Sunday, August 9, 2009

Puka Dog - Kuhio side of International Marketplace

Puka Dog
2301 Kuhio Avenue # 206
Honolulu, HI 96815

So this is a casual place. Great for a nice snack.What distinguishes this place is the way they serve and the toppings. First off, the bun isn't your normal hot dog bun. It's only open on one side. It's not a potato bun either. It's softer and fluffier. Still dense but a different texture. If you've ever eaten a Chinese hot dog bao, it has a similar taste and texture.
They serve Polish sausage and veggie dogs. I've tried both. They are both good. The veggie dog tastes just like a regular hot dog. Less "meatier" than the Polish dog.
Next is the choice of spice: mild, spicy, hot, hot hot garlic lemon sauce. Its creamy and probably has some type of mayo. I think the Japanese kind like Kewpie. It's creamier and I think more acidic than your standard American mayo.
Then relish: mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut, banana, star fruit. Adds a nice sweet contrast.
Plus some various condiments if you want. They have some mustards Liikoi or Guava that I haven't tried yet.

So far, I've had the Polish spicy w/ star fruit relish. That was mad good!
Today was the veggie spicy w/ papaya relish. Still good. The first was better.

I don't know how to describe the combination. It's a salty sweet filling bite. The bun balances all the flavors nicely. Though with the veggie they put a bit too much of each sauce in.

Monday, July 27, 2009

House Without A Key - Halekulani Hotel

So I've been here twice and it's a great atmosphere. It's in the back of Halekulani Hotel in the beginning of Waikiki (the western side or beginning of Waikiki). On the expensive side (for me, entree $25, alcohol midrange was $10 - $12)... so it's on occasion. This would be a great place for a date or just a low key evening out. Beside the restaurant is the pool area. Opposite that is a French restaurant which I hear is supposed to be one of the better ones in Hawaii.... and of course... the ocean. Unlike some of the other places, there is no beach. Just a beach walk (not sure if that's the right term). Always nice to hear crashing waves though.
The lighting is dim and it's an indoor/outdoor seating arrangement. There is a small performance area where local traditional music is played. Often there are 1 or 2 dancers as well. The music is very calming. There are seats around smaller knee height tables in the area for a more casual night out where you can order appetizers and drinks. We chose this arrangement the first time I came here.
The food is local. Last time, I had the lobster roll which was good but left me hungry. It was an appetizer anyway. Also tried there ahi poke sliders which was good (another appetizer). Still left me hungry Then again, I'm always hungry. This time I ordered their fish of the day, ahi. Accompanied by some sauted vegetables and two shrimp. Nice presentation. They could have consolidated it on a smaller plate though. Oh also a bowl of rice. The fish was fresh and had a light flavor. Small filet... couldn't have been more than 8 ozs. I should have asked for it be cooked a little less. My fault for not asking. The shrimp was good but a bit overcooked as well. Honestly the best shrimp I've had is from the shrimp trucks (i'll review those at another time). The portion wasn't that much though. Best thing about the place is the atmosphere. Good food, good service as well... I'd recommend it for ending a night out for a nightcap and light snack. Also note the prices as it can quickly add up if you want more.
For more information, check out the link below:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tokkuri Tei - 611 Kapahulu Ave Ste 102, Honlulu, HI 96815

First off, thank you Kristina for telling me about this place. This place is a very well known, local, traditional Japanese restaurant. There menu is extensive with tons of appetizers (raw and hot), little dish, variety of fresh sushi, entrees. I started with some roasted pepper appetizer and also an eel dish (i'll have to go back to get the names)... the roasted pepper was simple and tasty... the eel appetizer was served in a small bowl. It was fresh water eel, with some bamboo chutes (i think) and in a light broth... The sushi, so fresh... this is by far the freshest tuna I've had. I just ordered the plain old maguro but it's nothing but plain. It melts in your mouth... not tough... and they give you a generous portion per piece of sushi. Also had a catepillar roll (eel, avocado, tuna). I really should have stuck to sushi so I could get a better taste of the place but I'm a sucker for the americanized monster sushi rolls. I'll have to go back and make some notes, my memory is faded already. Dave (the friend and co-worker who went back to the east but taught me a lot about Hawaii in the short time i knew him), Nicole (ex of the friend who went back to the east and is now by best bud), Kristina (the prego friend who uses it as an excuse for everything and a spoil at work by bringing her food), Troy (Kristina's hubby, don't know him too well.. very chill... reserved guy), and I went almost 2 months ago. Irionically the point of that last sentence was to indicate how long ago it was but I got off track. Well I'll be back to Tokkuri Tei. Dad you'd love the place. Oh yeah, good variety of sake. What I noticed here about Sake, they usually serve it in 150 ml portions. Of course that's too much for a shot but they don't give you a little container. It's a shot glass (i've been served the tall thin ones) in a box (looks like a traditional japanese style... see wiki for a pic in the lower right showing a similar looking box... the one in the restaurants had a black lacquer with some designs though). They poor the sake in the glass and let it overflow til the box is full so you drink from the shot glass and box. Anyway... til next time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sake - Wakatake Onikoroshi

