Funny, the Missus says that my demeanor changes as soon as I get off that plane and the island humidity hits me. Something happens. I'm able to fall right back into my "old self", relaxed, laid back...and then the pidgin starts!
Of course, the next thing we're looking for is poke. Like I've mentioned before, I'm a "townie"....to me there's only one decent place to get poke in the Waipahu/Ewa Beach area and that would be a place i've posted on several times before....
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering:
We always visit a couple of times.......
Much has changed over the years....the question used to be, "limu or shoyu?"
Nowadays, it runs the gamut....
Not the prettiest presentation....Styrofoam and sauce "all ova' da' place."
But it hits the spot.
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
We also hit a place around my old neighborhood. Usually it's Ono Seafood, but the Missus wanted some smoked marlin, so here's another I've posted on before.
Man, I remember when this was Pizza Hut!
We actually prefer the smoked seafood and stuffs like taegu tako to the poke here.....
I developed a bad habit during my trips back home. I found myself taking photos of my breakfasts with my phone and sending them to my friends. And for some reason, I've kept on doing this even after returning to San Diego. Recently, JohnL suggested that I do posts on these, which I thought was a great idea, so here goes....we'll start with Oahu.
I found myself getting up pretty early, say at 5am or so in the morning during our stays on Oahu. Not wanting to wake anyone up, I'd often take a drive, sometimes with an objective in mind, or perhaps just to fill up gas. On the morning I hit up Nam Fong, the roads were clear with no traffic, so I headed all the way up to a place that's near and dear to my heart..... Like Like Drive In. Talk to any "townie" of my generation and you'll come with a list of places like Tin Tin Chop Suey and Like Like Drive In. Actually, this location of Like Like is not the original from 1953.
Back in the 90's the folks running Like Like swapped the restaurant over from the portion of the building to the right.
Walking in the place at 430 am on Thanksgiving was quite interesting. As I entered, the last of post drinking crowd was leaving and all the old-timers, newspapers tucked under their arm were entering. Still, this being a family holiday, the place was empty. The look and feel, down to the booths really stirs memories.......
I'm not much of a coffee drinker these days....but here, I just needed that cup o' joe......the table just needs a cup of coffee on it.
I really didn't order a locomoco per se, but looking over the menu I just happened to order two easy over eggs with rice and a hamburger patty. The woman serving me said, "you need gravy with that, right?' Not do you want some gravy, you "need" some gravy. And you know what? She was right....I needed some gravy with this.
I usually don't care for burgers that have been pressed down on the flat-top, but this patty had developed a wonderful crust from a well aged griddle and had been seasoned to boot. The gravy was decently flavored and not glue-like and went well with the runny eggs and rice.
It was a nice way for me to start the day......just like old times. Though I'm not doing too much active work nowadays, so I pick my spots.
Not too many of the places I grew up eating are left....Kaimuki Inn, Kuhio Grill, Alakea Grill, Chunky's, Wisteria, Suehiro, King's, McCully Chop Suey (the first air-conditioned Chinese restaurant in Hawaii!), King Tsin, Ebisu, Aotani Fountain, all gone....... Not too many like Like Like left, I'm hoping they'll be around for just a bit longer.
Like Like Drive In 745 Keeaumoku St Honolulu, HI 96814
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
One morning, I went to gas up our rental and drove into Waipahu, which is just down the street from my In-Laws place in Ewa Beach. For some reason, Leeward Drive-Inn called to me.
Man, when was the last time I ate here? The sign said "since 1964" and I think I probably had the fried noodles, which is what they, well, at least in my day, were known for....probably circa 1984. The parking lot has seen it's share of cars, all the lines for the stalls have worn away, though in typical Hawaii style, everyone seems to park their cars as if those lines still existed.
Funny thing, there were a bunch of guys having breakfast before work sitting in back of a minivan parked in front of the dining room. The big guy, sitting on a ne of those handy-dandy folding stools looked me up and down and said, "eh, I thought you one katonk, but you get da' shuffle...." Translation; "Based on your pale and unhealthy complexion, I believed that you were a Japanese from the mainland. However, when I observed your gait, it became obvious that you were not." I guess I still walk like a local? I laughed and told him, "at least you didn't think I was a bobora!" Translation;"you are indeed quite observant. I am flattered the opinion that my country of origin was Japan never entered your mind." It was just an expat local bonding moment.....
