We decided to head back "home" to Oahu before heading to Japan. The Missus needed to visit Her parents....and I needed to recharge. I love seeing my in-laws, they truly treat me as if I'm their son. The one problem being, and no offense here, I'm a "townie" by nature....for me finding the kind of places and grindz I like is kind of hard in Ewa Beach and West Oahu.....things are getting better...but for the most part, it's trips to Tanioka's for us. And yet, I wanted something different and special for us....the family, to go out and enjoy. Somehow, I'm still not entirely sure, I came across Kahumana Farms and their Cafe, which serves lunch and....great for us, dinner from 6pm - 8pm Tuesday to Saturday.
Over the last 10 years we've been doing the blog, things have changed, we eat less, still enjoy food, but temper things with more healthy choices. Plus, there's just a sort of "hippie" side to the Missus that has come out the last couple of years......let's put that "high maintenance hippie", have you seen the prices of dried mulberries? Yikes. However, there was just something about this place that seemed right.
The whole Kahumana Farms thing was established by Father Phillip Harmon back in 1974. The farm and cafe reside "out there" down the unpaved roads of Lualualei Homestead Road. The land is fruitful, I've been told that there are more than few archaeological sites in this valley. And the Kahumana Organization supports transitional housing and programs for those with disabilities. A big plus, you're getting "stuffs" grown right on the farm. You can read more about this here at their website and otherarticles.
I called and made reservations......
Like they say, getting there was half the fun. From what I recall, a lot of the area is Hawaiian Homestead land. I haven't really been down to Waianae in almost 30 years or so.....once upon a time, I drove here weekly for work, but it had been almost forever....ok, let's just say a lifetime. We arrived and walked in the door, past the shop area......the place was doing some decent business. Finding that we had reservations....we got a table in the covered lanai area.
The staff here is very friendly....not polished mind you, but they make up for things with their warmth and friendliness. The menu is written on a chalkboard, one of which is delivered to your table. It's an interesting aggregation of dishes...hummus, Pacific Rim, Indian influences.....
We started with some Kabocha Soup.
The Missus loves Kabocha, so choosing this was a no-brainer. Smooth and comforting, a slight heat, herbaceous, perhaps a little too sweet for our taste, this was still quite nice.
The dish we enjoyed the least was the chicken stir fry, which, in spite of the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, had severely over-cooked the chicken.
The Chicken Masala on Brown Rice (yes, brown rice) and stir fried vegetables was very good.
No, I wasn't expecting Punjabi Tandoor, but this was quite good....can I go on about the greens? The "masala inspired" sauce had a bit of zip and nice balanced spice profile....good enough that I actually ate a good bit of brown rice! The chicken was nice and moist on this one.
The Macadamia Nut Pesto with Mahi Mahi was solid.
Call it the "Shandong" influence, but I was not a fan of the noodles, which were kind of brittle and lacking in texture. The "pesto" was very nice, nutty, with a good herb flavor. I'm kind of leary about Mahi Mahi, having worked with it quite a bit in one of my former lives. You need to get it really fresh...it attains a "sour" flavor when at less than optimal freshness. Plus, too many folks just cook it to death....and this one looked unimpressive....until I had a taste...nicely seasoned, moist.....very good! A nice piece of fresh fish prepared simply, but well.
I think it might be hard for folks to understand how a simple salad could be the best dish......
It is, after all, a plate of vegetables.....but let me say, the Missus and I enjoyed this the most. The cucumbers sparkled, crisp, with the flavor of melon...the greens, bitter, herbaceous, taste each separately. The tomatoes were good....but you have to understand, my Mom was from Maui....I still have the flavor of ripe, Kula tomatoes on the brain. The flavor that really got our attention were of the shaved beets, so sweet, so much flavor, I had to ask if they marinated it in any way......the answer? No.......
The Lilikoi Cheesecake....well, I don't do desserts, so you'll have to ask.
As I was waiting for everyone to finish "potty duty" after dinner....a gentleman walked up to me and struck up a conversation. He introduced himself as "Robert"...so in retrospect, I assume he is Robert Zuckerman, the Manager/Chef of Kahumana Cafe. He asked us where we hail from.....it was quite obvious, there are the regular customers, and then there were us. It was a wonderful 15 minutes; we had seen kids....well, teenagers eating in the dining room. We were worried these were homeless kids, but no....kids on a 10 day program learning about farming. The young folks we saw gathering a bit later on were the workers, some of which were Woofers, basically a program by which food and housing is provided in exchange for work on the farm. I thoroughly njoyed our conversation and promised to return.
I hope to keep that promise........I'm looking forward to my next salad!
