldn’t it be ready before 11:00?) Then we went to Kahai Street Kitchen, but we needed to kill half an hour. (I thought they opened at 10:00.)

    We did finally get to try Yogurtland.

    This is the store that has replaced the old Volcano Joe’s across from Sinclair Library at UH. Penny had told us that everything is self-serve, from sampling the yogurt to putting the yogurt and toppings on. You just pay $.39 per oz.

    Off the top of my head here are some of the available flavors: kahlua (non-alcoholic), plain tart, blueberry tart, pineapple tart (tart refers to the flavor and not a crust), peanut-butter (one of my favorites), taro (Larri and Penny’s favorite), pistachio, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and probably some other flavors I’m forgot. There are bunch of toppings, but the noteworthy one according to Penny (and Larri agrees) is the cream-cheese one, which is like cheesecake bits.

    Personally, I don’t think the yogurt is exceptional some flavors are sugar and/or fat-free), but the self-serve approach is fun. We’ve gone twice, and each time it’s been pretty crowded and you can feel the buzz of excitement. It’s a cool place for young people to hang out and socialize.

    Coming up: review of Kahai Street Kitchen

    Don,

    We went to Hong Kong Harbor Seafood or whatever it’s called (at Aloha Tower), but to try the lobster tai sen (the guy said that it was usually done with crab), but it was like $25/lbs., so we had to ixnay that plan. Maybe later.

  219. pen

    Oh drat! I knew Off the Wall was closed on Tuesdays! For some reason it just didn’t connect in my brain (darn synapses).

    Did Larri like Yogurtland more than you. Sounds like you had mixed feelings. Me, on the other hand, consider it one of my new “happy places.” Taro yogurt with cheesecake bites, baby! And all is right with the world.

  220. Reid

    Yes, I think Larri liked it more than me. I think the yogurt and the toppings aren’t spectacular. The whole self-serve aspect is what makes it cool.

    Kahai Street Kitchen (on Kalihi Street a few blocks below Nimitz)

    I’ve been wanting to check this place out every since Wanda Adams of the Honolulu Advertiser raved about this place, but they’re only open on the weekend, so I never had a chance. When I told Don about various places I wanted to visit on a day off, he said I could leave this place out, as the food is well-prepared, but not really exceptional. I know what he means, and I sort of agree. However, that’s not counting some of their specials, which may be really good.

    Larri and I tried two plates: the crispy garlic pork and the beef stroganoff. I was considering getting the shrimp and scallops in a chocolate truffle sauce. Yes, chocolate truffle sauce. When I asked them about it, they gave me ambiguous responses: well, it’s from the truffles used in chocolate, not really chocolate; no, it’s the chocolate truffle…but they were kind enough to let me sample the sauce. There was definitely a chocolate taste, but mild enough were I might have known it was chocolate had they not mentioned it. I passed on that and went for the stroganoff. I’m not a big fan, but Larri is. Plus, the girl at the counter said people liked that.

    It was a winner, nothing unique or anything, but just really good. I got it with their potato-mac salad, which was good.

    2720908865_4d576b183c_m.jpg

    I thought the crispy garlic pork was a little dry, but Larri liked it. It was tossed in flour and then fried. Each of the plates were about $7, plus you get a can of soda (M/W/F only and not for the opakapaka, which goes for $8, which is a steal).

    Crispy garlic pork w/namul instead of toss or mac salad!
    2721732062_f413c2d902_m.jpg

    I wish I could go back and try other specials like oxtail curry, osso buco or their Hawaiian plate–which comes with lau-lau, kalua pig, an ahi patty and a hibachi chicken: for just $8! (The guy said that you have to order that by 8:30 AM because they run out by the time they open.)

    Mitchell, since you live relatively close and if you’re still on break, I’d give this place a try. They have a website where you can see their specials.

    Don,

    We didn’t get to try Azama’s lau-lau, but it’s on the list.

  221. Mitchell

    I don’t get it. Is it “only open on weekends” or is it also open during the week? Well-prepared goes a long way with me, but man: There’s nowhere to park Makai of Nimitz. Where did you find parking?

  222. Reid

    I’m sorry that was supposed to have read, “…only open on weekdays…” The parking is bad; Larri had double-park and wait in the car.

  223. Don

    Reid,

    I called you to tell you that I tried the Azama’s (the place next to South Shore Grill) laulau. They give you three laulau’s for $6.75 (no tax). It was good for that price, but not the best laulau’s on the island (or in the world, since I doubt there is any better laulau’s outside of Hawaii). The laulau’s are way better than the ones they sell in Costco, but no where near Young’s or Yama’s quality.

    My friend, who went to pick it up for me at Azama’s, says the guy there (Mr. Azama, I presume) sells his laulau’s to Helena’s (home of the delicious short rib pipikaula). Not sure if that’s true, but that will give you an idea of how his laulau’s taste.

    I would give it a try if you in the neighborhood, but it’s not worth a special trip out to Palolo.

  224. Mitchell

    That’s Palolo? I thought that was Diamond Head.

  225. Reid

    Thanks for the info, Don. If the lau-lau is the same as Helena’s, then, you’re right, it’s decent, but nothing extraordinary.

    Yardhouse (beachwalk in Waikiki)

    People warned me that this place is loud, and they were right. (There’s music constantly blaring in the background). If you like a noisy bar atmosphere in a nice setting, then this is the place for you. Don told me the food was pretty well-prepared, so my expectations were kind of high. I guess that’s partly the reason I was disappointed in what we had. We basically got appetizers:

    Sliders with bearnaise sauce and fries (you get four): These were pretty mediocre. The bread was pillowy and bland. The meat was average, and I didn’t care for the sauce.

    lettuce wraps (we ordered with portabello and shiitake): This came with three dipping sauces, a sweet chili sauce, a spicy sauce and I think a spicy peanut. Again, just OK. I prefer the wraps at California Wok or CPK.

    Crabcake Hoagie: The bread was a bit much and seasoning and breading were as prominent as the taste of the crab. OK.

    Mac and Cheese: This came with chicken breast, bacon and mushrooms in a truffle oil sauce. It was good, but heavy, as you would expect. Definitely a fat bomb.

    For dessert we ordered two: the lemon souffle cake with a rasberry. I know souffles are light, but I thought this was too light and the flavor too mild.

    The other dessert was a peach-apple cobbler. If you were lucky to try and like Lisa Siu’s fruit tart at 12th Ave. Grill than you would like this. It’s almost the same. Winner.

    Maybe the entres like the fish, pasta and steaks would be really great, but, all in all, I don’t feel a strong desire to go back.

  226. Don

    Sorry Mitchell,

    I think you are right I think the place near Azama’s is called North Shore Grinds.

  227. pen

    Mmmmm…Helena’s pipikaula. *sigh* Thanks Don, now I gotta go get me some and parking is always such a pain over there… (Hi Don! Long time no see!)

  228. Reid

    Uh, I’m confused. Don, you were right the first time: Azama’s is in Palolo Valley (as is the restaurant with the North Shore name).

    Pen,

    Have you tried Helena’s pipikaula short-ribs?

  229. Reid

    Inaba-Soba (next to Baskin and Robbins on King Street)

    We tried to go here the last week (on the same day of all the other mishaps), but it was too crowded. So we tried again recently. I had the battera saba with zaru soba. Larri basically had the ten-zaru soba (You actually have a selection of soba and styles to choose; I can’t remember them right now). I think both dishes were around $11 for lunch.

    First of all, the portions for my dish were really small. I would say it was about a handful. On to the taste. It was pretty good, the consistency was definitely better than the store bought kind that my mom prepares. It had a lively chewiness that you would expect in freshly made pasta. The taste was just OK (although Larrilynn said she really liked her soba.) The battera saba (I’m still not sure what battera is or how it adds anything to the dish) was good, similar to a saba nigiri.

    Afterwards we tried the water that the soba was cooked in, supposedly containing the nutrients lost from the soba in the boiling process. We drank this with the shiru of the soba. It was alright, kinda nice to drink something hot after the cold soba. It was OK, higher quality noodles than the one my mom makes, but overall not that much better.

  230. Mitchell

    On Don’s recommendation (when will we ever learn? haha), we went to Moon Garden, which is at the end of Vineyard in the Buck Toy Club building, just before Palama Settlement. Don and Tracy supposedly raved about the seafood soup in XO sauce and the fried oysters. We ordered those, plus lemon chicken, honey walnut shrimp, and some kind of stir-fried veggie udon noodles.

    Reid and Penny seemed unimpressed with the seafood soup thing, and I didn’t much care for the textures, but I loved the sauce. I thought there was a great depth of flavor there I don’t usually experience in Chinese restaurants. The fried tofu was the best ingredient in this soup, mostly because it just soaked up that yummy sauce. This was my first experience with XO sauce, but I hope it wasn’t the last. It’s too bad I don’t care much for the texture of most seafood.

    I wasn’t much impressed with the fried oysters. Fried, the oysters seem to take on a chewy consistency I find displeasing. I am sort of a beginner with oysters, but I kinda liked the grilled oysters (in their own liquor, of course) Sean made at Don’s house four years ago, with the lemon juice, shoyu, and hot sauce. I also really liked the long oysters we had at Sushi Sasbune, served in their own liquor with a light ponzu. I just found too many weird feelings in my mouth eating the fried oysters; maybe I need to get used to them.

    The lemon chicken was very good. The chicken was tender (I broke it apart with my chopsticks, and I’m not too skilled with Chinese chopsticks), and the breading was nice and light, airy and crispy. The lemon sauce was light and tart and not at all candy-like, the way so many local places make their sauces. This was the best dish of the evening, I thought.

    The walnut shrimp was very delicately flavored, and also had a light, airy breading. If you ask me, there’s not a lot of difference between one place’s version of this dish and any other’s, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

    The noodles were okay.

    The four of us left very little food on the table and paid fifteen bucks each, counting tax and tip.

  231. Mitchell

    Yes, it’s a dumb name, but it is a GREAT idea: specialty musubis. As Penny mentioned, the ingredients for every musubi are listed on little title cards in the shop. It was like a trip to the candy store, except I don’t really like candy. I do, however, love me some musubi.

    manabu1small.jpg

    This photo’s not great because I had my white-balance set to tungsten instead of sunlight and had to adjust the colors in Photoshop, which I suck at. However, I think it’s clear that these are some nicely made musubis. At the top is the ten-grain hijiki musubi, which was very flavorful with a nice, nutty texture. The salty flavor of the hijiki really added to this; it was my favorite of the lot. To the right of the hijiki is the curried musubi (ordered by Reid). Nice flavor here, but I think it needed some kind of meat, like a little bit of chopped chicken or something. Next to that is the baked salmon brown-rice musubi, ordered by Reid. You gotta love all that nori, but Reid’s first words were “not being able to see the salmon is a bad sign.”

    Perhaps. But when you eat an ume musubi, you don’t expect the ume to be in every bite (although that would be great, come to think of it). This was actually quite good, and if I liked salmon a little bit more I’d think it was great. Next is something I used to experiment with in college: misoyaki musubi with brown rice. Penny and Reid responded quite positively to this; I thought it was good, but I wanted more miso flavor. The fact that the musubi is (I’m guessing) pan-fried makes this really nice; I like the crusty exterior a LOT, but that did take some of the miso flavor out.

    At the bottom is the ume edamame musubi, the only white-rice musubi I ordered. For white rice, Mana Bu uses Tamanishiki, which is one of those two-bucks-per-pound premium rices they sell in mylar bags. I think the simplicity of this musubi really made the quality of the rice stand out; always a good thing, in my book. This had bits of ume mixed in with the rice, which I loved.

    In the upper left is some kind of chocolate muffin Penny ordered and I didn’t try. Next to that is a teri grilled corn, also ordered by Penny. Flavorful and nice, but at two bucks probably overpriced. The musubis we purchased ranged from $1.25 to $1.50 each, which when you consider the price of a spam musubi at 7-Eleven is quite a deal. It should be evident from the photo that this is a lovingly, carefully made product. Someone cares about quality work here, and that goes a long way with me. I am definitely headed back sometime before the end of my summer break. This is a great lunch.

  232. Reid

    Some comments to add to Mitchell’s.

    Moon Garden

    Everyone liked the lemon chicken, but I just thought it was OK. The batter was light and well-fried, but it was the blob-looking batter they use for shrimp canton. To me it reminded me of deep-fried poi or funnel cakes and with the tart-sweet sauce, it was too close to dessert for me.
    The fried oysters were OK, but I didn’t think they warranted Don’s raving. (After Mitchell tried these, he made some comment about how Tracy’s taste buds just might be different to which I replied, “Yeah but, Don raved about these, too.” Mitchell’s response: “I think she’s polluting his tastes,” or something to that effect.) I still prefer that ginger onion fried oysters at Hakka Seafood, Don Kung Lau or the oyster jun at Yakiniku Mikawon. I really liked the oysters at Sasabune, too, especially because of the ponzu sauce.
    The dish I was waiting for was the seafood hot pot in X.O. sauce. I thought this was OK, but, again, I don’t get why Don was raving. (The “corruption theory” is starting to be more plausible. 🙂 I didn’t have a problem with the texture, and the sauce was fine; I liked the spicy aspect of it. But it’s not something I’d ordered three times in a short period of time. (Don, you got your X.O. seafood, and I got the oyster jun. Oyster jun is way better, man. 😉

    Mitchell, I think there are way better X.O. dishes. Try the X.O. green beans at Mei Sum. Then again, in all fairness to Don, maybe we’re the ones with the problem. Don has been eating more Chinese restaurants in the past three years than he has in his entire life, I bet, and maybe he’s getting a finer tuned sense of the food. (How’s that for throwing you a bone, Don?)

    Oh, I forgot the noodles. I actually liked that the best. It was pretty standard shanghai noodles (fried udon). Nothing spectacular, but solid.

    Mana-Bu

    I liked these musubis, and they’re great for the price (although the spam musubi at $1.29 at 7-11 may be a better deal, at least in terms of filling you up.) I agree with a lot of Mitchell’s comments. The rice was well done (particuarly in that edamame one). It reminded me of the way the rice was prepared at Sasabune. Surprisingly, the ten grain might have been my favorite. I liked the nutty quality and texture of this one. I normally don’t like the grilled rice (slightly crunchy), but I liked the misoyaki, one. It had just a little crunch, and the flavor was good. The salmon was OK–a bit more salmon than I expected, it wasn’t tiny flakes mixed in with the rice like the ones they used to sell at 7-11. I did like the fact that they served it with brown rice, though. (Mitchell, you should try the ahi patty musubi at Tanioka’s.) Again, I agree with Mitchell that these were well-made musubis, and for lunch during the workday, a couple of them are perfect. (I can’t see how this place is going to last, unless they change locations, though).

  233. Reid

    2726007266_4cdf79734b_m.jpg

    Off the Wall (in Pearl Kai Shopping Center)

    We went there a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share some pictures:

    2725174173_b28d2a50e8_m.jpg

    Above is a shot of the arare karaage chicken. I was suprised that it didin’t come with any sauce, especially after tasting it. This really didn’t have much flavor–neither the chicken, arare or the coating. Larri took one or two bites and gave the piece to me.

    2725169519_27f7cdeddf_m.jpg

    This was essentially crab won-tons. It was alright.

    2725989670_91189d273d_m.jpg

    This was the fukuoka style tonkatsu. It’s wrapped in bacon with choi sum in the middle. Maybe spinach would have worked better? Anyway, this was OK.

    2725161927_52304e8ee0_m.jpg

    Here’s the fried pork with pasta. This was essentially a yaki-soba with shoyu pork (similar to the kind Ige’s makes). It was OK.

    2726003242_0bf0faee79_m.jpg

    Here’s a shot of the interior. As you can see, they have a bar and the food seems more set up for drinkers, but you could feel comfortable bringing your family here. This is a place known for their uchinanchu cooking (can’t you tell by all the pork dishes?), and so I want to like this place. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t really enthusiastically about it either.

    We got most of the stuff pupu style, which ranged from $6-$10. Oh, and my neice got a kalbi plate which was pretty standard fare.

  234. Mitchell

    Okay, sorry. The plugin doesn’t like the URL for the linked photo that goes to your Flickr page. Use the other code, as I’ve edited your comment (for the first photo) to do. If you click “edit this” (assuming you’re logged in), you can see how the code should look.

    Okay, wait. Scratch that. It occurs to me that without a pro account, you might not be able to see the URL from the “all sizes” page. It’s been so long since I had the standard account that I forgot about that. The way around that is to ctrl-click (or right-click, if you have a two-button mouse) on your photo from the medium-sized image page. Choose “view image.” copy the url from the url window and use THAT.

    I can see I’m going to have to set up photo hosting on VI to avoid these problems, since I don’t expect you guys to purchase pro accounts. It’s easily done, but it takes some time, so give me a weekend or two.

    Violet’s Grill in Kapalama is supposed to be one of the good places to go for Okinawan food, but why would you wanna like it? Gross.

  235. Don

    What can I say I love the sauce in the XO pot. It’s really garlicy, a little spicy, and oh so ono. And like Mitchell, I love the fried tofu best in there.

    Reid, I will try the XO green beans at Mei Sum and let you know, but I cannot imagine it being a better sauce than at Moon Garden. Plus, how can you match beans to seafood. However, that bean dish is one of my favorite veggie dishes, I just never got it at Mei Sum before.

    No more suggestions from me. . .

  236. Reid

    What about the lamb thing at PF Chang’s? Should I take that off my list?

    I’ve only tried that green bean dish at two other places, Au’s Garden (which was good, but not better than Mei Sum and another place which I can’t remember now.

    Mitchell,

    Do you agree with me putting the 49er up there (or above) Liliha’s pancakes?

    Btw, I didn’t quite understand your post about the pictures. I got the all-sizes page and cut and pasted url’s. They just didn’t work for some reason. The ones I chose were long. Somehow the other url, didn’t look like the one I should use.

  237. Pen

    Nothing much for me to add re: Moon Garden. I liked the lemon chicken, since it was tender, the breading was light and the sauce was not syrup-sweet. I liked the shrimp honey walnut, because the breading was light and the shrimp tasted really, really good. Like they put MSG on it, but I don’t want to start rumors in case they’re an MSG-free zone or something. The noodles were fine, nothing really special. The XO seafood pot was good, but not so spectacular (maybe my expectations were raised too high?) I’ve had the XO sauce before (at the now defunct XO Seafood across from the Convention Center) that was spicier. I liked that better.

    Regarding Mana Bu’s, teri corn was good when it was hot, but this place is for people who are serious about their rice. I am not serious about my rice. The kind of people that would appreciate Mana Bu’s are the ones who don’t like the water to hit the rice directly from the faucet when washing rice, because that is treating the rice too roughly. Rather, people should put their hand between the running water and the rice allowing the water to drip down “more softly?” onto the rice. The no-oil, steamed chocolate chip cupcake was good. I little sticky (like when steamed manapua is sticky), but good chocolate flavor. Yum.

  238. Mitchell

    Hank’s Haute Dogs in Kakaako

    I’ve heard so much buzz about this place’s shipping in its casings from the mainland to offer specialty dogs that I couldn’t wait to get a day to try it. Reid’s been there a few times, but Penny and I hadn’t checked it out yet, so we went last Friday.

    We ordered the lobster dog, the classic Chicago dog, and the andouille dog. The buns on all three were a bready, soft bun sort of like a potato bun but not that soft. I liked them. Reid didn’t, but he thought the potato-type bun at Teddy’s Bigger Burger was no good either and preferred the ciabatta-type bun at South Shore Grill. If the food contained in the bun isn’t too greasy or saucy, the potato bun works a lot better for me.

    We split each dog three ways. I forgot to bring a camera.

    The Chicago dog was in the classic mold, including bright green relish, a pepper, and a dill pickle spear. This was mediocre at best. The flavor was bland and just not very beefy or interesting. There’s no way it was better than the dollar-fifty beef dogs at Costco, which come with a soda and are a little heftier. Five bucks for this thing made it clearly not a winner.

    The andouille dog had a nice, smoky flavor, and it was grilled so that it had a really nice char on it. I generally prefer a really good beefy flavor for a hot dog, but this was a nice departure. I haven’t had a lot of andouille, so I don’t have much experience to compare it to anything; however, just on its own terms it was a quality dog.

    The lobster dog is a special and only available on some days. It’s also $10.50. Made with ground lobster and other seafood, it is a flavorful, crumbly dog stuffed into a thin casing. While the thing was loaded with flavor, it didn’t provide much in the way of bite or mouthfeel. I guess I’m saying it wasn’t very hot-dog-like, but for what it was, it was good. I wouldn’t pay $10.50 for it again, ‘though I might pay one-third of that for one-third of the dog, as I did Friday.