The menu at LDI is pretty large and extensive....... but I made up my mind fairly quickly. Once my food was ready, I grabbed my plate and headed off to the flourescent orange tables. The dining area looked kind of beat and no one was eating in the area so I could grind in peace.
I got Portuguese Sausage, Eggs, and Fried Rice, which was a pretty good amount of food.
This was just passable, the fried rice was very "local style", that is, made with Calrose rice. There were bits of Portuguese Sausage and some funky tasting "faux Spam". The sausage wasn't browned enough for me and tasted a bit off. The eggs were fine....this ended up just being nutrition.
Leeward Drive Inn 94 209 Pupukahi St Waipahu, HI 96797
Hours: Mon - Thurs 430am - 11pm Fri - Sat 430am - 12midnight Sunday 5am - 11pm Cash Only
This last one is sort of a quiz.......folks who have been to Hawaii will probably know this one. A fairly decent plate of Rice, eggs, which was really hard, Portuguese Sausage, and Spam®.
Quite an artery clogging breakfast......brought to you by:
Yep, Mickey D's in Hawaii serves up Portuguese Sausage, Spam®, or even both, in what they call the "Deluxe Breakfast". Don't remember the last time I actually had food from a McDonald's, but I happened to be close to the Pearl City location early one morning.....
I realize this post has been kinda long....so thanks for hanging in there are reading.
Here's the sunrise as I pumped gas one morning.
Of course I listened to KCCN.....until they kept playing the same songs over and over......what happened to variety?
As I mentioned before the Missus' cousin Long Hui is quite a character, she lives life in a carefree way, loves bright colors, wears high heels to the beach, and basically keeps the Missus in stitches. Even though she doesn't speak much English (though it's better than my Mandarin), what little she says still cracks me up. Whenever I take a photo of her, she'll assume a faux glamorous pose, one hand on her hip the other raised behind her slightly tilted head, eyes looking off in the distance. Once the photo is snapped, she'll tell me "YES or No, yes or no!" Basically, she needs to give her approval before the photographic evidence lives in perpetuity. Oh, she also loves to eat....and as I found out, really loves Jia Ji....fried chicken.
So here's her rating of the three different fried chicken she had during her stay:
Man, did she love this...... Not sure why, I'll have to have some on my next trip. Long Hui is not sure either telling the Missus maybe it's because this was the first she had.
Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
2 - Fukuya Delicatessen
One early morning, I went for a visit to my Mother's gravesite. I stopped by Fukuya one of my favorite, albeit expensive okazuya's. My Mom loved their fried chicken so much that I ended up using them to cater her wake.
Love that Fukuya has the old-fashioned okazuya hours - open at 6am (or earlier). The place has been around way longer than I have (founded in 1939) and will probably be going strong long after I'm gone.
In the typical local-style, it's all thighs, all the time. Temptingly salty, this is really good stuff....not sure why it didn't make numba' one though.....
Fukuya Deli & Catering 2710 South King Street Honolulu,Hawaii 96826
Open Wed - Sunday 6am - 2pm
I did leave a piece for mom..........
3 - Zippy's
The stuff we picked up from Zippy's in Ewa Beach just didn't measure up. But Long Hui wasn't complaining......
After all, someone had to finish last......
The Missus tells me that Long Hui is very witty, using puns and rhymes skillfully. It almost makes me wish I understood Mandarin. I'm hoping she'll visit again....this time we know she loves fried chicken, we'll be better prepared.
To quote cousin Long Hui: "we are all middle aged, too old to care, we should just relax, have fun, and eat!"
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......
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".
Even though our trip was a mere ten days, we made sure to get in as much Poke as possible. The Missus, who by now is a full fledged poke-phile and I would often discuss the merits of the poke we ate during our trip. We tried five different shops during our stay and here's the consensus, in reverse order of our favorites. I think our favorite will be a bit of a surprise.
