Oahu (with kids) trip report
Got back recently from a trip to Oahu with husband and two very young kids. Higher end dining was pretty much out of the question on this trip.
Sweet Home Waimanalo: Small "healthy" plate lunch type place in (where else?) Waimanalo. The woman working the counter heard my daughter and I discussing whether or not she was going to have her "own" smoothie or have some of my husbands and gave her a cup of the one she was making--problem solved! Husband got the peanut butter/chocolate/banana smoothie. We ordered two plate lunches. One with pulled pork and one with Waimanalo honey-citrus chicken breast with guava chipotle sauce. The latter sounds like it could be overpoweringly sweet but the chicken was moist and the sauce had subtle zing. For sides we got the hapa rice (half brown half white ;), okinowan sweet potato and mango chutney salad, paniolo potato and mac salad, and Waimanalo green salad. The sweet potatoes could have been cooked a tad more for my tastes, but all was good. I HIGHLY recommend this place. I wish we could have gotten over to this part of the island during a meal time for a second go.
Little Village (Honolulu, Chinatown): tasty Chinese in a clean, comfortable dining room. Very air-conditioned, so if you're sensitive to those sorts of things, bring a sweater. We had green onion pancakes, taro duck (Duck with taro around it and then fried. Sinfully tasty. My 3 year old couldn't get enough of it, which is always a plus in my book), stir fried ong-choy with shiitake mushrooms, and singapore rice noodles (dry curry noodles, very good).
Tokkuri-Tei: A not strictly traditional Japanese Izakaya in a strip mall. The staff was very nice and accommodating of our tots. Ended up eating there a second time after we ended up trying to go to Side Street Inn at 6:30 where there was a 45 minute wait. Called Tokkuri-Tei and they held a table for the 15 minutes it took us to drive there. Two stand out dishes were both fusion. The second time we were there we asked the waitress what she would reccomend and got them- the cream tofu and the ahi-tartare poki. Cream tofu was fried pieces of tofu, like you would get in agedashi tofu, that was in a wine sauce with mushrooms and a side of greens. I seriously wanted to lick the plate! Get it with a side of rice. I had a taste of the ahi poki tartare and it was good. Ahi poki on a toasted rice ball. flavors melded very nicely. Other yummy dishes: miso eggplant, ume shiso cut roll, zaru soba (served with a raw quail egg to mix in), goma-ae spinach and kara-age chicken. The grilled shishito peppers could have been grilled a tad longer and the grilled pork and shiso rolls weren't great. Overall, excellent food and service.
Gyutaku: Old-School Japanese. No ambience. Definitely not refined dining, decent food. Husband and I were both craving soup. He got the saimin and I got the udon. Soups were good as was the inari tofu. Tempura that came with was okay. The highlight was the Okinowan sweet potato pie with a layer of haupia and a ginger grahm crust. The crust made it stand out from the other haupia/cream pies that we tasted on this trip (like Bob's-which I thought tasted like haupia with a layer of Jello chocolate pudding on an insipid crust-don't waste your calories)
Side Street Inn: A lot has been written about this place. I think you'll be happy if you go in expecting good bar food, which it is. One surprise was the farmer's salad which had 'Nalo greens, a few pieces of shrimp, avocado and tomato and was delicious! We had the fried rice, the miso chicken and the rib-eye teri beef. Portions are large, so we had some to bring back with us. Everything was very tasty, my only complaint is that the chicken a beef had a little too much char on them for my tastes.