    In fact, I think this is the best way to eat at Hank’s: take a few friends and get a few different things, dividing the dogs up so everyone gets a little of everything. We also had two orders of fries and because there were three of us, we ordered four different dipping sauces ($.25 to $.50 each) and this added a fun, tasty dimension to the meal I otherwise wouldn’t have had if I’d eaten alone. The dipping sauces were a creamy aioli, a chili-ketchup, a wasabi-mayo kind of thing, and some kind of thousand-island type of sauce. They were all good, but the wasabi thing was the best and was a nice balance to the chili-ketchup thing. Having four sauces to play with (and what amounted to only two-thirds of an order of fries) in this way was great. So take friends. Take me: I’ll go. We each had drinks (Diet Cokes for two of us and a strawberry hibiscus lemonade for the other) and our bill came out to about thirteen bucks each. Too expensive to have every day, but certainly reasonable for once in a while.

  239. renee

    the bg girlz (my sister’s workplace peeps) were SO into this place last year that we’ve pretty much gone thru the whole menu. you’re right—it’s a good idea to get a bunch of people together so everyone can sample the different flavors if you’re not already familiar with this place. because the portions are small, once you’ve found your favorites, you’re not going to want to share. if you want to try the onion rings, get your own order, ’cause i’m not parting with even one and if you don’t like them, i’ll eat the rest of yours too =D. they season theirs with celery salt & while i’m not a fan of anything celery, i went out and bought my own bottle of celery salt after trying these rings. i love all their drinks – the pineapple ice is particularly refreshing on hot days.

    my fave dog was a special & if it’s on the menu board, just get it. it’s called a fatboy: a hot dog, wrapped in bacon & thrown into the deep fryer & served with shredded lettuce & tomatoes and mayo (a play on the blt). i’m hoping it’ll have so many requests that they’ll be forced to put it on the regular menu. it wasn’t available yesterday, so we ended up getting the andouille. my sister likes the chili dog. amanda loves the no-dog. the lobster one was pretty good, though one bite’s enough for me. note that they do try to get the best combination of flavors with the condiments, so if you’re prone to making omissions/substitutions, it’s probably best not to do so here until you’ve tried the originals first. i normally would be inclined to omit the takuan on the lobster dog, but i must admit that it works here. brat’s not bad & i’m not wild about the chicken one. i haven’t had the p.sge. one mainly b/c i like purity mild & they use a diff. brand. i had the hank’s frank at a special olympics event & it was okay, but with all the other menu options available, why go with the basic stuff?

    they have additional menu items in the evenings like the truffled mac & cheese. check the website for hours & additional info. btw, they just opened a second location in the international marketplace in waikiki. there’s several items on that menu that they don’t have at the original location, but i wouldn’t go out of my way to get there if you’re not already in waikiki.

  240. Jill

    Sorry to interupt the Haute Dog thread for a bit, but I just have to comment on Nuuanu Okazuya’s tempura roll/ tonkatsu roll. I don’t know what it’s officially called, but one of the volunteers brought it into my workplace– and I hate to exaggerate, but it was so unexpectedly delicious! Has anyone ever had this? Am I sounding like a tourist that is pointing out the obvious to the locals? 🙂 Have people known about this and not shared the joy? 🙂 I just never went to that hole in the wall and was so impressed. (maybe cause I live out in PC?) The tempura roll has this mustard/mayo sauce that goes SOO well with the tempura. The funny thing is that it’s presentation looks so amateurish. They look almost exactly how my sushi rolls look when I try to make it at home (i.e. rice all unevenly packed and falling out on both ends with the middle part all lop-sided). Anyhoo, the taste totally makes up for the way it looks. LOVE IT!! Okay, that’s all :)– please carry on with your conversation. Thanks 🙂

  241. Reid

    Is that the first time you ate a tempura roll? I ask because if you’ve eaten them at different places, but think this one is the best, that’s saying something; whereas, if this the first one you’ve tried, we can pretty much dismiss what you’re saying. 😉

  242. renee

    i used to like gulick deli’s shrimp tempura roll (it’s prob. been more than 10years since i last had it though). marukai has a pretty good shrimp tempura sushi – it’s an inside-out maki and has the chili-mayo they use for spicy tuna and a sweet tsuyu-like drizzle. haven’t tried nu’uanu’s… at dhm, one of the okazuya guys used to make a killer katsu maki with curried sushi rice. mmmm.

  243. pen

    Nuuanu Okazuya is one of my favorite places to pick up lunch. I know what Jill is talking about. Looks like a handroll I could make, too, but there is something about the sauce…they have two kinds, a wasabi-mayo and a sweet chili. Yum!

    Renee makes the gulick deli one sound good, and I haven’t tried that one. I’ve been to the one on King Street, near McCully St. a couple of times and have been unimpressed with the food and impressed with the price…so expensive! But I will go and try the shrimp tempura handroll. I’m getting hungry.

  244. renee

    hi pen! =)
    um, just so you don’t go to the wrong place, the one i gave the description for is at marukai. and for other yummy fried stuff in sushi, i like soft shell crab rolls (usually get that from genki). yamachan’s soft shell crab appetizer is awesome too. =)

  245. pen

    Fried = yummy to me and I love fried soft shell crab!

    Do I need membership to buy Marukai sushi, Renee?

  246. Jill

    Yes, Fried does = yummy! I always tell people I can eat anything that’s dipped in batter and deep-fried. 🙂

    So, Penny, you know what I’m talking about?!! You’ve just added some credibility to my post! thanks! I don’t know if it was wasabi, but i’m pretty sure the one I had was a mustard sauce. ?? It was yellow and good :)– I think the fact that it was ugly made it taste yummier because I started out eating it to be nice to the person who brought it– then I was pleasantly surprised.

    Still, Reid, you need to try this. And YES, I have had other tempura rolls…my other absolute fav: Shirokiya. I think they have the best shrimp tempura. I’m not a tempura freak, but I really like that one.

    Anyway, if Mitchell, Reid or any others try this, please give me your feedback! (Now, that I’ve heartily built it up….). 🙂

  247. renee

    penny, marukai’s a membership store, but they used to let people in (the dillingham location) that would just buy lunch if they paid cash at the food register in the center of the store. there’s also ‘open to the public’ days several times a year, so you could go then. or just let me know when you want to go & i can bring you in =) oh, and if you’ve got friends visiting from the mainland, you could have them go to the customer svc. counter and they can get a one day pass with their picture i.d. and you can accompany them. again, your purchases would need to be paid with cash.
    jill, there’s a non-tempura fried shrimp at shirokiya that’s good too — made with 21-25 shrimp and there’s a light, slightly spicy batter (think seasoned, curly fries). speaking of shirokiya, their current fair is an osaka kushi-age one (everything on skewers & deep-fried). they’re also having their island fair from the 19th thru the end of the month so you can stock up on outer island goodies. =)

  248. Jill

    Hi Penny,
    thanks for the suggestion. Don’t you love shirokiya? I love how they have all these fairs and they bring in new products so it’s not always the same old thing. Did you try those new flavored mochi? It’s expensive. I tried the melon one and it was okay. People rave about it so I want to try other flavors. I also love ten-musu.

    Renee,
    Marukai’s membership is really cheap if you think it’s worth getting one. It’s only like $10 a year…maybe $15 for your first year, but relatively speaking, that’s cheap. You can also add one person for free so that’s like cutting it in half. If I’m not mistaken, that person can be anyone. Doesn’t have to be a relative. Not totally sure though…

  249. pen

    Jill, I think you got me and Renee mixed up, tho’ I do love Shirokiya and saw the osaka kushi-age ad in the Midweek recently. Looks yummy!

    I’ve tried the mochi icecream thing downstairs and thought it was good, but not awesome.

    I am totally craving fried sushi type things now. Spider roll or shrimp tempura roll. I think I’ll hit Nuuanu Okazuya tomorrow morning!

  250. Mitchell

    What time are you going? I have a meeting downtown all day (at the Richards St. Y) and was thinking of going early to park and grab breakfast.

  251. pen

    Jill (and anyone else who may be interested), I went to Nuuanu Okazuya this morning and got my shrimp tempura musubi fix. Chili mayo in the middle. Crunchy batter. Yum. It was $2.00, but it was a delicious $2.00! I should have bought 2. *sigh*

    Mitchell, sorry I missed you. Next time if you want to go early, I can do that. That place was packed when I went this morning. Usually there are no more than 2 or 3 people.

  252. Reid

    Vino (Restaurant Row)

    This is the place run by sommelier, Chuck Furuya (well, I think it’s run by him), and connected with D.K. Kodama and Hiroshi (Hiroshi’s is right next door.) The place got favorable reviews at yelp, so Penny, Larri, Zane and I decided to check this out. If you’ve been to Formaggio, this is basically a similar place: wine is the main feature, with some small dishes to accompany it. I recall a lot of the yelp posters saying it’s a good place to hang out, and I actually thought there was something missing in the ambiance and space. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a space that made me feel like returning to.

    Anyway, on to the food. We started with a pumpkin bisque with chilled lobster and a mushroom struddle with goat cheese and I can’t remember what else (Pen?). The struddle was good; even Larri liked it despite disliking goat cheese (it was subtle). I asked the waiter to choose some wine for each dish, and the wine was decent. (You can order 2 oz of wine for about $2-5.) There was something else we got, but I can’t remember now.

    In the next round we got filet mignon with pasta ($22) and a gnocchi with crab. Both gnocchi and pasta were disappointing (kinda lifeless). I had a really nice white wine paired with the gnocchi. The grapes were supposed from Mt. Vesuvius.

    For dessert there was a bananas foster with chocolate truffles dish and a chocolate cake with warm chocolate and vanilla ice-cream. The latter was a lot like the truffle at Covenant Books, but not better (from what I remember). The bananas foster was solid, and I don’t usually care for bananas foster.

    I think the place is comparable to Formaggio, and if I had to choose between the two, I’d flip a coin.

  253. pen

    I’ve only been to the Formaggio in Market City (never been to the Kailua one), but no doubt I would pick Vino over Formaggio, because it is more spacious, more condusive to conversation because the music isn’t loud and it has a more relaxing vibe.

    As Reid said, the food was pretty solid except for the pasta dishes which were muddled in flavor and just not fresh and springy. The mushroom strudel was more lumpia shaped than a strudel, but the flavors were yum. The dish Reid couldn’t remember was a risotto dish with pumpkin with something I can’t remember. It was pretty good.

    Reid had 5(?) 2oz. glasses of wine paired with the various dishes and all together it was $20 (or less). That is a good deal! Also, Reid forgot to mention it (probably because he doesn’t like peaches), but I had a peach tart for dessert, which looked burned on the top, but tasted good. Standard fruit and puff pastry dish. Desserts came from the nearby Hiroshi’s.

  254. Reid

    The risotto came with scallops, and it was OK.

    Re: Formaggio vs. Vino

    I’ve only been to the Formaggio in Kaimuki, too, and I agree that Vino is more conducive to conversation as Formaggio can get loud. Formaggio can be either a little cramped or cozy depending on your point of view. I prefer the feel of the space at Formaggio a little more, but Vino is a better place to have a conversation.)

    I’d go back to both places if I want wine, but I wouldn’t go just for the food.

    Penny, how would you compare Du Vin with both places?

  255. renee

    my sister found a deal for cream pot — the best crepes & b*fast food ever on this site (limited time – half off deals… & you can charge it! ). it’s here: http://kucd.ccrideals.com/

    my review on the place is here: http://www.xanga.com/sUrfChik4JeSuS/663615256/breakfast-at-cream-pot.html & my pix here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/surfchik4jesus/sets/72157606322567539/
    sorry they’re all links… on my way out the door after getting my gift certificates. =)

  256. Reid

    Alright, a breakfast place that has items different from standard fare. Thanks for the tip, Renee. This is definitely on my list for a place to try. What is exactly is “salty caramel” by the way?

  257. pen

    Reid, I like the courtyard portion of Du Vin, because you can actually hear your fellow diners, even if there is a big crowd. Well let me qualify that. I like the courtyard as long as there is a breeze and it’s not stifling or raining. I like that Du Vin has the happy hour (half off), and what they do, they generally do well, but their food is very simple compared to Formaggio and Vino. I guess it would depend on my mood. If I’m craving mussels, french bread and pate, it’s off to Du Vin. If I want something more sophisticated, I’m off to Vino.

    Renee, thanks for the great tip about Cream Pot. I saw your pics and the food looks awesome and the space looks as quaint as you mentioned. Can’t wait to try it.

    Jill, I went to Nuuanu Okazuya today for a shrimp tempura musubi and it was junk! It was one of those previously frozen shrimp tempuras that manage to be both spongy and dry at the same time. Yuck. 🙁 So disappointing!

  258. Reid

    I agree that Du Vin’s food is not as good as Vino’s (and I think I would add Formaggio), although I haven’t really tried any entres from Du Vin. Du Vin has one of the best ambiances, especially if you don’t care about having an intimate conversation.
    Do you remember the prices for wine at Formaggio and Du Vin? I don’t think both places had deals for 2 oz. glasses of wine (which is a big plus at Vino’s).

    Up next:

    Reviews of Burgers on the Edge, KCC Market and Town’s burger (one of the burgers selected in the Honolulu Advertiser’s burger challenge.)

  259. pen

    I’m not sure about Formaggio, but Du Vin doesn’t have that 2 oz. glass offering.

    Salty caramel (or butterscotch) is exactly what you think it is. It’s caramel with salt (usually sea salt) to bring out the sweetness and add a tiny bit of salty dimension to the caramel. On Top Chef (Bravo) one of the chefs made salty butterscotch pudding that was a hit with the judges. Looked yums to me, too.

    Recently checked out Harbor Court Bistro where Palomino and Cassis used to be and was quite underwhelmed. I went for Happy Hour which includes some drink specials and a handful of appetizers that are about $3 less than regular price.

    Tried the dragon shrimp, which was a lightly battered big shrimp, but what made this dish was the green onion aioli that had a nice spicy kick to it. The shaved steak came on a sizzling cast iron platter with onions underneath. Tasted good, but the steak was sliced so thin and the platter was so hot that the meat cooked crisp in some areas and tough in others. My friend and I split an entree: mushroom risotto. It was cold, chewy (not in a good way) and the only thing good about the rice was the truffle oil drizzled over it. Everytime I hit a part with truffle oil, my mouth perked up. The mushrooms were good, but were more like a side dish, because they were nicely sauteed and placed around the rice (not mixed in it). For dessert we split a dish of chocolate habenero ice cream. Cool, creamy and sweet at first bite, then the heat spreads and there is a mildly sharp afterbite (and although that sounds like a contradiction, it isn’t). The menu said the ice cream was homemade and it tasted that way.

    I am willing to go back once more, because there were some interesting entrees: green tea marinated chicken, a couple of straightforward steak dishes and a lamb dish, too.

  260. Reid

    Thanks for the description of salty caramel.

    Burgers on the Edge (Kapahulu Safeway shopping area)

    2791298253_6b62736b6a_s.jpg

    We tried this place a few weeks ago.

    2791299255_fe3bb9f1f7_s.jpg

    That’s the flat-screen menu that they have. One of the cool things about this place is that each burger comes with a choice of the type of patty you want–beef, wagyu, turkey (burger) or chicken (not a patty); one type of cheese; 4 sides like lettuce, onions, tomatoes; and one type of sauce (about 10 to choose from). They have small checklist where you can choose your items. Or you can order a pre-set burger. (You can sort of see some examples in the picture.) The burgers also come with a special buns made from another place that I don’t recall right now. Most of the burgers are about $8-$9.

    2792152788_fc79416de9_m.jpg

    The burger above is a pre-set burgers–the Paris Burger–that I ordered. That came with a wagyu patty, foie gras, carmelized onions and apples. ($19).

    2791301329_7840d0c5f6_m.jpg

    Larri made up her own burger with the beef patty, some kind of aioli, mushrooms and feta cheese.

    2791303423_5cdb091bb6_m.jpg

    We also got the fries with truffle oil and parmesan cheese (or some kind of cheese).

    The verdict? The Paris burger definitely wasn’t worth the price. The foie gras wasn’t very tasty and the wagyu didn’t tasted like a normal beef patty. The apples and onions worked well with the burger though. The bun was also a problem to me. It was too pillowy, almost like a little thinner sweat bread. (Larri didn’t care for it either).

    Larri’s burger wasn’t that tasty either. The patty wasn’t as flavorful, although she likes hers well-done, so that might have contributed to the lack of flavor.

    There are a lot of combinations you could try, so it would be worth going again, although I wouldn’t recommend the Paris burger. (Oh, the fries weren’t that great either.)

  261. Mitchell

    Man, those are some tasty photos. Your words say “not that great,” but your pictures say, “come eat me.”

  262. pen

    I am soooo craving a burger right now. And hot, crispy french fries. *sigh*

  263. Reid

    Roy’s Waikiki (at the Makai end of Lewers; on the new beachwalk)

    We went here for my parents’ anniversary dinner. I’ve enjoyed the food at the other Roy restaurants, but if this were my first experience, I probably wouldn’t go back. From the menu, the evening didn’t start out well. When you look at a menu and nothing excites you, that’s a bad sign.

    I don’t want to write much, but I do have pictures, and I’ll try to comment briefly on each.

    2798572711_112c5fcab8_m.jpg

    I ordered the prixe fixe menu, which came with an appetizer, choice of entre and choice of a desssert. With paired wine the total was $54. The picture above is the trio appetizer: blackened ahi, baby back rib and chicken spring roll. Everything was good on this, although not outstanding.

    2798573629_da7c4e665a_m.jpg

    This is the dim sum canoe for two ($27.50). I didn’t eat this that evening, but I had it before. In addition to the appetizers I had, the plate came with skewered shrimp and crab-cakes. The crab-cakes were pretty mediocre.

    2799424850_cb5290de2e_m.jpg

    This is the shrimp with pancetta dish that my mom had. I just tried the shrimp, and I wasn’t impressed. Larri tried it with the vegetables and she thought it was good. My mom liked it, so that was good.

    2798576301_88b1bb1b05_m.jpg

    My dad got this dish, chicken wrapped in prosciutto. We were all surprised because my dad almost always orders some kind of steak (usually, teri), but he explained that he had eaten a steak the night before. This was OK.

    2798577077_1ebd885d14_m.jpg

    I had a choice of three entres: a salmon dish (basically grilled salmon), a dish I can’t remember and a short rib. This the short rib which came with a tiny cup of poi. The cut of meat was pretty big, but it was basically a pot roast, sans the gravy. I’ve liked the short rib at places like Mavro and 12th Ave, and this was not even close. My mom’s pot roast is just as good, if not better.

    2798577919_11d4648aec_m.jpg

    Larri got the ono. It was OK.

    2798578795_d2865dc837_m.jpg

    This was a crab, artichoke au gratin side that came with Larri’s dish. It wasn’t that good, but I had a small bite.

    2798579841_35557d19e6_m.jpg

    This is the rib-eye that my brother got. It was OK, but it was huge. It came with a bbq sauce, Southern style, which was OK, but I prefer steak without sauces.

    2799429858_142d0285cc_m.jpg

    Here’s the salmon dish my sister ordered. I didn’t try it.

    2799430886_4e4a19b3c8_m.jpg

    My brother’s wife got this Roy’s Classic Tribute: blackened ahi, hibachi salmon and misoyaki butterfish. I didn’t get to try this.

    2799431900_d4665bd0d8_m.jpg

    This was the lamb dish my sister’s boyfriend got. It was pretty good. I especially liked the pineapple-mango (?) chutney.

    2798583039_150197c672_m.jpg

    Here’s the pineapple upside cake, which Larri got. It takes a while to prepare and comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was OK.

    2798584127_ba895b8a9e_m.jpg

    This was the mac nut tart a la mode. It was OK. I liked the fruit sauces on the side, but I would have preferred the nuts to not be chopped.

    I also took a picture of the chocolate souffle cake, but the picture wasn’t great.

    I apologize for not listing all of the ingredients in the various dishes, but I couldn’t remember them, and frankly I don’t think it matters. The dishes were just OK, imo. (choc souffle cake was still pretty dang good though). They weren’t that good when you think of the price you’re paying. If this is typical dinner at Roy’s, I won’t be interested in returning.

