Man, I didn't even notice I hadn't done this post....time to catch up!
After returning from the Big Island, we had maybe a full day to get our grinds in....the Missus wanted to make the most of it and I had wanted to check out Keeaumoku Seafood, and tiny shop just mauka of Beretania Street. Oh....yes, in case you didn't know, we never used East-West-North-South while I was growing up, in fact, I was kind of confused with those directions when I first started working, then living on the mainland. Back "home" we use "mauka", toward the mountains, or "makai" towards the ocean.
Anyway, the shop it a tiny one with barely a handful of parking spaces right in front of it. Funny, I still remember when Nippon Theatre was across the street from here....man am I getting old!
Anyway...we wen' score one of the spaces right in front of the place.
From the cold case, it seems that this place makes poke in small batches, which is not a bad thing. The poke did look a bit dried out as well, but we weren't here for poke. There was a rather stern mannered Korean woman working and a very sweet young lady who was Filipino. She really did a nice job putting together our plate.
I'd really come here for one thing.......this:
No...it's not the brown rice, ok? The Missus did insist on that to counter-act the rich and wonderful fried Ahi Belly. Man was this good! A slight resistance before melting away in your mouth. This being Ahi, not Aku, the flavor wasn't too strong for the Missus.
You also get an order of poke with the Ahi Belly. I chose the sesame oil poke, which was coated with masago. sadly, it wasn't very good. The fish was tough and this was strangely lacking in flavor.
The Missus really wanted to balance out the scales and we ended up going to Whole Foods in Kahala, where She built a massive salad. We had our meal at one of the tables right outside the market.
Man, we're still talking about that Ahi Belly.......
Keeaumoku Seafood 1223 Keeaumoku St Honolulu, HI 96814
During the last trip, I made a couple of stops at various places. I wanted the D's to have a taste of local food. In addition, the Missus wanted me to bring home some smoked fish and tako....so I had to do some sampling, right?
Right across from W&M Burgers, this place used to be a Pizza Hut, back in the day....I'm wracking my brain trying to remember what it was before. Anyway, now there's a friendly looking tako on the front.
So of course, I got some smoked tako......the version here was interesting, it was slathered in mayo. I also got some seaweed salad. I noticed that folks from China really love the seaweed salad. It's not a big deal, for me, but heck, if they like it.....
There was something about the smoked tako MrD really liked....I tried to explain to him it was the mayonnaise, but my FIL said there's no Chinese word for it! So did the Missus....so I guess it need to go down in history as the really great tasting stuff that shall remain nameless? Not my favorite version, but it was interesting to try.
Fresh Catch 3109 Waialae Ave Honolulu, HI 96816
The more I visit this place, the more I like it. I actually used to service Tamura's in Waianae a lifetime ago.
We actually stopped by back in 2010, but I guess I never did a post on that one. Anyway, I thought the smoked marlin here was pretty good, so this was pretty much my first choice for a tasting.
Geeez Louise....is that price for Pulehu Tako for real?? It's more expensive than prime beef!
Anyways, I got a trio for tasting. The D's were kind of wary of this stuff....until I told them the pipikaula was "Niu Rou". They ended up enjoying that the best.
My FIL loves smoked food. Both of us thought the marlin was much better than the swordfish.....more flavor, more moist, better texture.
The only thing the swordfish had going for it was that it held together better.
So this was one of my stops on the way to the airport. I bought the Missus a pound of marlin. During that stop I noticed the display on my right....which will probably make my San Diego craft beer buddies smile.
Tamura's Fine Wines & Liquors 3496 Waialae Ave. Honolulu, HI 96816
One of my other stops on the way to the airport was at Ono Seafood, which I've posted on before.
I grabbed a couple of bags of smoked tako for the Missus. Unfortunately, the poke bowl will just have to wait for a future trip. Plus, it'll be more fun eaqting this stuff with the Missus.
Ono Seafood 747 Kapahulu Ave.Apt 4 Honolulu, HI 96816
I landed at HNL a bit past 2 in the afternoon and walked on over to the rental car counter.....getting out of the airport before 3pm. It was my objective to pick some stuff for dinner along the way. The first stop? Young;s Fish Market.
