Over a year ago, when we visited China, we promised the Missus' cousins that if they visited Her parents on Oahu we'd be there. Of course we had to keep that promise, right? So we're back after ten or so days and countless visits to Ala Moana and Waikele Outlets......
And during the in-between time, we were able to visit a couple of places that I'd been itching to check out.
And I managed to reaquaint myself with places I'd been thinking about for years.....places I really missed.
And newer favorites as well.....
So you know they'll be more than enough poke for a post......
We even managed a short side trip......
To the Pacific Northwest....juts kidding. By the looks of the Cook Pines can you guess where this is?
Or perhaps the ranchland???
Here's the answer.....
My father was from Lana'i and I hadn't been back in at least seventeen years. I thought it would be interesting for the Missus to visit a place with no traffic lights, seventeen miles of paved road, and a speed limit of 20 mph.
And of course we had to eat, right?
It felt great to be "home", where there is an endless supply of sunsets......
And beautiful orchids....
And of course there are those items that just grab my attention for some reason or another as well.
Whew, it's been a pretty busy week for me. Mucho thanks to Cathy for making sure both the blog and myself survive to eat yet another day! Since I'm pretty bushed....I thought I'd just go over a coupe of things I've made over the last couple of weeks, starting with one, very familiar dish:
Thanks to my shaky photo taking skills, the Missus actually thought this was an ice cream sundae when She first viewed the photos.
I actually made this the night before the Amazing Graze. I figured I'd need something extra to take me through the day. Actually, I was at Seisel's picking up some calves liver for Da Boyz, when I decided to pick up some ground beef. The bad thing was, Da Boyz's liver was nine bucks...my ground beef two-fifty......yes folks, our household has truly "gone to the dogs".....
A couple of weeks back I came across some decent looking baby bamboo shoot at 99 Ranch Market, which I ended up purchasing. After arriving home I realized that I had no plan........
So I ended up lightly blanching the bamboo shoots and doing a pseudo-braise stir-fry with shiitake mushrooms them......
The sauce was an interesting combo, one that I used to make when I still lived in Hawaii...man we're talking fourteen years already!
It is a little bit (con) fusion-ny, but works rather well.
Last week the Missus was working pretty hard, so I decided to make something She'd been requesting for a while, a celeriac (celery root) salad.
Since I was also smoking some salmon, I thought I'd tie this into the main course. I added some carrots for sweetness and mixed the following dressing:
1 Tb Dijon Mustard Juice from 1/2 Lemon zest of 1 lemon 3 Tb capers drained and chopped (I don't rinse, the Missus loves the briney flavor) 3-4 Tb Mayonnaise 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (this does add flavor, so if you're not a fan canola oil will do) minced fresh dill to taste salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste 1 tsp sugar (optional) a dash of truffle oil
I used a base of baby arugula and topped with bacon. The Missus really enjoyed this. The next day She ate the rest of the salmon with the salad in a sandwich!
Another day, the Missus had to head off to work so I made Her a small bento of sorts:
Yes, that's some roast duck over some sliced cucumbers to help cut the richness.....
But what the Missus really loved was the Asian stir-fried Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe.
The sauce is just a combination of good soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. First three dried chilis are scalded in peanut oil, the rapini is added along with a dash of Xiaosing. Three cloves of finely grated (you can't see, but you can taste) garlic is added later. The sauce is added at the end..... Man, this can out really good. And as you can tell, the Missus is getting into different vegetables.......or at least convincing me to cook them!
In case you've been wondering what's been going on here........ I've been having some problems with Internet access and such over the last couple of days. Luckily, as always, Cathy has been able to help me out. Because of the spotty access, it's hard for me to do a "real" in depth post, since I usually just sit down and start typing things out. This one actually took three days off and on, fits and starts, blah, blah, blah....... It started thinking I could get things done on Friday for Saturday...then Saturday....and finally it's Sunday. I hope to have everything back on course tomorrow...... So here goes, just a couple of real short items for this Sunday......
