Restaurants Thread (2018-)

Thread about Restaurants in Hawai’i.

I heard Cafe Laufer is closing, which is a bummer. But Mitchell said they’re moving downtown, so that’s good news. I also heard that Agnes’s Bakery closed as well, which caught me off guard. Just when I my enjoyment of their malasadas starting growing, they close down. 🙁

On another note, this is an interesting concept, that looks good:

123 thoughts on “Restaurants Thread (2018-)

  1. What I said was that the chef-owner already had plans for a new place Downtown. I have no idea if they were plans for a similar eatery or if this is something completely new.

  2. I took that to mean a new physical space, not a new restaurant. I read something recently that made it sound like the restaurant will be completely different. Bummer.

  3. Do you guys know that the guy who ran the food truck near Damien is the new owner of New Diner’s? He brought his menu over there. So they have the old New Diner’s menu and a new New Diner’s menu. Some of my friends have shared photos and they look great. I tried to eat there last weekend, but if the guy isn’t in, you can’t order off the new menu. Annoying, but whatever. Just thought I’d pass it along in case you didn’t know. I guess I’ve known about it for quite a while but never thought to actually check it out.

  4. I heard about that. The food truck looked pretty good, but the menu seemed limited. For example, unless you wanted a cheap steak, there didn’t seem much that interested me.

    Was the New Diner’s menu interesting (before the guy took over)?

  5. Well. It was basically the old Diner’s menu until Sorabol bought it, which kind of refined it a little (actually, just added to it). But the new guy has a whole separate menu in addition to the old old stuff. It looks (by names, anyway) like stuff you’d see at Kakaako Kitchen or Kahai Street, at least upon first glance.

  6. What you said intrigued me, so I went to check out the menu and pictures at yelp. To me, the main thing that stood out was the steak. Then again, is the quality of the regular items the same as the old diners? (If so, I wouldn’t be that interested.)

  7. If the quality of the regular items is the same as before, but the quality of the new menu items is fantastic, you’re still not that interested? That’s an interesting position.

    I did try to order a steak the one time I went and was denied. A friend posted a nice photo of the surf and turf with a side of ahi katsu, which kind of inspired the trip.

    I was annoyed, and I’m not in a hurry to go back now that I know I can’t necessarily order what’s on the menu. But if I do I’ll let you know what I think.

  8. If the quality of the regular items is the same as before, but the quality of the new menu items is fantastic, you’re still not that interested?

    If I’m only really interested in one of the new menu items, does that seem less confusing? I guess if the other items were among the best of its kind, I’d be interested, but I haven’t read anything that gives me that impression. Plus, in general, the stuff on the new menu is either too pricey or too heavy for something I’d want to eat on a regular basis.

    I did try to order a steak the one time I went and was denied.

    Because the new owner wasn’t there? If so, that is super annoying and lame. I’d be hesitant to go back, too. What the heck?

  9. Gyu-kaku has a $35 all-you-can-eat deal. The quality of meats they offered (limited selection) was really good, far better than other yakiniku/Korean bbq places I’ve been to recently (e.g., Gen, Yakiniku Shillawon, Camellia). Granted, Gen and Camellia are significantly cheaper, but I wouldn’t want to go back there, and I would want to go back to Gyu-kaku. There are also appetizers, vegetables and ice cream or smores options. The dipping sauces were also good, especially the yuzu. What I liked was how the sauce didn’t overpower the meat.

  10. I’ve been walking past Restaurant Do-Ne for a couple of years. It’s on Kalakaua sorta near Frog House, if you’re familiar with that little stretch of stores between Kapiolani and King.

    Finally walked past when there was no wait for a table, so that’s where I dined. The menu looks good, authentically Japanese. I kinda didn’t want to order my old standby, katsudon, but honestly it was the thing that most appealed to me, so I had the katsudon set (with miso soup and a few tsukemono things and a green salad). I also ordered the sashimi of the day, which was maguro.

    The waitresses all spoke Japanese and all had Japanese accents when speaking in English, so you know I was already kind of won over.

    It was good. Solid. Katsudon set $13; sashimi of the day $10.

  11. Seems like a pretty decent deal, but what I really want to know–have you ever eaten at the Frog House? That place has been them forever, it seems like, and I have to believe they must be decent at least.

  12. Laufer has reopened with the same ownership in the same spot with a new name: Kaimuki Cafe. Same menu, but lower prices.

  13. Limon (Ka Makana Ali’i Shopping Center, Kapolei)

    This is a new South American (Peruvian?) restaurant. We tried the paella and a fried fish (sole) dish. The latter was really good. The batter wasn’t heavy or oily, and was a pretty good size. It also came with some seafood (calamari, shrimp) in a tomato-based sauce, and some rice ($22).

    The paella tasted like rice pilaf with seafood. I wouldn’t get this again.

  14. Wait, you went to Limon and didn’t get the chicken? I thought they were known for their chicken. But how good can rotisserie chicken be right?

  15. But how good can rotisserie chicken be right?

    Relative to Sam’s and Costco–yes, that was my thought exactly. Larri’s friend tried, but we couldn’t get feedback from her, so I went with something else.

  16. Sam’s and Costco chicken is terrific, but the price is a factor. Is either better than a real huli-huli chicken with huli-huli sauce right off the flames? I say no. And I would totally order that in a restaurant.

  17. The key question is, is the Limon’s chicken significantly better? Worth paying more for? I might like huli-huli chicken more than Sam’s/Costco, but if I had to pay $9 for it, I don’t think that would be worth it.

