It took us 21 hours to get back to San Diego. The next morning it was time to restock. Among the stops was Nijiya. I was shocked to see truffles in the produce case. I probably shouldn't be surprised as over the years Nijiya has had seasonal items like fresh chanterelles.
So no, that's not a turd. It's not super fragrant, not like what we came across in France. It was 8 bucks for something that works grated on the microplane over eggs.
Which gave me the idea of doing a locomoco....but it couldn't be just any loco....
Sooooo.....long story short, ground wagyu from Bristol Farms, I have frozen veal stock in the freezer, dried porcini in the cabinet, shallots on the counter.
And all those basic skills everyone who cooks should have; how to cook an egg, how to make a burger, and how to make a simple pan sauce. Shave truffle on egg and...say no more.....
So it was time to "go loco, or go home"! Or maybe....go take a nap?
While Leilani's might be a bit more spiffed up from what I recall; it's still that tiny shop....truly a café. I'd attempted visiting one time before, but the place seems to be doing a nice amount of business. However, on this rainy weekend morning. One in which I sorely missed a loco, there was room for me....and my Hilo Loco:
For some reason; I think the Hilo Loco is better than I recalled. Perhaps time has made the heart grow fonder....but having time between these will make sure my heart doesn't stop mid-beat.
The rice was nice (how's that for a rhyme), nice pieces of Portuguese Sausage give it enough spice and mild heart, making it even more hearty. The gravy is by the book; no complaints here. The hamburger patty is still a bit overworked, too lean, and tough for me.
The eggs....well, while I'd have loved some crisp edges....I'm not going to complain when oozy yolk is staring me in the face.
Leilani has carved out a nice little niche for herself. She even has a shop next door to this cozy little cafe. It's good to know that the Hilo Loco....well...is still a Hilo Loco.
Leilani's Cafe 5109 Cass St San Diego, CA 92109 Open Daily 7am-3pm
I guess it's strange that I go to a "food court" when I want my Tonkatsu fix.
But for under nine bucks, this tonkatsu is a favorite of mine in San Diego.......
Crisp, usually moist, love that mashed potato salad.
Kayaba 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd Ste 119 - In the Mitsuwa Marketplace San Diego, CA 92111
The High Dive:
So, the Missus has become a big fan of the Tap Hunter app. I guess She's now an offical Beer Geek. Anyway, there are places that are real good at keeping Tap Hunter up to date and places that are kind of blase'.....Common Theory, I'm looking at you. For all its short-comings, mainly food-related, The High Dive seems to do a good job keeping things updated. Recently, when the Missus was busy with work, She noticed that one of our favorite beers, La Fin du Monde was on tap. I was ordered to head on down and report back post-haste.
And of course, when I arrived, it was there, poised and ready. There's some flavors with "La Fin" that we enjoy, a mild fruit, with flavors that seem like clove and other spices, which make it fine match with spicy food for us. The flavors seem to go really well with anything I make with ghost peppers, strange as that may seem.
This draft version seemed a bit lighter without the spice notes. Maybe for the first time, I preferred the bottle to the tap....weird.
I Buffalo Wings were adequate and by the book. Nothing to make them stand out, but no complaints.
I thought it was a bit too heavy in the sour end and the wings were fried way past well done, but that would be nitpicking.
High Dive Bar and Grill 1801 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Getting my "loco fix" at Island Style Cafe:
It was time for my bi-annual locomoco fix......well, strangely, it would be the first "loco" I had this year. I've got some catching up to do! Anyway, I went with the Kaloko Loco at Island Style Cafe. A rather unconventional Loco Moco; usually I'm not a fan of fried rice for my loco and this one even has a crepe, but it all seems to work out for me.
Like my good FOY CAB says, there's an interesting, yet complimentary interplay of sweet with savory going on that I enjoy. The eggs were overcooked for "over-easy" on this visit and I've kind of gotten used to jasmine rice so the calrose got my attention....I gotta head back home for an attitude adjustment soon! I think the burger here is still too tough and lean, but that's nit-picking as this is still my favorite loco moco in San Diego.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
About a week-and-a-half ago, I read that Fathom Bistro would start serving brunch, which usually wouldn't mean more than a glance. Except that I quickly noticed "loco moco" in that post for Eater San Diego. You know me; I'm always looking to add to my loco moco collection. I quickly sent Candice a message asking if having a loco moco here would be worth my while?