#5 - Poke Stop
On our previous trip I had the pleasure of chatting with a former coworker of my MIL and lifetime Leeward resident Melissa, whom I also had a great time sharing dinner with on her subsequent trip to San Diego. It was really great getting her feedback on a number of places in the Ewa/Waipahu area.Poke Stop was one of the really hyped up places, but Melissa told me that the poke was very salty and perhaps not her favorite, so we passed. On this visit, the Missus and I stopped by the little shop for a light lunch. We enjoyed the "trio" of cooked items which I'll post on later, but unfortunately, the poke here was our least favorite, that's not to say it was bad, but someone had to be numba five. The shop is rather small and the choices rather limited, some of which looked like it had been sitting around for a while, but we ended up getting two different poke along with our plate lunch, a Primo, and headed outside to one of the tables overlooking Farrington Highway.
The two poke were totally at different ends of the spectrum.....
The Sesame Ahi Poke, really didn't look much like what I usually consider to be Ahi (Big Eye or Yellowfin Tuna) at all as it was really pale in color...it was almost like Tombo Ahi, aka Albacore.
But Tombo tends to be kinda mushy and this was firm, so I'm not sure. Overall, this was really bland and the fish, though firm didn't have the richness nor oil content to carry the poke on its own. You could barely make out a whiff of sesame oil on this.
At the other end, the Kimchi Tako Poke was super salty.
The Tako (octopus) was prepared well, chewy, but not too tough. It was just much too salty. We did like the service here; the older woman and her younger counterpart were very friendly. When we said we'd be eating at the tables outside, they told us to go ahead and have a seat and brought our food to us.
Poke Stop 94 -050 Farrington Hwy, E4 Waipahu, HI 96797
#4 - Alicia's Market
This little market on Mokauea in Kalihi is known for sparse parking and great poke and roast pork.
I was really lucky, as I was driving up a car left one of the maybe ten stalls in front of the market (and drive in next door), talk about good luck!
This being a football Saturday the place was packed.
You get into one of the free-form pseudo lines and when you think you're next you tell one of the folks behind the counter what you want....and there's no need for long explanations like "one pound of spicy masago ahi poke" as simple "half spicy masago" will do. If you don't notice when it's your turn one of the other customers will likely let you know...after all, this is Hawaii, and "you no cut in line" here. On busy days you can just pay cash at the fish counter, bypassing the single cash register in the front. It just works better that way.
Of the three we bought on this day, my favorite was the Sweet Onion Ahi, which seemed very fresh, with just enough saltiness for my taste. The onions were indeed "almost Maui" in sweetness.
The Spicy Ahi had too much mayonnaise for the Missus and I, though my MIL enjoyed it.
This one also got on the bad side of the Missus...more on that later on.
There was a lot of "suji"(tough tendon/fishing line like tissue) in the Spicy Masago Ahi Poke. You really couldn't tell by looking at it. It seems like they used the cuts with the most tough connective tissue hiding under all that masago.
Did you notice the banner for Alicia's read "Broke the Mouth"? Well the spicy poke almost broke the Missus' teeth...twice She pulled bones from the poke. I chewed on a couple of scales in the masago poke, which made it not only too tough, but also scaly as well.
Not much else to say.......
Alicia's Market 267 Mokauea St Honolulu, HI 96819
#3 - Tanioka's Seafood and Catering
We dropped by twice....once right after getting off the plane and once I braved the Saturday line out the door and down the sidewalk. The Missus and I were looking forward to the poke from Tanioka's since our previous visit.
On both visits we were lucky as the Ahi Limu was brought out fresh both times and ended up being my favorite.
It was quite good both times, nice balance of flavor, fresh fish, everything you need.....
For some reason, I found the dried aku poke much too salty this time around.
While the Pipikaula (dried beef) Poke seemed much too tame and mild.
The main reason for the revisit is that the Missus' cousins love Ocean/Seaweed Salad, something I find kinda, well, mundane....but I was told that this stuff is really expensive in China.
They could eat this by the pound....but didn't care much for poke, or poi for that matter.
The lines were long, but moves fast. The security guard who doubles as a doorman to handle the weekend crowd is very nice as well.
Tanioka's did come up numba' one on another list, stay tuned for that post.
Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
#2 - Ono Seafood
This one is located in my old stomping grounds; Kapahulu. It's actually in what I believe used to be the manager's studio/office for this apartment complex, apartment numba' 4. Just look for the blue apartment.....
The poke here is a couple of dollars cheaper a pound and some of the items they make up fresh for each order. The interior is tiny. This being a two person operation means that you don't move along quite as fast.
The poke here is fresh and unfettered from too many sauces and salt.