Kahumana Cafe 86-660 Lualualei Homestead Rd Waianae, Hi 96792
It's actually more like spinal fluid/disc material...but who's keeping score, right? I had been curious about it for a while and I gotta say, I really love the texture and the mild briney.ocean flavor of Swordfish Bone Marrow....think of the mildest oyster in flavor, clean and crisp, combined with the texture of Liangfen 凉粉 - starch jelly noodles. Man, this stuff was really good!
I have to thank Tommy of Catalina Offshore for having Candice and I as his guests, along with Maria and Jonathan for being such great company!
Tommy had been trying to get Candice and I over to Wrench and Rodent for a while for a blow-out Omakase. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant since, like Candice warned Tommy, I'm a bit of a "traditionalist" when it comes to sushi and sashimi. But you can't forget that I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, Hawaii....which is why I hate slapped together con "fusion" dishes..... After reading Faye's post, I thought at the least, this would be an interesting meal.
I gotta say, some of the stuff Davin Waite puts out was so very creative, risky, but still trying to capture the essense of the product. I really enjoyed this meal, even though it was enough to feed an army, or at the least, one hungry Tommy.
My preferred way of having the bone marrow was plain, in the shot glass; there was something so pure and refreshing about it.
I have to say, some of the dishes were just wonderful; the bluefin collar was just out of his world....moist, fatty, like eating "buttah".....it was well seasoned without killing the product.
I thought this pseudo gunkan maki of toro was a wonderful combination of textures. The cucumber crisp and refreshing, the masago added crunch and the flavor of the ocean, the gari, which I usually have between bites to refresh and clear my palate actually did well here.
Of the nigiri; it was the anchovy with a dengaku style miso paste was my favorite.
The Hamachi Kama was just wonderful as well.
Don't let all this fusiony stuff fool you; Davin makes a decent nigiri......
I quickly found out that Davin's sauces tend to run on the fruity/sweet side; which goes well with a pristine scallop; though I could have just eaten this plain....
I did think there was a bit too much mirin action in his nikiri for the maguro.
His pesto type concoction works relatively well with salmon.
There's no denying there's a good amount of creativity going on here. Davin takes risks and has some chops as well.
When it works, like this wonderful Opah, or was it Monchong cheek, BLT dish, it's quite delicious.
When it doesn't, you can't blame him for trying......
You'll notice, not a single Gringo roll....and only one item I say that belonged on another table.
No mayo, surimi..... though I did see a good amount of tempura/mayo/cream cheese rolls going out.
I really need to thank Tommy for arranging this; and for being a fantastic host.....and keeping us entertained as well. You can tell that Davin loves food and creating, it was a blast talking about different ingredients, products, and techniques.
And I got to cross an item off my bucket list as well.
Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub 1815 S Coast Hwy (inside of Bull Taco) Oceanside, CA 92054
W&R isn't the only little treasure hidden in Bull Taco. Brewmaster Havin Harris has opened a little microbrewery named Beer Brewing Company in the back of W&R.
I had a taster of the beers available and my favorite....well, I'm not so comfortable writing this; was the, ahem..."breast beer". Apparently, Havin did a ton of research and developed a beer that is supposed to aid in lactogenesis. As strange as it may seem, this was the breast, um, best beer I tasted and Candice agreed. As to it's effects on lactation...well, you're asking the wrong person!
Overall, it was an amazing night of new experiences; from swordfish bone marrow to breast beer!
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog. Centered mostly around food, we (Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy) write about various places, recipes, ingredients. Here's a post about a place, written by Cathy.
As mentioned in another post, frequently I meet clients for an exchange of paperwork and often they offer to buy me lunch. I let them choose the location, asking them where's a place they enjoy- knowing they might not be as adventurous as I- and also they are aware of the price point, since they have offered to pay.
Chopsticks Inn has been in the corner of this storefront area in La Mesa since 1988. It's the same corner and shares the same parking lot as La Mesa Bistro & Bakery . The owner of Chopsticks Inn was born in SouthEast China, moved to Hong Kong where she grew up with her Grandmother and eventually moved to the US, learning Japanese and Thai cooking along the way. As you can see from the signage, a multitude of Asian cuisine choices are available.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated in a higher end Asian look. The waitstaff is friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.
We both ordered lunch specials, which came with a choice of soup. Hot and Sour and Egg Drop were our choices. When we were first seated, the fried wonton strips and small plate serving of a sweet/vinegar 'duck' sauce were brought to the table.
The Red Curry Chicken lunch plate ($7.55)- came with the soup, an egg roll (all vegetable), cream cheese fried wonton, steamed rice and a very good size serving of red curry chicken-made with fresh mushroom, red and green bell peppers and celery. Yes, celery, which was very complimentary with the flavors.
The Kung Pao chicken ($7.25) was also accompanied by the same sides, as this was also a lunch special. You can see it also had fresh mushrooms, celery and is topped with peanuts. It wasn't very spicy-hot, but was made with very fresh ingredients and tasty...had just a bit of heat, which was nice.
