Archive for the ‘Eating Out’ Category

2011 is here, I just turned 27, and it’s been far, farrrr too long since I’ve contributed anything to this blog.  And while I can’t change how fast time seems to fly these days, I can make it a point to share my latest foodie adventures with all of you – and between the holidays and some major culinary indulgence recently, I have a whole lot to say.  I just finished putting together a list of my favorite Japanese restaurants on Oahu for a client (which of course led to me spending about an hour compiling a list of the rest of my current favorites…), and I thought I would start of my 2011 blog entries with it.  So here goes…If you’re in Hawaii you’ve got to give them all a try, if not, this list looks like the perfect reason to book a trip!

TOP SIX – Reservations are a must for these, and I highly recommend sitting at the sushi bar and asking the chef to serve you what they think is      best/fresh that day…you’ll never be disappointed!

  • Imanas Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/imanas-tei-restaurant-honolulu this website rates it as being quite pricey, but you can go and have a mid-range meal there easily.  The sashimi platter is the very best…the fish is very, very fresh.  I hear their nabe is also really good.  Amazing delicious and not too formal, this is the perfect go any night of the week kind of place.
  • Sushi Izakaya Gaku: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-izakaya-gaku-honolulu My absolute number one favorite sushi place in all of Hawaii right now.  The fish is unbelievably fresh, their Izakaya dishes are to-die-for and the service and ambiance are wonderful.  The head chef of Imanas is the guy who owns/runs Gaku.  Very limited seating and very popular, so make sure to make reservations.  It is pricey, but worth every single penny, I promise!  Just make sure you give the seared O-toro and the Spicy Negihama Tartare.
  • Hakkei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hakkei-honolulu Hakkei specializes in Oden which is a Japanese soup similar to Nabe or Shabu-Shabu.  Their focus is much less on sushi (we had some sashimi but that was the only raw fish dish to be seen) and more on warm, comfort type food.  Don’t be mislead though, they change their menu monthly to focus on season ingredients, and each and every dish is creative and exceptionally delicious.  They have three tasting menus or you can just order off the menu.  Very traditional from the food to the ambiance and the staff, I felt like I was back in Japan for a few hours!  Apparently they also serve lunch (check out their website).
  • Ideta: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ideta-restaurant-honolulu Incredibly fresh fish, very straightforward, traditional yet inventive, clean, focused and mouthwatering flavors.  Sit at the sushi bar for sure, the chef/owner is a true master.  This one is a bit off the beaten path and  bit pricey as well, but most definitely worth it!
  • Matsugen: http://www.yelp.com/biz/matsugen-honolulu If you love fresh Soba this is the place to go.  Make sure to try the duck broth with the soba and their fresh tofu as well.
  • Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tonkatsu-ginza-bairin-honolulu Right next door to Matsugen, this place serves Tonkatsu like nothing you’ve ever had before in your life.  Top-grade pork (when you call to make a reservation you can actually reserve the pork as they only have so much and tend to run out as the night goes on), only the freshest ingredients flown in from Japan and an old man whose life has been dedicated to perfecting this dish makes for an unforgettable meal.
Low-Mid Range Favorites
  • Phuket Thai:http://www.yelp.com/biz/phuket-thai-restaurant-honolulu very, very good thai food!
  • Hale Vietnam: One of my very favorite Vietnamese restaurants…you must try the Imperial Rolls if you go! http://www.yelp.com/biz/hale-vietnam-restaurant-honolulu Reservations are accepted here.
  • Covenant Books & Cafe:http://covenantbooksandcoffee.com/ Hawaii really lacks good soup & sandwich places, but Covenant really makes up for it in every way possible.  Nestled in a Christian bookstore, their sandwiches are amazing, and they make a different soup every day that makes you want to melt (they have a soup calendar on their website!).  They also serve an incredible breakfast.  I live for their croissant french toast with flambeed bananas….closed on Sunday.
  • Cafe Kaila:http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-kaila-honolulu Cafe type food, really yummy breakfast and lunch place.  Crazy on Sat/Sunday mornings, but always worth the wait.
  • Bogart’s Cafe:http://www.yelp.com/biz/bogarts-cafe-honolulu Very similar to Cafe Kaila
  • Diamond Head Grill:http://www.diamondheadmarket.com/ When I don’t feel like cooking or sitting down at a restaurant, but I want take-out that is healthy and always top-notch, I go to Diamond Head Grill.  They have prepared food available in the market to take home and heat up, or you can order from the grill outside.  Their ahi salad at the grill and their desserts in the market are my favorites.  If you like scones, they have the most insanely good blueberry and sometimes banana scones unlike anything you’ve ever had before.