  264. Mitchell

    Just found out that Burgers on the Edge is run by the parent of a former student of mine. The student works there, too, so I’m definitely going to try it out SOON. Penny (and anyone else), what does your weekday schedule look like next week? Place is open until 10:30 on weeknights. Yah, baby. Until 11:00 on weekends.

  265. pen

    Let’s go!

  266. Reid

    Blazin’ Steaks (in Waipahu across from Times on Farrington)

    I got the mushroom chicken with all toss salad since they don’t serve brown rice. The chicken is grilled and the gravy tasted like Campbell’s cream of mushroom, straight out of the can; the flavor was too concentrated. Still, for $6, I’d go back and try something else. I also heard that the peanut sauce is basically peanut butter slathered on the chicken. They also have opakapaka, which is cool, although I’m skeptical about the quality.

  267. pen

    I went to Cream Pot (armed with a gift certificate, thanks to Renee and her sister!) Note of caution, they do not take credit cards. It’s cash only. And you can only use one $25 gift certificate per visit.

    Ok, that being said, that place is close enough for me to walk to from home and a good thing, too, because I needed to walk home after that meal! I had baked eggs with bacon. It came in a bowl of diced potatoes, onions and bacon, with two eggs (I’m guessing baked in a bain marie, but I’m not sure). The egg yolk was loose in the middle, but firm around the edges. Yum. I mushed and mixed it all together and ate it on top of buttery brioche slices. *sigh* It came with an apple, banana or strawberry crepe. I got apple, which was the perfect balance of tart, spice and sweet. The crepe was so light and delicate! Mine never come out that good. I would have used my finger to lick up all the cinnamon-butter sauce, but didn’t want to embarrass my parents (took my mom here for a b-day brunch). ($17)

    My dad had the beef burgundy stew omelette. The omelette was filled with rice and the stew poured over it. It came with a baby mixed green salad. He got the strawberry crepe, which had chocolate inside it and thinly sliced strawberries around it with a strawberry syrup. It was good, but my apple one was better (more butter, methinks). ($18).

    Mom had a savory crepe filled with chicken in a white cream sauce. Her crepe was a little thicker than the sweet ones and the flavor was light and delicate, but still rich.

    I had a cold dark chocolate drink, which was good, but not something I would order again. ($4.50). Regular coffee (2.50) is refillable, but the Kona coffee ($4.50), which is a per cup serving.

    Overall, slightly on the expensive side, but worth it due to the quality and care given to the dishes. A nice way to treat yourself. I’ll be going back, and not just because I have my second $25 gift certificate to use!

  268. renee

    hi Penny! =) I am SO sorry i forgot to mention about cream pot being cash only (esp. since it’s fairly expensive, you would *think* they’d take credit cards — i usually carry only plastic too >.<) ‘though that’s one of the reasons i was excited about being able to charge the g.c.’s… hope your family enjoyed it!
    while i love potatoes and bacon, i thought the baked eggs with the shrimp had better flavor & texture… their bread is yummy – they use it in their french toast too. my sister & i are planning on going next week. jamie’s taking us the following week for our b*days too. i heard they had a chocolate & cherry crepe special the other day – hope it’s on the menu board when we go…
    looking forward to meeting you @ BotE =)

  269. Reid

    I’m behind on some reviews.

    Koi (sort of across from the Bloodbank on Dillingham)

    This is a tiny plate lunch place that Penny recommended to me. On the menu some of the astericked items (items that were ostensibly specialties) were garlic ahi, blackened ahi and ahi poke plate. If these items appeared on a menu ten or fifteen year ago, I might have been intrigued, but now, they’re so commonplace, I’m not as excited, and maybe a bit skeptical that they could be really great. I asked the girl at the counter about them, and she said that garlic ahi was the most popular dish. So that’s what I went with. I ordered it in a ceasar salad ($7.50). Basically, it’s a light panko crusted ahi, two decent sized ones at that (each one a little bigger than the size of your palm). It’s about what you would expect. The dish came with a creamy, garlic wasbi sauce which was sort of sweet, while not being too “hot.” The sauce is probably what makes the dish popular.

    I went with Grace and she got the pesto chicken ($5 something for a mini). I didn’t try it, but it looked like what you would expect the dish to taste like. By the way, unlike a lot of plate lunch places where the minis can be almost like a regular, the minis live up to their names (something that Penny mentioned, too).

    If I didn’t get the ahi I was going to get their steak plate, which supposedly one a popular award at some of “taste of” event. Don, did you try this? How was it, if you did?

    Surfah Smoodeez (Wai’anae, across from McDonald’s)

    This is a “shack-like” structure (with a small porch) that has been different restaurants over the past 15 years. They have a pretty eclectic menu here. For one thing, they feature various smoothies in the Jamba juice mode. (They have one called the “lava” something that supposedly some award like the best in Wai’anae or something like that.) They also have entres that are not necessarily normal plate lunch faire, for example, steak and seafood, baby clam dish, pasteles (which were solid). The also have some soups and sandwiches. But the thing I like about the menu is that they serve kalua turkey. They serve it in a plate, sandwich and in a salad, a la Chinese chicken salad style. That’s what I normally get ($7.50; for a $1 you get a large drink). The turkey can be a little oily and a little salty while lacking that kalua smoke flavor, but it’s good enough–especially when healthy lunch options are so scarce in Wai’anae. (They also have a salmon patty sandwich that I should try.)

    The other interesting thing about this place is the interior, which is small and cramped. The decor is kinda hard to describe. They have a TV playing dvds, with a dvd library underneath. They have one of those glass refrigerators with dessert like cheesecake in it.

    Wat Get? (behind Times Supermarket in Waipahu)

    As in, “So what get fo’ eat?” This is a small plate lunch place (no seating I believe). The menu is limited and it’s mostly standard stuff. We went here because we wanted to try their pasteles. It was pretty good, nothing that would make me enthusiastically come back to, but a place I’d go to if I was desperate for pasteles. By the way, of the pasteles I’ve tried–Jackie’s Diner, Pastele Shop, Yama’s, among others–none of them have stood head and shoulder’s above the rest. It’s like the Mexican food in Hawai’i. The ones that are good are good at the same level and rarely outstanding.

  270. Mitchell

    When you say “behind Times Supermarket,” do you mean in that building that used to be (or maybe still is) where Waipahu Drug was (is) housed?

  271. Reid

    Wat Get? is in the Ewa strip mall next to Waipahu Drugs.

  272. pen

    Renee: No problem. Someone on Yelp! said Cream Pot accepted credit cards. In my review I dispell that myth. The shrimp baked eggs looked good, but I was afraid there would only be one or two baby shrimps in it. How was your most recent visit there? Did they still have the chocolate cherry crepe when you went?

  273. Reid

    Green Door (next to McDonald’s in Kahala in a tiny stripmall)

    This is the restaurant that used to be on Pauahi Street. Now, it’s next to the the place where Olive Tree used to be. Anyway, I believe the food is a combination of Southeast Asian cooking–i.e. Thai, Malay, etc. Here are some of things we got (I was having trouble with my camera so I apologize for the fuzzy quality):

    Here is the special of the evening, the shrimp roll. This is basically a light, crispy egg roll type of appetizer. The owner recommended we eat this with the salad we ordered.
    2822734211_a97de6a1e5.jpg

    That salad was the pineapple, watermelon pork salad. (I think there were some other ingredients like green papaya, but I can’t remember them all.) I had heard about a Thai place in NYC that had a great watermelon pork salad, so I wanted to try this. It was very refreshing, and the ingredients went well together.
    2822740571_bebb64efd0.jpg

    The next dish is the pork loin in nonya sauce. This was lightly breaded and came with a nonya sauce. I’m not sure what that was, but I believe it had a sour kind of taste. The pork wasn’t so tasty, and I didn’t care for the sauce, although it wasn’t bad.
    2823585476_2f031ae0cf.jpg

    Penny recommended the coconut rice and we also tried the roti bread. I couldn’t taste any coconut in the first several bites of the rice, but when I did, I agree it was good. The roti was OK, almost like a pratha.
    2822763197_28824e1531.jpg

    We were still hungry so we got the shrimp in a chili sauce. That’s not the correct name, but it had some chili in it, and it was a tomato based sauce with ginger. It reminded me a of beef tomato sauce. I enjoyed the sauce.
    2822768917_609452b317.jpg

    We also ordered the Malaysian chicken curry, which was one of the best dishes, but I don’t have a picture.

    I think the total bill was around $60, so it was pretty reasonable. It wasn’t a lot of food, though.

  274. Mitchell

    See the comment from July 2, 2006 for my take on Green Door. I liked it!

  275. Pen

    Mitchell, Renee and I went to check out Burgers on the Edge. We tried the Jamaican burger (my part wasn’t very spicy, but there was a nice char/crust on the burger I liked), the portabella burger (no meat, but a mushroom cap filled with creamed spinach and something else that was savory and creamy (sould have been fantastic if it had been more temperature hot), and a bacon, bbq sauce and bleu cheese burger (bleu cheese made it delicious!)

    I liked the truffled fries (could have used a little more truffle oil, inspires me to make my own) and the sweet potato fries had a light coating and came with a yummy, mild horseradish sauce that was good. Fries were $4.50 for a decent amount. Also, they have Coke products and not Pepsi. Awesome. Refills are free if you eat there.

    We didn’t try the wagyu (sp?) burgers, but I’m willing to go again and try that meat with some subtler toppings. Also am interested to try their chili and see if it is as “kick ass” as its name declares.

    All in all, average. Perhaps a little better than Island burgers at Ala Moana (and in generally the same price range, unless you get the Parisian at BotE, which has foie gras and is $18.

    Mitchell and Renee…your thoughts?

  276. renee

    hi reid! =) “…next to the place where olive tree used to be…” did i miss something??? is olive tree gone??? i’ve been meaning to go to green door for the longest time. most of my friends/family aren’t into that cuisine… must check it out the next time i pick up greek groceries…
    anyway, it looks like i’ll be the first to post about the burgers on the edge outing. i had the pleasure of dining with penny & mitchell last night. i guess i should preface this by saying i’m NOT a burger afficionado. growing up, i would eat mcD’s (there’s something about their onions…) and my dad’s homemade burgers (with rice and his cream of mushroom gravy). i tried school lunch burgers once in elem. school and pretty much stayed away from ground beef patties since. within the last 10years or so, i’ve been a little more open to trying them -teddy’s spud burger and dhmg portobello mushroom & teri burgers, being among my favorites. i haven’t had burgers at a sit-down restaurant — usually because there’s other stuff on the menu that look more appetizing… i do like japanese ones (not 100% ground beef) and my dad throws a lot of minced veggies in his (a sneaky way of getting his kids to eat veggies).
    we ordered off the BoTE favorite creations list: portobello mushroom sandwich, the jamaican burger, and the barbecue burger with apple wood smoked bacon & bleu cheese. we also had the truffled fries and the sweet potato fries, which came with a mayo-horseradish sauce. i liked the truffled fries and thought they went well with the portobello (of course, both being mushroom-based…). the flavor of the truffle oil was subtle as it should be – i’ve got a bottle of truffle oil at home, & believe me, you CAN have too much of a good thing. besides being a waste of money (truffle oil isn’t cheap), drowning something in truffle oil does not make for a pleasant taste experience. i’m used to dhmg’s portobello mushroom sandwich (the porto. sauce is what makes it), so i thought BotE’s portobello sandwich was really mild in flavor. i dunno. i think i was expecting a creamier/more flavorful sauce or spread reminiscent of hot spinach dip or something… the sweet potato fries went well with the jamaican burger. when i think jamaican, i think scotch bonnets & for some reason was expecting the flavors to really pop. i did like the sauce, & honestly, it’s the first time i’ve ever ordered anything “jamaican,” but it could stand to be kicked up a few notches heat-wise. it was my idea to order the barbecue burger — i’m a sucker for anything that lists apple wood smoked bacon & i do like a good bbq sauce. i’m glad that the bleu cheese was fresh (clean tasting… i’ve been to some restaurants that served old bleu cheese that smelled & tasted like old sweaty socks, blecch) and it added flavor to the mild bbq sauce.
    like reid, i’m not crazy about the bread (and i love sweet bread…). penny mentioned the meat had a nice char & i agree. mitchell mentioned, albeit somewhat more eloquently, that the concept is good, but somewhere along the line, something was lost in translation. the menu sounds fantastic, but while the food was good (freshness factor was a plus), i think they could stand to be a bit bolder with the flavors. the order sheet reads “enjoy…an adventurous pairing for those with an edgy palate…” – i think the jamaican was one of the ‘edgier’ menu offerings and i didn’t find it edgy at all. with the kapahulu safeway clientele, maybe playing it safe with the seasonings is a wise thing – it’s easier to add flavor than subtract and you appeal to a wider base of consumers… i’d go back to check out the wagyu (we opted not to get that this time around, as it should probably be enjoyed without being smothered in sauce) and to see how kick-a$$ their k.a. chili really is… the manager was nice and sought feedback. they weren’t very busy, but it was a monday night and it rained. i was surprised to see how many employees there were in the small space! if that’s the size of their usual crew, i’d be surprised if they make payroll…

  277. renee

    hi penny! you beat me to it =D you must’ve posted while i was still typing…

  278. renee

    well, went to BotE again – my sister wanted to try their food. we had the chili fries, truffled fries and she created her own burger: meat, garlic aioli, havarti, lettuce, fried onions, bacon, and portobello mushroom slices. she loved it, but there was something in there that i found unpleasant – not sure if it was the aioli or the cheese… i wouldn’t call it “kick-a$$,” but it was pretty good, actually kind of reminiscent of kit n kitchen’s spaghetti sauce. i think it’s the carrots (lots of veggies visible – minced carrot, onion, green pepper, kidney beans, tomato…garnished with fresh jalapeno slices), topped with white shredded cheese (monterey jack?). the truffled fries were really well seasoned today. =)

  279. Mitchell

    I think I mostly agree with what everyone has already said. Reid, I think your initial review was spot-on, and if you were right with any more frequency, maybe we wouldn’t have had to try it ourselves. But alas, you aren’t reliable enough. 🙂

    My biggest problem (and it’s huge) is that it seems to me that the meat is either overworked in the prepping or the grind is too fine. I like a burger to have a hamburgery crumble to it. Not fall-apart crumbly, but not dense and difficult to chew, either.

    I liked the consistency of the bun, but it seemed a little dry to me; perhaps even borderline stale. I do not want a ciabatta roll when I have a burger; give me something nice and pillowy, but with good flavor. A good potato bun or sweet bread roll works for me.

  280. Reid

    I’m not reliable? I think the problem is in your taste buds. 🙂

    The thoughts that the burger might be overworked or the grind to fine never occured to me, but those are good suggestions. The flavor of the patty is not that great either. The bottom line is that the burger is mediocre, and to me, you have to a good-to-great patty to have a really good burger. I’d say the second most important thing is the bun.

    Perhaps, part of the problem is that they have so many different types of burgers to choose from, including many ingredients that people can try in various combinations. I like that aspect of the place, but maybe it makes it difficult to focus and arrive at a few good burgers. Just get the patty and bun right and everything else should fall into place.

  281. Mitchell

    Okay, a little more detail in my thoughts on BotE, since I have a bit of breathing time this evening.

    The fries: I wouldn’t say they were great, but they were good enough and interesting enough to keep my attention for quite a while before I moved to the burgers. The sweet potato fries don’t match up to good regular fries in consistency or texture, but the flavor is great, and I dig the color. The truffle fries were interesting; I liked the subtle flavor a lot, but I wished it were maybe not so subtle.

    The portobello: This was my favorite of the three burgers we tried. I liked the juicy mushroomy texture of the mushroom, and whatever it was stuffed with worked really well in this sandwich. This is a good sandwich I’d go back for, maybe.

    The Jamaican: Very interesting. If the meat had been more to my liking, this would have been my favorite. I honestly didn’t notice much Jamaican seasoning (Renee got it all, I think!) but the combination of flavors was nice. This stuff on a nice, juicy, Kobe burger such as can be had at Keawe Grill would have been great.

    The Barbecue: Lately—and I know this is going to sound like blasphemy to some—I find bacon a huge distraction in a lot of dishes, and burgers are one. In this case, I thought the bacon was good, but perhaps too good for the burger. I didn’t find the sauce very interesting, and I thought there was too much of it. The bleu cheese, however, was terrific and REALLY added to the burger. I never really thought of this combination before, but it works. I was impressed that the menu lists havarti and gruyere as cheese options, and I was disappointed that I didn’t get to try a burger with either of them, but the bleu cheese on this barbecue burger made up for that.

    I’m putting this on the give-it-another-try list, perhaps sometime after the new year.

  282. Reid

    Mama’s Island Pizza (Kailua; next to Big City Diner)

    2841677611_358a744727_m.jpg

    Interior shots:
    2841680735_bf6e39b481_m.jpg

    This the Kailua special, which is basically their version of a supreme pizza–pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, etc. This was OK, although the vegetables were undercooked. This was the small pizza (10′, I believe), and it cost around $12. The sauce was basically your standard marinara style. I can’t remember the exact style of the crust, but it wasn’t a “pan pizza” style or a thin crust. It was OK.
    2823609438_6840b773f4_m.jpg

    This is their meatball sandwich. The meatballs were on the small size. If you’ve ever had Subway’s meatball sandwich it tastes similar.
    2841681677_d29fb9b419_m.jpg

    This is their waffle cut fries. Basically, what you see is what you get.
    2841682773_61a54649f4_m.jpg

    The place also does an apple pie–pizza style, but when never tried that. The food was OK, not going to beat out Boston’s or Magoo’s.

    Kenko-ya (Kaneohe; across from Windward Mall, next to Safeway)

    2823611276_5286ce2b8b_m.jpg

    This is a Japanese restaurant that is worth going for the value. They are relatively cheap (under $15), with decent quality and good quantity (for the price). The restaurant reminds me of Yagura. Here are two of the dishes we ordered.

    Tenzaru soba
    2823618122_598b80b83f_m.jpg

    Udon tsuski
    2822779861_013a7c6ae0_m.jpg

  283. Reid

    Maharani

    This is my favorite Indian restaurant in Hawai’i, but I always forget what I ordered, so I made sure I wrote down what we got. Here’s the list:

    Chicken vindaloo ($13), a tandoori chicken in a tangy hot sauce
    shrimp do piazza ($16), stir fried onion, ginger and garlic, spices in a tomato sauce;
    vegetable navrotton korma ($13), garden vegetables, dry fruits, cheese cooked in a creamy cashew nut suace in mughli(sp?) way;
    vegetable biryani ($13) basmati rice, saffron, ghee and vegetables
    pulau ($5), saffron flavored basmati rice with cardomon, ghee and cinnamon.
    paratha ($3)
    chapati whole wheat ($3)

    I think the navrotton korma was a new dish and it was very good. Check out the ingredients. Not something you get everyday (cashew sauce?), but it was good. My father-in-law enjoyed it.

    The vegetable biryani was very good, much better than the chicken biryani.

    The shrimp do piazza wasn’t as good as we’ve had it in the past. The spices and ginger were too muted. It was like eating tamato sauce without other flavors.

    The vindaloo was good as usual.

  284. pen

    Nordstrom Cafe. (1st floor by the men’s dept.) I liked it and will return. Big thumbs up for me.

    Salads: You can order whole or half. We tried the pear and bleu cheese salad, which was fresh and tasty with a tart champagne vinaigrette. Yum. There was also a seared ahi salad, and about 3 others I can’t remember.

    Entrees: The country roasted chicken with roasted veggies was awesome. Tender, juicy and flavorful. The veggies had those grill marks and were vibrant. They also had some pasta dishes that looked good.

    Pizza: We tried the kalua pig one which was a tad salty, but good. Thin crust and baked in a wood-fire oven, which adds that nice flavor. There was also a margharita (white), sausage and pepper and tomato basil pizzas.

    Paninis: The chicken pesto was really good. The bread is grilled so it is crisp/hard, but in a good way.

    Dessert: Red velvet cake. Moist, chocolatey with a bit-too-sweet-but-oh-so-delicious cream cheese frosting. My only complaint is that it was kind of a small piece.

    Drinks: soft drinks are refillable and the wait staff will put it in a carafe and serve you instead of you having to repeatedly go to the soda machine.

  285. Reid

    Goma-Ichi

    The first time we went here several years ago, Larri didn’t like the tan-tan ramen, but she was open to giving it another shot. We shared a tan-tan ramen, chicken ban ban ji and gyoza. The gyoza was pretty standard. The chicken ban ban ji was basically steamed chicken breast slices with a tan-tan based sauce. It was OK, but for $6 something it was not a great deal. Luckily the ramen was awesome. As I sat there eathing the ramen, the thought occurred to me that the soup really made the noodles and garnishes irrelevant, which is saying something for me because I can’t imagine enjoying a ramen without good noodles and garnish. That’s how good this soup is. Larrilynn agreed.

