Posted tagged ‘Hawaii’

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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Back in the 808: Mitsu-Ken

July 18, 2012

*Sorry friends, I’ve been MIA lately!  May and June were crazy busy with travels to Portland, LA, Greece and Turkey.  Yes, Greece and Turkey too!  TM and I went on an amazing trip to a couple of the Greek islands and to Istanbul for two glorious weeks in June.  We ate our way around the two countries and I hope to post about them soon this year but in the meantime, let’s finish up our Hawaii trip.  Did I mention we’re going back to Hawaii in September?*

Fried rice and fried chicken aren’t my usual breakfast foods but Mitsu-ken is only open from 5 AM to 1 PM (Tuesday through Saturday).  TM was concerned Mitsu-ken would run out of their famous garlic chicken if we went for lunch so we headed out to Kalihi first thing in the morning.

We knew we had days of gorging ahead of us so we tried to keep it “light”… we only ordered 6 pieces of chicken and two scoops of rice to share.  The flavor on this chicken was incredible.  The outside was crispy, the inside flavorful and garlicky with a sweetness to it.  I’m sure we reeked of garlic for the rest of the day but it was worth it.  The fried rice was decent and almost seemed as if it had been made with mochi rice because it was a little of the soft side.  I would go back for the garlic chicken but not the fried rice.

Mitsu-ken is literally a hole-in-the-wall with no seating.  We ended up taking our food back to the car and eating it while parked.  This was our lovely view.  We had contemplated driving somewhere to eat that was more scenic than this but decided we wanted to eat our food ASAP while it was still hot.

TM wasn’t sure if he wanted to order a breakfast plate to go along with the garlic chicken but he decided against it.  He chose to keep it simple with just the garlic chicken and fried rice.

Mitsu-ken is located across the street from the place we were planning on eating lunch.  After we finished our food, we drove across the street to pick it up lunch.  Good thing we kept our breakfast “light” that day!

1223 N. School St.   Honolulu, HI

Back in the 808: Sushi Izakaya Gaku

May 22, 2012

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I lived in Japan for two years.  I taught English at a high school in the third largest city in Fukuoka prefecture.  I have so many great memories from those two years, much of them revolving around food.  Eating and drinking is such a huge part of Japanese culture that it’s no wonder that most of my pictures from Japan often included people, nature, food or some combination of the three.

Professionals often frequent izakayas in Japan after work.  Izakayas are usually small, casual dining establishments that serve food, sake and beer.  I often used to go with other teachers to unwind after a long day and we would eat and drink beer until we were in danger of missing the last train home.

I had asked my friend Jeff where we should eat since we hadn’t been back to the islands in awhile.  When he told me that Sushi Izakaya Gaku was his favorite place to go, I knew we had to try it.  The day we flew back from Maui, we called Gaku around 4:15 to try to get a reservation for that evening.  They had an opening at 5 PM for us if we promised to eat fast so we booked it.  Good thing we did because people were getting turned away at the door as we ate our meal.

My favorite dish of the night was the spicy negi hama tartare.  One the raw quail egg gets mixed in, wrap it in the nori (seaweed) and eat.  The hamachi was perfectly creamy and the flavors of the fish combined with the scallions and raw egg were in perfect harmony with each other.

The homemade tofu with dashi jelly was amazingly smooth and silky.  We mixed in the wasabi and ate it with our spoons.  It was a pretty great way to begin our meal.

TM does not care for crab but he let me order the king crab cake.  It came out sizzling on the plate and tasted buttery with huge chunks of crab.

One of the specials that night was the papio carpaccio.  Interestingly enough, this was one of my least favorite dishes of the evening.  I had never tried papio before and thought it didn’t compare to the hamachi.

The karaage chicken had good flavor but it did not blow me away.  I will probably pass on it next time and try something else on the menu.

The nigiri sushi we ordered was impeccable!  Hamachi for me and salmon for TM.