This was Reid's recommendation from my earlier visit. since it was pretty close to the airport, it was pretty much a no brainer for lau lau and kalua pork.
The fish counter was pretty slim pickins' and my usual stop on the way to the in-laws, Tanioka's would be near to closing time by the time I hit Waipahu.
So instead, I got out near Moanalua Road and stopped by Marujyu Market.
Funny, I'm old enough to remember when Marujyu opened in Palolo Valley. The empire then spread all ova' the place.......I remember them being in the location that is now a Korean Market in Waimalu Shopping Center, and now to this tiny shop in Newtown Business Park.
Anyway, I made it there, with a stop at Zippy's for some Chicken, rolling into Ewa Beach just after 5 pm. Dinner was a fun affair.......The D's were always such fun.....
Here's a rundown on the grinds:
The pork lau lau from Young's was decent, pork moist, nice flavor overall, the best I've had in a while. The visitors enjoyed it. I gotta say, the chili pepper water Young's sells was quite good; I could almost drink the stuff.
The kalua pork was on the dry side and kind of bland. I'll be back to Young's for that lau lau......
Young's Fish Market 1286 Kalani St Honolulu, HI 96817
The poke from Marujyu didn't impress me that much, the limu ahi was the best, but still on the salty side....and I like salty poke.
The "Ohana poke", had too much sesame oil and some pretty tough pieces of ahi......lots of "sugi" (tough tendon like connective tissue) in a couple of pieces.
The pulehu tako had some nice flavor, but our guests didn't like how tough it was. My FIL enjoyed it. By the way, what's up with tako prices? It seemed to have gone through the roof since my last visit. I saw pulehu tako selling for over $30 a pound in some places.....yikes!
Overall, I guess the D's weren't that thrilled with eating raw fish; plus, it seems that my FIL has stopped eating the stuff as well, telling me that he "doesn't trust raw fish anymore."
Marujyu Market Catering 98-820 Moanalua Rd Aiea, HI 96701
Seems like things started a bit inauspiciously.....oh well, at least no one went hungry!
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.
I've never really been able to get a half decent lau lau in my time on the mainland and I've tried quite a few. This dish of pork and salted fatty fish wrapped in luau (taro) leaves packaged in ti leaves and steamed for hours seems simple, but here away from home, it ain't. First off, almost every version I've had on the mainland is minus the salted butterfish. Second, many use spinach, though I've seen taro leaves at many Polynesian markets and even 99 Ranch Market a couple of times.
Needless to say, it's one of things that I always mean to get when I go home, from either of my two favorites, Ono Hawaiian Food in my old neighborhood, or Helena's which I understand has moved (and has also won a James Beard award!). Since my In-Laws live all the out in Ewa Beach, finding the time to check out either place when it's not packed to the gills is quite a challenge, one that has gotten the better of me during my last two trips home.
Also, during that time, I'd heard about Highway Inn in Waipahu...which sounded really familiar. I even saw the bit on DDD. During one of our visits, I asked my MIL's former co-worker Melissa, a life long Ewa Beach resident, about the place....and suddenly realized that I'd eaten at the old location on Waipahu Depot Road, near the old sugar mill. Excited, I asked her about the food and was simply met with...."well, it's ok..." Not exactly a seal of approval, but man I wanted some Lau Lau.
So we managed to get some time to check out Highway Inn.
One of the items that folks seemed to be talking about at Highway inn is the Pipikaula, traditionally salted dried beef. The father of a friend on mine used to make a mean version using drying the beef in his front yard in his akule box. Naturally, much of it used to disappear into thin air.......
So the Missus ordered the Pipikaula ($5.45) and a side of rice.
Man, this was kinda tasteless and fairly bland in addition to being sinewy. The version I like at Ono's is more traditional, but not hard like jerky, with a salty flavor that a friend of mine from New York always says tastes like corned beef. The version from Helena's is, I believe made from shortribs and have a real beefy flavor and isn't nearly as tough as this.