    Goma-Tei
    This is ramen place people say rival Goma-Ichi, as one the owner supposedly worked at Goma-Ichi and tried to copy the tan-tan recipe. I had eaten here several years ago, too; and I remember liking, including a dish called chicken tatsutage. The verdict? Well, it’s definitely not as good. At first, I couldn’t really tell, but as I kept eating, I could detect differences. There doesn’t seem to be the right balance of flavors; the soup seems a bit strong and one-dimesional. Then again, I at a little more of it than I did at Goma-Ichi; that’s because Larri immediately knew it wasn’t as good as Goma-Ichi, so she ended up giving me her bowl. To make matters worse, the tatsutage wasn’t as good as I remember. If I recall correctly, the tatsutage when I went there last, was more like garlic chicken a la Mitsuken, pieces of boneless chicken with a crispy, garlicky batter. The tatsutage this time was more like balls of chicken, as if someone just pulled the bone out of a meaty chicken thigh. The result was a ratio of crispy skin to meat that heavily favored the meat. It was a bad balance and the flavor of the batter wasn’t that great either. I remember telling my brother and his wife that I liked this, and they responded with disapproval. Well, I can see why.

    Edit
    I totally forgot to talk about the char siu, which already tells you what I thought. It was forgettable. John Heckathorn (and my brother, I think) raved about this, and I was left scratching my head. Think of the kind of roast pork slices you get a Grace’s, kinda thick and marbled with strips of fat. There wasn’t any char siu taste at all, too (which is not necessarily bad), but it tasted like mediocre roast pork in ramen.

  286. Reid

    P.F. Chang’s

    I’ve been wanting to try the lamb bengu (or whatever it was called). We got that, lettuce wraps (OK), spicy chicken, which was fried in batter and came with a spicy sweet sauce, spicy green beans, singapore noodles (standard curry seasoning in thin, pancit style noodles) and the lamb. I thought the lamb was alright, although my sister’s boyfriend really liked it. The lamb was kinda gamey, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t really into it. Everything else was OK, kinda not worth the price.

  287. pen

    Mitchell has pics, so hopefully he will post those as well as add his comments (Renee, too!) for A Taste of the Bayou.

    Food: Very good. I was happy with everything I tried.
    Warm corn muffins come first and are light, but have that nice “tooth” to it because of the grind of the cornmeal.
    They offer a “trio” of gumbo (hearty soup made thick with file), red beans and rice (with smoky tasso ham), and jambalaya (with andouille sausage and probably more of the ham). *sigh* Awesome.
    Also tried the chicken etoufee on rice which came with corn maque choux, this sweet corn side that is rich and savory with cream and onion and other yummy stuff. (Pause to wipe drool).
    Shrimp Po’ Boy is dressed with a spicy mayo, lettuce and tomato. The shrimp are fried in a cornmeal batter that keeps the juices in.
    Also had to try the hush puppies, which are andagi-shaped and a sweet/savory combo. Loved them. Not too greasy, I could have eaten an order by myself.
    The one thing that was a tad disappointing was the desserts. We tried the bread pudding which had banana in it (yuk) and the pecan pie, which was good, but not outstanding. Also, I kept tasting banana and while I thought I was going crazy, I finally figured out that the whipped cream on the pecan pie had banana flavoring! (yuk!) I would have been happy with more corn muffins. I would have paid for those corn muffins! (NOTE: A friend said the sweet potato pie was awesome, so I’ll try that next time. Also, the breadpudding she got did not have bananas in it).

    Service: I think they’re trying to find their groove. The wait staff were kind of slow and when we first got there, someone (not our waitress) offered to get our drink orders because (and I quote), “I don’t think your waitress wants to do it.” Okaaaayyyy. When our actual waitress did come by to take our orders, she was nice. If she didn’t want to serve us (for whatever reason), it didn’t show. She also kept my diet coke flowing (so she got a good tip).

    Ambiance: There’s a mural on the walls that include pelicans (Louisiana’s state bird) and other local flora and fauna. Only one thing was kind of weird…I think the alligator is going to eat the racoon and it’s kind of disturbing to see that while one is eating. Yes, I’m definitely a supermarket carnivore. You mean cows don’t come wrapped in plastic?
    Also, the place is a tad squishy as they try to fit the most number of chairs and tables possible in a relatively small space.

    Overall: I will definitely be returning to try more dishes. There was no crawfish on the menu. I would love me an authentic crawdad boil! (pause to wipe more drool).

    Note: Currently they’re open Wednesday through Sunday.

  288. pen

    Pho 777. Frankly, Viet Cafe (which is now closed and replaced with that Banana Leaf Pasta place) was better, but hopefully Pho 777 will get better in time. They are taking 20% off your bill until November 30, 2008 in honor of their Grand Opening.

    Food: Hit and miss. The crispy spring rolls were very good. Something inside tasted super yummy and made me feel like I needed “just one more bite.” I think they have roasted peanuts wrapped up with the vermicelli noodles, meat, veggies, etc. to make it a stand out dish. The dipping sauce was also good (not too fishy).
    I ordered the Pho (#11, large) with slices of rare steak and beef brisket ($8.25). They asked if I wanted my rare steak on the side or inside my soup (which was cool, because it can get overly cooked when placed in the soup too early). The immediate smell was cinnamon, then some herbacious notes. It was tasty, but no real depth/complexity of flavor. Like there was no “mother” broth that this came from. It tasted good when I just drank the broth, but when I ate it with the noodles or beef, it became bland. I saw a guy add a ton of salt into it, but I didn’t want to do that…added sirracha and sambal instead.
    The short ribs were unavailable (too early?), so my mom ordered #55: Steamed rice with garlic pork and shrimp ($10.50). Tasty enough and the 4 or 5 shrimp were good, but the pork was really dry and overcooked. You sure get a whole lot of rice, though.

    Service: Our waitress was really nice, but inexperienced. She did not know the menu well, but really sweet. Water did not come around often, and it tasted a bit weird so I added fresh mint and a lime wedge to my glass and it was no problem. All cutlery, napkins and condiments are stacked on each table so you can help yourself.

    Ambiance: Oddly elegant and casual combo. I think the restaurant looked more elegant than the people inside it. Table cloths, roomy booths, etc. Everyone inside in shorts or jeans (including restaurant staff).

    Overall: Too expensive (tho’ I’m sure it’s because rent is high) to keep going unless the food quality goes up a notch or two. There are definitely places with the same or better food that charge a few bucks less per dish. But the people there seem so nice I hope the place becomes a success.

  289. Reid

    Doesn’t sound like a place I should rush out to try. We should have a pho challenge one day, although that might be a little “challenging” given the amount of pho places. I know Don would be game.

    I have a ton of pictures to post (60?), but I can’t wait because I behind in my reviews.

    Dorraku (Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center)

    I probably shouldn’t write a review as I couldn’t try many of the dishes due to a gout flare up. This is a sushi/Japanese restaurant, with inclusion of Latin elements (chimchurri steak). We mostly ordered sushi and small plate dishes. I can’t remember all the dishes we got, but I do remember the presentation impressed me (partly because I wasn’t expecting it or expecting to care). I liked the seared ahi salad, which was basically a sashimi over some lettuce. I liked the dressing, which I believe had a mustard base. Seared ahi dishes are sort of bland for me, but this was one of the better dishes.

    I also liked the cuban steak rolls which was a sushi with steak in chimchurri sauce rolled in rice. (I can’t remember the other ingredients.) There was also a fish dish, I think sea bass, that was good, too. I believe the rolls were around $10-$15. It’s kind of a izakaya style place, so it’s suited for people who like to drink, and the atmosphere was quite nice, although you could dress pretty casually.

    Caliente del Sol (Safeway strip mall on Kapahulu)

    I should have wrote about this place first as I think other idiots would like it. This is Mexican version of Burgers on the Edge (same owners, I think): you can choose several different proteins, different sauces or cheeses in several different dishes (taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada). For the protein, you have an option of grilled rib-eye, chicken, fish and smoked pork. The enchiladas came with four different sauces. Instead of selecting sauces, you choose different cheeses (I think) for the quesadillas.

    We got three things: a cobb salad with smoked pork (shredded), a taco with rib-eye in chipotle, and an enchilada with mahi in a lobster sauce. The salad, on the initial bites was good. First, the portion size was good. It looked well-prepared and I liked the avocados and shredded pork and the crunch of shredded cabbage. But there was a little too much cabbage and the overall flavor got tiresome afterawhile. Still, it was a good size and pretty good tasting salad.

    The enchilada was OK, although the lobster sauce was a little too rich for me. We didnt’ finish it.

    The taco with the steak was probably the best I’ve had (of the steak taco variety). I liked it with the chipotle, too. It cost a little over $3, and the price was just about right. I’d go back for this again, and this is something I think others would like.

  290. Reid

    Royal Palace (Stadium Mall, next to Ice Palace)

    A college classmate of mine took me here once, and I remember liking it, so Larri and I gave this a shot this past weekend. We were surprised to discover a lunch buffet for about $10, so we went with that. We came about 1:00 (the buffet closes at 2:00), and there were two huge parties going on, so many of the serving bins were almost empty, the food kinda cold. Despite this, the food was not bad. Here are some of the items I recall: roast pork with tofu; salt and pepper shrimp; egg rolls; Chinese chicken salad; choi sum; roast chicken (good); green beans and chicken; Singapore rice noodles (decent); chow fun; sweet and sour pork; and some other things I can’t recall. According to one of the newspaper clippings on the wall, this is Hong Kong cuisine, and they are known for their char siu and roast pork (which the owner recommends getting between 5:00-6:00, if I recall correctly, because that’s when it’s usually freshly prepared). It’s a solid Chinese restaurant, probably one of the better ones for people living on the Leeward side.

  291. Reid

    Farrell’s (in Pearlridge)

    Yes, that Farrell’s. Most of you know that this restaurant came back, and most of you probably know that the restaurant is a disappointment. Maybe our preferences are different from when we were children. Actually, I think one of the big disappointments is the decor of the place, which to me, was a big part of Farrell’s appeal. The Farrell’s of my child seemed like going back in a time machine to older time. Maybe I was more easily fooled as a child.

    Anyway, the food is basically American food–hamburgers and a bunch of fried foods.

    Farrell_s+pastrami+burger.JPG

    This is the pastrami burger. I never got to try to this, although I’ve enjoyed pastrami-burger combination in the past.

    Farrell_s+mushroom+burger.JPG

    I got the mushroom burger, which was solid. Farrell’s is kinda pricey, but the burgers are not as bad as I thought they would be.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the desserts, which would be more of their specialty. They have a lot of options including the some that have forty or more scoops of ice cream. And yes, for those desserts they sound the siren and carry the dessert to you on a stretcher.

  292. Reid

    Good-to-Grill (in the Kapahulu Safeway strip mall)

    Good-to-Grill.jpg.html?g2_imageViewsIndex=1

    I like the concept of this place: a steak and seafood plate lunch restaurant. The items on the menu are basically the type of things you’d expect at a steak and seafood restaurant: steak, prime rib, ribs, pork chops, and chicken on the meat side and fish shrimp (salad and pasta) on the seafood side. All the meats are cooked on a kiawe grill in the front. The plates come with a choice of sides: rice, potato or mac (I think) salad, toss salad and some other choices I can’t recall. The prices range from $8-$18 (the prime rib was the most expensive dish, if I recall correctly). There are some desserts, but we didn’t try them.

    Here’s the dish Larri got:

    Good-to-Grill+Andouille+Sausage.jpg

    This is the chicken andouille sausage sandwich. I believe the dish was about $8. Larri liked it, but I thought it was just mediocre. (I wouldn’t get this again.)

    Here’s what I got:

    Good-to-Grill+ribs+hibachi+chicken+combo.jpg

    Good-to-Grill offers combo plates and this one came with bbq ribs and hibachi chicken. There was a lot of rosemary on both (which I liked). Larri said they cooked the chicken when I ordered the food, but I could have sworn the chicken was already cooked, and they just warmed it on the grill. The chicken tasted as if it were reheated on the grill, but the taste was OK. I just wished there was a little more of both. The ribs weren’t fall off the bone tender, but they were tasty enough. The sauce was in the vein of McDonald’s bbq sauce. The combo was about $12.

    Here’s our food being prepared.

    Good-to-Grill+grill.jpg

    The food tasted pretty good, but the quantity could be better especially at the prices. (I should have tried the $10 NY steak, which was a special). However, there are definitely other things on the menu that look good, and I would definitely try this place. I think it would be worth it for others to try.

  293. Mitchell

    Man, that sausage sandwich looks good.

  294. Reid

    Check on the review of the new place, ZenShu at the old Harpo’s on Kapahulu. The restaurant is in what I call “neo-izakaya” style. It’s sports bar-ish atmosphere. We should try it. Metromix has some good pictures. There’s also a section at Metromix on desserts that look good.

  295. Reid

    Catching up on posting some old photos…Here’s a couple from Ice Garden, the shave ice place in Aiea Shopping Center:

    Ice+Garden+custard+tapioca+mochi+balls+milk.jpg
    This–tapioca, custard, mochi balls and milk–was a concoction Larri ordered.

    Ice+Garden+red+beans+peanuts+oatmeal+milk.jpg
    I got the red beans, oatmeal, peanuts and milk. Yes, it may not sound good especially on shave ice, but it was pretty good. I’d order this again.

  296. renee

    ice garden? li hing with mochi balls! =) mmmm. next time i drop off mochi at aiea, i’ll have to go downstairs to get some shave ice… my high school bff loved the one with the oatmeal…

  297. renee

    well, Amuse wasn’t bad… the wine dispensers are pretty fun & the food was pretty good although the menu wasn’t quite what i expected for a WINE establishment, save for the cheese platter (and they didn’t have a blue cheese represented on it). even the bread basket could’ve used a nice, crusty bread…

    reid, i looked up the king st. eatery reviews. susan sunderland did a 2-part piece last year in midweek (7/16 & 23) — listed highlights…

  298. Reid

    I was a little disappointed in the wine, but it was definitely worth trying. And the company was great!

    Renee,

    Wow, did Sunderland go to all the King Street restaurants?

  299. Jill

    Spicey Ahi & BBQ, The Alley (Aiea Bowl), and EnFuego’s

    Spicey ahi & BBQ: kinda pricey, but high quality and yummy!!! highly recommended by many. I tried it tonight. Got the spicey ahi bowl. Looked small at first, but it was filling. Ahi melted in my mouth!

    The Alley: Good variety, not impressed by quality. But, I so love the atmosphere, I would go back. Desserts look really yummy. I’m just excited about family style food at a bowling alley. I want to throw a party there for someone.

    EnFuego’s: in Kapolei. Yummy. best mahi I’ve eaten.

    Sorry, if you’ve already commented on these. I wasn’t able to read all the posts above.

  300. Reid

    Jill,

    You probably don’t want to do this, but if you do a quick scan in the restaurant index (button on the top of the first page), you’ll see a list of the separate restaurants.

    I have Spicy Ahi and BBQ on my list of places to try.

    Did you try the tasty or yummy chicken at the Alley? I thought that was good. They have a good lemon cake dessert. Also, Renee an occasional poster has some of her mochi there. The place also serves ochazuke, which I think is pretty cool.

  301. Don

    Where is Spicy Ahi and BBQ?

  302. Mitchell

    Fort Street Mall, close to Hotel Street. HPU friends rave about it.

  303. Jill

    It’s also in Pearl city, near the Cattle Company on Kaahumanu St.

  304. Don

    Yeah I go to the one on Fort Street Mall, but that one is called Spicy Ahi Bowl (I think). One of my favorite lunch place. I usually get the Spicy Ahi and salmon bowl, which I think is either $7.50 or $8.00ish. You also can get miso soup or salad with that (FYI: You have to ask to substitute the salad for the soup.).

    I need to try the one in Pearl City one day…

  305. Reid

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+1+8+2009+001.jpg
    That’s a shot of the place, located in Waimalu, the same strip mall with Times and Stewart Andersons.

    Basically, this is a Japanese restaurant (with a few non-Japanese items like kal-bi and loco moco) that has good value, but not something I’d drive out of my way to try. (Very similar to Kenko-ya in Kaneohe). The quality or originality is not so great that would make a special trip worth it, imo. Still, it’s a good place to go if you’re in or live in the area.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+butterfish+and+steak.jpg
    This is the butterfish and rib-eye steak combination plate that I got. There is a long list of items in the two choice plate, which costs $14. However, the butterfish has an additional $2 charge and the rib-eye, an additional $4–taking my order to a grand total of $20. To me it was a great deal. The portions and quality were way worth the price.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+miso+and+salad.jpg
    This is the miso soup and salad that come with the combos. You can also order white or brown rice, which is a very good option. The order also came with tsukemono and moyashi, which you can see in some of the pictures.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+rib+eye+steak.jpg
    Here’s a closer shot of the steak. The butter made it a little oily, but I just removed it. The steak needed more salt, but was otherwise fine.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+butterfish.jpg
    Here’s a close-up of the butterfish. I have no complaints about this. In the upper right hand corner, you can see a small plate of mandoo that we tried. It was OK.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+combo+tempura+and+mochiko.jpg
    Larri ordered the two choice combination with tempura and mochiko chicken. The mochiko chicken was a little too soft, and the flavor wasn’t that great. The tempura was pretty standard.

    Spicy+Ahi+and+BBQ+dragon+roll.jpg
    Finally, here’s a shot of the dragon roll–unagi over a california roll. I was surprised at the portions of the unagi which was bigger than I usually expect. Spicy Ahi serves nigiri and some hand and speciality rolls (things most people are familiar with).

    They also serve spicy ahi bowls that you can order with other items. Btw, the spicy ahi is raw–not cooked (like Irifune).

  306. Mitchell

    My friend Ryan shot this photo at the same place. I’d never guess it’s the same place based only on the photos!

    1821353333_b6e87defa5.jpg

  307. Reid

    Well, the fact that your friend is a better photographer than me probably has a lot to do with it!

    Bravo (under Anna Millers at Pearlridge)

    I like going here for several reasons: 1.) it’s in the Leeward area; 2.)the pasta is good; 3.) the garlic bread rolls; 4.)it has a nice, but casual ambiance. I went here a several weeks ago for lunch.

    Bravo+macaroni+and+cheese+1+2+2009+001.jpg
    This is the macaroni and cheese that we got for my son. The cheese looks like a cheese sauce similar to Kraft mac and cheese, and it wasn’t that much different.

    Bravo+garlic+rolls+1+2+2009+003.jpg
    I think these are pretty popular, and I like them. They’re addicting, and I think I could be pretty content just eating these with the their salads.

    Bravo+mahi+sandwich+1+2+2009+004.jpg
    Here’s the fish (mahi–but they used to serve a good opakapaka) sandwich. The light egg batter(?) is standard, but still tasty.

    Bravo+spinach+pasta+1+2+2009+002.jpg
    Here’s the spinach pasta dish that I often order. I really like this, especially with the bread rolls, and I often order this. I really need to just make this at home, instead of spending money on this. (I think it’s basically sauteed spinach and tomato in garlic with pasta tossed in.)

    Some of the other dishes I’d recommend is the seafood fettucini, which is a red and white sauce with shrimp scallops, clams and fish. If any of you remember Andrew’s restaurant, they had a popular dish called the Tuttu Mare(sp?). This is very similar. Also, if you like fettucini alfredo (which I don’t), they have one of the best–mainly because of the pasta, which I believe they make there at the restaurant.

  308. Reid

    Hog Island (behind Cafe Laufer; where New York Deli used to be)

    This is the new Memphis bbq place (which is strictly a take-out place). The menu is small here with baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken (which you can also get in sandwiches; the brisket philly cheee looks good). They also offer sides like scalloped potatoes, coleslaw and baked beans.

    We ordered the ribs and the brisket (sorry, no pictures), which were OK, but not exceptional. I liked the brisket the best even though the bbq smoke flavor was almost non-existent. The ribs weren’t fall-off-the-bone, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the tangy, mustard-y sauce the best–something that was different from other bbq sauces I’ve had.

    We also got the scalloped potatoes, which wasn’t as heavy as I thought it might be (although it is on the oily side); the coleslaw (nothing special); and the baked beans (ditto).

    I don’t think this place is going to blow any of you away, but it’s worth trying. I want to go back for the sandwiches, which may be the best way to eat the meats. (Be aware that they close sometime at 2:00 and then reopen later in the evening.)