Which is how I ended up down on Shelter Island Drive on an overcast Sunday morning.
I think the location is really great, original, and quirky, as it's located on a pier, which on this morning was packed to the gills (no pun intended) with folks fishing.
Man, you really can't beat the view; which was really great even on an overcast morning.
There's an actual bait and tackle shop on one side of the building.....and it's a bit of a stretch to call this a building. The kitchen look as large as the dining area, which look like it somehow holds about 20. There are a couple of tables out front as well. I loved the collection of vintage National Geographics which took me back to elementary school.
Fathom has a nice variety of beers; but that's to be assumed with Dennis Borlek, formerly of Hamilton's and Monkey Paw in charge. The brunch menu is tight, basically five items, but it instantly earned my affection. In addition to a loco moco, they feature Eggs, Spam, and rice.
We started things with the Beignets.
It's fried dough, with powdered sugar, and chocolate sauce.......'nuff said.
We also got the Italian Sausage Biscuits and Gravy.
Truly, the best Country Gravy I've had in a while. The abundant chunks of house made Italian sausage added a nice mild spice and tons of flavor to the wonderful tongue (and belly) coating gravy. The only problem with this dish were the bisquits which were very hard hockey pucks. But hey, it's only the second day they've been open for brunch. Hopefully, they'll straighten this out. I instantly knew why I heard the word "hangover" bandied about in the dining room.
Well, since Candice knows everybody, Dennis came over to chat. Dennis is quite a character, very friendly, witty, funny, with a ton of stories to boot.
Which brings us to the loco moco. I originally ordered it with straight up and traditional beef brown gravy, but Dennis talked us into getting it "half-and-half" with half beef gravy, the other half Japanese Curry. At first I was kind of doubtful, but hey after having the Kaloko Moco who am I to criticize?
First off, the rice was perfect. The Japanese curry tasted like it should, though a bit runny. The beef gravy was totally by the book, solid in flavor and seasoning. The hamburger patty had a nice char , nicely seasoned, and was still moist. There was one problem with this for me. You can tell, can't you? The only way you'll get eggs here are scrambled.....and it's kind of painful calling this a loco moco without an easy over egg. Dennis told me that the eggs are pre-prepped to minimize stress on the kitchen. I'm hoping everything gets squared away and they start doing eggs to order.
Dennis mentioned adding Spam musubis to the menu. I mentioned Portuguese Sausage and he said it would be a logical progression since this was Point Loma and all. He also said it would be made inhouse. Now if that happens, I'll be sure to get there early! Because as time passed, more of those "hats and 'tats" folks started drifting in for their Sunday hangover remedy.
Next time you're fishing on the pier and get the munchies and perhaps a bit thirsty, Fathom is the perfect spot. Heck, the evening view of downtown San Diego must be pretty good as well.
Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle 1776 Shelter Island Dr. (On the pier) San Diego, CA 92106
Brunch served from 10am Saturday and Sunday only.
You know, it's kind of sad that I really never come down here and tend to associate the area with Humphries and tourists. There's quite a bit to see, like the Tunaman Memorial.
And other public art......
Now with Fathom, there's a better reason to explore the area.
Here's one that I heard about a while back, but just didn't have a chance to visit until recently.
The location can be a bit challenging; off of Mission Gorge Road, head east on Mission Gorge Place in sort of a business park area. Once you go down Mission Gorge Place a bit you can't miss the sign....unless it's not out. Then it just looks like one of hundreds of business strewn around the area.
The interior is interesting, though kind of cold, looking more like an Hawaiian themed bar serving food, than an actual restaurant. Here's where I noticed some interesting things. A decent beer selection, but nothing on tap.
The really nice gal told me to sit anywhere I wanted. Menus are simple take-out type pamphlets. Here's the next observation, I couldn't find anything fried on the menu, which might not be a bad thing, so I'm thinking this place doesn't have a fryer. Lot's of fusion-hip type of things like sliders, guava BBQ wings, "street" tacos, and nachos, along with tuna melts, BLTs, and smattering of plate lunch type items under "entrees".