  18. I went to Baikohken in Waikiki Yokocho. It was my second visit to Yokocho. I went to Bario a few months ago (photo later).

    I had miso ramen with extra bean sprouts and gyoza.

    The broth was good but not awesome. I added a few splashes of vinegar and it was much better. The charsiu was good but not great.

    So, kinda pricey ($16 or so for ramen; $8 for gyoza). Not really worth it but I don’t regret anything. I feel there must be awesome things in Yokocho but I haven’t discovered them yet.

  19. Did you write about Bario? I don’t remember what you thought of. I thought it was pretty good, but Don seems to think it was much better than that. You’ll be the tie-breaker.

  20. Not yet. I wasn’t planning to, but now that I’ve had ramen at two different places in there, I will.

  21. Pioneer Saloon

    I finally tried this place (or maybe I tried it once, when it first opened, but I doubt it). I kinda liked it, and I like their menu, although the value (cost relative to portion) seems a bit iffy. (I’m kinda surprised that Don likes this place.)

    I tried to the spicy ahi (tataki-ish style). Also, got a spicy, garlic steak and chicken katsu. The food was well-made. I’d go back and try other items. (They have a fairly extensive menu.)

  22. Sweet E’s Cafe

    Had this restaurant been around ten or twenty years ago, I would might have been excited. Given the other available breakfast/brunch options, the menu here is rather plain. One of their popular items, the blueberry creamcheese french toast–seems rather ordinary now. It was good, but not something that makes me want to come back again and again. We also got a meat-lovers type of omelet, which was fine, but a little dry.

    By the way, I’m not sure I mentioned it, but for french toast, I really like the strawberry cheescake french toast at Button-up Cafe in Pearl City (located in the old Diego’s and Antonio’s Pizza spot). The place is small and with zero ambiance, but the food is solid. (They use fresh corned beef for their corned beef hash.)

    I also like the strawberry (cream cheese?) french toast at Scratch, but I’m not sure they still serve this.

  23. Re Pioneer Saloon
    Haven’t been here in a while, but checked their website and the prices are fairly the same. Most chicken is $10 or under (by the way, hard to get a meal that’s not fast food under $10), beef close to $15, and pork and fish sort of in between. The portions are okay, not the best, I agree, but the taste of the food makes it worth it. For Japanese food, where can you get a better deal?

    Re Sweet E’s
    Reid is pretty on-point with his review of this place. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either. I’m surprised to hear the dry omelet remark though. They give pretty good portions for the price from what I recall. But yes not a place I’m dying to go. FWIW, if I go to any place that has fancier breakfasts, I’m often left thinking I can be just as happy or happier with portugese sausage, eggs, and rice or a good fried rice. Reid, you tried Moke’s in Kailua? They have some unusual stuffs like rabbit on their menu. Not worth the wait, though.

  24. For Japanese food, where can you get a better deal?

    Is it really Japanese food, though? I feel like it’s more Japanese cook doing plate lunches. There aren’t many places like this–the only other one that comes to mind is the one in Palolo Valley–My Kitchen, or something, but I don’t know if it’s still in business. In any event, I think the quality was good, but I was a little surprised at your enthusiasm given the portions and price.

    Reid, you tried Moke’s in Kailua? They have some unusual stuffs like rabbit on their menu. Not worth the wait, though.

    No, I haven’t been. And the main reason is that the menu never looked all that interesting. (I don’t recall seeing rabbit, so maybe they’ve changed their menu.) If I go there I feel like I’m going to react like I did to Cafe Kaila–a restaurant that really puzzles me in terms of the amount of love they get.

  25. Pioneer Saloon is definitely Japanesey. They have wafu hamburger steak, and just Japanese flair over everything they do. I guess not like the traditional Ezogiku-type Japanese, but more café type Japanese. I’m think My Kitchen is still open, but that place the price to quantity ratio is worse, I’m pretty sure (or at least to my memory). It must have been the choices you got. I saw pictures of the salmon katsu and there was three good size pieces. That’s decent for like $14ish or whatever it costs.

    I only went to Moke’s and Café Kaila once each (I think), but I think Moke’s is better. But I think you right outside of the rabbit, pretty standard fare. They have a lilikoi pancake that seems extremely similar to the coconut pancake from Boots, but I don’t know if it’s worth going there for it. I remember it being a better deal than the Boots pancake though, but my memory isn’t great on that part.

  26. Pioneer Saloon is definitely Japanesey.

    Right that’s basically what I meant by Japanese cook doing plate lunch. When you say “Japanese food,” I’m thinking teishoku or bentos from Shirokiya or Don Quixote.

    It must have been the choices you got.

    Well we got three plates. I got the ahi–which was understandably the smallest portion, but I’d say it was less than the picture; chicken katsu, which seemed kinda skimpy for katsu; and a beef dish, which had quite a bit, if I recall. I think the price seemed to match the portion on that. Actually, I can see you finding the value worth it because of the quality of the food.

  27. There’s a ramen spot in Waikiki Yokocho way in the back. I kind of avoided it because its decor was garish and it was always full. However, since I’d already tried Bario and Baikohken, I thought I might as well try the other ramen options. There’s only one left now — Tsujita.

    Kazan Ramen (or Volcano Ramen) was blessedly pretty close to empty when I went Wednesday night at about 7:30.

    They seem to have tonkotsu broths and regular broths. I went for the Kazan Karamiso ramen, the tonkotsu broth with miso. I think it was $18. I also ordered gyoza, and with the 15% “service fee” (what the heck?) my bill came out to about $35.