After years of thinking I'd get some decent rare steak (even on the side), I've learned that the "tao of dry top round" is almost universal in San Diego, and stick with a brisket-tendon-flank combination.
I was a bit disappointed to that they told me they were out of Ngo Gai....... Still, in terms of flavor, this was as good as I've gotten in the area in a while.
Convoy Noodle House 4647 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Recently, I dropped by Homestyle Hawaiian.... and Mo told me to try one of the new "specials"..... the Roast Pork Loco Moco. ($8.95)
I'm not quite sure what to say other than...... this was an immense amount of food.... four large slices of roast pork, was enough for maybe three or four people in my opinion. The pork was moist, but I wished for more of the nicely flavored edges. This was too much of a good thing. I asked Mo if anyone had ever finished this, and he told me, "all the time!" You gotta remember that this has the equivalent of three scoops of rice (rice is hidden under the pork and gravy), and a scoop of Mac Salad. The gravy makes this version of the loco moco work, and it's a very decent version..... still, I want to know who has actually finished this dish. Mo told me that he's working on a loco moco "challenge"..... I can only imagine.....
Homestyle Hawaiian Island Style Food 7524 Mesa College Drive San Diego, CA 92111
Thanks so much for your patience......I'm hoping to have everything resolved soon....and I do realize that I need to finish up my China posts....after all I can't let photos like this:
*** Update 11/18, 0800 - The contest is closed....... there was only one person who guessed all six restaurant correctly. Congrats to Hao! The answers are all at the end of the post. And just for laughs I gave an eCup to the person who did the worst as well.
I haven't done one of these in a while....... I'll send a Peet's eCup to the first five folks who email(link upper right) me the correct guesses of the following revisits.
For the following three, list the dish and the restaurant:
1. This one is kinda hard, but not that hard......
Someone once mentioned lucious eyebrows.......
2.. This one is the easiest.
How about some drippy yolk porn......
3. This dish used to be much better when the restaurant was under previous ownership.....
But things have been getting better as the folks making the food have been gaining more experience.
For next three, you can just name the restaurant.
4. This "little little" place used to be in a different location.
5. I've never posted on exactly this dish, but guessing the restaurant should be pretty easy.
6. OK if you can't guess this one....... well, I'm not sure what to say.....
Easy, right? That's it, get those six and be one of the first five to email me the correct guesses and you'll get a Peet's eCup..... But let me ask you, are you a gambler? Would you go double or nothing? If you guess the name of this dish correctly, along with the previous six, I'll make it two eCups...... get it wrong, and you get nothin'(be accurate - as in what kind of meat etc, or the Chinese name would be even better)....... A couple of hints, it's not from a restaurant in San Diego, and it is delicious......
I'll let things go until the morning of 11/18
Just remember, send me the guesses via email, a valid email so if you're correct I can send youthe Peet's eCup. One guess per email address please.
OK, here are the answers:
#1 - It's Beef Sate Noodle "Dry" from Tan Ky Mi Gia.
I had gone to Barbecues Galore to try and purchase more Ono Kiawe Charcoal. I was told by the manager of BG, that a "well known" BBQ Manufacturer had bought the company and then took the charcoal off the market because it was competing with items in their product line. I'm not going further than that since I can't confirm this info. I may try purchasing the charcoal on the Ono Charcoal Website.
Aahhh yes, breakfast and bowling alleys.... what could be better? Actually, you may be scratching your head a bit on this one. Back in Hawaii, there used to be some pretty good food served in Bowling Alleys. In fact, for a time, Kapiolani Coffee Shop, which used to be on Atkinson close to what was then Aloha Motors, and is now the Hawaii Convention Center, had a shop in Kam Bowl (which has closed). They made the best Oxtail soup!(Don't worry, if I recall you can get the same Oxtail soup at Asahi Grill and Kapiolani Coffee Shop in Waimalu) And in fact, The Alley Restaurant, in the Aiea bowl was on my list (most due to Pomai's post) when I returned home a few months ago. Unfortunately, I was unable to talk the Missus into eating in a bowling alley.