I went straight for the artery and ordered the Loco Moco ($9.49), to add to my loco moco collection.
Though it doesn't look it, this was a good amount of food.
Let's start with the eggs, which were over-cooked....I do love my runny yolk. I fully understand how folks can be with runny yolks, but places who serve eggs that way will usually ask me how I want my eggs. Which is over easy, with a little char on the edges.
The burger looked real good, but noticing how it had been grilled, I could tell it was going to be pretty tough, which it was. The flavor was decent though.
I thought the gravy was kind of odd. First, it was runny and thin, almost like a bisque. Second, a flavoring, like French onion soup mix over-powered the whole thing and there was a bit of a metallic-sour finish to it.
The one saving grace and a big one at that was the mac salad. It was very simple, but mac salad should be simple. It wasn't over-dressed, the macaroni was cooked to perfection, there was just enough other flavors to keep me interested, and most importantly, it was seasoned well and nicely chilled. This might be my favorite mac salad in San Diego.
So the mac salad and the really nice young lady was enough to get me to return. I looked over the menu when I got home. There was another interesting item on the menu; Huli Huli Chicken. Huli-huli means to "turn-turn". Ernest Morgado, head of Pacific Poultry is credited with creating the "king of fundraisers", at least when I was growing up. You can read more about it in Mr Morgado's obit here. Let me just say, I loved this stuff when I was growing up.....so I was interested in what Chris' Ono Grinds Huli Huli Chicken ($9.49) was like:
Most Huli Huli Chicken recipes I've seen use a good amount of ketchup. Funny thing is; I don't recall it tasting strongly of it.
The sauce on this version was more like a barbecue, not as in "Hawaiian BBQ", but BBQ sauce. It was more of a sticky glaze than a nicely charred huli huli chicken grilled over Kiawe. That doesn't mean it wasn't good. This was pretty decent, perhaps a bit too fruity and sweet, but other than the piece of bone, in the supposedly boneless pile that nearly cracked my teeth, this was decent. The chicken was decently moist and fairly tender. Not bad.
The best thing was, the mac salad was the same as before.
I may not been chasing down this place like I did fund raisers back in the old days, but I think Chris's Ono Grinds has some potential and will probably return one of these days. Mainly because I used to make Guava BBQ Chicken (Hawaiian style BBQ) and he has chicken wings with Guava BBQ sauce.
Even though the feel of the place (and some of the menu) is rather "Mainland - local themed", don't want to use the "H" word, it looks like they are trying to make good food here. This is not another shibai Hawaiian BBQ money grab. That and the nice folks here are enough for another visit.
Chris' Ono Grinds Island Grill 4651 Mission Gorge Place San Diego, CA 92120 Hours: Mon - Sat 11am - 9pm
I'd heard about this place a while ago, but took my sweet old time getting there. The little shop is located on Pearl, right past La Jolla Boulevard. I've never been a big fan of getting there and the parking situation, but I gotta say, on the days I visited this little corner it was pretty quiet.
Though the other side of the shop fronts the busier side, I like this area by the one parking stall.
The interior is quite larger than what this little storefront would make you think.
The breeze really goes through the dining area.....so it's probably great during the late spring/summer, but kind of chilly on the days I visited.
On my first visit, the yong lady manning the counter seemed like perhaps the owner's daughter? She was very nice, even though there were probably a thousand other things she could have been doing. I ordered the loco moco and much like much of Honolulu, Ohama Cafe offers brown rice and even coconut rice for an upcharge. You know me........unless the Missus is breathing down my neck, it white rice all the way. By the way, you won't forget that this is La Jolla, as this is what you get for $8.50.
Still, we're all trying to exercise some portion control nowadays, right? As a loco moco, this wasn't bad, the egg was nice and runny, with some crisp edges, the gravy a little short on flavor, and a bit of "powderyness" to it, and was just barely ok. The rice was cooked well, but I really didn't take to the burger. It was crumbly and it tastes like they add something to the meat made it taste like onion soup mix.