    There’s a gimmick. They bring a stone bowl to your table. It has the noodles and toppings inside. The broth is brought separately, in a glass carafe. They pour half the broth into the bowl, then place a lid on the bowl with an opening on top, to let the noodles and veggies cook for one minute. They remove the top, add the rest of the broth, and invite you to ladle your noodles and broth into a separate bowl.

    It looks for all the world like just a novelty to me, but whatever. At least the stone bowl kept everything hot while I ate smaller servings out of the smaller bowl.

    I’ve read negative things about the gyoza, but I thought it was one of the better gyozas I’ve had. Porky, and not overwhelmingly gingery.

    The noodles were on the thicker side for ramen, but the flavor and texture were really good. The broth was delicious. I took one sip from my soup spoon and just said aloud, “We have a winner.”

    I’m concerned that maybe I’m spoiled for tonkotsu broths. I don’t want this to be true, but the other two ramen places I’ve tried in Yokocho, with more traditional broths, were just pretty good. This one was delicious.

    They also serve a small bowl of rice, so you can have soup-rice when the noodles are gone. A nice plus. I walked out of there bloated as heck but super happy.

    I didn’t like that I had to ask to have my water glass filled, or that they seated me at the counter when there was hardly anyone else in there. For once, I actually asserted myself and asked, after placing my order, if I could move to one of the two-seater tables. I don’t mind counters much, but their counter is right under these stereo speakers that blast current pop music, and I just couldn’t take it.

    Could have been happier with a slightly lower price, but I can’t complain about the quality of the food. Better than Bario and better than Baikohken. You’re up next, Tsujita!

    Interior, which I thought was garish but kind of grew on me:

    Stone bowl, volcano lid, carafe:

    Overpriced but yummy gyoza:

    Ready for serving into my smaller bowl. Look at that sizzle around the edges of the stone bowl:

  28. The strawberry cream cheese French toast at Button-Up is very good, but man, it’s a bit much. It’s one of those times when it must be nice to have someone to dine with. You can split that with someone else and split a short rib loco. Because just the French toast is yummy but filling, yet strangely unsatisfying. Like you’re totally full and can’t eat anymore, but wish you could have some bacon or sausage, too.

  29. Kanzan Ramen sounds good–I want to try it, but man, what’s with the price? Would you say it’s one of the best tonkotsu shirus? I don’t like going to Waikiki, but I make make the effort to try that place. Is it right next to Bario?

    Because just the French toast is yummy but filling, yet strangely unsatisfying.

    I kinda feel that way about any sweet breakfast food. For example, I’ll rarely be content if I just something sweet, without having something savory and meaty as well.

  30. I can’t say it’s one of the best because in my heart, nothing competes with Golden Pork, which I know you weren’t impressed by. So take that for what it’s worth. I wouldn’t put it up there with Tenkaippin either. However, I’ll say that I do like the miso flavor in a tonkotsu broth, which I don’t think I’ve had. Yum.

    One of my usual everyday breakfasts is Greek yogurt with frozen berries and granola, and that usually leaves me pretty satisfied, although it seldom holds me over until lunch). I actually have it for dinner too, once in a while, if I had a late or large lunch.

  31. I can barely remember Golden Pork. I need to go back and try it again. By the way, which do you think is better, Tenkaippin or Golden Pork?

    I used to eat a similar breakfast, but it can be kinda high in calories.

  32. Golden Pork is my current #1, where it has been for the past year or so. Tenkaippin (based on ramen alone) is my #2, and Jun Puu is my #3, although I realize there are a lot of places I haven’t tried yet.

  33. OK, thanks. That makes me want to try Golden Pork again. Which one did you get when you went there? (I can’t even remember which one I got.) By the way, which ramen do you like at Junpuu? I like their tan-tan.

    I have a desire to try that volcano ramen, but I have a feeling it’s mainly going to be a gimmick.

  34. Bario. I ate here December 15. The menu looked interesting, but I think I just had a regular miso ramem, whatever the item was that had egg and extra char siu.

    The soup was fine, and I always like getting an egg in my food. I don’t remember the gyoza being especially good or bad. I do remember the char siu being ridiculously salty. I have a super high tolerance for salty, but this was way too salty for me. I’m hoping I got a bad batch or something because I would try it again, especially since everyone on Hawaii social media seeems to love it here. However, a friend confided in me that she doesn’t get why everyone loves it so much; she thinks it’s just okay.

    Put me in that same club.

    1. Did you try it with their chili pepper (which wasn’t that hot)? To me, it’s a crucial part of the dish. It made the shiru a lot tastier (even though I don’t think the shiru is super good). I also liked the raw garlic.

  35. I did try the chili pepper, late into the meal, and it didn’t leave an impression on me either way. The garlic just looks like raw garlic so I didn’t even bother. Perhaps next time. I was so put off by the saltiness of the charsiu that it’s all I can really remember.

  36. I’m not sure the chili pepper (or garlic) would make a big enough difference to be worth trying again. I thought both enhanced the meal, but I still don’t have a strong desire to go back.

  37. Yeah, that was my feeling until I looked at my own photo before sharing it here. All I could think was, “Dang, that broth looks good.”

  38. Second trip to Golden Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Bar.

    I asked Mitchell which broth he liked, and he mentioned the black sesame and red miso, saying he slightly preferred the former. Earlier, MItchell said this was the second best (or favorite) tonkotsu broth. My reaction: I agree with everything Mitchell said! Indeed, I’m curious to re-try the Tenkaippin shiru–because I might like the Golden Pork shiru better.