We weren’t planning on ordering dessert here but when we heard green tea ice cream with homemade mochi, we decided we could share.  It was the perfect end to our memorable meal.

We ate our plates clean and paid our bill before the next reservation came.  This dinner was one of my top two favorite meals of this trip because everything about Gaku was great including the atmosphere, service, and of course, the food.  It was quite different from izakayas I used to go to in Japan.  It didn’t have the usual yakitori and other skewers you would usually find in izakayas and was definitely not as smoky (smoking is allowed everywhere in Japan) but it had an intimate and casual feel once you were inside.  I would go again in a heartbeat if we have time the next time we are back!

1329 S. King St.   Honolulu, HI

Back in the 808: Flatbread Company

April 21, 2012

I used to spend the night at Elisa’s house in high school all the time.  School nights, weekends, you name it, her house was practically my second home.  Sometimes we’d be left to fend for ourselves for dinner if her parents were out of town.  If Tita’s (her grandmother’s) home cooked Lebanese food wasn’t in the fridge, we would make Kraft mac n cheese or order a pizza from Michael’s Pizza.  You can’t go wrong with pizza.

Elisa had heard the Flatbread Company was good and suggested we try it for lunch.  Everyone seems to know I have a weakness for pizza so of course, I obliged.

I loved looking into the wood fire to see if our pies were cooking.

Since there were four of us, we ordered two large flatbreads and did half and half on both of them.  The crust was perfectly thin and crunchy right out of the oven.  Straight from their website, this is what we ordered:

Pa’ia Bay Ohana – Our wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce, caramelized organic onions, organic mushrooms, premium whole milk mozzarella and imported Parmesan cheese baked on organic bread dough with homemade organic garlic oil, sprinkled with our own blend of organic herbs

Homemade Sausage – our own homemade nitrate-free maple-fennel sausage with organic sulfate- free sundried tomatoes, caramelized organic onions, mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella and Parmesan cheese baked on organic bread dough with homemade organic garlic oil and organic herbs

Coevolution — Imported Kalamata olives, fresh Maui organic rosemary, organic red onions, our own blend of Hawaiian goat cheeses, fire-roasted sweet red peppers, and premium whole milk mozzarella baked on organic bread dough with homemade organic garlic oil and our own blend of organic herbs

Nitrate-Free Pepperoni & Mushroom – Homemade nitrate-free pepperoni with mushrooms, our wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce, whole milk mozzarella and imported Parmesan cheese baked on organic bread dough with homemade organic garlic oil and our blend of organic herbs

I decided to go with an Island Root Beer from the Maui Brewing Co.  It was great!  Elisa and I are suckers for good root beer.

TM and I had actually ordered a salad to share but it never came out.   The server felt bad for forgetting to put in our salad order and he brought out a brownie sundae with four spoons on the house.  It came with coconut and vanilla ice cream.   Even though we were full from our meal, we made room to fit in dessert.  We devoured it and left the plate clean.  Matt was the only one who didn’t try the brownie sundae because he doesn’t care for sweets.

I’m not sure if Elisa knew this, but Flatbread Company has multiple locations throughout the U.S.  One of the locations is in Portland, OR where she lives.  Next time, she doesn’t need to travel a couple thousand miles across an ocean to get pizza from the Flatbread Company.

89 Hana Hwy.   Paia, HI

Back in the 808: Botero Bar at the Grand Wailea

April 20, 2012

Our dear friends Elisa and Matt were on Maui while we were on Oahu and since our trips overlapped, we decided to hop over to see them.  It was Matt’s first time to the islands so we had all sorts of advice to offer on where to go and what to see… and of course what to eat.