I had mentioned a "demon slayer" cold sake before. It's called, Wakatake Onikoroshi. I recommend it to anyone but it's not common. Well here you can find it more than the east coast but still.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gaku, Sushi Izakaya - 1329 S. King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

So I spent 2 hours walking around, looking for a good place to eat... settled here, a small local Japanese restaurant. I chose it for multiple reasons. First off, I wanted good sushi. I also liked the setting. It was relatively busy at 7 pm so I trusted other peoples' judgment. I'll have to post some pictures of the place later. From the outside, you can't really see much... crammed between 2 other businesses with a mock traditional Japanese style. Inside, somewhat narrow, immediately you notice the sushi bar in an L-shape, seating about 10 or so, plus smaller tables on the side... 3 or 4 sushi chefs/assistants. Towards the back, though I didn't investigate too much, some enclosed areas with the traditional Japanese seating (low to the ground, shoes off). I learn the terminology as I go. Music was I believe 80's and 90's American.
On to the food... hold on... onto the drinks. Started with a cold sake. Thank you Cheryl for taking us out to your boyfriends place in NYC. That's when I first got my interest in cold sake. I had the "demon slayer" sake, a daiginjo, which was really dry and fruity. Still among my favorites though I don't recall the name and I haven't tried much. Started with the Kubota Manju (daiginjo), $20 for 150 ml. Hey, I was treating myself tonight so why not. Really good. Dry not too fruity, once again I'm no connoisseur (and partly not good at spelling, had to Google the correct spelling). There tuna was great. Melted in your mouth (though I have had better at another place that I'll write about later). All their other fish was very fresh, good texture. Tried the yellowtail, belt fish (that was a first) and kuromutsu (another first). The kuromutsu is interesting. Somewhat like yellowtail but the texture seemed softer and tasted less fishy. Will definitely search for this at other places. Also tried their butter mentaiko. It is a potato, topped with mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock, thank you wiki) baked with some seasoning. Then topped with a half cherry tomato. Really good. You should let it sit for a couple of minutes though. Too hot to eat right away. Well not really. Just more enjoyable when you don't bite into it and have a burning hot sensation. Also had their fresh water eel. I find at good resturants that the degree of quality doesn't vary so much. Just a staple in my sushi diet. Maybe I have yet to come across a really poor quality one. The menu has a good amount of variation from sushi, to udon, to fried foods, and other things. I was interested in trying thei grilled stingray fin but avoided this time. I'll be back with backup for it. Also tried their Masami Arabashiri, just a recommended sake. Very very fruity but good. I'll be doing another review when I go back. I really enjoyed it. Then again, it's easy to enjoy a place when you don't put any limits on what you can order! :)

A bit about myself

So this is my personal blog for reviewing restaurants in Hawaii. Born and raised in New Jersey where I spent most of my days. Chinese American background. Mom your still the best cook I know. All her food is sooo good. Best rack of lamb. Every time I order it in a restaurant I'm disappointed cause my mom's is better. Fat trimmed and a different seasoning. Her Chinese food is fantastic. People ask me what style it is and honestly I don't know. I just know it's good.

As a kid, my taste was very American. Didn't like trying new things. My favs were chicken fingers and eventually I added shrimp to my diet. Didn't like steak, seafood, anything out of the ordinary. It slowly changed as I tried more foods. I tend to stay away from oddities but have been recently intrigued by them. So now, I'm a fan of sushi, but not everything. Always try maguro/tuna at any place that has it, as well as the higher graded variations (fatty tuna and theres a middle grade as well) but always trying to find a good one. Eel is a favorite, but i think it has to do largely with the eel sauce. I don't notice much of difference between fresh water and salt water but I'm learning. Yellowtail/hamachi another fav. Never really like salmon but gotta give it a second chance in the future. Love pasta. Love rice. Always looking for a good penne vodka sauce, udon, and pad thai. Since moving here, ramen has grown on me as well. I typically thought of packaged ramen so never thought twice about trying it out. Why would I pay 8 bucks for something i can get in a package? Because its so much better. That's enough about background for now. Hope you find the reviews helpful. Enjoy. I know I will.