    We also tried the regular tonkotsu broth–which was fine, but not something I’d come back for.

    I also got the gyoza–because Todd said this was the best gyoza he’s had, saying that the filling was really good. I vaguely not thinking much of the sides, so this comment puzzled me. I was curious enough to try it again. The verdict: It was fairly pedestrian. I believe Todd said that the filling didn’t have too much ginger. While that may be true, it wasn’t like it had a lot more meat than ginger, either. I don’t get it. (For what it’s worth, my brother didn’t care for the gyoza here, either.)

    If I’m in the mood for tonkotsu, I’d go here.

    Oh, we also got the semi-wide noodles. It’s was solid, much better than the thinner noodles they serve, which reminds me of won ton min noodles at Chinese restaurants. Meh. The extra noodles is a good deal, too. (It was actually too much.)

  39. I think you mean black garlic, but same thing really. I like the thinner noodles, and I have never asked for extra noodles because (a) I’ve heard it’s extra noodles but the same amount of broth, and (b) I’m having fun working my way through the sides.

    Glad you liked it. Now I’m jonesing. Too bad I’m trying to limit myself to ramen like once or twice a month.

  40. Oh OK, black garlic.

    With the extra noodles, the total amount was quite a bit. I also didn’t think it disrupted the shiru-to-noodle ratio, either, but you may disagree. We decided we might order just two bowls with extra noodles and split it among four.

    Too bad I’m trying to limit myself to ramen like once or twice a month.

    I like ramen, but I need to limit my intake as well.

  41. We went to Black Sheep Cream Co. again. It was less crowded and the service was way faster (basically normal for an ice cream place). I got the black sesame and pistachio, which came with pistachio brittle. To my surprise, the black sesame had way too much sesame. The flavor was too strong and the ice cream was gritty with the seeds. The pistachio was pretty good, but it got less enjoyable as I ate it.

    We also tried the honeydew melon, which had an intense flavor, almost too intense.

    The ice cream is gooey and sticky like Dave’s, but I feel like they putt a little too much buttercream or whatever fatty substance they use. It’s a little too rich. Still, I’d go back here.

  42. Frolic Hawai’i has a list of new and upcoming restaurants. I’m glad to hear that Texas Smokehouse will be opening a brick and mortar in Wahiawa.

  43. I made it to Yokocho to try the last of the ramen spots, Tsujita. Turns out I saved the best for last. They have tsukemen and ramen, and of course I went for the ramen. Only three items on the list, all of them straight tonkotsu broths differing only in their toppings (regular, charsiu, and green onions, I think). I went for the charsiu.

    The broth doesn’t exactly make you go wow, the way the karamiso does at Volcano Ramen (or whatever it’s called), but it is delicious, fatty and creamy and deeply flavored. The noodles are almost vermicelli-thinness, so Reid will probably not approve, but I definitely prefer thinner noodles in my ramen, the way I prefer them in my Italian pasta dishes. The menu encourages you to order the noodles cooked to your liking: hard, medium, or soft, recommending hard. I ordered mine hard, and they are basically al dente. Perfect.

    The charsiu is made from those cuts that are like half fat and half lean, and it’s sliced very thin. Delicious!

    There are the usual toppings. I didn’t notice if they have bean sprouts as a topping, but since my order didn’t come with any, I’ll ask for some if they’re on the menu. There was no vinegar on the table. When I asked the server if they have vinegar, she was surprised that I didn’t have any and did a quick look at nearby tables to see that none of them had vinegar. They do have it; it just wasn’t on the tables last night for some reason.

    There aren’t any sides (except rice for like $.75)! I can’t decide if this is cooler (our tsukemen and ramen is so good you don’t need sides!) or disappointing. But really, I didn’t need sides. The ramen was so good and so filling, I was happy with what I had.

    The menu also says that if you still have broth when you’re done, you can ask for more noodles at no extra charge. I only really had room to finish my broth by itself so no extra noodles for me.

    The charsiu ramen is $15. I tipped it up to $20.

    I’m planning to go back to Bario for one more try, but as of now my rankings of the ramen at Yokocho are Tsujita, Volcano, Baikohken, and Bario, with the first two a big step up from the second two.

  44. Is this the place across from Bario? If so, I tried the tsukemen here, and I was not thrilled, although that’s probably because I just don’t care for tsukemen.

  45. Why did you order it if you don’t care for it?

    I think it is across Bario. Bario’s on the right; Tsujita’s on the left.

  46. Because I still believed that I liked tsukemen at the time. Indeed, I think it was after that experience that I started thinking that I just don’t like tsukemen. (I still like the concept, and I’m tempted to try again; but I suspect I’ll be disappointed.)

    1. I haven’t eaten somen like that in a long time, but I doubt I wouldn’t like it now. I think the problem with tsukemen is that I’m expecting the broth to be hot, but it’s not. With somen, I don’t have that expectation. I’m thinking I might like tsukemen better if they served it cold, but maybe it wouldn’t be tsukemen then. Said in another way: If the tsukemen shiru could be really hot that the cold/tepid noodles don’t really cool it down much, I might like tsukemen a lot more. That’s my current hypothesis, anyway.

      1. Or they blanch the noodles in hot water before bringing it out to the table so the noodles are hot. That or as you said making the shiru super hot would make it better for me.

  47. I knew I was getting the Volcano Ramen place name wrong, so I’m correcting myself here. It’s actually Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen, but the only part of the signage that’s in English says Volcano Ramen. Confusing.