Still, I knew not to expect quite that, since I'd been to Gardena Bowl and the old Holiday Bowl Restaurant's before.
At 7am on Sunday, the place is half full, all old-timers, I'm the youngest by at least 15 years. I had a seat at the counter, and soaked in the atmosphere. I really can't use the word ambiance, because it seems to infer some "high maka-maka" quality. No, this was something special..... I'd never heard so much pidgin since I moved to mainland. And it wasn't just any pidgin, but "time-warp pidgin"..... I heard words, like "holo-holo", "Pake", and "manini".... Which seemed to indicate when these folks had left for "da' really beeg island......" The folks working really didn't talk that way, but they seemed to know most of the people coming in and eating.
The menu, part of it written on the greaseboard reflected the very old-school Japanese/Chinese influenced dishes I grew up eating.
On one of the greaseboards, it said "Poi - $3.50 extra".
I of course, ordered a Loco Moco ($7.50), which came with a dish of very old-school Tsukemono, just like Mom used to make.... literally, it tasted just like her quick Tsukemono... In fact, much of this had a home made quality, albeit that being the 60's and 70's home....
I like that they didn't ask me how I wanted my egg, it was done easy-over. The gravy was very dark, and there were shreds of what seemed like roast beef in it. It wasn't as salty as I expected, rather it was thick and dense, and I love a drizzle of Tabasco on my Loco Moco anyways. The rice was perfect....
The burger patty was lean, and seemed to have little filler.... which some folks might enjoy, but it was pretty chewy. Plus, I ran into what I call "the old toenail".... you know, you bite on a piece of bone or other hard calcified item which almost cracks your teeth. Also, the patty tasted like it was about a day or so from going South, that gamey-metallic flavor, which means you no harm (yet), but trips switches in my head.
Still, I enjoyed this meal. Just listening brought back memories, perhaps different from those that Fukagawa elicited, but very strong none the less. A nice step back to the type of "diner" I grew up eating in.
For that, I'd gladly return......... Plus that gravy ain't too shabby..... This was much like what Mom made, and as much as you criticize Mom's food, you always return for more.
Gardena Bowl Restaurant 15707 S Vermont Ave Gardena, CA 90247
I'm feeling a bit tired today, so I thought I'd minimize the writing and post mostly photos. So here are some revisits. I know I usually post the storefront before the food, but this time I'll post the food first, then at the end, I'll post the storefront. I've posted on these places maybe too many times, so if you've been reading for a couple of years, you'll recognize them right away.
That Pho King Restaurant! Sorry, I couldn't help with the childish humor.... in fact, I named the photos "more Pho King". OK, can I have just one more? The folks in the office enjoy.....whoa, almost did it again, they like....well.....oh geez.....you get the point! I was drinking my coffee one day, and I mentioned that we hadn't eaten here in a while. To which "MG" exclaimed loudly, "oh yes, I miss Pho King!" The expression on her face after saying that was classic.....she had that "I wish I could reach out and grab what I said and stuff it back into my mouth" look. I nearly snorted my coffee out of my nose.... and could only manage a weak.... "I think you'd better tell your husband." Such is the "Pho King effect". 'nuff said.....