Of course I ordered the Lau Lau combo ($10.65):
The poi was a bit too thin for my taste, but I enjoyed the flavor. I'm thinking it was at least a "day old", making it a bit more sour, but I prefer it that way.
The lomi salmon wasn't my favorite, almost all tomato, too salty. It also lacked a good pungency, which is usually provided with some onion. I usually love mixing my lomi salmon with poi....but not today....
I thought the lau lau, though a bit small inside was pretty good, if a bit too fatty.
I love the flavor of luau leaves used on the lau lau; they have a slight bitter taste with a mild sweetness to them, much like collard greens. and when they've been absorbing some of the juices of fatty pork and the savory fish, it's heaven with a dash of chili pepper water which wakes everything up. The pork was fine and I appreciated the flavor the salt butterfish added to the lau lau.
I'm still longing for Helena's or Ono though......
The service was friendly, very local. Folks I know grumble about the portion to price ratio, but I had no complaints. Won't be having that pipikaula anytime soon though.
Highway Inn 94-226 Leoku Street Waipahu, HI 96797
Funny, writing this brought back memories of my favorite lau lau. And it couldn't be bought from any restaurant or store. When I was in High School I worked in a restaurant. One of the manager's was a Hawaiian-Chinese woman who took me under her wings and taught me the ropes. She could be really tough and took no prisoners...in fact, her nieces and nephews used to call her "Auntie Titta". But she was also the type of person who, if she liked you, would go to the ends of the Earth for you. Once a year, the family, most of whom lived in Waianae would get together and have an all day (and most of the night) party at Pokai Bay. Now Waianae back then wasn't the most welcoming place for a skinny, shark-bait, 112 pound Japanese kid from Kaimuki.....but man did that family welcome me! And they had this huge round thingy that looked like a large metal float that had been made into a makeshift steamer.........and they made the best, bombucha, lau lau I'd ever had. It was so good that I easily ate two...then, I stopped myself not wanting to be a bad guest. But someone realized that I still looked hungry and gave me another, then another....until I had consumed five! From that day on they always asked her, "hey, Titta, where's your skinny Japanese son...you know, the one who can really eat!" And as long as I knew her, I was always invited to the family luau......
I was really thrilled this past Saturday; I received a package from Reid of 'Ono Kine Grindz. In that little box were gel packs and 3 wonderful Laulau from Young's Fishmarket:
For those who don't know what Lau Lau is, it is cubes of pork, usually shoulder and a cube of fat, sometimes a small piece of salt fish wrapped in lu'au (young taro leaves), finally wrapped in Ti leaves, in sort of a neat bundle. The Laulau are then steamed for 4 hours or more. After heating them up this is what they look like when you open them up:
The aroma of Laulau is amazing! The leaves are moist and have a slightly "al dente" texture, the taste is close to say, collard greens without the bitterness. The pork is moist, and has absorbed the taste of the lu'au leaf - delici-yoso! This taste of home really made my weekend!
Reid you are an amazing guy, thanks so much!
I'm so amazed at how Reid managed to send this to me through the mail. And that's how Reid's become a sort of legend in our household. The Mother of a good friend of ours is also pretty much a Legend in our home. For the sake of this story let's call her "Lola". When visiting "home" we'd have a meal with our good friends, their two wonderful Boys, all made by Lola. Lola absolutely adored the Missus, basically because the Missus adored Lola's cooking. Whether it was Kare Kare (Filipino Ox Tail Stew), Lumpia, or Her Adobo, Lola would watch my little 100lb Chinese Wife chow like a Longshoreman. Lola, like most "Lola's" are consumed with a desire to give and provide. So we'd be back home in Los Angeles, and receive one of those flat "shirt boxes" in the mail, and be totally amazed when there would be a pristine Bibingka(Sweet Rice Cake) all wrapped up in the box. Or the most amazing thing of all, we once received a small box. When we opened the box amid the crumpled up newspapers was a round ball of tape(???), after several minutes of unwrapping the tape, there was a little bottle of home made Bagoong Alamang(Shrimp Paste), Lola had remembered how much the Missus enjoyed her Bagoong in the Kare Kare, and sent us some! We always considered Lola to be the "Legend of Postal Dexterity"; but now with Reid's feat of sending me the Park's Brand Kim Chee Sauce, and now Laulau from Young's Fishmarket, he's joined Lola as a "Legend".....