  48. Mama Manoas (next to Serg’s in Manoa)

    This an pizza/sandwich place run by the owner of Serg’s. They have half-off on all items with meatball, so I wanted to try their meatball sandwich. Unfortunately, the meatballs really disappointed me–they were mushy, crumbly, and bland. We also tried some other things like a pizza with carne asada. That, along with the lasagna, were the best items to me, but this is not a place I’m dying to go back to.

  49. Purve (Kona Street, on the Ewa side of Pi’ikoi*)

    (*Note: You can’t see the storefront from the street. You have to drive up a ramp–of the Iolani Building(?).)

    This is a doughnut shop–cake doughnuts to be specific. Did you ever see those mini-doughnut machines? I used to see some in the front of Wal-Mart a while ago. This is basically the same doughnut, except it’s bigger than the mini. I’d say the size is a little bigger than love’s cake doughnuts (or maybe the same size).

    The dougnut itself is pretty rich and heavy. It tasted good after a couple of bites, but if you eat more than two, that might be a bit much.

    The doughnuts come with various glazes and toppings. We tried ones with mint and crushed oreos; lemon glaze with frutti pebbles; lemon glaze and cream cheese drizzle; s’mores; chocolate glaze and coffee; cinnamon and sugar…and I can’t remember what else.

    They were pretty good, but kinda pricey ($3 something for one, although the price drops to $2.75 if you get a dozen.) It’s probably OK to try this once, but it’s not something I would foresee any of you going back to a lot.

  50. Sunset Smokehouse BBQ (North Shore or in front of the old Molly’s Smokehouse in Wahiawa)

    OK we finally tried this place. Before I render a verdict, let me tell you what we tried:

    Three sandwiches–beef rib, pork rib, and a brisket/jalapeno sausage combo. All sandwiches came with pickles and raw onions.

    1/2 of brisket, mixture of fatty and lean. (You can ask for either.)

    Sides: creamed corn, coleslaw (peppery), spicy pinto beans, and potato salad. All of these were in the smallest order.

    Before I say anything else, let just give an overall impression. They refer to their meats as “craft meats,” suggesting an artisanal approach to their cooking. I think that’s apt. The care they put into what they’re doing is evident. I’d argue that this is part of what it means to be a good cook, and they definitely have this element.

    You can definitely see this in little things like the quality of their sides and the rolls and buns they use. Let’s go into this now. I thought all of the sides were solid, if not better than that, except for the slaw. (They have two types–the older is sweet, vinegary.) I felt like this one need more of “sauce,” or maybe the cabbage didn’t absorb enough of it, I”m not sure. The creamed corn was tasty, and the pinto beans were about what you’d expect. I also really liked the potato salad, which has a strong tangy mustard flavor.

    Let’s go on the sandwiches. We choose those because it allowed us to try the pork and beef ribs at a lower cost. (The brisket/sausage combo appealed to us, so we got that.) I must say that the beef rib didn’t really have that much flavor. The pork ribs were better, but it didn’t really stand out. I think getting the meat off the ribs might have made a difference, so I’m want to order the ribs with the bones next time.

    The brisket was well prepared and tender, but I didn’t taste a lot of the smokey flavor (same with the ribs). But besides this, they were cooked really well.

    Oh, we also got a side of the non-spicy sausage, and that tasted very similar to Hillshire Farms kielbasa.

  51. I’ve been meaning to drop in on Purvè since it opens at 6 and is on my bus route on the way in to work. The photos look great. Although I am no fan of Fruity Pebbles, I’m told this is one of the better tasting of the doughnuts.

    Why is one of the cole slaws older? I think cole slaw is usually better after sitting in the fridge overnight, but I never though of it as something that gets aged. Or is it old as in a traditional recipe?

  52. Why is one of the cole slaws older? I think cole slaw is usually better after sitting in the fridge overnight, but I never though of it as something that gets aged. Or is it old as in a traditional recipe?

    That was a typo–“older” was supposed to be “other.”

  53. Reid,

    Did you see the Frolic Hawaii article on the Butcher and Bird at SALT? They have homemade sausages that they sell raw or cooked. They have a variety, but all seem to be $12. Looks like a better deal then Hank’s.

    1. Yeah. In fact, I could have swore I put a link and wrote something about that–asking you to check it out for me (although I don’t think sausage sandwiches are your thing). I want to try it, but if you do before that, let me know.

      1. Yeah I thought you would have seen that article, but threw it out there because you never mentioned it here. Seems like a place right down your alley.

  54. Menchanko Tei (Keeamoku)

    Don has told me about this place several times, and he urged me to give it a try recently. I went yesterday. Here’s what we had:

    Tonkatsu (pork loin) set. It’s about $20, and it comes with miso soup, rice, a small dish of daikon, and a mound of shredded cabbage;

    Menchanko (spicy; can’t remember the name of this). This is basically mini-chanko nabe, with noodles that they’re supposedly known for. The soup comes with cabbage, green onions, two shrimps, and sukiyaki style beef. (There might be other things that I can’t remember). This is under $15.

    Tan-tan ramen (the Goma Ichi recipe).


    The pictures of the tonkatsu reminded me of Tonkatsu Tamafuji, and maybe unreasonably I expected that it would be very similar. Unfortunately, it wasn’t–in a bad way. The tonkatsu came with thick cuts of pork, which is fine, but it was pretty dry. More surprisingly, the batter had a nice, crispy crunch, but it was strangely dry as well. I’m wondering if what they served was an anomaly, because I don’t think I’ve eaten a tonkatsu like this. It wasn’t awful, but it was kinda disappointing. Part of the problem might have been the pork loin. (Larri wanted the leanest cut, and the waitress recommended the loin.)