Fortune Cookies were brought out with the bill. I haven't seen packaged Fortune Cookies in a long time and it was fun reading and exchanging our predictions. (Hot tea was $1 each).
This was a very nice, quality meal. I noticed the Dim Sum is a la carte as well as available as platters, that Bento boxes are available at lunch and dinner prices and many noodle and rice dishes are available along with Chinese "Family" meals (priced per person). A new item they were promoting were Boba beverages.
A very interesting restaurant in an unexpected location.
Chopsticks Inn Restaurant 8687 La Mesa Boulevard La Mesa, CA 91942 open Tues-Sun 11 a.m-9 p.m. (619) 466-4470 Website
I had promised myself a return visit to Raki Raki to have the Tsukemen back in November when the weather got a bit warmer.....well, if the record heat we had recently wasn't a sign from some divine being....in short, it was tsukemen time.
But a funny thing happened on the way to my noodles. I believe I'm usually hype free and don't really follow fads. Yep, I'm just your usually fuddy duddy, boring kinda guy. But in a moment of temporary insanity I ordered this:
A ramen burger.......or should I say a "Dream Come True California Ramen Burger" ($9.75)
Even I have those moments it seems....after eating this I mumbled "what was I thinking" to myself as I walked into the psycho parking lot on Convoy. Hopefully not too loud....
The burger is 100% angus beef, over-worked and cooked to death as it's tough as leather. The flavor is nice and beefy. All of the juices from the burger seemed to have collected in the greasy, bland, flaccid, mushy bunch of noodles used as a bun. The fry job on these was lousy as it fell to greasy pieces after two bites. I had imagined something like crispy "cake noodle" like I get back home, this was not very good. The "crisp" rolled pork slice they call "underbelly" was more like hard and the edges burnt and bitter.
The sweet potato fries were light and mildly crisp, with good flavor.
But man, who you gonna sue for this oil spill?
This was like something dreamt up in a college dorm room after a couple hits of the cash crop. For a more mature point of view, perhaps you should read Kirbie's post on the ramen burger.
I sent out texts and photos to my friends, then had a moment of paranoid reflection.......first Yes! Pingo and now a ramen burger...what's going on? What next...a Harley, porn 'stache, and a couple of tats? Maybe this was that male menopause I'd seen my friends go through? Yikes!
I needed to fix this......which I did by returning for the Standard Tsukemen ($8.75).
It was as before, noodles with a nice texture, perhaps a bit over-priced for what you get, and the broth edged on the too salty side.
But most importantly, this seemed like a return to normalcy. At least for now....
RakiRaki Ramen and Tsukemen 4646 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
I get some pretty interesting emails at times.....and as many of the other food bloggers can attest, about a good third of them are press releases, free stuff (which really isn't free if you think about it), and all of the other PR driven spiel. I even get my share of emails from folks.... whom I shall affectionately call "shills". Don't take this the wrong way, some of these folks are endearing as heck...and others, well, I'm thinking it's a single, or perhaps a small group of folks are plain persistent. I'd been getting emails for almost six months, at a pace of about one every two weeks, from different email addresses, all with pretty much the same writing style, telling me about their "favorite place".....with the rather strange name of Bentowich.
Yes, I get it.....bentos and (sand)wiches. I thought the location a bit odd; at the outskirts of Old Town....but in retrospect, I think it's a pretty good idea, Japanese Fast Casual among the scores of Cantinas and tourist traps.
So I finally made it down on a bright (and hot) Saturday, finding parking on a side street. The interior looks efficient and spartan.....
The outdoor seating area is quite nice and bright, if a bit too hot this time of the year. Still, when things cool down it'll be a great place to have a meal.
The concept is a lot simpler than the name would suggest; you pick your protein, determine the context (bento, sandwich, yakisoba, salad), add a couple of toppings/sides, sauce, soup or salad(and dressing), and your on your way.
The assembly is pretty much fast-casual, the food is already prepped/sliced, you deep fry or saute adding some sauce, take it to the Kelvinator where it's put together, and you're done. The key high lite of all of this is that everything is made fresh to order, a key component of "fast casual" type places. There are some unique touches, like having my bento served in a nice bento box.
As you can see, I went with the Sliced char Siu Roast Pork ($8), bento style.
You can chose white rice, brown rice, or onigiri, which is what I choose. You might as well go with white rice as this onigiri is truly white rice scooped into an onigiri mold, other than some furikake on one and some nori on the other, it's not really flavored (i.e. I grew up with onigiri seasoned mildly with salt.
The two "sides" I order were the pickled daikon and carrots and the Asian cole slaw. The pickled daikon was way too sour and salty, while the cole slaw was rather unremarkable. I selected the green salad with Miso Caesar dressing which was watery and weak.