  309. Don

    What New Deli closed? I didn’t get to try it. My bad……

    How much did the food cost at Hog Island?

  310. Reid

    I think the plates were under or around $10. The sandwiches were about $7 or $8, if I recall correctly.

    I thought you tried New York Deli? It was OK, but I’m sure you would have thought it wasn’t worth the price. I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did. The cheesecake was very good, though.

  311. pen

    Z Pizza Ward Centre

    They use organic wheat dough made fresh daily and certified organic tomato sauce. It’s a thin crisp crust. They also have a special: 2 slices of pizza (whatever they have made that day, you don’t get to choose) and a fountain drink for $7. The day I went, they had the Santa Fe (chipotle pesto, chicken sausage, red onions, corn, serrano chilies, tomatoes, cilantro and mozzarella) and the Provence (organic tomato sauce, roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, capers, tomatoes and fresh basil). Both were good and tasty. The Santa Fe had a nice spicy kick. Also, they will “crisp up your crust” which helps, but doesn’t completely counteract the fact that it has been sitting in the rotating warmer for awhile.

    My friend tried the Chicken Penne Pesto with mushrooms, grilled chicken and fresh basil. The pesto and basil were obviously fresh. It came with two “strips” of pizza dough with garlic and cheese.

    They have a bunch of salads and sandwiches. The calzone looked pretty good. Some sandwiches intrigued me: hot meatball sub, a pollo latino (lime chicken, salsa and avocado) and curry chicken. I’m willing to return and try some of these.

    Service: You go to the counter and place your order. If you eat there, they will give you a table tent number and bring you your dish when it is done. People there are friendly and willing to give you take-out menus and explain the different dishes.

    Ambiance: Small area with tables and chairs and a few counter stools. You can eat outside and watch the cars and people pass by.

    Overall: A bit expensive, but they use fresh ingredients (some organic) and a pretty diverse menu. Worth checking out if you are in the area.

  312. pen

    Spada in the Wyland Hotel on Royal Hawaiian and Kuhio…kind of across from IHOP. They used to have a restaurant downtown, but they closed it and opened this one. At the downtown location, I had this awesome butternut squash ravioli in browned sage butter that was da bomb!

    Three-and-a-half stars. I rounded down because parking is an expensive pain there. You can round up if you walked there. Renee and I checked it out. I hope she posts her impressions, too, because I think I liked it more than she did.

    Food: Good. The food came out at a good temperature and overall was quite tasty. We tried the appetizer platter which included a caprese salad (could have used a little more salt), fried calamari (crisp and tasty with fried sage leaves), proscuitto wrapped cantelope (kinda big and awkward to eat) and bacon-wrapped shrimp in this citrus butter sauce that was terrific (although shrimp a little overcooked).

    Chicken piccata was juicy and had a good balance of sour lemon, salty capers and creamy butter. Served on roasted potatoes. Also had a side dish of risotto, which was definitely a side dish and not just a small plate of a main dish. Almost too creamy (if there is such a thing) and rich, you really needed to eat it with some protein.

    Service: Our servers were really nice and attentive without stalker tendencies. They happily explained the different dishes and this older Japanese tourist was hitting on one of the waitresses and she handled the situation well (I would have been gagging and/or giving him stink eye, but I guess that’s why I am not a waitress).

    Ambiance: Comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. Rich, dark furnishings and good vibe (opens into the street, but no loud traffic noises). I wish we could have hung out and tried dessert, but we had symphony tix (Call me a Fleck-Head).

    Overall: I had a good experience here. I may not necessarily make a special effort to go there, but if I’m in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth going.

    Parking: Even with validation, it is something like $8 not including tip.

    Tip: If you’re just going to pick up your meal, you can park for free.

  313. Reid

    Little Village Noodle House (Smith Street)

    I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been a review of this place here. I took a chance going to this place around the time they first opened, and I enjoyed what I got–shanghai noodles, the first time I tried these, and they were really good. (I’ve had them at least at one other place, Mei Sum, and it wasn’t as good.) Later I found out that they received the best Chinese restaurant award from the Advertiser or Honolulu magazine. At another time, I got their honey-walnut shrimp, and while it was a little too heavy on the mayo, I never had a better version of this dish.

    But the last time I went to this place was quite a few years ago. Recently, in a couple of weeks, I went twice. I can’t remember what I got in the first recent visit, so I’ll talk mainly what I got in the second recent one. Before I do that, let me just make a general comment. While I didn’t really enjoy the dishes I got on these recent visits, I liked the fact that the dishes were prepared and cooked with good technique and care. I could just tell by the way the dishes came to me and also the taste of the ingredients. For example, we ordered the orange chicken (because it was marked as a specialty). It didn’t have too much batter, nor was it too oily. Unlike many citrus sauce Chinese dishes, the sauce was very subtle, mainly because there wasn’t much of it. I’m surprised I’m saying this, but they didn’t give enough sauce. (Usually, the sauce is overpowering, and I have to try to use less of it.) But I could tell the cooks knew and cared about what they were doing.

    We also ordered a spinach pecan salad ($8) (something I don’t see at Chinese restaurants; it was also a recommended dish). It came with shredded chicken and a citrus-y dressing, which tasted basically like orange juice (I didn’t know the dressing was going to be like this.)

    That dish was followed by the e-mein dish with…for the life of me I can’t remember. That’s not a good sign, and while it wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, too. I did like the noodles. The vegetable…what do you call the dish that comes with the tortilla wraps and plum sauce? (Man, my memory is going!) Anyway, that’s what we got.

    Like I said the food wasn’t super great, but it was so well-prepared and cooked that I do want to go back.

  314. Reid

    Banana Leaf Bistro (Market City Shopping Center)

    This is those Italian restaurants with a Japanese approach (a la Pietro’s).

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+Tomato+salad+strawberry+dressing.jpg
    This is the tomato salad, which came with a strawberry dressing. The combination worked really well. Recommended.

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+osso+buco.jpg
    Here’s the osso buco I ordered. It was solid, and decent portion size.

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+crab+rissotto+2.jpg
    Here’s the crab risotto, which came with a softshell crab and bits of crab meat in the dish. It was pretty good, too.

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+clam+pasta.jpg
    Here’s the clam pasta which, I believe, came in a wine sauce. I didn’t try it.

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+chicken+piccata+2.jpg
    Here’s the chicken piccata. I thought this was good.

    Banana+Leaf+Cafe+chicken+mushroom+rissotto+2.jpg
    Here’s the mushroom risotto, which was alright.

    All in all, it was not bad. Perhaps Banana Leaf is not the first place I’d go to for an Italian meal, but I wouldn’t mind going back again, either. Worth a try.

  315. pen

    S&T Thai Cuisine on Keeaumoku across from the bad place (aka WallMart) and next to Subway.

    Three-and-a-half stars.

    Food: Good. The pad thai was probably the best thing we got. Savory and the beef was tender. The stuffed chicken wings were so-so. Compared to Phuket Thai, they were a little lacking in size as well as flavor. The chicken and asparagus was fine…nothing special, but not bad. The portions were generous and we had left-overs.

    Service: I think they do more of a take-out business here, since as soon as we walked in the waitress asked, “For take out?” The service was very good. They kept the water coming and the food also came out of the kitchen quickly.

    Ambiance: Small, bright and clean.

    Overall: Good, but not as good as Phuket Thai or Souvaly, but close to Ploi Thai. But, I would definitely go back again, because I don’t think any of the dishes were more than $10, including the dishes with shrimp. We didn’t try any of the curries or soups, and from other reviews, it seems like those were the “hits.” Definitely worth a try!

  316. Mitchell

    I was in the area, so I checked out Orange Tree in Aiea. It’s in the same building as Rainbow Books and Music, down one level and on the other side of the building. I would say “Across the parking lot from where Speedy’s used to be,” but I don’t think even Penny remembers Speedy’s. I’m so old-school.

    Orange Tree is the latest in the wave of self-serve, pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt places. The relevant question for everyone here is whether it is better or worse than Yogurtland. I’m going with slightly worse, only ’cause (a) the selection of flavors is slightly smaller and the selection of toppings is smaller. The flavor was roughly the same; the decor was nearly identical. It wasn’t crowded at all when I went (about 5:00 Friday afternoon). Service was friendly enough, and you can get a membership card that accumulates 10% of your purchases for use on some future purchase.

    In half my cup I had coffee yogurt and in the other half “original tart,” which was basically an unflavored frozen yogurt; it went REALLY well with the coffee. My topping was Cocoa Pebbles. Yeah, baby! You know that’s a winner of a combo there.

    Since it’s fairly close to work, I can see myself dropping in again some time.

  317. pen

    I saw Orange Tree after having dinner at Palazzo, but they were not open yet.

    Speaking of Palazzo Restaurante, 3-and-a-half out of 5 stars, but I’m willing to round up, because the prices are darn good.

    Food: Pretty solid. Appetizers: Bread is good (hot and soft/fluffy on the inside). The bruchetta was all right (crunchy and tasty). The fried mozzarella was junk (flat, non-crispy, non-melty cheese). Their soup of the day was crab kabocha. It was like a crab bisque with chunks of soft-with-skin-still-on kabocha. A little different, but good. I liked it and thought it worked.

    The entrees were all good, but I wish mine had been hotter (temperature wise). It tasted like it had been sitting and cooled off a bit. We had the Chicken Palazzo which is one of their specialties, seafood pasta in a garlic cream sauce (big pieces of shrimp and scallops) and chicken piccata (nice and tangy).

    We tried the tiramisu for dessert and it was okay. Nothing special. Kind of like the thing you would get at Assagio’s or Verbano.

    Service: Great. They were very attentive and gracious.

    Ambiance: Do not let the outside strip mall appearance fool you. It’s nice and comfy inside and my friends and I stayed to closing talking story. It was relaxed and we never felt rushed.

    Overall: Worth going if you’re in the neighborhood. Good prices, most of the food was quite good (the fried mozzarella being the glaring offender) and parking is rarely a problem, because it is adjacent to the huge Wayland University parking lot.

  318. Mitchell

    Palazzo is where the former Albero’s used to be. Do you know if there are any differences?

  319. pen

    I think Palazzo is a little cheaper and a little more variety to their menu. But it’s still the Vietnamese cooking Italian thing, if that’s what you mean. I enjoyed it and will probably be back.

  320. pen

    The Counter. I like it! I think it’s better than Burgers on the Edge. I’ve already been there twice while BotE I went once…and that was sufficient.

    I like how you can taste the meat of the burger and how the bun stands up to all the toppings. I had a 1/3 burger with gruyere, black bean and corn salsa, roasted chiles, baby greens and tomato with a spicy southwestern sauce. Yum! The next time I had a 1/3 burger with herbed goat cheese, roasted red peppers, grilled onions, baby greens and tomato with an apricot sauce. The apricot sauce was okay.

    For sides, I have tried the sweet potato (horseradish sauce) and regular fries, the onion strings (kind of oily, but good and comes with a chipotle ketchup), and the fried dill pickles (nice sourness and comes with the apricot sauce. Tasted better when eaten with the burger).

    Also, they have an apple pie shake. YUM! There were soft pieces of apple pie filling on the bottom. *sigh*

  321. Mitchell

    How would you compare the burger itself to the burgers we tested on burger shoot-out day?

  322. pen

    Hmmm…good question, Mitchell. I would say the patty was not as juicy, but just as flavorful as Teddy’s (which was my #1 pick). Definitely a better quality burger than the Pineapple Room. More tasty (to me) than Kuaaina, but about as juicy.

    I like that you can choose your toppings and a cheese and a sauce and have your choice of honey wheat bun, regular bun, english muffin or “bowl” (no bread for the no-carb people…so they put your burger on a bed of baby greens or grilled veggies). One of our problems with the yummy kobe burger at Kiawe grill was that spongey, tasteless bun. Bleh.

  323. Reid

    Penny,

    I’ve read that they serve chicken and turkey–are those in patty form or au naturale?

    Antonio’s has a two pizzas (14″, I believe) with two toppings for under $24 at the Pearl City location. We ordered one with chicken and spinach with a pesto sauce and mushrooms and garlic with their white sauce (olive oil and sweet basil). I really liked the chicken pizza, mostly because of the pesto and spinach. I thought the mushroom pizza was a little bland.

    I must say that the crust is a lot blander, more mediocre, than I remember it.

  324. pen

    Reid, re: The Counter, they do have a turkey burger and a veggie burger. I haven’t tried either, but my best guess (because they call ’em “burgers”) is that they’re ground and shaped into a patty (as opposed to turkey breast fillet). They do have this side order thing of roasted veggies if you want whole vegetables.

  325. Mitchell

    That is what they do. My friend has had them both and has said each is the best she’s had of either.

  326. Reid

    Chin’s (on Maunakea; across from Cindy’s Lei Stand)

    We ate a seven course meal ($18/person).

    The food was decent, but the portions for the price really made this a good deal. Here’s what we had:

    Seafood (fish?) and fish maw soup Don explained that fish maw is the stomach lining in fish. It was good. If you didn’t know it was stomach lining, you wouldn’t know you were eating something weird.
    Garlic crispy chicken This might not be the correct name, but it describes the dish fairly well: chicken pieces (with bone) covered with crunchy garlic.
    Peking Duck Pretty standard: duck skin in the buns served before the actual duck meat, which as a little mediocre (but OK).
    Crab in garlic sauce Dungeness crab in a sticky garlic sauce. The sauce and crab were just OK.
    Honey walnut shrimp This was better than many other places I’ve had this dish.
    Fried rice House style. Mediocre but OK.
    Scallop and bok choi (with something else). The scallops were shredded. I didn’t care for this dish, although Don liked it.

    As I said the food was just OK, but I’d consider going back (especially taking a big party) because you get quite a bit of food for a good price. Then again, we had Chinese speaking people making the reservation…

  327. Reid

    Max’s of Manilla (Waipahu; where the old Flamingos used to be)

    Penny’s been wanting to tried their fried chicken, which she heard was really good. (Their sloglan is “the house that chicken built” or something like that.) Penny, Mitchell and I finally got to try this. They serve it as a plate lunch, although the place is a sit down restaurant. For $7 you get rice, a quarter chicken and four mini-lumpias (yea!). The chicken was sort of the crispy chicken you get in Chinese restaurants. It was OK, but nothing to go wild over. I liked the fact that you could get the plate with brown rice (which was well-made) and the mini-lumpias are a great bonus.

  328. Reid

    Puka Dog (Waikiki; on the Kuhio Ave side of International Marketplace)

    This place was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show. If you remember a pig-in-a-blanket, that’s essentially what a puka dog is like. You can get a veggie dog or a polish. There are also variety of sauces–the more exotic ones use local fruits. Each dog comes with a light garilc sauce with varying levels of heat. For Kamaaina the dogs are a little under $6. I liked the crispy-toasty parts of the bun, but overall the dogs–including the condiments–aren’t special. It’s definitely going out of your way to try them.

  329. Mitchell

    Friends of mine (with questionable taste, I’ll grant you) love those puka dogs. But it’s not really going out of your way if you live or work in the area. I’ve found myself on Kalakaua Avenue a surprising (and unusual) number of times this past few months, and I know Penny and Renee make little forays into Waikiki frequently. I think I’ll check it out the next time I’m craving a Tropical Ice Land (nine-dollar) shave ice.

  330. Mitchell

    Checked out IchiBen in Times Square (Waiau) Saturday. Ordered the miso ichimen and a four-piece side of gyoza.

    The soup: At first taste, this seems a little boring and bland. That’s because they don’t load this thing with salt and shoyu. It has a nice consistency (not exactly THICK, but not watery either) and subtle layers of flavor. Once you get used to it not tasting so salty, you are really struck by how good this broth tastes. The miso is a shiro miso, which usually turns me off, but they didn’t put much in there, as if wanting the broth not to be dominated by the miso. At first I was offended by this (I ordered miso because I like the broth to be dominated by miso!) but then I realized that the miso was put there to play nicely with the broth, and that was a lot better.

    The noodles: There is nothing outstanding about the taste of the noodles, which are probably Sun noodles, but they are cooked al dente, as they should be, so the mouthfeel is very good. This is underscored by something I don’t think I’ve had in a ramen shop in Hawaii: Square noodles. Yeah, yeah, I know noodles are three-dimensional and therefore not SQUARE, but what I mean is that they were pressed through a square opening, giving the noodles a wonderful texture.

    Other ingredients: This thing came with menma, bean sprouts, half a boiled egg, bok choi, two slices of char siu, and green onions, and they were all wonderful. It wasn’t a mountain of veggies, but rather a small portion of each, each in its own little section of the bowl. Rather than dominate the bowl, the veggies were a nice complement to the noodles and broth. At first I was disappointed that there weren’t more bean sprouts (when I go to Sumo, I always order extra bean sprouts). The char siu was the saltiest thing in the bowl and it, too, was just right.

    The gyoza: My mom makes good gyoza. For this reason, I’m often disappointed by what I have in a local ramen shop. Local places seem to want their gyoza to be dominated by ginger and garlic. The gyoza at IchiBen is a nice combination of pork, green onion, and garlic. I am not even sure they put ginger in there. Again, at first the flavor seems bland, but after a few bites, I think I got what the chefs are going after, which is a nice combination of flavors. The gyoza noodle is much thicker than I’m used to having, too, and I thought it went well with the filling.

    People who have dined at ramen restaurants with me will want to know how much vinegar I used! Let me just say that I never felt the need to put any vinegar in my bowl, but for the last one-eighth of the meal, I did drizzle a little bit in there and WOW. It just took a little bit and the whole bowl leapt back to new life. Rather than mask all the flavors in the dish (which is usually just fine with me), the vinegar really brought out a lot of the other flavors and improved the experience. I will probably eat it this way again next time: no vinegar until near the end.

    The service was very attentive. Too attentive for my taste, really, since I don’t like to chit-chat with the servers, host, buspeople, or water-pourers. But when it was all over and all I had left in my bowl were a few drops of broth, and the manager (I think) said in a humble-yet-amused tone, “How was your meal? Not too good, huh?” I had to tell him what I thought, and gave him my highest compliments.

    The gyoza add-on was $1.50, bringing my total to just under ten bucks, or about what I’d have paid at Sumo ramen, which breaks my heart. Sumo should be ashamed of itself.

  331. Reid

    Bob’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (Kaneohe “behind” Windward Mall on Kahuhipa)

    After hearing about this place, Larri and I finally paid a visit. We got the brisket and cajun sausage (which I read was the best spicy sausage) in sandwich form ($6.50). I liked the fact that the brisket was thinly sliced. The smoky flavor–and flavor in general–was a bit mild. But for some reason I enjoyed it, especially dipping it into the bbq sauce, which was just OK. I must have been in the mood.

    The sausage (with onions) was pretty mediocre.

  332. Reid

    Your Kitchen (Palolo, on 10th Ave; where Samira’s used to be)

    This is basically a plate lunch place made by Japanese people from Japan. We got the spareribs with apple-shoyu sauce, cheese potato salad and rice (about $9). The spareribs also came with cooked carrots, onions and cabbage (European style). I liked that and the ribs were OK (like shoyu pork). I don’t know if I’d drive out of my way to try these, but it was OK.

    Cake Couture (Aina Haina).

    This is a cupcake place. We got the haupia chocolate and red velvet (both $3). The haupia-chocolate had a chocolate frosting similar to the type on ding-dongs. The center was filled with haupia cream. It was OK. The red velvet was also OK, although I liked the frosting, copious amounts. It was probably one of the better ones I’ve had.

    But ultimately, these cupcakes weren’t worth the price, and even the red velvet wasn’t that much better than others I’ve had. They do have a peanut butter and jelly cupcake that sounded good, but I’m not motivated to go there again.

    Teddy’s

    Don’s been telling me to try the teri-burger–and he emphasized getting this with the regular sauce. I don’t normally order teri-burgers, especially when the quality of the meat is good (which it is at Teddy’s). But I wanted to try this because of Don. The verdict? It’s very good–as good as any of the other ways of eating the burger, if not better. I don’t know if I’d get the burger like this again, as I like to enjoy the taste of good patty without the teri sauce drowning out the flavor. But this is very good. (Larri agreed.) The sauce was good, and I liked the sauce and grilled patty combination.

