Archive for August 2012

Back in the 808: Alan Wong’s

August 31, 2012

We had heard so many wonderful things about the food at Alan Wong’s that we decided to check it out for ourselves.  The restaurant itself is located on the third floor of an office building with not much of a view.  Once inside, we were brought an iPad that had the drink and food menus on it.  Some of the dishes had pictures we could look at to get an idea of what we were ordering.

The restaurant is quite small and dark so my pictures do not do our meal any justice.  Everything we ate was amazing, from the warm bread with a dijon chili aioli to our cocktails to our entrees and dessert.  In fact, the complimentary bread was so good with the aoili that I ate too much of it and made myself sick.  Lesson learned.

 

I will leave you with one of our favorites of the night.  TM had ordered the prix fixe menu and while everything that came out as part of his meal was great, this whole tomato salad was surprisingly divine.  The tomato itself is skinned, sliced and placed back together onto the plate.  It was beautifully ripe and the li hing mui ume vinaigrette around it brought it up a notch.

We are headed back to Hawaii tomorrow for a wedding!  While Alan Wong’s isn’t on our itinerary this time around, we do have many other places we plan on trying!

1857 S King St.  Honolulu, HI 96826

Back in the 808: Shimazu Store

August 28, 2012

Although Waiola’s is definitely my favorite place for shave ice on the island, I did want to try out the Shimazu Store and see what it was about.  Inside the store, there are many signs stating the rules for ordering your shave ice.  (There is also a sign which states no pictures so I have no pictures of the inside of the store.)

First you must tell them what size shave ice you want.  The small is a large and the large is a giant and “The Larry” is just ridiculous.  The Larry is the size of about four smalls put together.  TM and I shared a small and it was more than enough because the small is about the size of my head.

Shimazu Store offers an assortment of unique flavors like durian, mojito, creme brulee, red velvet, peanut butter, haupia, and more!   I chose green tea with haupia sauce on top.  I am so glad we got the plastic holder for 25 cents.  It was worth it not to have our entire shave ice crumble to the ground.

Make sure you go early since there is not much parking and follow the rules on the signs so you don’t get yelled at.  Order your size, extra toppings, with or without ice cream, pay for your shave ice (cash only) and THEN tell them what flavors you want.  It was almost “soup nazi” status but worth it in the end!

330 N. School St.   Honolulu, HI

Back in the 808: Ethel’s Grill

August 24, 2012

I love hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  There are plenty of great ones in Hawaii, you just need to know where to go.  Ethel’s Grill is in an industrial area in Kalihi and you would probably drive by it unknowingly if you weren’t looking for it.  They don’t have designated parking so we drove around and parked down the street.  We made a point to go early (around 11:30 AM) to beat the lunch rush and I am sure glad we did.  The dining room is tiny, maaaaybe it seats 20 people altogether.  We grabbed the last two seats.

The dining area is quite frankly, a mess.  There were boxes stacked in random places that we had to weave between to get to our table.  Their menu is hand written with markers on pieces of paper and inserted in binder sleeves and specials are taped up randomly on the wall all over the place.  It doesn’t get more local and homey than this!  We sat at a table next to these signs which I found amusing.  I love how there is no option to buy a size S t-shirt but they go up to 2X, 3X and 4X!

Each lunch order includes a side salad, rice, miso soup and a choice of fruit punch or iced tea.  This was an amazing deal considering each lunch dish was only about seven or eight dollars.  You also have the option to “sumo size” any meal for $2.50 although the regular potions are quite big already.

I ordered the Japanese hamburger steak.  There are two types of hamburgers in Japan that differ based on the pronunciation of the word.  One is a hamburger as we know it in America between two buns with ketchup and other fixings.  The other is served with rice on the side and usually grated daikon radish and a sauce on top.  Every restaurant has their own version.  This one had grated daikon and daikon sprouts with a ponzu sauce over it.

The ahi tataki sashimi is fresh tuna that is lightly seared and served on a bed of bean sprouts.  It is drizzled with some sesame oil and some of Ethel’s garlic shoyu sauce.  All for 5 bucks!  It was a steal and TM and I shared this starter.  Just about every single table in the restaurant had an order of it.

TM went with the deep fried pork chops that came smothered in a sweet garlic sauce.

Ethel’s is a neat little find that I am glad we tried.  Definitely go early if you can because there aren’t many tables and it looked like they filled up quickly.

232 Kalihi St.   Honolulu, HI

Back in the 808: Waiola Shave Ice

August 23, 2012

Shaved ice always reminds me of summers in Japan.  There are so many festivals or matsuri in Japan during the summer and they always have shaved ice or かき氷.  I loved eating shaved ice so much that someone (my Mom, grandma, other relative in Japan) bought me my own shaved ice maker!  Back in the day, the shaved ice makers were often designed to look like a popular cartoon character and had a hand crank to shave the ice.

I almost always chose strawberry flavored shaved ice with condensed milk on top.  Besides the fact that I love strawberries, I think one of the reasons why I loved getting strawberry flavor was because it would make my lips red.  It was a way of wearing temporary “lipstick” when I was 5 years old without getting in trouble by my Mom.

Ever since, I’ve ALWAYS gotten strawberry shave ice wherever I’ve gone.  There have been a couple of upgrades over the years… vanilla ice cream on the bottom and then mochi balls.  Every once in awhile I may get green tea if it’s offered.  I thought I had found perfection at Waiola’s with my perfect combination: a large strawberry shave ice with ice cream and mochi balls.  I never had a need or want to venture out and try something different. *Note: it is “shave ice” in most of Hawaii, “ice shave” on the Big Island.*

I’m not sure what got into me this day but I decided to go a little crazy and get strawberry and lychee shave ice, vanilla ice cream and no mochi balls.  The lychee was so refreshing and was the perfect partner for my familiar strawberry.  I. LOVED. IT.