    Onto the menchanko. The shiru was the best part of this. The garnishes were just OK. If I’m comparing this to Imanas Tei, the shiru would be the only think that could compete, in my opinion. (Larri really liked the noodles, though.)

    Finally, the tan tan. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten at Goma Ichi,and since then I’ve eaten several different versions of tan tan ramen. This wasn’t as good as what I remembered from Goma Ichi, but I don’t know how accurate this is. I would say Junpuu’s tan tan is better. (Menchanko’s reminds me of Goma Tei’s, which I thought wasn’t as good as Goma Ichi’s.)

    en Hakkure (88 Pal Pal Super Market on Keeamoku)

    This is a little coffee place in the 88 Market. Kendrick raved about their honey toast and Korean shave ice. The verdict? I thought the honey toast was OK, but a little dry. I recently had the honey toast at Shokudo, and that one had more honey and a scoop of vanilla ice cream–so I kinda lean towards Shokudo’s. However, I recall that Kendrick specifically said the bread at en Hakkure was a lot better. I do think the bread was better, but it was a little dry and may not have been toasted properly.

    As for the shave ice, I liked that quite a bit. I really like affogado–an espresso dumped over a scoop of ice cream–and this was basically a shave ice version of that. In addition to the espresso (Americano), the shave ice included a variety of fruits (bananas, grapes), a few pieces of mochi, and a lot of azuki. I’d go back for this.

  55. I think you mean Menchanko Tei. Weird. I ate there for the first time last week. Had the pork loin tonkatsu combo with the Hakata ramen. I’ll talk about it more later. I have a photo too.

  56. It must have been the type of tonkatsu you got. I got the regular one and it’s not dry at all, from what I remember. I go for lunch and it cannot be more than $14, so I’m guessing you got the better cut? Or maybe they had an off night. I’m not saying it’s the best tonkatsu ever, but it’s good.

    Korean shave ice is one of the best. I really like the kinako they put in a lot of their shave ice, but it’s expensive right?

    1. Or maybe they had an off night.

      I tend to think this was the reason. (I can’t believe they would make it that dry on a regular basis. I’m thinking especially about the crust/batter. There was almost a “dusty” quality at times.)

      I go for lunch and it cannot be more than $14, so I’m guessing you got the better cut?

      I think this is more of a lunch versus dinner price thing.

      Korean shave ice is one of the best. I really like the kinako they put in a lot of their shave ice, but it’s expensive right?

      I think so. I don’t have a good sense of shave ice prices now. The fancier types can be more expensive as well. I’m pretty sure it’s not cheap. (Oh, I forgot about the kinako.)

  57. I’ve been wanting to try Menchanko Tei for ages so I finally did it a couple of Fridays ago when I for once wasn’t stressed out about getting anything done. I still had stuff to get done, but I just wasn’t worried about it.

    I ordered the pork loin tonkatsu combo, so it came with rice, veggies, and either a mini shoyu or mini Hakata ramen. I went with Hakata of course.

    My experience was very similar to Reid’s on the tonkatsu. The meat was flavorful but dry, I guess because it was so lean, but I’m down for that flavor. My issue was with the breading. Reid called it “dusty,” which is a really good description of it. It did have a dusty texture, in that kind of fall-apart texture that taro gok has at Mei Sum, almost. I think I could have been okay with that if it didn’t taste like it had been fried in old oil or something. I was really disappointed that they had a nice cut of meat and did something interesting with the breading but whatever they did left it tasting pretty bad.

    It wasn’t bad enough not to finish, but it might have been bad enough for me not to order it again.

    The ramen was delicious! It was a tonkotsu style broth but maybe not as thick. Definitely fatty, though, and very tasty. They use thinner noodles (yay) and the same tender char siu you used to get at Gomaichi. If I come back, I might be tempted just to get a bowl of this.

    I think with the tip, I paid nearly $30.

    1. I think I could have been okay with that if it didn’t taste like it had been fried in old oil or something.

      Yeah, I think there’s something to that. Did you feel like the batter was seasoned well? From what I recall, it didn’t seem so to me. Anyway, I’m disappointed to hear your experience, because I was thinking that the tonkatsu we had was a fluke.

  58. This Honolulu Magazine article talks about two new restaurants at Michael Mina’s The Street. I should be way more excited about the new Mexican restaurant (The menu and prices don’t really get me excited.), but Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s new burger restaurant caught my eye–specifically the sukiyaki loco moco. (Check on the picture.) It’s basically a loco moco, except with thin sukiyaki beef over the burger and fried rice instead of white rice. That looked good (although I think I might prefer just regular rice). Someone has to have done this before, right? What about a beef stew moco? Actually, a beef stew moco, with thin teppanyaki or teri beef sounds really good. (You could take out the stew meat, or just use smaller pieces.) All of this reminds me of Don’s love of LL’s stew mix.

  59. Stayed in Waikiki for the 4th of July. We went to the tempura place in the Yokocho. I’m not a huge tempura fan, and this was just okay. The batter was good, but I like when I eat shrimp tempura and you can taste the sweetness of the shrimp. This tempura didn’t have that. Tracy thought the shrimp was over-cooked and the shrimp was on the drier side. I don’t catch those things, but that could be true.