Perhaps I should call this a "petite loco".......but I guess "small crazy" sounds kind of strange, as if loco moco didn't sound weird enough already. The woman who came out of the kitchen was very nice, telling me hello and dropping off some brownie samples.
So I thought that I should return. This time around I ordered the "mix and match" with Kalua Pork and Teri Chicken.
This time the rice was on the dry and hard side. It was by-the-book oven kalua pork, something I make a couple of times a year. The pork was on the dry side and could have had more flavor. The chicken was decent, not too dry, but on the bland side. The drizzle of over-reduced, again by-the-book teriyaki sauce could have been a spitting image of Kealani's.
The mac salad was plain, but nice made, he macaroni was done perfectly, and the seasoning and he amount of mayo was good as well.
I really like the folks here, they are really a nice group. But it takes a bit more than a shade better than L&L level food with petite portions and La Jolla pricing/parking to get me to return. Though the breakfast menu (Sat/Sun) looks decent, so maybe.......
Ohana Cafe 456 Pearl St San Diego, CA 92037 Hours: Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm Sat - Sun 9am - 8pm
It seemed like the coqui frogs had a curfew of around 3am as I drifted in and out of sleep until then. Still, I got up at around 530 and we packed up and checked out of the Dolphin Bay Hotel. We had enjoyed our previous day in Hilo and we weren't quite done yet.
There's still a sleepiness to Hilo Town and many places are closed on Sundays. Still, I couldn't help but stop by Kawamoto Store, which holds typical Okazuya hours, opening at 6am and closing around noon....and they were open on Sunday to boot! Places like Kawamoto's holds a special place in my heart.....I basically grew up eating the most common and traditional Okazuya fare.
You basically say how many "bento" you like and then choose your items. All the classics were present and accounted for, shoyu chicken, maki sushi, "cone sushi" (what we call inari sushi back home), stuff like that. We put together a small bento to snack on later.......
There's something about places like this that are timeless......
Kawamoto Store 784 Kilauea Ave Hilo, HI 96720 Hours: Tues-Sat 600am - 1230pm Sun 600am - 1200pm
We then headed off to our breakfast destination; Kuhio Grille.
Located to the side of Prince Kuhio Plaza, this place has been around since the 90's and is probably most well known for the 1pound laulau, which I don't remember being that great, but that was a while ago. Since it was about 615 in the morning, no laulau for us, we were here for breakfast.
Not much going on this early in the morning, just us and a couple of tables of older folks......who else gets up so early on a Sunday, right?
This was just passable, the egg was nice and runny, but the fish was rather dry, and the miso soup was on the weak side.
Not wanting to fall back into a food coma; I went with the Loco Bowl ($6.99):
This was not bad, the egg was done right, though I could have done with a bit more crisp edges. The rice was decent, perhaps slightly on the dry side. The gravy was average, mainly salty. About that burger....well, it had that nice, old school char, seems like this griddle has some seasoning to it. The flavor was decent, the texture was very old school.......something I appreciated. The Missus had a taste and agreed.
Kuhio Grille 111 E Puainako St Hilo, HI 96720 Hours: Sat-Thurs 600am - 10pm Fri 600am - 11pm
After breakfast we headed over to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. We've been here many times and we love coming here. We actually had a late honeymoon at Volcano House all those years ago. There's basically one place we head to, which I'll get into later. A portion of Crater Rim Drive was closed because of fumes, so the Missus was a bit disappointed.
But the steam vents were going strong.
Halema'uma'u Crater, which is located in the larger Kilauea Crater wasn't nearly this active the last time we visited. No wonder there were all the sulfur dioxide gas warnings!
We saw several offerings to Pele as we walked around the crater..
It was quite a sight.....
There are many things to see here, the Thurston Lava Tube, great hiking trails (when they are open). The Iliahi (Sandalwood) Trail is one we've enjoyed several times. Or you can just drive down Chain of Craters Road and marvel at all the old lava flows. Each one is different.
With all due respect ot the wonders of Volcanoes National Park, the Missus and I have one tradition whenever we visit. And even the passing rain showers didn't stop us. We always drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road, park, it used to be that you'd park just a couple of yards from the flow, but now you walk about a half mile or so. I always take a photo of the Missus at the point where the lava is covering the road.