  • Olive Tree:http://www.yelp.com/biz/olive-tree-cafe-honolulu BYOB, this is the hands-down the best Greek restaurant on the island.  Fat Greek which is down the hill from your house is good as well, but Olive Tree really kicks it up a notch.  VERY busy all the time, so either get there early, order take-out, or be prepared to wait.  There is a wine shop right next door for your convenience 🙂
  • Little Village:http://www.littlevillagehawaii.com/ I know we have a China Town teeming with Chinese food places, but trust me when I say that Little Village is the very best.
  • Mocha Java:http://www.yelp.com/biz/mocha-java-cafe-honolulu Located at Ward Center, this is a wonderful healthy place to go for breakfast and lunch.
  • Himalayan Kitchen:http://www.yelp.com/biz/himalayan-kitchen-honolulu Love this place!  BYOB also (go to Tammura’s down the street for great wine and beer!) We eat here all the time – great ambiance (lots of outdoor seating) and delicious food.
  • Waioli Tea Room:http://www.yelp.com/biz/waioli-tea-room-honolulu If you want to get out of the city and escape into the jungle, this is the place to go.  They serve a great lunch all week, but it is for their breakfast brunch on Saturday and Sunday that I hold out for.  Eating here always makes me feel like I’m on Kauai 🙂
  • Formaggio: http://www.yelp.com/biz/formaggio-honolulu Great french/Italian food and awesome wine list.  Perfect place to go during the week for a quick but great meal and some really yummy wine.
  • JJ Dolan’s:http://www.yelp.com/biz/jj-dolans-honolulu Simple but delicious pizza and beer place located Downtown.
  • V Lounge:http://www.yelp.com/biz/v-lounge-honolulu More artisan style pizza place that is definitely worth a try.
  • KCC Farmers Market: Saturdays from 7:30-11:30 a.m. at Kapiolani Community College…..best Farmers Market on the island, the produce, food, flowers, and everything else there makes it my favorite place to be every single week.
  • Tango:http://www.tangocafehawaii.com/ More in the mid-high range, this place serves excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Tokkuri-Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tokkuri-tei-honolulu another hole in the wall Japanese place, the food here is amazing.  It’s small and very popular, so you might have to wait if you go on a popular night, but it’s well worth it. (Since I wrote this I think they’ve expanded to a larger location, but I hear it’s still packed!)
  • Tsukenaya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tsukuneya-robata-grill-honolulu this is different than any Japanese food you are used to and its wonderful!  The style of cooking originates from Nagoya in Japan so the focus is less on sushi and more on the robata or bbq style of cooking.
  • Maguro-Ya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/maguro-ya-honolulu Go here for the sushi.  Very traditional and straightforward, I’ve never been disappointed here.  If you like green tea and azuki beans for dessert, theirs is a must-try!
  • Kochi: http://www.yelp.com/biz/kochi-restaurant-and-lounge-honolulu If you are looking for a good place for happy hour and sushi rolls, this is the place to go.  It’s on King St. and I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
A bit pricy but VERY worth it:
  • Alan Wongs:http://www.yelp.com/biz/alan-wongs-restaurant-honolulu very pricey (appetizer, food, dessert and alcohol aprox. $100 a head) but SO SO SO worth it.  Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s very best chefs and I promise that you will not be dissapointed.  If you go to one restaurant while you are in Hawaii, this must be it!  Make sure to make reservations WAY in advance.  Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Hoku’s at the Kahala Hotel:http://www.yelp.com/biz/hokus-honolulu this is another amazing one, and the location is just beautiful.  It is about a 15-20 minute cab ride from your hotel.  If you go, I recommend going early to have drinks first, and then to dinner…the hotel is breathtaking. Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Town: Farm-to-table, the ingredients are always fresh, and local and organic whenever possible.  One of my all-time favorites for sure.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/town-honolulu#hrid:kEZQplvbjxjkTEBjAT_4mA/src:search/query:town%20restaurant
  • 12th Ave. Grill:http://www.yelp.com/biz/12th-avenue-grill-honolulu#hrid:_887lbqstrayqaZ6BZSeIA/src:search/query:12th%20ave%20grill fantastic food, totally hole in the wall restaurant.  Right near Hale Vietnam and Town.  Food genre is “New American.”
  • Chef Mavro:http://www.yelp.com/biz/chef-mavro-honolulu One word: unbelievable.  Different than anything you’ll find here in Hawaii, Chef Mavro’s french restaurant is worth the indulgence (both financially and in calories).
  • BLT Steak:http://www.yelp.com/biz/blt-steak-honolulu I’ve heard mixed reviews, but my experience there was fantastic.  I think it’s the best steakhouse on the island personally.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel: http://www.royal-hawaiian.com/ just renovated, the Royal is one of Hawaii’s landmark hotels and one of the most beautiful.  Great restaurants but quite pricey – at the very least go for a Mai Tai at their beach front bar because they make the meanest Mai Tai’s you’ve ever had!
  • Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/ another of the landmark hotels in Waikiki – their ocean front veranda is beautiful and a great place for breakfast, tea, or drinks at sunset.  I hear the restaurants are good as well, but on the pricier side for sure.