The Missus enjoyed the Wasabi Ahi:
The fish was wonderful, bright in color and with a firmness at first bite which gave way to an almost melt in the mouth texture. I did feel that it was made a bit too much restraint with regards to the "whisper of wasabi".
I enjoyed the simple Ahi Limu, except that I found the limu to be really hard.
Other then that, I thought the flavor was really balanced.
We saved the Smoked Tako for my FIL, who loves the stuff.
If I had my druthers, I might have put Tanioka's number two since I thought eating the poke at Diamond Head Look-out affected our opinions a bit.
Still, the Missus wants to make sure to revisit Ono Seafood on our next trip.
Ono Seafood 747 Kapahulu Ave.Apt 4 Honolulu, HI 96816
#1 Lana'i Ohana Poke Market
This one was a nice surprise for us. I'd heard that there was a nice little poke shop on Gay street right off of 8th. Unfortunately we arrived on a Wednesday when it was closed. I returned the next day......
The little shop was pretty busy when I arrived....three fire fighters and probably half of the police force (two officers) were either eating or waiting for their food. The woman working the front counter was really nice. I found out that even though there's a 5pm closing time posted, they make one pan of everything a day and once that's gone it's pau hana time.
The Missus has been eating a lot of brown rice recently, and has been overjoyed to see that many Honolulu restaurant are now serving brown rice as an option. I really didn't think the brown rice movement had made it to Lana'i, but I was wrong. When I hesitantly asked the woman if they served brown rice in their poke bowls she said "of course we do". Ha....teach me a lesson.....
The Missus absolutely loved the Spicy Poke bowl with brown rice.
Not overdressed, this had a mild kick, the fish really stood out. This was Her favorite until.....
She sampled the furikake-masago ahi poke.
Put together with a restrained hand, you could make out the flavor of the furikake without it overpowering the poke. The masago added a nice crunch to everything.
Still, my favorite was the shoyu poke.
Again, the flavor didn't take over the poke. I believe there was even oyster sauce in this adding a touch of extra savory flavor. I'm not a big fan of oyster sauce in my poke since it takes over the dish, but here it was used in just the right amount. There was even a slight sweetness to the whole thing as well. The fish literally sparkled......
Much like Ono Seafood, perhaps eating our poke at lovely Hulopo'e Beach might have something to do with our enjoyment.
This was taken at about noon.........the Missus and I would joke about over-crowding when there were more then ten people on the beach.
Doesn't this look like the perfect place for one of those Corona Beer commercials?
And the view when you turn around ain't so bad either.......
We actually caught the shuttle back to Lana'i City a bit early to see if we could grab some poke to stick in the fridge for dinner. Unfortunately, they had run out of poke before we returned at two pm. You can't win them all......
Lana'i 'Ohana Poke Market 834 A Gay St Lanai City, HI 96763
Never would I have thought that'd we'd find poke this good on Lana'i.
OK, I'm getting close to the 1700 word mark, time for bed.
Thanks for reading....I gotta go check my blood mercury levels!
I think I need to start this post off with an apology..... to friends (especially you, Reid) and relatives I hadn't seen in almost a decade. Due to time constraints, I wasn't able to see but one of my good friends. I'll make sure to correct this the next time I'm "home", I promise.
There was one thing that I promise the Missus on every trip home. Every morning (when possible) She'll get Her "swimming session". Arriving in Honolulu mid-morning, we first headed to Her parents new home in Ewa Beach. The Missus and I then made a beeline straight to Ko'olina". And got one swim session "paid in full".
The Missus used to enjoy the beaches Ko'olina, but on this trip She didn't enjoy swimming here as much.
Being a "townie", I'm not an expert on food on the "West side", but a few jobs I've had included servicing accounts in Waipahu and Waianae. I will say this much, Ewa Beach sure has changed..... I used to service the PX located on Iroquois Point, and a good friend of mine used to live in "Old Ewa Beach town"...... man, I barely recognized anything. And the first thing the Missus wanted to eat was, what else, Poke. At first, I thought we should check out Poke Stop. But decided on a place that's been around for a good 30 years..... and it did seem that on this trip, I went kinda "old school" with my choices.
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering:
Tanioka's has always been pretty dependable, and this was no exception. The selection was good, the prices are a bit on the high side, but the quality is good.