    We also ate at Santouka Ramen in Mitsuwa. I would say this place has one of the better ramens if not the best. They give a lot of noodles too. I would think twice as much as the Golden Pork place. I’m sort of leaning that eating ramen at different places a month or so apart, the difference in taste between the “good” places are not noticeable enough for me. But I thought the shiru at Santouka wasn’t as salty as Golden Pork.

    Ueoka and Karr new place took the place of another burger place. I was confused for a second, thinking the burger place added new desserts? And actually the desserts were more prominently advertised over the burgers. I skimmed passed the Mexican place, but from what I remember I wasn’t impressed. There is a place called Battle Royale that either I never noticed before or is new. It’s sandwich place that sells basically a po’ boy, king crab, and prime rib sandwiches. That place looked good. There was even a surf and turf where you can get half a crab and half a prime rib sandwich. But the prices were pretty steep. I thought this was a Mina-run place too. The prime-rib was sitting on the counter looking all delicious.

    Oh forgot to add that the loco moco picture does look pretty good, but the fried rice looks like kim chee fried rice right? It’s orangey.

  60. We also ate at Santouka Ramen in Mitsuwa.

    Where is Mitsuwa?

    There is a place called Battle Royale that either I never noticed before or is new. It’s sandwich place that sells basically a po’ boy, king crab, and prime rib sandwiches.

    That sounds good. Do you know if they had happy hour prices?

    Oh forgot to add that the loco moco picture does look pretty good, but the fried rice looks like kim chee fried rice right? It’s orangey.


  61. Mitsuwa is the Japanese store on the second floor at the International Market Place. I think it’s right above The Street. But Santouka also has a restaurant in the same lot as Don Quijote Kaheka. I think Todd really likes that place because there is one in San Jose as well.

        1. Not yet. I think I heard a few lukewarm reactions, so that lessened my interest. I’ll try to check it out, since you liked it.

        2. I’ve been to the DonQi one; Grace and I went there for her birthday a couple of years ago. It’s good but not great. I’ve tried it again since and thought the same thing. In that area are much better choices, including Agu and Goma Tei. If someone said “Hey, let’s go to that Hokkaido ramen place,” I’d say sure, so it’s not like I’d avoid it or anything.

  62. I’ve never cared for their chicken katsu, as in I would never order it again, but in recent years I’ve become acquainted with a guy whose family owns the place, through other friends. Whenever I see their photos of the food there, the food always looks so much better than whatever I get. So I’d give it a try.

    Oh, but I just realize some of those friends write for Frolic (although the person who wrote this piece is not someone I know), so there could be some bias in Megs’s favor (it’s officially Megs Drive In, no apostrophe).

    Anyway, I’d try it again. I have a non-meat-eating friend who drives out of her way for the ahi loco, and I’ve always liked the meatloaf and the stuffed cabbage (both specials in the regular weekly rotation). But katsu? Let’s just say until I try it again (it’s been many many years) I will beg to differ.

    Also, L&L doesn’t surprise me at all. When they do it right, it’s in my top five. The problem is they don’t always do it right. Argh.

  63. Mitchell,

    How do you like the L&L katsu sauce? From what I remember it was sweeter than the norm. But I agree L&L’s katsu is decent as in not overly oily.

    FWIW, the picture of the Meg’s katsu looks good though. That goes double for the Gochi Grill one.

  64. The L&L katsu sauce is fine. It’s definitely sweet and it does improve the katsu. Still like Grace’s sauce better, and Zippy’s sauce comes closest to what I think of as katsu sauce (Bulldog brand out of the bottle!).

  65. Looks like I’m going to have to try Megs and L&L Liliha.

    By the way, for what it’s worth, Grace’s used to be one of my favorites, but the Pearl City location (which is no longer there), really went downhill.

    1. I forgot to mention that I tried Megs’ chicken katsu. It was solid, but the portion size was just OK. It’s not a place I’d go out of my way for, but I’d go there often if I lived closed by.

  66. Okie dokie. I finally made it to Purvè Donut Stop, that hipster bakery in Kakaako on Kona. I crashed super early Monday night and got up early enough to stop for a doughnut and coffee on my way in.

    Guys. I know Reid said it’s basically like any other cake doughnut, but it’s not. These guys figured something out that I’ve never seen before. There’s a very thin crispness to the outside of the doughnut that I haven’t experienced except maybe in a fresh-out-of-the-fryer malasada. It’s not just a cakey cake doughnut; it’s a wonderful bite of just the right amount of crispness giving way to a warm, chewy inside. When I go back next time I’m going to ask for one with no icing at all. The doughnut itself is that good.

    I still prefer a good yeast doughnut, but in the world of cake doughnuts, I can’t imagine anything beating this.

    I had two doughnuts with coffee. The Sunburnt Haole (lemon icing with li hing powder) and the It’s Okay…Cuz It’s Your Dog (peanut butter glaze with a jelly topping). The Haole was okay, but it was the first one I tried so I was blown away by the doughnut itself. The It’s Your Dog was super good. There’s another doughnut on the menu called the O Face, and I think that name shoulda gone on this doughnut.

    Coffee was fresh but slightly on the fruity side. A small bottle of water was $2.

    I felt the need to share with the office so I bought two dozen, eleven of the twelve regulars and the doughnut of the month (The Weekly D), which was a lavender glaze. And as Reid said, it’s $2.75 each when you buy a dozen, so rather pricey. You’ll be a hero, though, in the office if you do it. Most people in the office commented on the outer crispness. One colleague (she had the You’re Killing Me Smalls!” which is a smores-like doughnut complete with marshmallow fluff) said it was the best doughnut she ever had.

    Here’s the Sunburnt Haole.