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Justin showing us how it's done.

I have a soft spot in my heart for places that serve breakfast at all hours of the day and night; with a special love reserved especially for amazing pancakes and french toast.  When I got this photo and the attached message “pancake teppanyaki omfg” from Tori and Justin who are in Portland, OR right now, I almost died of jealousy and amazement.  And here I have been dying for my own griddle for breakfast at home when I could have been dreaming big like the people who own this place…

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Every single week a note about Wine Down Wednesday pops up on my twitter from owner @edstown, and every single week I think “I need to go and do that.”  But, despite my good intentions, I have to admit that yesterday was the very first time I ever actually followed through – something that may not have happened had we not had a nudge from Sky Cameron, a friend of ours who was conducting the tasting for the evening.

What is Wine Down Wednesday you ask?  Pure genius in my opinion.  The middle of the week is generally a bit hairy, no matter which way you slice it.  And what better way to unwind and re-energize for the rest of the week than over a four course wine tasting/food pairing in the company of some really fabulous friends? Pretty much nothing.

So, in keeping with this line of thought, Jacky, Tori, Justin, Haley, 15 wonderful strangers and I joined Sky at town in Kaimuki for an array of Argentinian wines from the Mendoza region (on the western coast about halfway down), paired with four complimentary dishes – all of which was divine.  Here’s what we were working with:

Sky...our fearless wine leader

Wine: Nieto Senetiner, Torrontes Reserva '09 (the ultimate summertime lounging-by-the-pool wine - Torrontes is only found in Argentina) - Food: Salmon skin, risotto cake, apple, fried capers

Wine: Vina Cobos "El Felino" Cabernet Sauvignon '08 (aptly described by Sky as "juicy" this one tasted even sweeter because of the spice in the food) - Food: Pa'i'ai hash (pulled pork), watercress

Miss Haley...the most well behaved (and adorable) two year old who has an incredible palate to boot!

Wine: Pulenta Estate "La Flor" Malbec '08 (from vines that are 5-15 years old) - Food: Porchetta, Mushrooms

Wine: Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec Reserva '06 (from vines that are 50 years old and up - one of Wine Spectator's top 100 wines!) - Food: Grilled leg of lamb with mint infused chili

We ended the evening by sharing a crazy delicious bittersweet chocolate and apple banana panini served with ice cream and some whipped cream goodness. Haley demonstrated how one should most effectively get every single ounce of ice cream out of a dish once a spoon just doesn't cut it. Thank you Uncle Sky!

Remnants of a good time

We were all at one long table which didn’t make for the most ideal social or easy to educate situation, but Sky did an amazing job of explaining things and we had a most wonderful time overall.  We’ve decided that WDW would be a great thing to gather a bunch of friends together and do again (read: completely take over with people we know and have a raucously good time) – hopefully sometime very, very soon.  Want to join us?  Town does WDW every week at 6:30 – just make sure you call ahead for reservations as seating is limited.

On a side note, it has been not only wonderfully fun because of his overall fantastic-ness, but also very educational getting to know Sky because of his extensive wine knowledge.  My notes above only scratch the surface of what he taught us last night, but here is a little more info on Mendoza and the whole wine situation in that area.  Now all I have to do is convince Sky to take me on one of his fabulous wine trips someday!

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What better way to start the day off than with banana stuffed croissant french toast and an amazing cup of coffee from Covenant Books & Coffee on 12th. Avenue in Honolulu?  I dare say not much.  If you can’t make it for breakfast (they also do a mean breakfast burrito), stop in for soup (a different one made fresh daily) and a sandwich (my fav is the veggie delight)….hands down one of my very favorite breakfast/lunch places of all time.