Since I had some chicken thawing I made a little Chicken Katsu, Laulau, mixed plate:
I even made my own Tonkatsu Sauce for the Chicken:
1/2C Worcestershire Sauce 1/4C Sugar 1/4C Soy Sauce 1/3C Ketchup Dash of 5 Spice Powder 1Tb Dijon Mustard mixed with 1Tb Water Pepper
In a small pot combine first 5 ingredients. Reduce over low-medium heat, until reduced by 1/3. After reduced add mustard and pepper, mix well. Remove from heat, and let sauce cool. Will keep up to 2 weeks in a well sealed bottle. Makes about 1 cup.
Update: I've been told that new Owners have taken over Kaisen, and that the "Local-Style" food is gone. It is now more of a Japanese "Bento" Restaurant - Bumma'
Thanks for the update Clark
I'd been hearing about "Kaisen's" over the "coconut wireless" here in San Diego for several years. I'd also been told that Kaisen's had an "Aloha Friday" special that featured Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice. So with my back feeling better, and having today off, I decided to take the 30 mile trip North to Oceanside, and got to the little strip mall off of Oceanside Blvd where Kaisen's is located.
I arrived a bit early and the restaurant wasn't open yet, so I had time to peruse the menu:
With lot's of "local kine" specials. But the sign that caught my eye was this:
It was Friday, and it looked like I was in luck! It was no-brainer really. As the waitress brought me the menu, I just pointed to the sign and said - "I'll take dat", funny how the pidgen starts coming out when I'm in places like these.
While I waited for my food I had a chance to look around. Kaisen's occupies a pretty large space, crowned by a sushi bar in the middle of the back area, and lot's tables and booths, and even a small stage. The spacing in this cavernous area is excellent with lot's of "elbow room".
After a few minutes my lunch arrived.
The plate came with a medium sized lau lau, a little bowl of lomi salmon, a bowl of chicken long rice, a slice of sweet potato, macaroni salad, and I decided to forgo rice and had bowl of poi. To bad there was no chili pepper water, oh well, can't win 'em all. Those of you who know me, would probably get a really good laugh out of the poi; it's not among my favorite things, but somehow, time makes the heart (and stomach) grow fonder, and since I haven't had poi in at least 9 or 10 years, I thought what the heck.
Now to the nitty-gritty, the macaroni salad was very bland and plain, needed some zing. The sweet potato was really good, sweet and starchy, and not over-cooked, making it very enjoyable. As for the lau lau, the luau leaf tasted good (and it was luau leaf!), but was under cooked, and somewhat more solid than I'm used to. The pork was kinda dry, but the taste was ok, I think I even spied a little bit of salted fish as well. Overall, not bad, it at least tasted like lau lau, not like what some of those frozen "things" taste like, and was very aromatic. The chicken long rice had pieces of really cooked celery, onions, and tomato (a new one for me!). And a rather large piece of chicken. There was a nice essence of chicken and ginger, with good balance. With a shot of shoyu this was probably the best thing on the plate. The lomi salmon was too mild, and not salty enough. And the poi was really runny and not "sour" enough for me, actually rather bland as a whole. So what's my solution? It's the typical, "local" solution; I mixed my lomi salmon in the poi, and scarfed the darn thing up in a second! I also got the onions (no Hawaiian salt! Auwe!) and dipped them into this mixture! Delici-yoso!
Kaisen's is a bit far for me, and the food really doesn't warrant a 30 mile drive. But I saw some of the other dishes (the chicken katsu and kalua pork looked good) and they caught my interest, so I may make another trip in the near future; I'll drop in for sure if I'm the neighborhood. I've also heard the sushi is pretty good and the service is very friendly. Kaisen's features Hawaiian Music on Saturdays and Wednesdays as well.
Kaisen Sushi and Hawaiian Grill 1906 Oceanside Blvd Ste H Oceanside, CA 92054