  333. Reid

    J.P. Serrato (Westridge)

    Mitchell wanted us to try this place, so Larri and I went a few days ago. He explained that the food wasn’t that great, but for the price, it was a great deal. Well, he was right, sort of. I would say that the food was actually pretty good. Initially, i was going to start this review off by describing this place as a poor man’s Assagio’s, but after thinking about it, at least one of the dishes was almost indistinguishable–I’m thinking of the chicken serrato, which was very similar to the chicken assagio, the dish I order the most often at Assagio’s. For a little under $8, and a good portions, you can’t beat this deal.

    We also tried the chicken putanesca (which was not as good) and the chicken spinach (which was decent). The other entres may not be as good (although Mitchell said the saltimbocca was also very good), and the cooking quality may not be consistent, but if they are, this is a great place to go to if you’re looking for value.

    A couple of short reviews:

    Chip and Cookie
    This is cookie place that Famous Amos opened. I really liked the butter scotch pecan cookies (tiny and crispy like the original Famous Amos cookies). The cookies are good, but I think he could have came up with a better name for the store.

    Cookie Corner
    I haven’t thought highly of the cookies here, (I often felt like they stayed in business because they didn’t have competition.) but I really like their tiny chocolate chip macadamia (or some kind of nut) cookies. It may be better than the Chip and Cookie butterscotch pecan.

  334. Reid

    Alan Wong’s (King St, near McCully)

    I had the seven course wine tasting meal for my birthday. (Note: if you do order the seven course meal, it must be ordered for the whole table. $95 per person/$135 with wine; not everyone has to order wine, however). I like Alan Wong’s, and after my positive experience at Mavro, I wanted to try the wine tasting course at Alan Wong’s.

    I’ll go through each dish one by one (although I don’t have the menu, so I won’t be able to give a precise description).

    Seafood salad. This was a very Japanese tasting dish that came with ahi, tako, lobster with mentaiko (I think) jelly and a tofu-edamame panna cotta. This was very refreshing dish, but I felt it was a bit too busy. The dish came with a very fruity sake, which was good at first, but got a little overpowering.

    Tomato soup with grilled cheese and kalua pork sandwich. The soup came in a cocktail class and the sandwich, along with a thinly fried cheese slice, sat on top of it. The waiter suggested sipping the soup after taking bites of the sandwich. It was really awesome to eat that way! I loved this dish. The soup was very good, not too creamy. (Btw, I thought it was going to be the same soup as the Pineapple room one, but it tasted a little different.) The kalua cheese sandwich is what you would expect, but it went really well with the soup. The champagne (I think) also complimented the food nicely.

    Foie Gras “loco moco” with a unagi meatloaf crusted with mochi rice. While this was really yummy, I thought it was a bit too rich and not necessarily a good synthesis of ingredients. The Riesling that came with the dish wasn’t helpful I thought. Something a little blander would have helped.

    Kona Lobster in coconut sauce. A very Thai dish that was OK. The lobster’s flavor was almost non-existent and the sauce was something you could get at a Thai restaurant. It didnt’ stand out. I was disappointed by that the meal came with another glass of Riesling.

    (Btw, I must mention that it took an hour to get the first course. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but we had to get the kids from people who were watching them. Also, I was getting a little full, which I was surprised by since, I didn’t think I was eating that muc. But I do think I had too much wine to drink, which made enjoying the wine difficult as the meal progressed.)

    Tenderloin. This was the most disappointing dishes. It came with a chimichurri (which I usually like) and something that tasted a lot like the salsa they serve at Jack-in-the-Box. The dish didn’t taste bad, but the flavors overpowered the meat, which wouldn’t have been so bad if those flavors were fantastic. The dish came with a kabocha flan and some other starch which I can’t remember. The ingredients definitely did not blend in a sophisticated way at all. The red that came with it was solid.

    Mix of desserts: coconut rice pudding with fresh fruit in a deep fried basket (OK, but pretty unspectacular); strawberry tirimisu (not that great); dark chocolate bars that tasted like a cross between almond roca and kit-kat. The dark chocolate (which may not have been) was really smooth, thick and delicious. The dish came with some kind of red sparkling wine from Spain (I think).

    All in all, it was an OK dining experience. I’m glad I did it though because I’ve been wanting to try this and it made my 40th not seem like just another day. Mavro was definitely way better and worth the price.

    One last thing. I know Don doesn’t like the ambiance here. I think the decor and lighting are good, but the room seems very cluttered, like their packing as many people as possible. It hurt the ambiance, especially if you wanted an intimate dinner. What might help are some partitions that which might lessen this sensation.

  335. pen

    Minato Japanese Restaurant (In McCully, off King St., makai of the wine ladies’ shop)
    930 Hauoli St
    (808) 956-1322
    http://www.goodfoodmania.com

    Minato is open for lunch. For dinner they have regular wait service, but for lunch, you order at the counter. You can get your lunch to go, or you can eat at the tables there.

    Food: I like that the curry in the chicken katsu curry is served in a separate bowl. The curry is spicy and rich. The katsu is light and juicy. The karaage chicken is awesome…so light and crispy and flavorful. The oyako donburi is good, but has quite a bit of sauce, which is good for saucy people. Sauce is a tad sweet. The katsu shrimp was also very good. The shrimp was tender and moist inside the mahogany panko crust.

    For lunch, two choices with rice and salad is $8.00. The oyako donburi is also $8.00. You can get one or three choices. They had unagi, tonkatsu, teri beef and several other choices.

    Atmosphere: Small space, but comfy.

    Service: For lunch, you pick up your own drinks and silverware. The staff will bring your plate to you and take it away. Everything else (water, etc.) you help yourself.

    Overall: Affordable and darn great fried food here.

  336. pen

    Sweet Home Cafe (In the strip mall across old stadium park, by Kiawe Grill)

    Enough interaction with the food so it’s fun, but not so much that you feel like you’re actually having to cook. Plus, you don’t have to do dishes!

    Food: You can choose from several different pre-made broths (around $5 each), and up to two different broths per pot. Spicy is my favorite. Once you order your broth, meat (pork, beef or beef tongue) and drinks, you can go to the refrigerated case and pick your choice of seafood (shrimp balls, ika, scallops, etc.), veggies (various mushrooms, watercress, zucchini, pumpkin, ong choi, etc.) and/or noodles, tofu and other goodies. Don’t forget to go to the counter by the cash register. All the different sauces are there.

    Place the various goodies into the simmering sauce, pluck them out, dip in sauce and enjoy. If you put noodles in (best at the end when the broth is flavor-packed with everything you cooked in it), make sure to move them around a bit so they don’t get stuck to the bottom and burn. Or you could just ladle some broth into fresh hot rice (free and refillable).

    When you’re done, they will tally your total based on what you ordered as well as the number and color of the plates you took from the refrigerated case (like at those revolving sushi bars).

    Service: Chaotic, usually because the place is packed, but very nice. They’re looking out for you and will refill water and bring more broth if you’re running low.

    Ambiance: Clean, cheery and bright. The few times I’ve been there I had to wait (but no more than 15-20 minutes without reservations). Lots of movement, so it’s not really a place to kick back and relax and chat leisurely. I haven’t been there closer to midnight, so maybe the atmosphere is more laid back then.

    Overall: Not as much variety (especially meat) or the flavorful complex broths as Ichiriki, but at half the price! The value and quality of the food is quite good and I would definitely recommend it.

  337. Reid

    Pen,

    What level of hotness did you get for the spicy sauce? Don said that the lowest level was super hot (but very tasty).

  338. pen

    It wasn’t that spicy…I think we asked for mild/medium. Grace could eat it, even though I think she preferred the regular broth better.

  339. Reid

    Sweet Home Cafe
    Larri and I got the spicy soup base ($7)–mild–and it was very hot. So hot that after about fifteen minutes spicy was the only flavor I could taste. Later our waiter diluted the soup with the standard broth, and that’s when we really began to enjoy the meal. We got a bunch of garnishes: two types of mushrooms, mochi slices, tofu, cabbage, fish cakes, choi sum and beef. I liked the side dipping sauces, too. Supposedly the spicy bean curd was one of the more popular sauces, and it was good.

    But the best part of the meal was the shave ice that they gave to us for free, which is normally $7. (They probably felt sorry for the soup being so spicy.) In addition to condensed milk, the shave ice came with various mochi balls and custards. The kicker was that instead of syrup they use sweetened ice tea. Undoubtedly, the fact that this followed our hot and spicy dish contributed significantly to the enjoyment of it, but the creamy, sweet and cool dessert was a perfect compliment for the soup.

    I wanted to go back and try the “healthy” soup, which looks similar to Tenkaippin’s famous soup base.

  340. Reid

    Short review:

    tirimisu at Elvin’s Bakery (I’m pretty sure that’s where it was from.) Really good and not that expensive.

  341. pen

    Amina Pizzeria
    1694 Kalakaua Ave.
    Honolulu, HI 96826
    (808) 949-3548

    Reid, Larri and I went to this tiny little restaurant on the corner of Fern and Kalakaua Avenue. You can park in a little lot off Fern Street that’s shared with the Pho and cigarette places.

    Food: I liked the French Bread Pizza. Crispy crust with soft bread with a healthy topping of fresh mushrooms, pepperoni and melted cheese. The Spinach and roasted garlic calzone was also good, but you have to like fresh spinach (luckily I do!) The spinach isn’t sauteed or blanched, but seemingly placed in the raw calzone with a lot of ricotta cheese and baked in the oven. The hotlink sausage and cheese Italian sandwich wasn’t so great, because I didn’t like the flavor of the beef sausage very much. Tasted a little like a mini hot dog (although that was not what it was). Melted cheese can cover many ills, and so it wasn’t too bad.

    Service: The woman working at the counter was very, very sweet and friendly. She was happy to answer questions and brought a whole pitcher of iced water to our table.

    Ambiance: Tiny restaurant with a few tables. I think they mostly do a take-out business.

    Overall: I want small businesses to succeed and will probably go back to Amina’s to try the pizza, pasta and salads they offer. But based solely on the items I did try, I’d rather go to La Pizza Rina on King Street. However, another yelper raved about the lasagna, which I haven’t tried yet. I am hopeful and this place is worth a second visit.

  342. Mitchell

    That used to be in Kailua, and I agree that the woman is super-nice. Good food.

  343. Reid

    The lady did seem nice, but the food is not that good at this place. I mean, if someone brought me some of the food, I could easily eat and mildy enjoy the food. But it’s not a place I would tell others to check out, nor do I feel motivated to go back.

  344. pen

    Aki No No (King St., across from 7-11). 3 words: Kahuku shrimp karaage. You get about a dozen for $15 and they’re the size of 2/3 of my pinky (head on, tail curled) of deep-fried goodness. Perfectly seasoned and fried to a tantalizing crisp.

    Food: Shrimp was excellent, everything else was good. Grilled bacon-wrapped enoki was good, especially with lemon juice squeezed on it to cut through the fatty bacon. The grilled scallops were ok, with a shoyu marinade. Stewed beef and potato had a huge potato in the middle of the bowl with some thin beef slices and onions stewed in a sweek shoyu broth. The grilled musubi were nicely charred, but too salty.

    Ambiance: Small, but nice place. Sushi bar along the back wall, plus some scattered tables. When it began to fill up, it got really hot. They need to turn up the air conditioner.

    Service: Super slow. Even the food came out really slow. We ordered most of our dishes at the same time and they all took forever to come out. About 20 minutes between each little dish. Plus, they took forever to bring our bill and take the payment. Finally the sushi chef guy told the waitress that we were waiting and she finally came to pick up our bill.

    Overall: Pricey for the amount of food, except for the kahuku fried shrimp which were worth every cent. Service like molasses on a cold day. I don’t really need to go here again when places like Izakaya Nonbei, Imanas Tei, Tokkui Tei and even Gazen and Ojiya are around.

  345. Pen

    JJ Dolan’s (across from Hawaii Theatre). Delicious, original pizzas. They post their daily specials on Twitter, which is why Renee and I hele on down there yesterday.

    Food: We tried the white pizza with lots of garlic, broccoli, cheddar and thinly sliced potatoes (different kinds). Soooo yummy. Perfectly crispy crust. It was divine. Also tried the spicy jambalaya pizza with sausage, tiny shrimp, peppers, onion, garlic. I am not sure if it was because the toppings were heavier or because they were super busy, but the crust was not as crisp and cooked through as our white pizza. 5 more minutes in the oven would have made a world of difference, but it still tasted good.

    Service: Very nice, but during lunch there was one person on the floor and one behind the bar to serve everyone. They were very busy, but they maintained their cool and were friendly and attentive.

    Ambiance: Dark wood tables…some for 2, others for 10. When you walk in, you immediately see the long, impressive bar. Crowded, a bit noisy, ESPN on the screens, and fun place to hang out with friends.

    Overall: Pizzas are scrumptious, but this place is busy. So if you go any time during peak hours, I suggest you call in your order ahead of time, so you don’t have to wait. Can’t wait to go back there!

  346. Reid

    Mandarin (in Kaka’ako)

    I went here with Don and some other people. This is a Northern Chinese place, specializing in noodles (they make it fresh). Their noodles, indeed, have a fresh feel to them, and that is a good thing. We tried three noodle dishes:

    Seafood noodles in soup
    Jar-Jar Min (which is a black bean looking sauce–but mild)
    Fish dumplings (lots of chives)
    and a fried noodle dish (can’t remember the name)

    Don really liked the Seafood soup, and it was good. The broth was peppery and flavorful. The Jar-jar min looks really good, but the taste is mild and sort of hard to describe. I think I liked the fried noodle dish best (but it’s a close call between that and the Seafood noodle dish). The dumplings were OK.

    I’d go back to this place, especially if I want noodles. Btw, the flavor of the noodles aren’t particularly exceptional, but the feel and texture make it worth it. Also, I know that people think highly of Little Village Noodle House. In terms of quality of the noodles, this place seems to be on the same level.

  347. Reid

    Tanioka’s (in Waipahu, across from the old Cornet’s)

    Tanioka’s has been getting creative. They now offer musubis like the ones at Mana-Bu. I’ve tried two: edamame and chicken (with bits of shiitake mushrooms) and kotobuke(?, which is a salami from maui). The latter is mixed with furikake, with the salami on the top, while the former has the edamame and chicken are in the rice. They’re around $2 and all the small size, but they make great snacks or a small lunch.

  348. Reid

    Ming’s (there’s more to the name of the restaurant, but I can’t remember it)

    This is located on right next to the Dillingham McDonald’s in the strip mall. I found out that Don and Tracy and Byron and Rose like going to this place, a place I would have never thought to check out. So I decided to check it out.

    Here’s what we ordered:

    Shanghai dumplings
    House noodles (which originally comes with deep fried noodles, but we asked for soft)
    crab and tofu
    lemon chicken

    Everything wasn’t very good–with the shanghai dumplings being a BIG exception. First, the house noodles wasn’t really terrible, although the noodles basically tasted like S&S saimin noodles. The crab tofu was incredibly bland (one of the most bland Chinese dishes I’ve ever eaten). The lemon chicken, something difficult to mess up, wasn’t very good either. My sense is that lemon chicken is more of an americanized thing, and these guys are not very good at that.

    Now on to the shanghai noodles. Don likes these and says Ming’s makes the best version. If there is any other place that makes a better version, I want to know about it because these were ono! I never had these before, but they were really good. Basically, they’re like pork hash (not as much meat) with a warm broth inside the pasta. The warm broth was very flavorful and super delicious. I recommend going here for this.

    Now, there are a couple of other dishes I was told about. One is a mochi prepared like chow mein (same sauce except substitute mochi for the noodles). Don thought these were bland, so I didn’t get these (although Byron’s girlfriend really likes them). On looking at the pictures in the restaurant, the mochi looks like those oval shaped slivers that you find in Chinese style nabe dishes.

    The other dish was a black sesame dessert with a ginger sauce. We were kinda tired, so we didn’t stay to try it out.

    One last thing. This restaurant had some of the most unnusual items on the menu that I’ve ever seen at a Chinese restaurant. I mean, the hardcore kind of food. Some of it looked really intereting. (There’s something on the menu called “croakers” that looks like grubs!) I wouldn’t mind going back and trying more things. I’d have to get the shanghai dumplings again, though.

    Mitchell, you should try this place.

  349. Mitchell

    I’ve been meaning to, actually.

  350. Reid

    Honuz (Kailua; across the street from the old Bowling alley)

    This is a Big City Diner-ish place that is supposedly run by former Brent’s employees. But don’t expect a similar menu, at least for breakfast (which is when we went). I really think there is a pretty substantial market for diners, particularly one’s that are creative. Unfortunately, Honuz’s breakfast menu does not qualify. Except for one or two dishes, it was basically the standard fare, so Larri and I just tried the macadamia pancakes (mac stack) which were two pancakes (not really huge) with a macadamia sauce. The sauce was good, but I don’t know if it was worth $7+. They also serve a prime rib hash, which my father-in-law got. He said the portion was huge, and they didn’t skimp on the prime rib.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend this place for breakfast. (Btw, we arrived there at about 11:30 on a Sunday and the place was pretty empty, which is not a good sign.)

    Because we only shared the pancakes, we decided to head over to Kalapawai Deli, a nice quaint, upscale-ish deli (i.e. Diamond Head Grill or Whole Foods Market). We tried several items:

    Pita spread: This came with hummus, white bean spread and a roasted vegetable tapenade (or that’s what it seemed like anyway). The pita was toasted to perfection and it also came with a “doritos-like” seasoning. Ono;

    Mac and cheese: Good, but nothing special;

    Roasted vegetable fritatta: Good.

    Israeli chicken cous-cous: We both enjoyed this, which almost tasted like an Indian dish.

    We chose most of the items from the glass case, although they do make sandwiches and pizzas fresh. This place is not cheap and the portion sizes aren’t huge, but if you’re looking for good pupu/tapas type of lunch or breakfast, this is a decent place to go to.

  351. Mitchell

    And it’s owned by an HBA family.

  352. Reid

    Anyone check out Metromix’s Who Makes the Best Chicken on O’ahu?

    I’ve tried a lot of the fried chicken’s featured on the list–except for Sean Priester’s which looks different from the rest. (The others are similar–both in the quality and how they’re made.) Foodland’s chicken should also be featured. They’re very good and the price can’t be beat. (Recently, they cost $8 for ten pieces!)

    Anybody try the one on Queen Street?

  353. Mitchell

    I know Melissa, the writer who put that together, so some of the places she visited were at my urging (KJ’s, most notably).

  354. Mitchell

    Forgot to say that the cutie in the first photo is Gail, another friend of mine. I’ve no idea why I have yet to be invited along on these excursions. Well, besides the fact that I’m not nearly as cute.

  355. Reid

    Gionvanni Pastrami (on Beach Walk in Waikiki)

    Since Brent’s no longer exists, we wanted to try this place out. As expected, it’s pricier than Brent’s, and not as good. There’s something careless about the preparation that makes the food feel like it’s coming from a chain restaurant.

    I ordered an egg dish (can’t remember the name) that comes with salsa and corn tortillas. The tortillas were fried in a way that made them like chips. The dish came with too much salsa that was already too sweet. The hash browns were also a bit too crispy and not hot. Still, it wasn’t terrible, but this is what I mean by careless preparation.

    Larri had a reuben, I think, and she was disappointed a bit. They also serve matzo ball soup, which was OK, but not as good as Brent’s.

    The best thing were the waffles, which were definitely malted, although not as thick as Brent’s. Not a place I’d go back to, unless I was really jonesing for Brent’s

  356. Reid

    Longhi’s (Ala Moana Shopping Center)

    There is no reason to go to this restaurant–unless someone else is paying. I’m not saying the food is bad–it’s not (more on that later). But the food is not worth the price. Entres are a la carte and range from $30-$40 dollars. The service is excellence and the ambiance is just so-so.

    Here’s what we got:

    We started with two appetizers: clams in a lemon-butter type sauce and potato crusted crab-cakes. Both were good.

    Longhi’s serves this pizza bread–with jalapeno or tomato–that is pretty good, but heavy. (You get as much as you want.)

    We had a salad, which was OK.

    For our main entre we got the monchong in a sauce that I can’t remember much of. (We also ordered pasta ($11) with the dish. We ended up always paying double the price (for about the same amount of food) as Assagio’s fish piccata.

    Again the food was not bad at all–it was just over-priced. On the other hand, Don recently went here and said the food was great! To me, it’s like one of those old restaurants in the 70’s–a basic steak and seafood menu–pre-Pacific Rim cuisine.

  357. Reid

    Like-Like Drive-In

    Went here last weekend for breakfast. Here’s what we had:

    waffles (the thick ones, malted) around $7. It was good, virtually the same as the one at Giovanni’s Pastrami or Brent’s although Larri says that in a blind taste test, she would be able to pick them out. (I think Giovanni’s is slightly better.)

    pancakes
    Can’t remember the price, but they were hot, golden brown. But they were a little too crumbly for my tastes; and the taste was just OK. Just OK.