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As if San Francisco and its never ending list of to-die-for restaurants wasn’t enough.  After reading about The Big Sweet 2010, I just may have to get on the plane and go: http://7×7.com/blogs/bits-bites/big-sweet-2010-we-need-you

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“Like stones rolling down a hill, fair ideas reach their objective despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.”

– Jose Marti, Statesman, Poet, Visionary and Cuban Revolutionary

We have been talking about trying Soul De Cuba Cafe since a dinner down the street at JJ Dolan’s way back in January….and after many failed attempts, I finally found myself there, sitting at a cozy corner table with Justin, Tori, my roommate Carol, and a large pitcher of soul healing mojito goodness.  After a less than stellar day, it was exactly what I needed.

Pollo Soul de Cuba - this lightly breaded chicken was the most moist, juicy and flavorful chicken I think I've ever had. Paired with the home made salsa of mango, guava, black beans pineapple and rum it was nothing short of amazing.

In a place where Korean BBQ, Japanese, Chinese and Pacific Rim restaurants reign king, and Cuban is rarer than rare, despite this places good reviews I feared that I would find myself in a situation similar to that of the Mexican food dilemma in Hawaii – there are few options to choose from and most of them miss the mark…by a mile.  However, with one dip of my spoon into the black bean chili Justin had ordered and I knew I was in for a spectacular meal.

The Eggplant Milanesa tatsted like a more fresh, healthy version of eggplant parmesan.

We started with an appetizer sampler and an order of the empanadas as recommended by our server.  Delicious.  After some deliberation about whether or not ox tail would make an appearance at our table that evening (I was vehemently opposed to eating it and so it was a no-go), we decided to share the Eggplant Milanesa, Pollo Soul de Cuba, and the Picadillo.  One word. Wow.  From the super moist, juicy chicken & homemade mango salsa, to the just barely still-crisp slices of tomato sauce smothered eggplant, to the slight and very welcome tang of the Spanish olives in the Picadillo, right down to the black beans, rice and the plantain garnish – not one bite was a disappointment.  We closed with a delectably moist, dense brownie capped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, and, of course, flan with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and caramelized plantain.  Oh my.

Tori especially wanted to try the Picadillo because she said she makes it at home...I thought it was delish, but forgot to ask her how it stacks up to her own. Tori?

As usual, even better than the food proved to be the company.  At one point conversation turned from the current hapennings of our days to my new-found obsession with an under-ground, invite-only supper club here in Honolulu called Spork.  Tori told us all about their friend’s supper club on the east coast and a plan to form our own was born.  Still in it’s fledgling stage, I think it will take at least a pizza night or two for us to really flush out the details 🙂

It is always a good time for a fudgy brownie and vanilla ice cream. Always.

It is evident in everything from the atmosphere of the restaurant to the stories about the founders on the website, and especially in the food prepared from the home style recipes of their families, that there is indeed a soulfulness about this place.  All in all, Soul De Cuba Cafe has officially earned a place in my top 15 favorites here on Oahu…which is a pretty serious statement considering how much I love to eat.  Go, try it for yourself – I am positive you won’t regret it.  Don’t live on Oahu?  Drop in to their New Haven, CT location and let us know how it is!

Flan topped with fresh strawberries, caramelized plantains and whipped cream was super yummy....not gonna lie, I think the flan I make is better 🙂

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Shibi (baby yellow fin tuna), grapefruit, pickled fennel and a whole bunch of other yummy goodness

Saturday, as Lesley and I lazed around wondering what to do with ourselves, I flipped through the latest Twitter posts on my phone for some inspiration and came across a photo from @edstown of that night’s dinner menu at Town which looked incredible.  Lesley had never been there before and I’ve been craving it for months so we decided to splurge a bit and make it a date night – problem solved.

Beet, Arugula, Orange, Chickpea and Ricotta salad

Good thing we made reservations because it was packed when we arrived.  I love everything about this restaurant; the aesthetic of it makes you feel like you are at your friends house for dinner, the food is all farm-to-table (New American type dishes), the staff is great, and everything I’ve ever eaten there has been to-die-for delicious.  And that night was no exception.  We shared a bottle of white Italian wine, bread (I would kill for their bread recipe)/olive oil/butter/olives, a beet/orange/arugula/ricotta salad, shibi(baby yellow fin tuna)/pickled fennel/grapefruit appetizer, fresh ono with fresh veggies and a meyer lemon berry butter sauce, hand cut pasta with eggplant and prosciutto, and finally buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in honey.  If that doesn’t make your mouth water I don’t know what will.