TM went with rainbow: strawberry, vanilla and banana.  I’ve always thought it was odd that he doesn’t get ice cream in his shave ice.

There are two locations but the one on Waiola St. is the original and my favorite of the two.  The ice is so fluffy and smooth and melts as soon as it hits your tongue – it is nothing like a snow cone served on the rest of the mainland.  I have to go Waiola’s a minimum of two times each time I’m in Hawaii, no matter how short my trip may be.  I can’t wait to go again!

2135 Waiola St.   Honolulu, HI

Back in the 808: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

August 22, 2012

I know I’ve mentioned this before but TM was born and raised in Hawaii and does not like seafood.  I’ll give you a second to process that because it doesn’t register for most people right away.  TM does eat some sushi and shrimp now… there was a time in his life when he did not even consider eating any seafood at all.  I am fortunate to have met him after the jump since sushi is one of my favorite foods.  It would be a huge disappointment not to be able to go out for sushi together.

We decided to play tourist a little bit and make the drive out to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.  In all the times I’ve been to Hawaii, it’s never been a priority for me to eat from the shrimp truck.  The drive there is not the most comfortable when you’re riding in a 5-speed with a full stomach from breakfast and no A/C.

I felt like we had been driving forever but before we even saw this sign, I knew we were in the vicinity because you could smell the garlic from a mile away.

There were quite a few people in line for shrimp!  TM and I had decided we would share a plate of the shrimp scampi since we had literally just finished eating breakfast an hour earlier.

The shrimp scampi was full of butter and garlic with more of the sauce and crispy garlic chips drizzled over the rice.  We got a full order which consisted of a dozen shrimp and two scoops of rice for $13.  Not bad.

I’m glad we made the drive out to Giovanni’s that day.  The food was good and the weather was pleasant.  Now that we’ve gone once, I’m not sure that we’d go again.  There are so many other places on the island that don’t take up as much time but if you’re already headed in that direction, it’s worth a visit.

56-505 Kamehameha Highway  Kahuku, HI

Back in the 808: Boots & Kimo’s

August 15, 2012

When I was little, I would always make Sunday morning breakfast with my Dad.  Most times, our specialty was Betty Crocker blueberry muffins.  My job was lining the muffin tin with baking cups.  Other times, we’d make pancakes together and I would eat my mini pancakes plain with syrup on the side for dipping.  I guess I was never huge on a lot of sauce on my food.  So it surprises me that I liked my banana mac nut pancakes at Boots & Kimo’s as much as I did.

We had read the reviews and warnings about the wait for Boots & Kimo’s.  We thought a random Thursday morning for breakfast wouldn’t be TOO bad so we slept in (we were on vacation, after all) and took our time driving out to Kailua.  Apparently, Boots & Kimo’s is listed in Japanese guide books as THE place to go for breakfast on Oahu and we had to wait outside with many Japanese tourists.  We took a quick walk to Longs Drugs down the street to pass time.  Quick side note, Longs Drugs is still Longs Drugs in Hawaii and did not change their name to CVS!

I needed to order these banana mac nut pancakes.  I love most things banana and most things with mac nuts.  It was the perfect combination of the two.  I was a little concerned about the amount of sauce that is oozing on top of these hot cakes but they were the perfect amount of saucy sweetness on top!  I loved them and thought they were worth the wait.

For some odd reason, TM decided to go with the Huelo Paniolo Omelette.  It comes with corned beef, onions, tomatoes and swiss cheese with a side of fried rice.  I had a bite and it paled in comparison to my pancakes!  TM was eyeing my dish so I was nice enough to share.

I would love to go again for the banana mac nut pancakes!  I just need to make sure to go early and bring cash since they do not accept credit cards.

151 Hekili St.  Kailua, HI 96734

Back in the 808: Helena’s Hawaiian Food

August 14, 2012

I mentioned in my last post that right after breakfast, we drove one block to pick up food for lunch.  My friend Jeff had told me Helena’s Hawaiian Food (This James Bears Award winning restaurant opened in 1946!) is the place to go for Hawaiian food.  He said one thing we needed to get was the pipikaula short ribs.

We started out with a side of lomi salmon.  It left much to be desired as there actually wasn’t much salmon in it.  Many places these days end up being mostly tomatoes and little salmon.

Helena’s serves up to 150 pounds of kalua pork every week and it’s all cooked in an off-site imu.  It has the perfect combination of smokiness and saltiness to it.  The kalua pork is on the left of this combo plate.

Pipikaula is like a Hawaiian beef jerky.  Pipi means beef / cow and it is traditionally dried in the sun and wind so the texture is chewy and softer than traditional jerky.  At Helena’s, they hang their beef from stainless steel hooks high over a stove to dry.   It has a shoyu (soy sauce) flavor and has the perfect amount of crunch and chewiness in every bite.

TM ordered poi with our meal and I must admit, I didn’t eat a single bite of it.  Poi is made from the corm of the taro plant and it is mashed until it gets to this desired consistency.  I once heard someone describe it as tasting like wallpaper paste and I always think of that whenever I try it.  It often has a sour flavor to it, the older it gets, and often replaces rice in a meal.  As much as I like taro flavored things, I cannot appreciate poi.

One of my favorite desserts besides ice cream is haupia.  It is a Hawaiian coconut dessert that is served in blocks.  It is smooth with no coconut shavings (this is key for me) and although it is considered a pudding-like dessert, it is almost gelatinous.

1240 North School St.   Honolulu, HI  (open Tuesday through Friday 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM)


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