Like many I know, when I first moved to the mainland, I really missed my "local kine grindz". So finding April Hiraki-Morris's Southern California Plate Lunch Connection back in 1998 was a godsend for me. On occasion, April will send out one of "update" style emails, it's good to know that "One Scoop Mac, Two Scoop Rice" is still going strong.... for ova' ten years now! I recently received an email from April announcing that a new place called Kiki Sato's had opened up in Oceanside. I read it, but still, it was up in Oceanside. A few days later I received an email telling me I needed to check this place out. It was a "one-off" email from someone I hadn't received anything from before. This would usually set off the "shill alarms"..... and depending on interest, I'd usually just ignore. But there was one thing in the email that made me think that it wasn't a shill. The person kept misspelling the name, typing "Kinky Sato's" instead of Kiki Sato! A few days later, April forwarded an email from someone who ate at Kiki Sato's, and extolled the virtues of the Loco Moco. That triggered off something in my head..... after all, how long has it been since I'd had a Loco Moco? Which is why I set off on the 35+ mile journey to Ocean Ranch Plaza, and Kiki Sato's.... so new, that a banner still announces that you've arrived.
The interior suits the mall, which houses a Roberto's next door. It is of course, brand new, and quite colorful, and fast-foodish in character.
The menu is fairly small, which can be a good thing, and as you can tell by the "Teriyaki" in the name of the restaurant, there's a definite Japanese slant to the menu. I'm thinking FOY Dennis, being the big time Mapo Tofu fan might be interested in the Mapo Tofu and Pork.
There was a moment of levity when the very nice young lady asked me if I wanted brown rice instead of white rice with my Loco Moco. Laughing, I replied, "brown rice would kinda defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?" Which made her crack-up as well.
All plate lunches comes with Miso Soup.... a pretty large bowl of miso soup.
Which tasted pretty much like an after thought. Not that I expected anything more.
Here's the Loco Moco ($7.49), which I chose with a hamburger (you can have it with Spam if desired):
So how did this measure up? The portion size is on the smallish side, again, based on the artery clogging potential of the Loco Moco, this ain't necessarily bad. The rest I'll leave up to the "Modified Rubio" scale, which I first described here. So here goes:
BURGER: Hand formed, pressed really tight which made it tougher than it needed to be. The grind is really fine, and there's a strong black pepper component to the flavor. Still, this heads above the typical "Hawaiian BBQ" mass produced burger - 4.5
EGGS: Or should I say egg? It was just ok.... I'd prefer a softer, more runny yolk, and some salt on the egg. 2.5
RICE: Excellent, you could count every grain if you wanted to. - 4.5
GRAVY: It's a onion brown gravy, as with much of the dish, a bit lower in the sodium department . There was not enough of it to cover all my rice, and even more strange, it seemed that the rice was placed in the gravy, instead of being poured over the rice. I know, leave it to me to complain about gravy placement. Still, it does matter. 3.0
STUFFS: Plate lunches here come with both Mac Salad and a choice of a green salad or a spicy edamame salad. I got the edamame which was ok, not very spicy, but at least the edamame wasn't cooked to death. I thought the Mac Salad was very good; nicely chilled, not over-mayo'd. It could have used a bit more of a savory presence, but it was quite good. 3.5
TOTAL: 18 which is pretty good. Way above all the Hawaiian BBQ places, but still below, say the Kaloko Moco.
The service is very friendly, and I'd surely try other dishes on the menu if I lived, perhaps 10-15 miles away. As it stands, I may drop by again if I'm in the area, after all.... I want to see what the Wasabi Burger is all about....
I know a lot of folks were really sad when Mo's Island Grinds closed down. Over the last six months, I was wondering what happened to Mo. I know he was going thru some pretty rough times personally. Then about two weeks ago I get a really strange comment on my A & D Hawaiian BBQ post, "hey kirk, check out this place that just opened up. It's called homestyle hawaiian. Your going to get a kick out of this place. " It from someone named "Mo". Could it be??? Unfortunately, no address or general location for a place called Homestyle Hawaiian. The email address was bogus....... Strange, a mystery, many questions.....
The story finally broke when I received a couple more comments from "Mo". Which led me to the strip mall on the corner of Mesa College Drive and Ashford. Those who've read long enough may recognize this as the former location of Phil-Am Kitchenette.