So ono!

Great for lunch as well, I will have to make it a point to not let so much time go by before I find myself back there.  The game plan for next time however is to share an entree so that we can share the apple banana/chocolate panini for dessert….heaven in between two slices of bread I imagine.  Also on the list of things to try is their Wine Down Wednesday event where they have a special menu with wine pairings….For reviews, phone numbers etc. go HERE.

The hand-cut pasta was silky, flavorful and not overly heavy. The leftovers the next day were amazing!

"Milk & Honey" Buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in local honey....perfectly light and refreshing after a big meal!

Cheers to good food and even better company!

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Weeks ago I forwarded my girlfriend Lesley an email featuring BYOB restaurants in Honolulu, and this past Wednesday we put it to good use and tried out Himalayan Kitchen for the first time.  Armed with a few bottles of cheap but yummy Pinot, we met our friends Tori & Justin and their adorable two year old Haley for an early dinner.

Located on the rooftop of a building in Kaimuki and with lots of outdoor seating, it was love at first sight for me and Lesley.  The menu, with pages and pages of what looked like the most delicious food didn’t hurt either.  Tori and Justin had been there before and as such they led the ordering process.  We shared a whole lot of things that I cannot presently remember the names of (I could barely pronounce them or tell them apart but that didn’t stop us), and enjoyed both the food and the company immensely.  Even little Haley dug in, simply wiping her tongue off with her napkin when she encountered something a bit too spicy for her liking 🙂

Completely satiated, we left a few hours later singing the places praises.  I think it’s safe to say this place is our new favorite, especially with Tamura’s Wine Shop located just a few blocks away.  Mom, Dad, we MUST go the next time you are in town.

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Ever wondered what a fried pork chop looks like? Wonder no more 🙂 My mom and I had this for lunch on our recent trip to Tennessee. It was fried food galore down there, and everything was absolutely delicious. Along with the fried pork chop, this lunch included potatoes, white beans, turnip greens, and cornbread. Oh and strawberry shortcake for dessert! Those Southerners sure do know how to cook up a good meal!

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If you are ever in the Nashville, TN area, a trip to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House would definitely be very much worth your while. Miss Mary Bobo’s is located in Lynchburg, TN, which is famous for being a sleepy little town of 500 residents that houses the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. A perfect day trip could be made of touring the Distillery, lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s, and walking around Lynchburg’s quaint town square. Lynchburg is about an hour and a half drive from Nashville and it will take you through beautiful farm country. My mom and I went to Lynchburg last weekend to visit our good friend Ruth Daniel, who is actually part of the Jack Daniel’s family! Her husband was Joe Daniel, who was a grand-nephew of Mr. Jack Daniel himself! Ruth is pretty much a celebrity in Lynchburg. She knows everyone and everyone knows her! She was a wonderful hostess to us on our trip and knew that we would love to go to Miss Mary Bobo’s for lunch. Both my mom and I had been there before, so we knew to expect a HUGE southern-style lunch. While the lunch fare changes every day, we were lucky to have several delicious dishes, including Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Creamed Corn, Green Beans, Meatloaf, Baked Apples (with secret ingredient Jack Daniel’s), Fried Chicken, Fried Okra (my favorite), Coleslaw, Corn Muffins, Sweet Tea, Coffee, and Fudge Pie for dessert with Jack Daniel’s in the whipped cream! I guarentee that no one will be disappointed at Miss Mary Bobo’s! 

History of Miss Mary Bobo’ Boarding House:

Originally built in 1867 and named the Salmon House, it served as a traveler’s hotel, operated by Dr. E.Y. Salmon. In 1908, Jack and Mary Bobo bought the Boarding House and named it the Bobo Hotel. Miss Mary Bobo ran the hotel until her death in 1983, just a few days before her 102nd birthday. Today, Miss Mary Bobo’s is run by Lynne Tolley, the great-grandniece of Jack Daniel.

You will definitely have to make a reservation if you want to go to Miss Mary Bobo’s for lunch, since it is a popular tourist attraction and reservations fill up quickly. Lunch seatings are at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm (during the busy season). Want to learn more about Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House? Click here!

The outside of Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House


One of the dining rooms


Another dining room


Our lunch table


Baked Macaroni and Cheese and Creamed Corn


Meatloaf and Baked Apples (with Jack Daniel's!)


Southern style lunch!


Dessert... fudge pie!


Me and Ruth


Me and my Mom outside Miss Mary Bobo's


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