The Missus told me on the flight over She "didn't want old fashioned Poke.....", so She was on the look-out for newer offerings. Being the old fuddy-duddy dude, I wanted stuff that was more traditional. So to compromise, we did a variety.....
Our favorite, by far was the "Dried Poke", made with dried fish. Due to yield, it was obviously the most expensive at $23.95/lb.
Savory and salty, with a nice chew, this was delicious.
Also a favorite of ours was the Pipikaula Poke. Pipikaula, for those that aren't familiar with it is seasoned and dry cured beef.
Mixed with onions and scallions which added some pungency, this was quite good.
I made sure to get some of that oldie, but goodie, Limu Poke.
Good quality fish, this could have used a bit more limu, but it was good.
Not quite at the same level was the Onion w/Limu Poke.
The quality of fish was not as good as the regular Limu Poke, and even the coating of shoyu (soy sauce) really couldn't help out.
The Missus got Her "new and different" Poke. This was called "Hot Alae Poke". And I really have to say it was pretty much none of the above. It wasn't very spicy, nor did it have a significant Alae (orange/red salt containing clay) saltiness.
It was very sweet though....... too sweet for our taste.
Three out of five was not bad, and Tanioka's pretty much delivered as usual.
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
The following morning, the Missus decided that She's prefer Ala Moana Beach for Her morning swim.
She's always enjoyed Ala Moana Beach in the morning before the crowds, and was glad that not much had changed. The Missus always enjoyed swimming alongside all the old-timers..... From that point on, "Ala's" was Her choice.
We stopped in Chinatown on our drives back to Ewa, picking up vegetables and other stuff. And on this morning, the day before leaving for Beijing, I went with another old and dependable choice:
Tamashiro Market has been my choice for fish for as long as I can remember. On this day we went with three different Poke.
The best was the Limu Poke with Inamona (Kukui nut):
This had a good amount of inamona, which caught the Missus off guard. It really didn't taste right at first. After sitting in the fridge for an hour, it tasted much better. I think the Poke needed some time for the flavors to meld.
We didn't care much for the other two Poke. The spicy Poke tasted a bit off, and the quality of fish didn't seem to be very good.
The "Korean style Poke with scallops" was again too sweet, and the fish also tasted a bit off. The Missus enjoyed the scallops though.
There were two things that came out of our Poke sampling. Number one, the Missus realized that perhaps "traditional" when it came to Poke was not a bad thing. Number two, I've been making Poke with the best quality fish I can find. I usually will drive to Los Angeles or order from Catalina Offshore to get my sushi quality fish....sometimes paying $29 a pound for good maguro. There's no way that Poke selling for under $10 a pound will use the same quality fish. Of course, I can never get the same quality Limu in LA......
Tamashiro Market 802 N King St Honolulu, HI 96817
Speaking of "old school" and tried and true. Walking back to our car in Chinatown I told the Missus that I had one stop to make. As we walked up an almost empty North Pauahi Street, I stepped into the doorway below this sign.
Char Hung Sut: The Missus had no clue...... I guess I'd never brought Her here. Puzzled, She stepped into the doorway, and "hit the brakes" with a look of surprise on Her face. Looking around at the folks kneading and folding dough, and doing other tasks, She asked me, "why did you enter through the kitchen?" I told Her "this is the shop, welcome to Char Hung Sut." I'm pretty sure that many folks have had the same reaction the first time they visited Char Hung Sut. You basically enter right into the kitchen here......check out Reid's post for some good photos.
Growing up, there were basically "two schools" of Manapua (what we call Charsiu Bao). It was either Libby Manapua Shop or Char Hung Sut (baked manapua from Royal Kitchen came later) . My relatives on the neighbor islands preferred Char Hung Sut.
I ordered a Charsiu Manapua, and two "pork hash" (what we call Siu Mai) for old time's sake.
The pork hash, though large, was very bland, tough, with some "hard bits".
A mere shadow of what I remembered.....
The Manapua was pretty much just as I recalled. The dough is not as sweet as other versions, and the filling, which is also not too sweet, was quite generous in portion size. It did seem that the pork filling was closer to a charsiu flavored, moist pork sung......
Due to leave for Beijing the next morning, I'd made up my mind that I would go with mostly golden oldies on my return to Oahu.....
Char Hung Sut 64 North Pauahi St Honolulu, HI 96817