The old signage is still up, but a banner had been placed on the awning. It read "Homestyle Hawaiian", so I guess I was here? A folding grease pencil board was up in front of the entrance, and in the classic "Mo's" style all the offerings for the day were listed.
The interior is a bit cluttered with Hawaiian kitsch-y knick-knacks, doo-dads, and thing-a-ma-jiggies......
The floors could maybe use a bit of a scrubbing....but there he was, Mo, in the flesh. Open only for about ten days, hadn't really told anyone about opening. Over the last six months, Mo has been keeping himself busy with catering gigs, and just plain laying low.
Of course I wanted my favorite dish, the Korean Chicken, and maybe some Katsu, but Mo was having a new fryer installed, so I'd have to wait until the weekend for that. I settled for a Loco Moco:
Mo told me that portions were a bit smaller than the gin-normous sizes back at Mo's, and prices now start at five bucks for some items. The loco moco was one of the items that has remained the same, three scoops rice (double-deckered, plus one under the burger), 12 oz patty, etc, etc, etc..... It tasted just the way I remembered, you can read about it here.
So there you go, Mo is back in action. Currently, he is the only employee, so he'll be taking your order, cooking your food, and working the register. I'm hoping things work out, and will be back for some Korean Chicken in the near future.
Homestyle Hawaiian Island Style Food 7524 Mesa College Drive San Diego, CA 92111
Well, there I was in Grove Plaza Center with the intent of grabbing a bite at Karihan. Unfortunately, there was no Kare-Kare on this morning, and for some reason, all of the food looked like it had been "sitting around" for quite a while....at 11am in the morning. So I decided to head next door to A&D Hawaiian BBQ.
I've been kinda down on the whole Hawaiian BBQ thing.........most of it seems to be a bunch of folks who could care less about what they plop on a plate, who are just looking to make some $$$ (replacing Spam with Treet - heresy I say!). And frankly, after looking over the menu at A&D, full of the usual suspects, I wasn't particularly moved. But it had been so long since I've had even a borderline terrible Lau Lau, that I was willing to sell my soul, and drop my standards. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, there was no Lau Lau, only Kalua Pork available.
So I made an adjustment, and placed my order, and waited. Meanwhile, I gazed upon the borderline neon green walls. During my wait, the very nice Woman manning the counter was constantly cleaning. Now A&D isn't the most visually pleasing little place, the tables have various names, initials, and other verbiage carved into them, and it does look a bit aged for a place that's only been in this location for a year, but man this woman was really cleaning......
Unable to make a decision, I had ordered the ubiquitous "BBQ Mix" ($7.29). The nice lady brought the styrofoam container over to my table, and when I grabbed it, it felt like it must've weighed two pounds.....
And everything was hot...so hot that it steamed up my camera lens, and I had to wait for a minute or two to take photos. As with all these BBQ Mix plates, all the regulars were in attendance. The BBQ Short Ribs...please don't call them Kalbi....they are about as close to Kalbi as I am to Brad Pitt. That said, these were not bad, not as tough as the usual cross cut short ribs are, the marinade is not as sweet as many, which is fine with me.
The BBQ Beef was well marinated, pulling toward more of a ginger-shoyu flavor. It was also fairly tender, and without the usual "sugi", which is what we call nylon fishing line back home, the usual tough, and inedible tendon that is usually found.
The BBQ chicken looked on the light side, but was pretty tender. The norm would be chicken that had been marinated, pre-cooked, dumped back into a steam tray with marinade, and reheated before serving, making it really tough. I really got the feeling, based on the wait time, and how hot everything was, that these folks cook their stuff to order.
I really liked the Mac Salad, it was nice and cold, with a perfect amount of mayo, and some salt for a change. The rice was a bit hard and dry, though.
There was one more item that I had to order. On the door is a sign. That sign says "6 Piece Chicken Wing Special - $1.99". Yes, it seems that A&D is in the Salt and Pepper Chicken wing business.