    If I’m in the mood for waffles, I’d go here again.

  358. Mitchell

    I’m surprised you haven’t tried (or mentioned, if you have tried) Cinnamon’s in Kailua. That’s the other breakfast place people always talk about (after Brent’s and Boots).

  359. Reid

    I have tried Cinnamon’s, and I liked the creative twist on breakfast. They had some interesting sauces with the pancakes and nice skillet dishes. I thought the cooking was a little shaky, to some extent, but I’d love to try this place again.

  360. Reid

    Zen-Shu (Kapahulu; old location of Harpo’s pizza)

    This is one of those trendy izakaya places that serves neo-Japanese cuisine. Think Shokudo, Tokkuri-Tei and Kai, and you get the idea of what the food is like. Imo, the entres–with their creative combination of ingredients–sound really interesting and appealing, but often the execution leaves something to be desired. In addition, izakaya places aren’t cheap. You can end up paying a bunch (especially if you order drinks) and not being fully satisfied.

    Zen-shu is really no different. Here’s what Don and I got:

    Okonomi-yaki fries. I thought it would be fries within the pancake batter, but this was basically frozen crinkle cut fries with the sweet okonomiyaki sauce, tangy mayonaise, topped with nori and ginger. It doesn’t sound that great, but it was good–so much so that when Don asked me what was the best dish, I chose this one.

    Kalbi loco moco This was basically pieces of kalbi (ours came out almost raw) over kim-chee fried rice. I thought using brown gravy would have been good.

    Ahi Bibim roll This was basically a sushi roll with ahi and bibim sauce.

    tofu salad This wasn’t the name of the dish but it was basically a tofu salad with an ume sauce–which I didn’t really care for (but I’m not a fan of ume).

    Butterfish roll Sushi with misoyaki butterfish.

    I think that was it, although I might be missing something.

    Even if this place wasn’t that great, the strange thing is that I wouldn’t mind going back. I guess, there are some items I wouldn’t mind trying, but if I really think about it, I don’t think they’ll be that good. I think the main reason is to go with other people who might be excited by the entres. (Then again, if they end up not really liking it, what’s the point?)

    FWIW, of all the izakaya places, I think I like Tokkuri Tei the best.

  361. mitchell

    This thread was begun exactly six years ago. Looking back over the comments, what strikes me is the number of places that are no longer in operation. Sad.

  362. Reid

    What are some that you miss?

    And how about those that you don’t?

    I miss KC Drive Inn–especially the ono-ono malts, frosted root beer and the sandwiches with the crinkle cut fries.

    I also sort of miss Scoozees, mainly for the half off pupus and the atmosphere. It wasn’t a great place, but I liked it.

    Definitely Brent’s. That was one of our favorites.

  363. Reid

    Mocha Java (Ward Centre)

    On our way to breakfast at Kaka’ako Kitchen one morning, I glanced at Mocha Java’s breakfast menu, and it looked intriguing, so I thought Larri and I should check it out. Well, we did.

    Here’s what we got:

    waffles (malt): Good
    macadamia french toast, eggs and chicken sausage: just OK

    I can’t remember what else we tried. The food was just OK. I’d go back for the waffles (which were solid), but I wouldn’t eat what we had again. They do have crepes and omelets that look promising, although my sense of the place is that it’s like college coffee house food (which is mediocre, generally).

  364. Mitchell

    I dig the Greek frittata at Mocha Java, and their espresso shakes are some of the best. Mochachocalattayaya, anyone?

  365. Don

    Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

    Went to Wolfgang’s Steakhouse for lunch to get the $10 cheeseburger deal. You get a huge cheeseburger, fries, onion rings, and a drink for $10. The burger is the fat kind (sort of like the Counter) as opposed to the flat kind you find pretty much any place else. It was really good, you can really taste the meat, however I think they do not add enough salt. The fries was alright, sort of soggy (it’s the homemade kind) and the onion rings were okay. The homemade ketchup on the table is delicious, definitely use that instead of the one served with the burger would be my advice.

    The regular price of the meal is $14 without the drink, which also cost around $5. So you get a $19 meal for $10. Tracy and I both couldn’t finish it, I started eating the burger without the bun and didn’t finish the fries. The deal ends at the end of May, definitely go check it out.

  366. Reid

    I’m going to try to check this out.

    …however I think they do not add enough salt.

    \

    That means its just right for the rest of the human population. 🙂

  367. Reid

    At Don’s urging, we tried Wolfgang’s cheeseburger deal. The verdict?

    I do think the deal is worth trying; it is a good deal (all you can drink soft drinks is included). However, I didn’t think the burger was that great. Let me put it this way: I don’t think the burger is better than a burger you could get at Chili’s or Big City Diner (although, I think those places make solid burgers, so this is not insult, imo). And, I think this a slightly better deal compared to those other places.

    But on to the negative comments. First, the seasame bun was barely OK. (The burger also came with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles, which was pretty standard.) Next, the fries and onions rings seemed to have been sitting for a while–btw, our order came out really fast, as if it was made well-ahead of time. (One person theorizes they’re doing this because they’ve been getting slammed. In fact, the same person I talked had been eating this deal for the past three weekends, and she claimed that the burger had gone downhill.)

    On a positive note, Larri liked the sauce (like ketchup; enough to say she’d buy a bottle; I didn’t think it was anything special). Also, we tried their canadian bacon= ($4). The first time I heard raves from John Heckathorn, Honolulu Magazine’s food critic; then Don told me his brother said it wasn’t that good, so my expectations were low. Still, I wanted to try it. The verdict: it was good (mabye because my expectations were low). It’s basically a thick cut of bacon, without much fat and a little charred.

    Summary:
    My theory is that people could be loving this dish because it’s coming from a fancy steakhouse–i.e. they’re using high end meat for their burgers! So there’s sort of a mystique or aura that these burgers will be really good. In truth, I think they’re fine, but not better than solid burgers from places I mentioned. When put in that light, I don’t think it’s something you have to try; on the other hand, it’s a good deal and worth trying. (The three hour validation allows you to hang out and check out the beach, too.)

    The deal runs to the end of May, but the waiter said that it will almost certainly be extended to the end of June. The deal applies every day from 11:00-3:00.

    Bruno Forno (on Maunakea Street, next to entrance of Maunkea Marketplace)

    I saw a review on metromix, and so we decided to give this place a shot. The review talked about the way the restaurant featured lasgna–that could be eaten at the restaurant or taken home and popped in the oven.

    Before I talk about the food let me mention the restaurant interior. I really liked it. It’s a very small place, with a giant chalkboard menu taking up one wall, while the other has all these funky posters, cut-outs in a collage sort of arrangement. At the back is a counter where they make the food and you place your order.

    The lasgnas seemed to be the featured item, but they also have sandwiches (they use what looks like thin pizza crust), breakfast items (not much) and dessert. (I can’t remember if they serve any salad.

    We ordered three lasgnas: bolognese, funghi (portabello) and the asaparagus. We wanted to try the veggie (with kabocha, eggplant and onions) or the carbonara, but they ran out of those. Each lasgna runs from a little under $9.

    The verdict? I really loved them (although I only ate one 1″x1″ square of each). For lasgna, they’re very thin, making them taste almost like ravioli. I’m not a big ravioli fan, but I really liked these. The thinness of the filling makes the texture and flavor of the pasta more prominent, and I really loved that. I also love the flavors of all the various filling. (Warning: they’re all pretty oily, so maybe I wouldn’t have liked them so much if I ate an entire lasgna in one sitting. I’d recommend sharing and eating them with a salad.)

    Larri and I also tried one of their apple cakes. It was OK.

    Summary: I really liked the food, although it’s a bit pricey. I’d definitely go back and try some other stuff. Btw, the place is run by the same person that runs Mix Cafe, but I like this place better.

    Soul (next to Fat Greek at the bottom of Waialae Avenue, across from City Mill)

    This is the new restaurant run by Sean Priester, former chef of Top of Waikiki restaurant. He’s been running a plate lunch wagon, but finally settled on opening a restaurant. We went here after Wolfgang’s because I really wanted to try his buttermild fried chicken. We ordered two ($5) and got a biscuit on the side. The skin was crispy, the meat juicy and not too oily. Priester uses some kind of spice that I can’t pin down (or maybe it’s the buttermilk?). In any event, I think it would better without this “exotic” flavor, although it doesn’t take away from the chicken.

    It’s a bit pricey though, especially when you compare it to KJ’s, Foodland or Golden Coin. Btw, for dinner we had some fried chicken and bbq pork sticks from Golden Coin. Jill knows the owner, and according to Jill, foodland uses the same batter/flour. That’s believable because the Golden Coin is very similar. The bbq pork was also very good–almost like a Mongolian beef sauce. (Caveat: Jill was hanging out with the owner and the owner paid for and called in the order.)

    Back to Soul. I also got to try the Southern Sweet Iced Tea. It was good–a smoother, instead of sharp, sweetness.

    I have to go back for the ribs, jamabalaya and some other items.

  368. Reid

    Ah Lang Restaurant (near Don’s condo in Kaka’ako; not sure the name of the building)

    This is a Korean place that my friend (Darren) and his family like to visit. Don told me that they really like this place. I’ve noticed the reviews on yelp are really great, too…which has not just lowered the credibility of yelp reviewers. To be fair, I’ve only been there once, and I don’t think you can fairly evaluate a place on one visit. With that said, let me go over what we tried.

    We started with the green onion pancake with seafood ($16). This is basically an okonomiyaki, except the owner/cook said that she doesn’t like a lot of batter. (She told Larri that she doesn’t care what the customers thing.) Anyway, this had loads of green onions, good amounts of shrimp and squid. It was just OK. (It also came with a dipping sauce.)

    Next we ordered the bi-bim-bap in stone pot ($11) If you’ve had this before, you know what this is like. The dish also came with the standard side vegetables (bean sprouts, kim-chi, etc.–these are good).

    Finally, we tried the bbq chicken ($9?), which is basically a spicy sauce chicken. This was pretty disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The chicken was cut into small boneless pieces and pan fried (or at least not flame broiled).

    One last thing. I think the lady is cultivating a Korean-Nazi persona. I base this on a remark at yelp about how owner referred to herself as the angry Korean lady(or something to that effect) and my own experience. When we ordered the chicken, I knew it was spicy, so while ordering it, I quickly said that we wanted it mild. The lady’s eyes widened in disbelief and she sternly said, “Mild!!”–like she was pissed off. (Dang.) I was like, “Well, uh, yeah, we have kids…well, how hot is hot.”

    “One to ten,” she said, slightly annoyed. So Larri, trying to help, said, “How about four?” Now, I got the sense that the food could be really hot and you know how a “mild” level in foreign run places can be really hot? Well, that’s what I was thinking, and she could see the doubt in my eyes.

    With a bit of disgust, she said (almost yelled), “You can eat kim-chi?!”

    “Uh, yeah. OK, that should be fine.” Off she went to the kitchen. (Btw, when we got there she was the waitress and the cook, so the meal could take a long time.)

    Anyway, I’m wondering if people are speaking favorably of this “gestapo” treatment and so encouraging her to be this way. Some people can be tickled by this sort of thing, and I can understand that. I could do without it out, especially since the food wasn’t that great. (I think Larri liked it more than I did. Again, the food wasn’t bad, but nothing special.)

  369. mitchell

    I’ve noticed the reviews on yelp are really great, too…which has not just lowered the credibility of yelp reviewers.

    I’m a little bit puzzled by this statement, especially based on your review. Are you saying it hasn’t merely lowered Yelp reviewers’ credibility (as in “it doesn’t just lower their credibility, it REALLY lowers their credibility”)?

    Don lives in Kakaako? My whole universe just shifted slightly.

  370. mitchell

    Simply Ono
    Former 99 Ranch Market food court

    So…I eat in Mapunapuna kind of a lot. In the space where there recently had been a (not very good) Chinese takeout space (the kind where you choose your entrees from a steam table), there opened this year a local plate lunch place instead. It looks to me as if the kitchen space has been used as food prep space for a lunch wagon, but I’m pretty lunch-wagon ignorant, given the fact that I never get to patronize lunch wagons.

    They’re using the front part now to serve patrons in the food court, and the results are mixed.

    What’s good: They don’t have the same items every day. Since I’ve been eating in that food court for just about eight years, this is a huge plus. They also really span the spectrum here. I’ve had Okinawan shoyu pork, prime rib, lau lau, and roast turkey, among other things. There are often noodles-and-sauce dishes, too, which I haven’t tried yet. Most of the items are very well prepared. One thing I like is that you get to choose from white rice, brown rice, and garlic (white) rice. The garlic rice is really good, and sometimes they also offer garlic brown rice. You also get to choose from tossed salad, macaroni salad, and a three-bean salad. The prices are generally really good; on moderately priced items (like in the six- to eight-dollar range), you get quite a lot of food. The service is extremely friendly, ‘though if you talk to the one guy (vs. two or three ladies) who works there, you’ll have to listen closely: he’s a very soft speaker.

    What’s not so good: Some of the dishes don’t stand up well to the time they spend just sitting in that steam table. The shoyu pork, for example, was tough as heck, and dry even with lots of sauce on it. On one occasion, the garlic rice tasted kind of old. The three-bean salad looks tempting, but unless you like your bean salad to be kind of on the hard side (as if the beans have not been cooked long enough), I’d stay away from that. Also, while the prices tend to be pretty great, the higher-priced items (such as Hawaiian plates or the prime rib) are too expensive for the amount of food you get.

    Overall, I’ve been encouraged (and even cheered up) by the existence of this place. I would stay away from stuff that doesn’t look good (you can usually tell by looking). If the Hawaiian plates tempt you, you might do better to check the opposite end of that food court at Cafe Ivy, which I think does a slightly better job for the price. Otherwise, I have to say I’m quite hooked on Simply Ono. Its never-the-same-thing menu is a nice thing to experience after years of basically the same options.

  371. Don

    Ah Lang

    I’ve never been, but how does it compare to other Korean Restaurants (ie: Sorabol, etc). Maybe you just rather have the local style Korean food (ie: Kim Chee, Tasty’s, etc). However, like you, I think I would rather have my chicken barbequed than pan fried.

  372. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Here’s what I meant:

    “I’ve noticed the reviews on yelp are really great, too…which has just lowered the credibility of yelp reviewers for me.

    Don,

    I’ve never been to Sorabol, but I’ve been to a more “authentic” (my guess) Korean restaurant in Waimalu (the one we order Korean food when we go to Darren’s house). The food was just OK, there, too, so maybe I do just prefer local Korean food.

    If you ordered exactly what we got, you would think it’s OK, but I’d be surprised if you raved about it.

    They do have a spicy, thick noodle dish and spicy fried mochi dish that looks interesting. Still, be warned about the abrasive owner. They also have the tofu soup dishes, which is something I could see you liking. (I’ve tried one at another place, and it was OK–a bit pricey.)

    Btw, the menu actually gives you options of mild, medium or hot, so I’m not sure why she got so offended by my requesting mild. Don’t act like a whimp around her, Don. Go for the “hot” option and maybe she’ll give you extra kim-chee. 🙂

  373. Reid

    Kai Market (Sheraton Waikiki)

    Penny recommended this casual buffet at the Sheraton Waikiki. Supposedly, their menu changes every day. Larri and I went on a Saturday, which was their seafood buffet night. For $41 (the Kamaaina rate), you get a good buffet. Before I got into the buffet items I need to say one thing: if you’re a fan of butterfish–to the point where you would be happy paying $40+ to eat all the butterfish you want, then this buffet is for you. Not only do you get to eat all the butterfish–well, sea bass, which tasted very similar (Is sea bass butterfish because I always thought black cod was butterfish?)–but this was very good “butterfish.” The texture was smooth and flakey and had almost a melt in your mouth quality. Man, it was good. (I had two and half servings of this.)

    OK, on to the other items from what I remember:

    Prime rib
    Sea bass in misoyaki sauce
    snow crab

    salt and pepper shrimp
    clams in black bean sauce
    scallops and shrimp sauce with cake noodle
    crab cakes
    portuguese sausage, kim chee fried rice
    oysters on the half shell
    mussels and shrimp salad
    chicken in shoyu sauce or another type of sauce (I forgot to try this.)
    sashimi
    poke

    All the items were decent. I did wish they had a better selection of salads, though.

    The desserts were also interesting, many of which came in these small clear glasses. One of the more interesting ones was this chocolate rice crispies over hazel nut and chocolate mousse (or a mousse like dessert). The only problem was that the “crispies” were a bit stale tasting.

    Of the desserts, I liked the vanilla bean and coffee “pudding” and a panacotta with pineapple.

    One last thing. I believe the restaurants strives to use locally grown ingredients.

  374. Reid

    JJ Dolan’s

    We finally got to try their pizza (and fish and chips, which were decent). We got the special of that day, which was a potato, bacon and cheese pizza. Larri really liked it, saying it was one of the better pizzas she’s eaten in Hawai’i. I thought it was OK. I need to try other toppings, but I didn’t think the crust was exceptional.

  375. Reid

    Hiroshi (Restaurant Row)

    I recently discovered that Hiroshi’s offers 50% off their entire menu from 5:30-6:30 (but you have to eat at the bar). You guys have heard of “New American Cuisine,” which, to my mind, is basically steak and seafood with slightly upscale/creative flourishes. Well, I’d describe Hiroshi’s as “New Japanese Cuisine.” The cooking is basically Japanese with a subtle additions. (Well, the foie gras is not such a subtle addition.)

    We started off with some tapas. Here’s what we got:

    Cold kona lobster with squid ink pasta. A coconut cream sauce came over the squid ink pasta, and while it was decent, it overpowered everything else. On the other hand, the lobster didn’t really have much flavor. It was a little disappointing.

    Tai snapper cooked in tin foil. This dish normally comes with moi, but the snapper was still good. The broth was yummy. I can’t remember what else was in this dish, but it was good.

    Foie gras with hamakua mushrooms. I think this came with some greens and rasberry sauce. The mushroom was lightly deep fried. The ingredients individually tasted good, but they didn’t come together so well.

    Kurobuta I think this came with ginger and some other things I can’t remember. The bartender highly recommended it. To me it was a fancier version of Ige’s shoyu pork. If you really like that, you would like this.

    Hamachi nigiri with chili aioli, hot peanut oil and a unagi reduction sauce. This was the best dish of the night. What was great was that all the sauces complemented the dish perfectly (i.e. didn’t drown out the hamachi flavor). This was a special and was not subject to the 50% discount. (You get four pieces for $14.)

    After these tapas, we ordered two entres. Larri got the mahi with crab, cauliflower, in a Japanese type of broth. The shiru was yummy.

    I ordered the mekajiki, which is supposedly an oilier, more flavorful swordfish. It was panko crusted and I can’t remember what it came with. It was OK, but not something I’d order again.

    We got a chocolate molten cake (more like a cupcake) and guava cheese(cup)cake. Both weren’t that great. (I’d skip dessert, although if you like Asian style dessert, you might like this.)

    In summary, I’d say this is a good place, and worth trying–especially if you like Japanese food and fish. Don, it’s close to your house. You should definitely try the hamachi special and the foil cooked fish.

    I

  376. Reid

    Honolulu Hamburger Co. (On King Street between Keeaumoku and Pensacola)

    This is a hole in the wall place that just opened today. Larri and I tried two “burgers”

    “The Bull”–which came with strips of top sirloin, corned beef and pastrami on a french roll. (I believe it also had grilled onions and cabbage or lettuce).

    and a double burger (1/3 lbs. of grass fed beef) with carmellized onions, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat bun (which you can choose).

    The verdict? Basically, both sandwiches were OK. (They were about $8-$9.) For me, I get a little disappointed ordering a pastrami/corned beef sandwich that is not piled high. The flavor of the meats in this sandwich was just OK.

    The burger was pretty tasty, although the patty was a bit crumbly. They also had a few other variations of burger/sandwiches (but not a whole lot) on the menu.

    The important question is are they better than Teddy’s or Kua Aina. The answer is a definite no, at least for me. (Then again, everyone seems to love The Counter, and I don’t think it’s that special.)

  377. Reid

    So Gong Dong (McCully Shopping Center)

    This Korean restaurant is supposedly known for their soon doon boo, which is a tofu based soup. From about $8, you get a bowl (for one person, maybe two) of the soup, which has so much tofu it’s almost like a chawan mushi. I got the pork and beef version, which has a soup base that is very close to kim chi. It was good, especially if you like this sort of thing.