Having seen that the pork was pre-sliced and portioned off, I expected it to be dry and tough, but it was cut thin enough for it to be tender and sauteed quickly keeping it moist. The "teriyaki" sauce was very mild, a hint of sour, more of a glaze, without much sugar, which actually worked in its favor as the flavor of the pork came through nicely.
I thought this was decent in terms of value and quality, so I decided to drop by again when driving back from a meeting in Hillcrest. The pickled daikon came to mind. While being way to sour and salty eaten solo; I thought it would be a great compliment to a sandwich. So I decided to get the Yakiniku Sliced Prime Rib in a sandwich, one of the more expensive items on the menu.
This was a nice sandwich. The roll held up well. The sauce, which tasted the same as what was on the pork kept things moist. The pickled daikon and carrots really added a nice refreshing component to the sandwich, a la banh mi.
I got the green salad again, this time with the wasabi ranch; which was again very runny and lacking in flavor. Sadly, it seemed that the dressings here are watered down.
Overall, the prices were decent, the folks working here, the low-keyed, efficient, and polite young lady, along with the very polite young man.....I'm still trying to pin down the exact time in my life when I became "sir", were very pleasant. So a few weeks later I decided to drop by on a Saturday.
I ordered a Chicken Katsu sandwich, something that I like, though will not get at most bento places because it's that awful combination of dry (the katsu) and mushy (the bread). But since they make the stuff to order at Bentowich, I really couldn't go wrong, right?
When it arrived I thought two things; both of them incorrect. First, the portion size looked quite small, but after opening the sandwich, the portions looked decent, if not especially large. Second, the breading looked really dark, so I thought this was going to be very dry, which it was not.
After my previous experiences with the salads...well, to be more precise, the salad dressing, I was going to get miso soup even though it was hotter than the sun's surface on this day. But after seeing the not so great looking soup on another customer's table, I relented and went with a salad again.......and finally found a dressing that I liked here, the Jalapeno Cilantro. Just enough zip and flavor for my taste.
Frankly, I'd be eating at Bentowich every so often if they were in my neck of the woods.....even though they won't make me forget about my favorite Japanese lunch places, I still prefer this to Chi-poodles and Ba-HA Flesh. The staff here is nice; even to the kind of "ticky" woman who I've seen here on two of my visits, who sits on the table right in front of the counter and has the kind of stare that gives me the creeps. I'm wondering, could she be the one who is...nah, couldn't be.
Bentowich 2367 San Diego Ave San Diego, CA 92110
Ok, whoever you are, you can quit with the emails now!
Yes, i'm finally getting around to doing this one.....which I promised with "part 1" on fuze. I had actually stopped and looked over the menu when JJ first open, some Korean standards, fad following Korean tacos......a carne asada fries knock-off, which is kind of redundant because CAFs are a knock-off itself....so what is a copy off something that's a copy? My friend Candice even mentioned the place in a text, to which I replied, the "the name and the menu makes me giggle giggle".
And yet, there were a couple of folks I knew who liked the place. My usual query would be the one where I asked whether it was a location thing (Midway) or not. Several folks assured me that wasn't the reason. They also told me the Korean tacos were ,"the bomb". And even faced with the fast-food looking facade who am I to judge. If this place could be half as good as....say Gina's BBQ in Honolulu, I would be happy. Sorry to say, it ain't quite that......so if you decide to stop reading here, I wouldn't hold it against you.
On my first visit, I did order "the trio" ($8), one each of the kalbi, dak bulgogi, and daeji bulgogi.
It was a bomb all right; a gut bomb, a lettuce and spicy mayo-fest. I gotta say, if it's pure capacity you're trying to fill, then these might do it. The tortillas were the worst this side of El Pollo Loco, as they just fell to bits and had almost no flavor. I tasted each protein separately and the kalbi was by far the worst, pale, flavorless, and really tough "LA Kalbi" type shortribs. The pork was tough, but at least it had some heat, but all was really lost in the wilderness of lettuce. The chicken bulgogi was probably the best of the trio, decent, but again just covered with "stuff". Let me say however, if you're looking to fill yourself up....this might do it.
So I figured that would be pretty much it......but, the folks running the place were really nice, so I decided to visit one more time. This time I started with the Yaki Mandu ($4).
I really liked the way these were fried....light and crisp. The dipping sauce was a bit watered down and the filling really bland, otherwise this would have been a winner.
My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try the Korean Fries, which, priced at $5.50 are really worth it. But man, this was a mess......