When we look back at the older photos, we've noticed that the flow has moved and even though things might seem the same when the picture is taken; looking at the photos all lined up reveals that nature never stays still. For us, this is a nice timeline of sorts....the Missus on the lava flow, moving, maybe at an imperceptible speed, but nevertheless, still slowly moving.
Mission accomplished, we headed back up the road and the back way to Kona. After a short "bento break" of course.
In the past, it always seemed that the Missus enjoyed Kona more. But like that lava slowly creeping forward, it seems that Hilo had won Her over after all these years. We'll spend more time in Hilo next time.
In case you've been wondering.....the Missus and I took what seemed like a really short trip, it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. We were getting a bit stale, so it was time for us to do something. I know I already went home once this year, but we decided to take that trip.
We ended up spending only a couple of days on Oahu and the rest on the Big Island. I've been there at least a dozen times and the Missus about 5 or 6. We had friends who lived in Hilo for a while. But hadn't been back in over ten years and were wondering if things had changed much.
Since we'd been there so many times, we've done all the sight seeing stuff, so we just kind of just wanted to drive around and enjoy....to the tune of 600 miles in four days! So even though we've been here many times before, you can be sure that we'll be at least showing a couple of great sunsets.....
Maybe throw in a waterfall.....
And being on the Big Island, you know we've got to visit here.....
Of course there will be lots of poke....which the Missus just can't get enough of.....
Or even this....a bargain at $9.95:
The Missus really appreciated the local produce on this trip and took full advantage.
Though that doesn't mean I cut this out of my diet.......
We also had a chance to visit a couple of real "old time" favorites on the Big Island, places that are etched into the locals minds. These places have been serving up the same fare for decades and have a place in the history of the Big Island.
From the very "Local-Japanese"......
To a pork chop that was probably cooked in a cast iron pan several decades older than I am.......
It was all good.
Even the Hamakua Mushroom Burger........really!
We didn't have much time on Oahu, literally two nights total, but managed to enjoy ourselves......
So let me regroup and recover and we'll be back with a post!
Even though my first "Breakfast of Champions" post is probably the most spammed (somehow appropriate) post on our blog, I couldn't help but do a follow-up. Here's the breakfasts I had during my last trip home.
Kapiolani Coffee Shop:
I really got a kick from the very old-school atmosphere at Kapiolani Coffee Shop during my oxtail soup stop, that I went back just to see what breakfast was like.
There were no customers when I arrived, and was directed to exactly the same table I had sat at before....funny, yeah?
I got a cup of coffee while I looked over the menu.....yep, this place is old school all right, the cup o'joe tasted like it had been sitting around since I was in high school! Man, it was like mud....the real friendly guy kept wanting to refill it, but I just kept telling him, "no need" and making up some excuse like, "my docta' said I got to cut down on da' caffiene, no good fo' my heart" and stuff like that. Yeeeesh......
I hoped that my loco moco fared better and it did.
The kitchen bouquet gravy could have used a bit more salt and the eggs were a bit past how I want my easy-over eggs to be, but this wasn't bad at all. The hamburger patty had been pressed on the griddle developing a nice char, but the gravy balanced out the possibility of a dry burger. Not bad at all.
But what I enjoyed the most was the mac salad.
it had just the right amount of salt and mayo and was nicely chilled. I actually wanted to order more mac salad.....but how would I explain, since I supposedly had "one bad ticka'".....no coffee because of a cardiac problem and I'm there eating like three scoops of macaroni salad??? Would have been a bit odd....so I decided just to enjoy what I had.
Kapiolani Coffee Shop 98-020 Kamehameha Hwy Aiea, HI 96701
Harry's Cafe, on Waimanu street, just a block and a half from Kapiolani has a bit of a cult following. The place is a total hole-in-the-wall and very divey....the type of places that "butt crack guys"...you know, the fellows who work the trades, stop and devour a ton of calories before heading to work.
They are also famous for a 99 cent breakfast........