Leonards: What could be bad about hot fried fluffy dough covered in sugar and possibly suffed with something crazy like haupia or a slightly bitter chocolate? Didn't love the plain custard-too cloying and heavy (If they had something like Beard Papa's custard-that would be amazing) or the li-hing sugar (but I don't generally like li-hing because of the taste of aspartame in it)
KCC Diamond Head Saturday Farmers Market: This place is insanely busy, but has amazing prepared food vendors. I don't recall the names of many of the vendors, but we tried or brough home with us (over two visits): Mochi with adzuki paste and a fresh strawberry in the middle, chichi dango (mochi balls on a skewer toasted over a grill then dipped in a sweet/salty sauce, served warm), Chicken long rice and a deelicious chicken bun (from a no sign vendor at the far end of row B). The chicken bun was stewed chicken on a spit sweet bread roll with some pickled cucumber on top. We also tried grilled abalone, fried green tomatoes (don't let the line deter you-it moves fast), ice cream sandwiches, both loco moco AND beef hash benedict from the North Shore Cattle Company, which does grass fed cattle. I was pretty excited to try my first loco moco, but preferred the benedict. The patty on the loco moco was too big and dry for my tastes and my husband said they were a bit skimpy on the brown gravy. The oat cakes from Akamai foods and the lilikoi butter from Kahuku Farms both travelled home well.
Shave Ice (Waiola and Ailana): Both were good. The ice was fluffier at Waila but I loved the house-made syrups at Ailana-especially the chai and the strawberry milk.
Zippys: Not really my cup of tea, but my husband loves it (he grew up on Oahu). Especially the chili and rice. My 3 year old ate almost an entire order of chicken katsu. If you go to the one in Kahala you've got a nice view of the water.
Luibuenos Mexican Seafood and Fish: Ended up eating dinner here one night when the only other feasible option for us was pizza. I liked it more than my husband (I had the fried mahi tacos and he had the ono fish tacos). Friendly service.
Kaka'ako Kitchen: We always eat here on our visits. The shoyu chicken is really, really good. The tofu burger is also tasty. The teri chicken wrap was not bad but also wasn't particularly wonderful (too much tortilla, not enough filling, tasted too much of plain lettuce)
Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817
1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI
Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI
611 Kapahulu Ave Ste 102, Honolulu, HI 96815
Gyu-Kaku Yakiniku Dining
1221 Kapiolani Blvd Ste 105, Honolulu, HI 96814
stopped in to chinatown last nite, wow, don't know what it was like before but it's kind of a wasteland now, so many empty storefronts. don't jump all over me, that's just what i noticed.
so i stop a chinese copper and ask him what's good, he says he doesn't eat chinese, wtf? he said little village gets a lot of business so that's where we went. the place was busy, mostly caucasian customers. i kind of forget what i ordered, but the fried shrimp special was good. the other stuff was ok too, i'd say it was average compared to back home in toronto.
went to royal garden today for dim sum. now that was pretty good. the shui mai was very good, as well as the fried taro. we were there around 1:30, so the dim sum was winding down, but they still cooked up another order of shui mai and fried taro on request, so kudos for that. that's never happened for me back home.
had dinner later at matsugen and that was pretty good too, the tuna poke was smooth and fresh, almost like sashimi, the cucumber tsukemono was really tasty too, it spent the right amount of time in their nuka and had a nice crunch to it. the hot soba and udon, very good, and finisher off dinner with the warabi mochi, well done.
lunched at giovanni pizzeria today. my kid had the caesar, i tried some and thought it lacked a bit of bite, but it was certainly a large sized order. he didn't finish it and that never happens.
i went for the bj penn favourite, which was the pastrami eggs benedict. i asked for the eggs to be soft, but they came out hard so i mentioned it to my server and she promptly took the plate back to the kitchen. a few minutes later, it was delivered back by another server with the original hash browns still on the plate, cold of course. i mentioned it to the server and again another server eventually brought me a fresh plate of hot hash browns wthout a word of apology, no biggie. the eggs were still more hard than soft but i didn't feel like going through another round so i persevered and ate. as far as taste they weren't bad so a plus there.
lesson learned, order pizza at a pizzeria. and the pizza, a thin crust version, looked pretty good. oh well ....
dinner was at ramen nakamura, endured the usual wait in line outside the smallish place, although the wait wasn't too long. ordered the miso ramen combo, decent sized bowl of noodles, good fried rice as well as what tasted like a crab and pork gyoza. it was a good meal, but i still think matsugen was superior.
Great report, appreciate the level of detail. I think it's the Hawaii Kai Zippy's with a view of the water, not Kahala (which has good sushi.) Chicken Katsu is one of the dishes I never get from Zippy's, usually it is hard as a rock, maybe - on the advice of your 3 year old I should give it a try.