On the good side, I enjoyed the interplay of the kimchi and the fries. On the bad side kimchi and nacho cheese.....that's a bad partnership. I did wonder why the menu said Spicy Mayo and Korean Aioli, which seems to be somewhat redundant. Too much mayo and cheese for my taste and the bulgogi....well you could see it, but not really taste it. Though I did have sort of an epiphany while trying to eat this....if we had a category on the blog for "stoner food", this would be right up there! After all, it was salty, tons of fat, interesting textures.....hmmmm...
To me, the food at fuze is executed better, with higher quality ingredients. Still, the prices here are reasonable and if anyone could give me a recommendation that's not kalbi, spicy pork, bulgogi, chicken bulgogi, or mandu oriented, I may just check them out again. Though I might recommend Jiggle Jiggle to you at the end of a hard night of drinking a la "grease-berto's"....but JJ closes at 9 during the week and 10 on Friday and Saturday.
Jiggle Jiggle Korean Grill 3146 Midway Drive San Diego, CA 92110
I'd gotten a couple of recommendations for this place, but really hadn't given it much thought. The menu seemed, well bulgogi sliders and kalbi tacos, it just smacked of a fad-following restaurant. Heck, I really never bought into the food truck thing (has anyone seen Roy Choi actually in one of his trucks recently?)....I mean, I love loncheras and all, but most of them seemed more hype than hope. So I really didn't get too excited when a couple of places opened up selling kalbi tacos and such. Still, after reading FOY (Friend of Yoso) and super food blogger Kirbie's post on fuze (yep, that's how they spell it....little 'f'), I thought why not? Heck, I'd even make it a twosome and do a second part on the other place that folks had mentioned to me......"Jiggle Jiggle". After all, I can claim to have eaten kalbi tacos back in the late 90's....of course, it was Alan Wong making those tacos......
If I recall, this place used to be Mr Wasabi, right?
The interior is still rather spartan.
There was no one around when I first visited and the young man was very nice. In fact, on both visits I thought the service was decent and the guys quite friendly. The menu seems an amalgamation of straight ahead dishes Kalbi Jjim, Pajun, and Kimchi Jjigae. Combined with some fusion-ny dishes, Fuze Pajun, Bulgogi Philly Cheesesteak, Dduk Bok ki?
I decided to start things out with the "Fuze Pajun"($7.95), supposedly a riff on the traditional Korean savory pancake.
Overall, a mixed bag. The mayo, katsuobushi(bonito flakes), and sauce made this seem more like okonomiyaki, which suites me fine, since okonomi pretty much means "as you like it". The pancake itself could have been browned a bit more, it was pretty gummy. I believe there were three shrimp in the whole thing....but in a really gutsy move, this was a pretty sneaky pajun/okonomiyaki. There were strips of roasted jalapeno in it, giving it a bit of a sneaky heat....you never knew what you'd be getting in your next bite.
I also ordered the Kalbi Tacos ($7.95).
So, of course the first thing I did was fish out the kalbi to see how it tasted. It actually had some flavor....what we in Hawaii call "local kalbi", more sweet and closer to teriyaki than kalbi. Of course at this price point it was "LA Kalbi", cross cut beef ribs and on the tough side.
Didn't care much for the tortillas which were I believe were white corn. They had been either grilled and griddled, but with no fat attaining a rather dried cardboard like texture. The kochujong based aioli was mild, but did no harm, ditto the tasteless and toothpaste textured guacamole.
The fact of the matter was that I could still taste the kalbi, even though there didn't seem to be much of it present.
The cabbage provided what I thought to be a decent counter-point.
The meal turned out to be decent....enough so, that I decided to return, just to see.....
On this visit I went with the dish that Kirbie enjoyed the most, the Bulgogi Sliders ($9.95). Just a word of warning; if you're expecting a meat-fest, this ain't it. The sliders are two (or perhaps even one for some of you out there) bite deals. The amount of fries dwarfs them......
But I'll tell you what, the beef is very tender......still tending to the sweeter side, but very tasty. The scallions add a very mild pungency, the aioli, well, I could just do with a good mayo. The rolls are typical store bought deals and ended up getting kinda soggy.
If I were to have this again (and I very well may), I'd tell them to pass on the crumbled dry herbs...I believe it's thyme, which just adds to much to the flavor of some perfectly decent natural fries. As for the ten buck price tag....I'll let you decide on that one.
Speaking of price tag, I also could not resist ordering the Chicken Wings ($8.95), the sweet and spicy version.
Well, let's just say, Kyochon this ain't...though at over a buck a wing (8), they sure are charging that way! Heck, this ain't even the napalm like wings from BBQ Chicken. Compared to those two....this would be, well, almost bland. The batter was also a bit less crunchy than I would have desired. It seemed dipped into sweet chili sauce with a bit too much sesame oil for my taste.
Overall, my impression of fuze is a fairly positive one. I didn't expect haute, or even great food, but a couple of the items were fairly good.