    We also got the seafood pancake, oyster jun, bbq chicken and bul-go-gi. The pancake and oyster jun were solid, but the chicken and beef weren’t very good. Oh, I also got to try the yellow corvina for the first time. It was two whole fishes, fried nice and crisp. It would have been a lot better if it wasn’t so salty (even salt-lover Chinen agreed).
    Snow Factory

    This is a “shave ice” place in McCully Shopping Center. The novelty here is that they use blocks of flavored ice instead of pouring syrup on plain ice. Hula Boba does something similar although they only have one “flavor,” and the texture at Snow Factory is very different. I’d use the word “snow flake” to describe the shave ice here. It’s also very dry–something that I didn’t care for. (SF also provides free toppings for the shave ice–similar to the kind you find at yogurt places.) The idea is cool, and I can see the owners getting excited about their product. But in the end, it just doesn’t taste very good. (I think they have to moisten it up–which is strange given that this is a water based food).

  378. Reid

    Soul (across from City Mill on Waialae Ave.)

    Soul offers a special breakfast menu on Sundays, so we went to try it out. We ordered three things:

    Chorizo chilequiles huevos rancheros. Basically, this is a huevos rancheros with chopped up corn tortillas and chorizo. The dish also comes with the sassy vegetarian chilli. This was pretty good.

    Jambalaya. At $20, this is a bit pricey, but I will say that it comes with a load of seafood, sausage and chicken. Spicy and pretty good. (Larri really liked this.)

    Sweet potato pancakes. Decent, although it’s pretty heavy as you can imagine.

  379. Reid

    Doner (Pauahi and Fort Street; in a little trailer outside SoHo bar)

    This little trailer sells Turkish kebabs, which are essentially gyros. What’s great is that they have those vertical spits with slow rotating chicken or beef (the latter is seasoned like a gyro). You can get them in a pita, wrap or salad, I believe.

    I got the mixed pita with yogurt sauce and hot sauce. The sauces were just OK, although they went on top a pile of lettuce, tomato and onions. For $5.25, this was decent sandwich (although the meat was a bit salty, although Larri didn’t think so).

    Btw, the guys told me “Doner” is a German word, and it’s pronounced, dooner. They also said that they say, donner (as in Donner party; lovely).

  380. Reid

    Honolulu Burger Co.

    Part 2.

    Here’s what we got: Pastele lumpia burger and the special–burger with hamakua ali’i mushrooms and enoki mushrooms with feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and a mushroom pate.

    The pastele lumpia burger is basically a burger with a lumpia filled with pastele sitting on top of it. The lumpia is rather small, so the flavor is not very prominent. You’re mostly eating a burger. It was OK.

    The second burger was fine, too, nothing special.

    I will say one thing. I can’t really judge these burgers fairly because we had they cooked medium well-done. Cooked this way, the burgers were too dry for my liking. I suspect I would like the burgers a lot more if they were cooked medium or medium rare.

    We also got a fries and a chocolate shake. The shake was nice and runny, but the flavor was nothing special. The fries were a bit too oily.

  381. Reid

    TASTE (Tasty Asian Style Taco Eatery) (corner of Beretania and McCully–on Beretania, Diamond side of McCully)

    This is small shack-like lunch wagon that serves Asisn style meats with a corn tortilla and cabbage. I tried the rib-eye kalbi with wasabi aioli (I think it was aioli; under $3) and the shrimp with honey wasabi mayo and wafu sauce (little over $3). I like that the aioli and the wafu sauces went on top of the cabbage. Both sauces/cabbage went well with the tacos.

    One warning: they’re not that big, but the price is just about right. Recommended.

  382. Don

    Was the cabbage cooked or uncooked?

  383. Reid

    Uncooked. I think you would like the tacos I got.

  384. mitchell

    This is in the parking lot of that Ocean Sports Bar or whatever it’s called. During daylight hours it looks okay, but I wouldn’t cruise there night.

  385. Reid

    I don’t think they’re open at night.

  386. Reid

    V Lounge (Kona Street; mauka of Ala Moana Shopping Center; near I Love Country Cafe)

    People have been telling me they have the best pizza, so I was looking forward to trying this place out. The cook trained in Europe, uses a woodfire (kiawe) oven and the menu (and pictures) indicates Italian style approach. So I was excited.

    We chose the magherita ($14). Basically, it came with tomato sauce, squares of mozzarella and fresh basil. The mozzarella and basil didn’t have much flavor. The tomato flavor was also a bit too muted in the sauce. However, the crust was really good–probably the best I’ve had (or at least my favorite). It is very similar to the Boston’s crust–which speaks well for Boston, imo. Anyway, I’d go back and try another pie–even the flavors of this one weren’t the greatest.

    Fendu Boulangerie (Manoa Marketplace)

    Don told me about this place, and I heard they make pizza, so I was looking forward to trying this place.

    Here are some pastries we got:

    croissant: Having eaten some really good croissants in Seattle, I wanted to compare. No, it was definitely not as good (not as flaky, crispy, buttery; flavor and texture of the interior bread wasn’t as good, too). Still, not bad, but not something you’d go out to the way to try.

    chocolate croissant: Supposedly, these are popular. The chocolate comes in a thin layer inside the squarish and flat croissant. OK, but nothing special, imo.

    Blueberry tart: One of the better desserts

    Lychee danish: OK. Not flaky or buttery enough

    For the pizza we ordered their classic pizza (which is similar to the magherita, if I remember correctly), but they gave us the five cheese pizza. It was OK, but not exceptional. Actually, it reminded me of the Costco cheese pizza (which I actually like). The crust is not cracker thin, but not pan-thick, either. It’s sort of spongey.

    Serg’s Mexican Kitchen (Manoa, next to Boston’s North End Pizza and a crepe place; this used to be an old gas station)

    I’ve heard good things about this place.

    We ordered a nachos dish that was recommend (by someone else). It came with a cream sauce, poblano chilles, corn, cheese and I can’t remembe what else. It was good. I also got a side of black beans and rice. It’s probably the best rice I’ve had (which isn’t saying much), but it was moist and flavorful, almost like a gandule rice without the pork.

    The kids got chicken tacos. The chicken was dried out and a bit salty. It was nicely charred, though, and they gave quite a bit (to fill a 4″ corn tortilla). The next day and tried the carne asada taco. The steak was dried out and not very flavorful.

    We also tried the flan (under $4) which had a strong coconut flavor, which made it taste like haupia. There was a nice heavy density to this, too.

    I want to go back and try the mahi and chicken that Eat Nopal mentions.

  387. Reid

    Ailana Shave Ice (mauka of Ala Moana on Kona Street in a two story strip mall; sort of next to Bank of Hawai’i)

    Have you guys tried this place? I heard some chowhounds raving about this place, so I wanted to check it out. It’s good–maybe the best I’ve had. This is what we got: strawberry milk and haupia. The syrups are homemade, utilizing real fruit. We also had this with condensed milk.

    The ice texture was also very good–soft, but not in the slurpee range.

    They have limited homemade syrups (mango, papaya, etc.), but they also have traditional syrups, too. I’d recommend the syrups I got or some of the other homemade syrups.

    Delish!

  388. Reid

    Baci Bistro

    The first time I went here, I liked it. The second time, a few years later, and I didn’t have a really good experience. (Penny and Grace were there, too.) But I know Don loves this place, and I did enjoy the food the first time, so Larri and I went to check this place out again.

    I got the paparadelle with sausage, veal, chicken, mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes in a demi-glace sauce. Larri got the monchong in a piccata sauce. Larri’s dish was basically like the Assaggio version except they grilled the fish. Larri didn’t like it, and I agree. It didn’t really have much flavor (little or no garlic, skimpy on the capers). The linguini was bland and whimpy (then again, the Assagio version is just passable, too). The fish also was a bit on the thin side.

    We both liked my dish a lot more. I really like paparadelle pasta, and this was decent. The sauce was tasty and they gave a lot of sausage, veal and chicken. It wasn’t something I’d go back for, but it was pretty good.

  389. Reid

    Formaggio Grill (Kailua; across from Times)

    Think of Le Bistro prices and menu, but not as good quality and that’s an idea of the type of place you’re going to–well, that’s based on an appetizer, two entres and dessert. For the appetizer, we had the crab, spinach fondue. (Good; I liked the toasted bread that came with it.)

    Larri had the filet mignon with potatoes Vicky (or something like that which was a block of layered potatoes au gratin) and asparagus ($30). I had the salmon with crab meat ($26). Both were fine, nothing exceptional. (The salmon was sort of priced appropriately, although I’ve had just about the same quality of salmon for a lower price.)

    For dessert, we had the chocolate souffle cake a la mode and strawberry-guava cheesecake. The cheesecake was a bit too mushy. The souffle cake was fine, although Larri thought it didn’t care for it.

    Our waiter was very nice and the service was solid. The atmosphere is good: you could dress up or go casual.

    There are other good things on the menu that I wouldn’t mind trying, but my impression so far is that the food is a tad overpriced.

  390. Mitchell

    During the Hallowbaloo street fair on Saturday, Soul de Cuba was one of the places that had a tent on Nuuanu Ave. I got a lechon asado plate (with rice and black beans) for ten bucks and it was SOOOOOOO good. Basically a shredded pork dish, this thing was SUPER vinegary, almost vinegary enough for me! Why has nobody told me this dish exists?

    The black beans and rice were pretty close to unseasoned, which worked just fine with the pork. I wanted to lick the plate clean, I was so in love with this food.

    Determined to learn how to cook this on my own (I’ve been doing a lot with pork lately), I discovered that vinegar isn’t even one of the ingredients. That lovely sour taste is from lemon juice and lime juice.

    Can’t wait to make it myself, and I’m going to make it a point to check out the restaurant sometime after my next paycheck, I guess. Yum.

  391. Reid

    Soul

    Third time to Soul. We had the fried chicken and waffles which are only offered on Thursdays. I was first disappointed by the thinness of the waffle, which really looked like a larger sized eggo waffle. The waffle came with its own thick syrup. It seemed to be some maple syrup based sauce. Anyway, i really liked it, although I only tried a few bites.

    The chicken (two thighs) were a lot better than I remember. They were really juicy, and I really liked the crunchiness and flavor of the skin.

    We also ordered the spare-ribs, which came with collard greens (from Ma’o Farms), vegetarian chili, coleslaw and cornbread. The cornbread came “wet” as if it were soaked in something. I liked the concept, but it could have have been better. (I wouldn’t mind trying it again). The veg. chilli is good, but nothing to drive out of your way to try, imo. The collard greens sort of reminded me of a slightly stronger tastes luau leaf. As for the ribs, at first I liked it, but it didn’t seem to have a rub, which disappointed me a little. I liked the sauce, although whatever the ribs were soaked/seasoned with sort of had an Asian flavor to it. (Well, that’s my best guess, anyway.)

    We also tried the pecan square ($7), which came with a dollop of vanilla infused whipped cream. It was OK, although I liked the whipped cream. I like my pecan pies with bigger pieces of pecans and a little thicker pie.

  392. Mitchell

    Tanaka Saimin

    We had a conversation about this place Saturday night, so it was on my mind this week when I planned to have an early dinner at Nico’s. It’s in the old Weyerhauser building at the corner of Alakawa and Nimitz.

    The story: the owners of Boulevard Saimin on Dillingham had something of a falling-out. Some of them took some of the workers to the new location, taking the Tanaka Saimin name. The rest stayed where they were but changed the name to Dillingham Saimin.

    So I checked it out. It’s big. And it’s new. And it’s comfy and nice. The service is (for me) unbearably friendly, but I can see how most people would really like that. The menu is…normal. There’s nothing on that menu that makes you say, “Hm!”

    I had saimin because it seemed fitting. There are several varieties, but I settled on the Tanaka Special, which is a large bowl of won ton min with a two pieces of shrimp tempura on the side. This was like $8.60 or thereabouts. The saimin noodles were thin and chewy and rather tasty. The broth was a nice, light dashi, about what you’d expect. The noodles were served with about five or six nice pieces of won ton, plus some Asian greens, a few pieces of char siu, and two slices of kamaboko.

    The tempura was the big, fluffy variety, with a nice crispy exterior and a warm, bready, chewy interior. This is not my favorite style of tempura, but it’s good enough. I liked it.

    Why do beef sticks cost so much? I ordered a beef stick because it seems like such a good accompaniment for saimin, but at $2.50 (or more, I think), it’s just not worth it. I thought it was over-sauced anyway, but it did have a nice char on it.

    It’s open 7 to 9 weekdays, and an additional hour on weekends. Parking didn’t seem like a problem, but there aren’t very many things open in that building yet. Worth a try if you love saimin, it’s a nice, comfy choice for local food; you’re not going to be blown away, but I doubt anything will disappoint.

  393. mitchell

    Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen

    This is in the old 99 Ranch Market food court. It’s basically souvlakis, gyros, and falafel, either on plates or in sandwiches. The hummus is good; everything else is just kind of okay, not that I’ve had everything else. Plan to try the falafel soon.

  394. Reid

    Mitchell,

    What is *Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen’s” hours? I need to find a Greek place that’s closer to my house.

    Grand Cafe and Bakery

    We picked up playhawaii coupons, and tried this place twice. The first time we had the bananas foster french toast (meh) and a kind of skillet dish with salami and artichokes. Wait, it might have been like a benedict thing as it came with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This was pretty tasty. We also tried their cinnamon roll, which Larri thought was good, while I didn’t.

    The second time we visited, I tried the buttermilk pancakes with blueberries; not that great, especially for $10. Larri got an egg dish (that I can’t really remember). It was just OK.

    D.K. Kodama

    I’ve mentioned before that I never went to a fancy steakhouse and eaten a steak that I think was worth the price–although the wagyu kobe at Mavro was an exception. The 15 day dry aged bone-in rib-eye ($48) at DK’s might be another. I don’t know if it’s worth $48, but it was a really good steak–much better tasting than any steak I’ve picked up from the supermarket.
    Larri got the filet with a fully loade baked potato. We also had broccoli.

  395. Don

    Mitchell,

    More importantly (or maybe equally important), what are the prices? Fat Greek’s (the one off Waialae) gyro is still $6 (I’m pretty sure.) and it comes with salad.

  396. Reid

    FWIW, Fat Greek’s gyro is $8. Greek Corner’s is about $9, but you can choose fries or a salad with it (while you can only get a salad at FG). FG does have a hot sauce, though, which gives it a distinct edge over Greek Corner, imo.

  397. Don

    Yeah my bad, I think you are right the gyro at Fat Greek is $8. The salad at Fat Greek is much (way) better than the one at Greek Corner.

    Anyhoo, I went to Kai Market for my mom’s birthday last night. I think Kamaaina is like $39. This place has good food for a buffet. We didn’t have the butterfish (see above for Reid’s post), but here are some of the highlights for me:

    Rack of Lamb – one of my favorite meats, it was really good, the flavoring wasn’t anything special, but Rack taste good no matter how it’s prepared

    Salt and Pepper shrimp – I think this is fresh shrimp (they were really big) from Kahuku. Extremely fresh, sweet, and firm (You can really taste the difference between this and the frozen kind you get at the Chinese Restaurants). I don’t normally get shrimp outside of maybe a Chinese Restaurant, but these are one of the better shrimps that I’ve eaten. In fact I wasn’t going to take any, but my mom and aunty said it was really good, and it was.

    Sashimi – This is probably the best fish I’ve had at a buffet. Normally sashimi at a buffet is bland, but this one was good. Not even close to the best sashimi I’ve had, but like I said for buffet it was very good.

    Seafood Chowder – This is pretty good chowder. The ingredients was okay, but I like that it wasn’t so salty. Usually clam or any chowder is too salty, but this one you can taste more of the cream.

    Shrimp and Mussel cold dish – The taste was good (not exceptional), but the shrimp were big (for this type of dish) and the mussels weren’t chewy.

    Roast Duck – Not as good as at some Chinese Restaurants, but hey it’s duck.

    The really good thing about this place, when we went anyway, is that they don’t have huge quantities of food out and they keep replacing what’s there, so the food is fresh/hot. That being said it wasn’t that crowded (maybe a little more than half full), so maybe this wouldn’t be a good thing if you had to wait for food. This place gets the thumbs up from me, and I’m not a huge buffet guy. At most buffets, I usually just eat mostly sushi. Man, I ate too much.

  398. mitchell

    If you need Greek food that’s even closer to home, there’s a Greek kiosk in the Pearl Harbor NEX food court. You don’t need a military ID to eat there. I usually go on Friday nights for an Indian fix. It’s got the usual food court drawbacks, but it also has a rather large lanai where almost nobody eats, so you can eat al fresco and escape the zoo indoors.

  399. mitchell

    Dillingham Saimin

    So, for comparison’s sake, I went to Dillingham Saimin and there was the same thing on the menu. At Tanaka Saimin, it’s called Tanaka Special. At Dillingham Saimin, it’s called Special Saimin. It’s the same thing and it’s the same price. I also ordered a beef stick so I could compare that.

    The saimin is pretty much the same, but the wontons at Dillingham are noticeably bigger and meatier. The broth is slightly more flavorful, but I couldn’t tell from memory if it was just saltier or if in fact it had a little bit more flavor. Either way, it was good. Point for Dillingham.

    The tempura was the same type, but at Dillingham the edges were crispy and the fluffy inside was kind of oily. The crispiness is good; the oiliness is bad. Point for Tanaka.

    The beef stick advantage clearly goes to Dillingham. While the char isn’t as good at Dillingham, the meat’s thicker and not sauced nearly as heavily. It’s still not worth the $2.40 price, so I won’t be ordering it again, but it is much better than at Tanaka. Service was slightly less attentive, but my water glass was larger, so that ended up being fine. What I didn’t like was that even though it was around 3:30 in the afternoon and therefore very uncrowded, the waitress seated everyone in one small area of the restaurant so she wouldn’t have to walk around as much. Please. Don’t they know that the reason I go to places at 3:30 on a weekday is that I hate crowds? They manufactured a crowd when in fact no crowd existed. Suuuuuuper irritating.

    Parking is famously tight at Dillingham, another reason to go during off hours.

  400. Mitchell

    grhh.jpg

    Finally got to try Ailana. I had the strawberry milk with no add-ons. It is very good, but I disagree about the ice texture: it’s way too fine. I kinda wanted to try the grape, but even though you get up to two flavors per order, I didn’t like the idea of mixing those flavors, which I think is fortunate considering the ultra-fineness of the ice.

    I’d come back

  401. Don

    Ate at Melt, which is a food truck that pretty much only makes Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Very good, but with the same ingredients, I’m pretty sure I could make one at home that taste identical, and pretty quickly, too.

    Anyway, I got a melt with some special cheese (forget the name haha), bacon, on a sourdough bread for $8. Having said the above, it was pretty crowded though.

    I, also went to TASTE the Korean taco truck. I got the Kalbi and the shrimp. The tacos are good. Normally I would rather eat flour tortillas, but their corn tortillas are thicker and probably a little meatier (although Tracy didn’t like it). The Kalbi was alright (not sure if I would get that again), but I really like the shrimp. The tacos look small, but they give kind of a lot of filling. The cost of two tacos are about the cost of one burger at Kua Aina. Thus for the price I think you get just about the same amount of meat, you just don’t get the bun so it’s less filling (but taste great).

  402. Reid

    Mitchell,

    You should try the haupia flavor, unless you don’t like coconut.

    Don,

    Thanks for the review of Melt. Did they have the grilled cheese burger sandwich? Supposedly, it’s a beef patty sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Makes the ultimate cheeseburger seem like health food.

  403. Mitchell

    Aw man. When do you go? I heard the special last week was a grilled kabocha melt. I wanted that so bad!

  404. Don

    Actually I couldn’t find a parking space, so Tracy went to pick up the sandwich. Yes there was the Kabocha Melt, but she picked the one with bacon. Also she didn’t say, but I assume there was the burger one.

    There is also another Korean truck called Gogi (or something like that). Anyone know where it is?

  405. mitchell

    I’ve heard that the Gogi truck is closed until the new year.

  406. Reid

    I saw it parked on Kapiolani sort of across 24 hour fitness (not directly across).

  407. Mitchell

    I’m leaving this thread open for future comments, especially if you want to add something to thoughts about the restaurants mentioned here, but if you’re going to write about new stuff, please consider posting it instead here. Every time someone opens this thread, it uses more of my server resources than necessary (thanks to all the images and stuff). I don’t mind it much, but if I can save a little bit of bandwidth here and there, I would like to.

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