I was a bit late for the special, but decided to drop by for breakfast anyway. The place was pretty busy when I arrived. Four movers were eating a massive amount of food on one table....at the bar, a pretty seedy looking couple talked toeach other real loud....the woman kept half running out of the place to get "some fresh air"....yeah, right. They ended up sharing two pancakes and one cup of coffee! Every time they spoke real loud, the movers would all turn and give them the "stink eye".
I really got a kick out of the labeling for the sugar dispenser......makes me wonder if someone once mistook this for salt ot visa-versa???
I believe that "Harry" retired a while back and sold the place to the very nice Korean woman, whose name is Christy if I recall.
I was pretty hungry and went with the Corned Beef Hash Loco Moco.
Honestly, not the best breakfast I've ever had....the yolks of the eggs had broken, the gravy was somewhat gluey, and the corned beef hash was too soft and mushy, with no caramelization. It also tasted kinda funky......after reading this post on Kat's Blog, I'm pretty sure it wasn't my canned corn beef of choice either.
But heck, it was reasonable and gave me more than enough calories for the shopping I needed to do for the Missus.
Harry's Cafe 1101 Waimanu St Honolulu, HI 96814
Hours: Mon-Fri 6am - 3pm Sat 7am - 2pm Sun 7am - 12pm
Diner's Drive In Waimalu:
On the day I was to leave for home, I left the in-laws pretty early. I still had some shopping to do and I wanted to hit up at least one place for lunch. Anyway, I wanted to check email and stuff and needed a wi-fi connection so I stopped in Waimalu at Starbuck's. As I walked to Starbuck's, I could hear Diner's calling me. It was early, I was a bit hungry so why not?
When I entered, I noticed two of the "bruddah's" each eating on a different table had two styrofoam containers open and were eating from both. It didn't register until I opened up my $6.95 breakfast.
Do they sell "small" eggs? Check out the size of the eggs compared to the three, fairly thin slices of Portuguese Sausage. No wonder those guys were eating two plates!
The woman working the counter was very nice though......not much else to say.....
Diner's Drive-In 98-1277 Kaahumanu St Aiea, HI 96701
So there you go.......a trio of breakfasts and a ton of calories....and I still lost weight! Go figure!
We started with the Pork Intestines with Preserved Vegetable.
This was better than what I'd had before at Spicy House, the flavor of the intestine was a nice funky-musty without overwhelming the dish. The preserved vegetable was cut into manageable pieces this time around and helped to heighten the mild heat as well as cut the offal flavor.
We also ordered the Shui Zhu Yu - the water boiled fish.
The flavor decent, nice heat, but lacking in Sichuan Peppercorn and Doubian Jian - bean paste. I like a nice layer of oil, but this was a bit too much. The amount of fish was generous, the pieces large, though very thin. I thought the fish was prepared decently, but when I brought the rest of it home, the Missus thought it to be one the mealy side.
Overall, this was pretty good....I guess I'm missing Chinese food.....
Spicy House 3860 Convoy Street #105 San Diego, CA 92111
There was a time when we'd be at Latin Chef just about every week. But over the years things seemed to have changed and when I visited twice last year, the food was especially salty. Another thing seemed to be missing on my visits to Latin Chef, the owner, Freddy. Whenever he's there, the food and service is much better.
Anyway, we had a bunch of days where it was almost like summer recently, so I thought I'd drive on down to PB and see what was up with Latin Chef. It was lunchtime and the place was deserted. No Freddy either....I hope he's doing well. I asked the served and she just shrugged and told me, "he was here yesterday......" As she dropped off the chanchita....which was stale.
I was pretty hungry and started things out with the Cebiche Pescado.
Which was nice, the leche de tigre (the cebiche marinade) was bracing and refreshing. The fish seemed to need a few more minutes bathing in the leche de tigre, but this was nice overall.
The pescado frito was another story.
While the fish was wonderfully thin and crisp, there was way too much salt on this....so much that it edged on being bitter.
This is how my meals have been recently at Latin Chef....kind of a mixed bag. Perhaps the place is getting a bit stale. I know that since the original chef left a couple of years, taking the recipe for tiradito with him, things just haven't been the same. I'm hoping my next visit will be better.
Latin Chef 1142 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109
And here are a couple just for the heck of it......