Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Hawaii Eats March 2010
KCC Farmer's Market - bbq abalone, delicious abalone bbq'd on the half shell. One stand had - excellent kalua pork, smokey and moist without being over cooked and stringy. The vendor said that it was done traditional emu style (by burying it), it was definitely better than a lot of the KP I've tried.
Kaka'ako Kitchen - the shoyu chicken is the best, the mahi is fine, but the chicken is delicious.
Side Street Inn - the fried pork chop is delicious though fatty and I'm not sure it's worth the price tag, the spicy chicken is boneless pieces of skin on chicken fried and topped with a salty spicy sweet sauce - these are really lack luster, far too much breading and not enough meat and the sauce is not very good.
Wailoa Bakery - best shave ice, finely shaved until it becomes the texture of ice cream. The Azuki bowl and the green tea flavor are my favorites.
Million - the pork neck soup is delicious, not too spicy and full of flavor, the pan chan are good and the service is very friendly. I also loved the homey comforting beef brisket and tendon soup. The broth is a white pork bone based broth with a straightforward clean flavor. Good when punched up with a bit of salt and dunked in rice.
Leonard's - the li hing sugar malasada was new to me, I think between the original, cinnamon and li hing, the cinnamon is the best.
Hank's Haute Dogs - they had a Monday special of Italian Beef. I got it spicy, it was fine, the meat could've been less cooked, but they definitely got the jus and bread right. I also liked the hibiscus lemonade a nice acid punch to cut the richness of the sandwich.
Tanioka's - got the spicy ahi, spicy marlin and giant clam pokes. The poke here is excellent. This time I noticed the simple clean flavors in the spicy marlin. My companion loved the giant clam poke and I agree that it's one to get again. The spicy ahi was good, though perhaps over marinated because I felt the spices overwhelmed the ahi, it was just a bit too strong.
Champion Malasadas - these were really good and in just one visit, I prefer them to Leonards. The plain sugar malasada had an eggy almost custard like tender interior while the custard filled malasada was more standard, though I appreciated the fact that the custard was tasty and not too sweet.
Romy's - exactly as I remembered it. Super juicy and fresh prawns are the thing to get, I got the garlic preparation which is o.k. if you like toasted garlic flavor, though I thought the spicy shoyu dip that accompanied it was a good counterpoint. Next time, get the steamed prawns with cocktail or shoyu on the side.
Fumi's - they didn't actually have a shack the last time I was in the area. They have a lot of different preparations and they recommended the garlic prep. The spicy shrimp looked firey red, a little too red, while there was also a butter garlic spicy which added garlic to the mix. I went for that and was pleasantly surprised by the slightly tart garlic and red pepper sauce. The shrimps were very fresh and I would come back.
Giovanni's - I remembered really loving the scampi sauce here. This time, it was just o.k. I think what sets it apart is the cooked garlic. The garlic is cooked so that it is soft and has that roasted garlic flavor, there also appears to be plenty of olive oil in the sauce. I found it a bit rich so I squeezed plenty of lemon onto it and added the hot sauce. The hot sauce is probably the best thing at Giovanni's, probably a combination of butter and red chili. The shrimp themselves were the least impressive of the three places, but with such a powerful sauce you didn't taste much of the shrimp anyway.
Matsumoto's - the last few times I passed through Haleiwa, I didn't stop here because the line was too long. Lucky for me it was a rainy-ish day so I didn't have a wait. I tried a cone of strawberry, coconut and pineapple. The ice is much more coarse than at Wailoa and the syrups were just o.k., medium to high on the sweetness scale. I'm spoiled as I kept wishing that I was at Wailoa instead.
Ted's Bakery - haupia chocolate pie - buying a piece of pie that is encased in an individual plastic container is not something I'd normally do. Aside from it's presentation, this pie was pretty good. The crust looked like it wouldn't be very tasty as it was fairly white, but it had good crumble when I bit into it. The haupia layer of the pie screamed Hawaii to me. I can see why this place is so popular, but I still have to wonder whether they use premade pie crust.
Maguro-ya - this is a nice place for lunch, the quality of the fish is high and they have large teishoku's. The prices are a bit on the high side, but it's worth it for the quality. I had the hamachi collar, but I think next time I'd try the maguro collar or their maguro three ways.
Tekkori-tei - another good sushi place. The fish is excellent as was the rice. We also tried a yakitori of mushrooms and pork belly. The flavor was good, but the strength of this restaurant is definitely the sashimi.
Yotekko-ya - still my favorite ramen place. The paiten broth has deep pork and seafood flavor, nicely balanced and the quality of the noodles is high. They ask whether you want them Hawaiian style (soft) or Japanese style (firm) -- the Japanese style is perfect to me. Their chashu is large chunks of tender soy infused pork.
Tenkaippen - I think I tried this place or a version of it in Waikiki two years ago, I remember being unimpressed. This time I went to the place on Kapahulu and I ordered the paiten ramen. Noodles were very good, Japanese style nice bite and flavor. The broth was also excellent, good pork flavor slightly salty - a close second to Yotekko-ya. I liked the pickled ginger to cut the richness of the broth, but did not appreciate the little pile of crisped garlic because their bitter flavor overwhelmed the soup. The chashu was several pieces of rather dry and flavorless pork.
Rai Rai Ramen - I liked this place, the miso ramen was fine. Noodles o.k., and broth a bit one note. The chashu was very good,What kept me from really enjoying the bowl of ramen was all the extra topping of sprouts. They do this at a few places in SF and it just feels like filler to me. Menma (bamboo), egg (hard or soft boiled) and chasu are great, but I can do without the rest of it.
Roy's - we went to the original in Hawaii Kai, the first restaurant of this now rather large chain. Service was very good. I asked for the wine pairing with the prix fixe menu and they carded me! I was flattered -- all my rest and relaxation must be taking years off my life. Lobster with truffled corn pudding - tender fresh lobster on a cup like corn custard. The sweetness of the lobster balanced well against the sweet salted corn and bass note of truffle - a great dish. The other starter of crab cake, was some serious crab, no filler here, though I thought the crab meat was missing that fresh flavor. The szechuan spicy baby back pork ribs were good, just what you'd expect. For the mains we had the following, in order of my preference: garlic mustard beef short rib, misoyaki butterfish, and a mac nut crusted shutomi. The only slight disappointment was the shutomi, it wasn't the mac nut crust, but rather the fish. The shutomi cooked medium was a little too dense on the outer parts and yet had an almost spongy texture, it just didn't work well with the crust. All the other elements of the dish, the sauce and asparagus were delicious. Both the short rib and butterfish were extremely tender, full of flavor and well executed. I had never been to a Roy's, because it's a chain I associated it with sort of middling quality corporate restaurant food. After this very good Hawaii Kai meal, I would definitely eat there again. I'll have to check out their restaurant in San Francisco.