The kalbi may be beat suited for tacos because it is on the tougher side, though I may want to just have the bulgogi straight up. The young men were quite nice.....but of course my meals were during slow periods, but they seemed like pleasant guys.
So fusion or confusion? One thing I'm pretty sure of, the person heading up the kitchen can cook, though I'm thinking some of the dishes were kind of "just thought up". The price point for lunch may be high, but if you're having drinks and pub grub this might do the trick.
fuze restaurant and lounge 9379 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Here are some photos that have been taking up space on my hard drive. I thought it would be good for a COMC (Clearing Out the Memory Card) post.
Gaijin is located in the former Cheese Shop location in the Gaslamp. The menu is interesting, featuring straight up yakitori grilled on binchotan by the former yakitori chef at Raku, along with fusion robata, noodle, and other Japanese - Italian dishes.
Coming from Hawaii, I've had my fair share of Asian Fusion that I'd term as "shibai" and after a couple of meals at Gaijin, I really think this place is trying to serve up some good stuff and do the right thing.
Like I mentioned, this place uses binchotan charcoal for the robatayaki, but during my visits, it seemed like the main yakitori guy was never making it, just usually prepping or doing other stuff. It did seem like the yakitori standards like the "momo" chicken thigh was very pale and lacking in salt.
On the other hand, the couple of times I had the tsukune, the chicken "meatball", they had allowed the "tare" to burn making it bitter. Also, they use quite a bit of ginger in the mix, which detracted from my enjoyment.
The gyutan, beef tongue is usually one of my favorites, but as with the momo, this version was under salted. For some reason they like to use a lot of black pepper here.
Same with the harami.....skirt steak.
The items I've enjoyed the best were usually wrapped in Nueske bacon, which I first tasted on one of my trips to Wisconsin or some of the more non-traditional items, like the portobello mushroom, basted with tare and finished with a touch of truffle oil.
The pork kimchi, a riff on buta-shiso also works well, as the kimchi is more of a Japanese, quick style kimchi, not overly fermented in flavor. It works well with the girlled pork, which was nicely moist.
I won't go into deep detail regarding the un-Hakata like Spicy Miso Chashu Hakata ramen($12). The flavor reminded me of kimchi base and the noodles were typical ramen noodles and over-cooked.
I really loved the flavor of the Uni Green Tea Soba Noodles ($11). Don't be shocked at the portion size as this is pretty rich stuff. The uni butter and other ingredients gives this a flavor like an oceany carbonara.
I love cha soba and the problem I had with this dish is that I'm of the school that soba should always be al dente and both times I had this the soba was mushy.
My favorite dish on the menu, is not on the menu. On a visit with my good FOY Candice, who knows the Chef, they sent out this wonderful dish called Bacon and Eggs, a combination of the wonderful soft boiled ajitsuke tamago, in ramen broth, with bacon bits.
It has three of my favorite "food groups"...... You can just order it and the folks in the kitchen will know what to make. I really like this and intend of having it again soon.
The prices aren't cheap, though that's understandable based on the location. I will say that while the yakitori here isn't up to Yakyudori, I believe that it is much better than what I last had a Koubou.
The place is fairly small, but the service was very friendly, especially earlier in the evening before the place got really busy.
Going against character, I enjoyed more of the fusion style dishes than the standards. I also found that you can order single skewers even though prices are based on two skewers. I guess we're in the midst of a bit of a ramen revolution in San Diego. What I found funny was that two of the Servers are from Hawaii and they pegged me as an ex-pat kama'aina from the moment I opened my mouth!
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House 627 4th Ave San Diego, CA 92101
Because we were staying at the Hotel Lana'i, it only made sense that we had dinner at the Lana'i City Grille, since it's located in the Hotel Lana'i.
After all, the restaurant's menu is designed by Beverly Gannon, one of the 12 original members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement. I'd missed out eating at the Haliimaile General Store a couple of years ago, so this was about as close as I'd get for a while......
The dining area has a nice relaxed and warm feel...
Sorry to say, that photo was taken the next morning......the following photos just don't do the food justice, mainly because it was so darned dark in the room during dinner. Also, I'm pretty discrete, in other words no giant DSLR and especially no flash. I really don't like the attention.....
Anyway, the dishes seemed a bit heavy, so we went with just entrees, which turned out to be a good move. The Missus went with the Pecan Crusted Catch of the Day ($34) which was Ono, served with chorizo mashed potatoes and a chipotle honey butter sauce.
The fish was dry and overcooked, the pecan crust under seasoned and bland. We really enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which were smooth, but not too creamy. The spices of the chorizo came through as the the sauce balanced out the spiciness with a touch of sweetness.
I ordered the Pan Roasted Venison Loin ($38).