The batter on these is light, and crisp, and the chicken is juicy, but it does not hold up well, and lacks the "crack-like" addictive flavor.
This way too much food for me, so I took half of it home. What I thought was interesting, was that the Missus had pretty much the same opinion. And I didn't even tell Her what I thought of the food. They say after you've been married for a while..........
A few weeks later, I was in the area, and decided to drop by A&D again. This time I paid a bit more heed to the menu, and had to chuckle at the "Healthy Meals" portion. since when is Chicken Katsu or Crispy Shrimp, considered healthy? Perhaps they mean a "healthy appetite"?
Being the predictable person I am, I of course ordered:
Yes, a Loco Moco ($6.99). I readily admit that I have a thing about the two easy over eggs, hamburger patties, gravy, over rice. It is something that I long for on a visceral level. So how does this rate on the modified "Rubio Scale", created by James Rubio of Big Island Grinds. For those not familiar with the scale, you can check out my post from waaaaay back in 2005. And in case you're wondering, why the Big Island? It is believed that the Loco Moco was created on the Big Island circa 1949. Sorry to say that I wasn't able to sample the Loco from the Lincoln Grill, but the Missus and I have had more than our share from Cafe100.
So moving right along.......
#1 - The Burger - Pure and simple pre-formed. Tough. - 2.0 points
#2 Eggs - A bite overcooked for me. But worse of all, they didn't clean the griddle before frying the eggs. Too many black, "mystery bits". - 1.0 points
#3 Rice - Perfectly cooked this time. - 3.0 points
#4 Gravy - Wow, really salty....really, really, salty. I've hardly ever left gravy to sit and congeal, but had to this time. - 1.0 points.
#5 Stuffs - In this case the Macaroni Salad, which wasn't as good as my previous visit, but still pretty good. - 3.0 points.
For a total of 13.0 points, which ranks it as being fairly mediocre, even by Hawaiian BBQ standards.
Overall, A&D serves up standard Hawaiian BBQ fare. I felt that with regards to the BBQ, you get a pretty hefty size portion of food, which was pretty good. There are also $4.99 specials such as Chicken Katsu. The service was, at least for me, a notch above the standard indifferent service at most of these places.
A&D Hawaiian BBQ Grove Plaza Center 2220 Plaza Blvd National City, CA 91950
Hard to believe that I hadn't been back here for over three years. Sometime during that period the lettering on the windows have been redone, and now in addition to the Korean Food, it says they serve "Japanese Traditional Food"?!?? The menu looked pretty much the same, as did the restaurant, though they've removed the back partition to the place. And lunch is still pretty cheap, the Bulgogi Lunch Special at the time of my visit (December) was still $5.99. Looked exactly the same as well.
Funny how tastes change, I found the Bulgogi to be on the sweet side, though it was fairly tender, and the mandoo were better than on my last visit. Still, not bad, if the price is still $5.99.
And I still love the potatoes here. If this visit is any indication, service has now become the typical "dump and duck".....
Do Re Mi House 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste M San Diego, CA 92111
My previous post on Do Re Mi House can be found here.
In some ways it was the same dependable Loco......nice gravy, hand formed patty, lean, and perhaps on the tough side, but the same as usual, as were the eggs, which could have been a bit more crisp, but were decently runny......
And there was a good amount of gravy over everything. But on this visit, I felt like something was missing.......there was a good amount of Kielbasa and Portuguese Sausage in the fried rice, which was cooked just right, but the entire package tasted strangely bland.......like they forgot to season things......
With this costing ten bucks, maybe I'm just expecting more, or maybe it was just an off day? Though the mac salad was really, really, good on this day...so good I forgot to take a photo! Maybe I need to head back to PB, and see how Leilani is doing?
Leilani's Hawaiian Restaurant 3232 Greyling Drive San Diego, CA 92123 858-565-4637