We didn’t do any of that though.  There was no drive to Hana, no viewing of the sunrise or sunset at Haleakala Crater, and believe it or not, we hardly had any beach time either.  Elisa’s Dad was at a conference at the Grand Wailea on Maui and we spent a majority of our time living it up in the hotel pool.  It’s not just any ordinary hotel pool though.  There were multiple pools that were connected by a river to carry swimmers at various speeds.  The pools boasted of water slides, jacuzzis, a water elevator, swim up bar and more.

Our first night on Maui, we started things off right by going to the Botero Bar at the Grand Wailea.  (Side note, Botero Bar is not half as fun to say as the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a Bar they have there.  That is the name of the state fish of Hawaii.)  We sipped on Bikini Blondes and Molokini Sunset cocktails… our vacation had truly begun!

3850 Wailea Alanui   Wailea, HI

Back in the 808: Zippy’s

March 18, 2012

Right after TM and I started dating, I went to Hawaii with my parents for my cousin’s wedding.  I told TM all of the places I wanted to eat at, Zippy’s being one of them.

“ZIPPY’S?!?  Why in the world would you want to go to Zippy’s?!?,” he asked.

Fast forward about five years and TM now agrees with me that it needs to be a stop when we are back on the islands.  It is a chain restaurant but it is a Hawaiian chain so it doesn’t break my rule.  Zippy’s is the Denny’s of Oahu.  Most are open 24 hours so it’s a great late night spot after bars and clubs close.

An ever so popular menu item at Zippy’s is the Zip Pac.  It comes with fried chicken, teriyaki beef, a fish filet and spam over norifurikake rice.  It has a great variety of food for a very reasonable price.  When I first went to Zippy’s it was about five bucks.  Now it is over $8!  TM and his Dad both ordered a Zip Pac.

TM’s Mom got the burrito with Zippy’s chili.  It’s actually a deep fried bean and meat burrito (chimichanga) with chili over it and topped with cheddar cheese.  You can order it like this or as part of a plate that comes with rice and macaroni salad.

Since we had eaten a filling McDonald’s breakfast earlier that day, I ordered a small beanless chili over rice.  I never grew up eating chili at home so one of the first times I had it was at Zippy’s on one of my many trips to the islands.  Now I cannot eat chili unless I have rice to go with it!  I love that Zippy’s offers a beanless version for bean haters like me.  It’s seasoned great but I did feel that it was more oily than usual this time around.  It was topped with cheddar cheese and onions.

We did make it back to Zippy’s with some friends one other time during this trip after a night of karaoke.  I was so full from our dinner that I just ordered an Orange Bang.  TM ordered a Korean fried chicken plate.  The small fried pieces of chicken were dipped in a spicy shoyu sauce and topped with green onions.

In a weird way, Zippy’s is comfort food to me.  It is quick, convenient and good!

Various Locations

Back in the 808: McDonald’s breakfast

February 20, 2012

I have a rule that when I travel, I cannot eat at a chain restaurant.  Why eat at Chili’s in Los Angeles, when I can go to Chili’s in my hometown?  It is just not special… unless they have special menu items at other locations.

One place I enjoy checking out in foreign countries is McDonald’s.  There are always different menu items that are fun to try, as well as some regular staples. There were gyros at McDonald’s in Greece and shaka shaka chicken at McDonald’s in Japan, to name a couple.

Even though Hawaii is a part of the U.S., they still have special menu items.  Before we left the mainland to go to Hawaii, I told TM that we should put McDonald’s breakfast on the list.  We were not allowed to go there for lunch, snack or dinner.  It specifically had to be breakfast.

McDonald’s in Hawaii has rice on the menu for breakfast!  TM and I both got Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice with TM’s platter having a beloved serving of spam as well.

McDonald’s in Hawaii also has different flavored pies.  My favorite flavor is haupia so I was bummed, they didn’t have it this time around.   We did pick up a taro pie though!  There were little chunks of taro throughout which made it very yummy.  Yes, we ate the pie for breakfast because we wanted to eat it while it was still warm.  And yes, the pies at McDonald’s in Hawaii are still fried, not baked.


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