The venison was cooked perfectly, it was a loin cut which meant that we were talking about a lean cut of already lean venison. Yet this was toothsome, but not tough. Loved the venison flavor as did the Missus. We were worried that the fruit compote would kill the dish with sweetness, but unlike that now defunct San Diego restaurant that used to dump so much fruit on protein it looked like a fruit cocktail, the stewed fruit appropriately complemented the gamey venison. The mushroom risotto had more than a few hard grains, it was obviously cooked ahead and heated to order. The flavor was very mild and the Missus didn't care for it. Of course, before we left on the trip, I'd been making mushroom risotto just about every week at home. In other words, there wasn't any porcini in this......
Overall, this was a good meal, but nothing particularly outstanding. Our favorite part of the evening was when we got around to chatting with our server, who had a distinct Eastern European accent. We found out that she was from Poland! So how did a young woman from Poland end up working at the Lana'i City Grille? It turns out she came to visit some friends working at the resorts...and ended up staying! As often happens, the food is important, but it's the people and their stories that make the moment. We talked about the very small town/small island life, which is not for everyone, to which she lent insight..."we usually go camping or hiking on our day off....and there's the ferry to Maui. You would not believe how fantastic Costco sounds when you've been here for a while!" She actually made our night.......
Lana'i City Grille located in the Hotel Lana'i Open Wed - Sun 5pm - 9pm
One morning, while the Missus was taking a nap, I walked over to the old Dole Administration Building. The Lana'i Cultural and Heritage Center is now located in the building.
There's no entrance fee, but donations are welcome. The little two room display area show photos and artifacts in a timeline fashion form the days of the original inhabitants to now. The young woman here was very friendly and took time out to chat with me....she also knew my family as well.
I'm old enough to remember using some of the items in displays....which I guess makes me sort of an artifact as well?
I found this aerial photo of Lana'i taken in 1929 to be very fascinating. Even though the now tall pine trees look like, and were tiny plants, you can still make out what today's Lana'i City still looks like.
What was even more funny is that I saw a photo of my Aunt and Uncle posted on one wall!
Love this sign........actually I believe it used to be posted on the way to Lana'i City from the airport.
Waaay back when, I started making a list of places I wanted to try when I got back "home".....as years went by, there just never seemed to be the opportunity to take a trip...and when, after nearly ten years we got back to Oahu it was on the way to and from China and there were family things as well. In fact, I just plain adding to the list since it had pretty much gotten outta control. Happily, the Missus and I managed to hit a couple of places on our last trip...here's a round-up of lunches.
The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong:
One of my favorite places to eat is the Chef's table at Alan Wong's. I'm not sure how I first heard of Alan Wong's restaurant in Macy's Ala Moana Center, perhaps it was Kathy or perhaps Reid. Either way, the Missus and Her cousins wanted to go to Ala Moana on Black Friday...yikes! I've never been there on Black Friday, I will usually sneak to Ala's the back way run in to grab my omiyagi stuff (Honolulu Cookie Company or whateva's) and get the heck out of the place ASAP. Since it was going to be a major pain, I decided to get something out of it and made reservations for the Pineapple Room. Man, it took us about 45 minutes just to get into the mall! Luckily, I found a free valet parking on Black Friday coupon online...otherwise I'd probably still be circling around looking for parking.....
Surprisingly, the Pineapple Room was just half full when we arrived. Folks were just too busy wrestling each other for deals I guess. Having been to several of those Nordstrom/Macy's/etc restaurants, I found the service here to be top notch, from the timing of the dishes to the knowledge of the servers, it was quite impressive.
On to the food......
The unanimous best dish of the day was the Pan Seared Monchong (Pomfret) on Sea Asparagus with Pesto:
The Missus loved the Sea Asparagus, it was fairly tender, with a ice clean oceany flavor. The monchong was cooked perfectly; it flaked, but was very moist, mild in flavor, the pesto added a nice bit of richness and a savory touch. By the look and flavor (it was light and lacked that strong "green" - pinenut backbone flavor) it seemed more of a coulis.
The Kalua Pig BLT was probably second; mainly because cousin Long Hui absolutely loved her first taste of kalua pork.
The onion roll was nothing special as was the Caesar Salad.
I was really looking forward to the Loco Moco.......
For me, the veal demi glace made this dish, as the fried rice was very "local style" and not very impressive. Loved the eggs which had nice flavor, but that all natural beef patty was tremendously dry and grainy, even though it was cooked medium-well. I've had more than my share of grass fed beef in my time, but this was exceptionally dry, without the flavor I'd been expecting.
Our least favorite dish was the Steamed Chinese-style Onaga:
Personally, I love onaga (long tailed red snapper), the "Fish of Kings". This one was starting to taste "sour", which to me means it's going south, its not spoiled, just not very fresh. It was also overcooked and a bit dry as well. The sweet soy with sesame oil tasted fine, but the fish did in the dish.
Again, the service was excellent and perhaps I expected too much since the place had Alan Wong's name attached to it. But for over a hundred bucks for lunch, I think the dishes could have been better.
The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong Macy's Ala Moana 1450 Ala Moana Blvd Honolulu, HI 96814
Nico's Pier 38:
This was another place that folks raved about, so the Missus and I headed over on one of the days we had free. I love the location on pier 38...plus it's right next to a fish wholesaler, you can't get much closer to your purveyor than that.
This place is pretty busy for lunch and at it's heart, it is a plate lunch joint...though the offerings seem decidedly more upscale. It also works on the buzzer system...you know, after you pay for your order they give you one of those coaster looking thingamajigs that scares the daylights out of you when it goes off......
The Missus loves the rather recent "brown rice revolution" in Hawaii.....at meny places you can now get brown rice as an option along with mixed greens. I hadn't had Aku Belly ($9.80) in ages so I ordered that, and though I'm not a big fan of brown rice, I ordered it as well to keep the Missus happy.
Loved how the Aku Belly was fried, the texture was perfect, the oils from the belly gave a nice, almost luxurious texture to the belly. The salsa was on the bland side, it had a touch of heat, but not much else. For some reason the tomatoes didn't give the dish as much acid to cut the richness of the belly, which was seriously under-seasoned as well. Some S&P would have gone a long way here. The brown rice seemed like a mix of brown and white here and was too mushy for me.
We also ordered the Ahi Poke Salad ($8.15):
The greens were wonderfully fresh, but I didn't care for the plum dressing which wasn't that great. The Ahi was seared nicely, the fish still raw in the center, but much like the aku belly, there was some serious seasoning shortage here as well.
Prices are great, food was a bit under seasoned and lacking in flavor for us.
Nico's Pier 38 1133 N Nimitz Hwy Honolulu, HI 96817
We ordered a trio (Furikaki Mahi Mahi, Coconut Shrimp, Seared Ahi) along with our poke:
This was pretty good overall, the ahi and mahi mahi were on the salty side, but the Missus loved both fish. She's not a fan of coconut shrimp so I had those, which were nice and hot, and not fried to death. The brown rice here was super hard, but the Missus wasn't complaining as She scarfed up all of the fish. On this visit, the cooked food was much better than the poke.
Poke Stop 94 -050 Farrington Hwy, E4 Waipahu, HI 96797
The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill:
This was one I really wanted to hit up ever since I read about it on Kat's blog a couple of years ago. Now a bowling alley doesn't seem like a great place for a stellar meal, but Oxtail soup has a long history in bowling alley's though Kapiolani Coffee Shop has moved to Waimalu since Kam Bowl closed down. This little restaurant is actually located in Aie'a Bowl, one of the few bowling alleys still left on Oahu. If you doubt that, you can just check out what's going on from your table.....
The folks waiting on us here were very friendly and efficient. There was so much on the menu that I wanted to try, but I had but one stomach to give for my lunch! The Missus made me a deal, She'd order a combination with the furikake ahi and tasty chicken (I wanted to find out how tasty that chicken was) if I shared my oxtail soup with Her. Of course She knew I really wanted the oxtail soup and that chicken ( remember no chicken and turkey for the Missus).
I gotta say, the brown rice here was made just (the only way) I like it..... Loved the portion control with the rice as it left room to attack the okazu. The Missus was less than pleased with the ahi which was more sesame seeds than furikake, for some reason the Missus is not particularly fond of dishes with too much sesame seeds or sesame oil. The quality of the fish was not quite as good as the other places we had visited as well. As for the chicken....well, I scarfed it without taking a breath. The batter was light, like an airy karaage, even though it was sauced after frying with a nice sweet and very mildly spicy sauce it held texture quite well. I thought the flavor was assertive without being too strong........I really want this again.
My oxtail soup ($13.75) was delivered disguised as the leaning tower of "china". So what was in those bowls? One held rice, another ponzu sauce (which we thought really didn't go with the soup), and one was empty for your eating pleasure. There was the requisite grated ginger and green onions as well.
I really couldn't believe the amount of oxtail in this bowl. The oxtails were also prepared well, they held form and the cooking was timed well as they were tender without being mushy. The soup here is not the "clear style" but like what I make at home "shoyu style".
The broth had good oil and star anise flavor, with peanuts strewn throughout. The Missus would have a couple of bites of Her fish then tell me "switch" and grab my bowl of soup!
This was by far, my favorite meal of the trip. It was also quite filling as I couldn't eat dinner that night........ We're coming back here.....
The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill in Aiea Bowl 99-115 Aiea Heights Dr, Ste 310 Aiea, HI 96701
Man, this has been a long one; thanks so much for reading....let me leave you with a photo of a landmark that I remember from "small kid time".