  67. There’s a very thin crispness to the outside of the doughnut that I haven’t experienced except maybe in a fresh-out-of-the-fryer malasada. It’s not just a cakey cake doughnut; it’s a wonderful bite of just the right amount of crispness giving way to a warm, chewy inside.

    I don’t recall the doughnuts having crispness, at least not significantly different from other cake doughnuts I’ve had. Also, I wouldn’t describe the insides as “chewy.” I’m wondering if they made significant changes.

    Also, have you eaten those freshly fried mini-cake doughnuts that they would sell outside of Wal-mart? To me, these doughnuts taste like bigger versions of that.

    Did you think the doughnuts were a little too heavy/rich, almost as if they put too much batter in the oil and sugar? I sort of felt that way. I wouldn’t want to eat more than two of these doughnuts.

  68. I can’t even remember when I last ate more than two doughnuts at a time anyway, so I wasn’t even thinking that. But I’ll say that if you missed the crispy outside, you missed out. Without it, it’s just a decent doughnut with creative icings.

    1. Without it, it’s just a decent doughnut with creative icings.

      That’s basically my reaction (and I didn’t really think the icings were all that spectacular). By the way, I asked Larri and she didn’t think it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I’m a little interested in going back.

  69. I had to look it up because I wasn’t a 100% sure, but cake doughnuts can be fried or baked. I think the fried ones tend to be less smooth and may have cracks like an andagi. You think those doughnuts are fried? The mini doughnuts Reid as referring to, can be bought at Foodland Farms in Ala Moana, but I’m not sure how you can get fresh ones (most times those are already bagged), which is why I never bought any. Not that I’m that much into doughnuts anyway. Those mini doughnuts are fried at Foodland, I’m pretty sure. Speaking of Foodland, they have a cold brew tap. I think a large is couple bucks. It’s really good for couple bucks. The bugga is smooth.

  70. Reid, what time did you go? I was there at like 6:30 in the morning. I wonder if time of day makes a difference in the quality of the doughnut.

    1. Okay well for the record, I doubt going back will make a difference. But I’ll repeat that my experience was definitely better than yours. Man, my coworkers were so happy. It was worth the ridiculous price just for their smiles. I told them it was in celebration of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 269th birthday, but it was really just to spread a little bit of love. We’ve all been a little stressed these past couple of weeks. So while I don’t necessarily recommend going back for yourself, I do recommend picking up a dozen or two for the coworkers, even if you have to carefully walk two boxes to Keeaumoku St then hold them up in the air (not on your lap because the roads are super bouncy until you get to University Ave). The smiles covered the cost and hassle, I swear.

      1. I went back to try the doughnuts. My reaction is similar to the first time I went. If every bite tasted like the first one, this doughnut would be awesome, but the doughnuts (and my estimation of them) diminishes after every subsequent bite. As I mentioned earlier, I think it has to do with the richness/oiliness of the doughnuts. That’s partly what makes them yummy, but it makes it harder to enjoy the more you eat it.

        I paid special attention to crispy exterior and chewy interior. I think when I read Mitchell’s description I thought he meant the doughnut is crispy, but that’s not really what he said. You know how really good shave ice (at least for me) has an every-so-delicate icy crunch, while most of the ice is soft and fine? The doughnuts’ exterior is sort of like that. I don’t think the interior was chewy, though.

        I like the taste of the batter they use, but I just can’t eat a lot of it. Also, I would say the icing and toppings aren’t that good. The best thing is the cake doughnut itself.

  71. I had lunch with a former student today. We went to Ono on Kapahulu (the new one) for Hawaiian food.

    We both ordered ala carte because the plates looked enormous. I had lau lau and lomi salmon. She had chicken lau lau and rice. We split four pieces of haupia.

    The lau lau was huge. And super tasty. It was juicy the way I always expect lau lau to be (I mean come on; it’s steamed). The only complaint is that it was pretty dang salty. I don’t mind it that salty but next time I’ll get a side of rice instead of lomi, because that’s just adding salty to salty.

    Recommended based on the lau lau.

    1. How did it compare with the old Ono Hawaiian lau lau? The old version was huge, too, and I liked that. But I felt like they were inconsistent on the quality/taste. Sometimes it could be really good, and other times pretty bad. I didn’t go there a lot, so this is actually based on only a handful of visits. But the last visit I had was so bad, I didn’t want to go there again.

    2. I never got to eat at the old one, so I can’t compare. 🙂

      I will say that we went in at 11:30 or so and there were only three other parties, plenty of room for a people-shunner like me. I asked the lady there if it was always like this at lunch, and she said it depends on when the tourists come in.

      That may not be the best sign.

  72. I went with some coworkers to Purvè. This time I got one un-iced, and one It’s Okay Because It’s Your Dog. Both doughnuts were not quite as crispy as the ones I had before, so it was a huge disappointment. My experience this time was probably much closer to Reid’s. But one coworker, who has been saying that the one she tried when I brought them to the office was the best doughnut she ever had, was still super enthusiastic.

    If the quality varies (and I don’t understand why it would; it seems to be fully automated until the actual icing), my feeling is that it’s a pretty good doughnut at the bottom end and really good at the top. That’s worth it to me, at least once in a while!

  73. Some coworkers and I checked out Ike’s Sandwiches in the Lanai at Ala Moana after seeing a write-up in Frolic.

    We ordered three sandwiches and split them three ways. The Alan Wong, the Menage a Trois, and the Hermione.

    The Alan Wong ( roast beef, ham, turkey, pastrami, Godfather sauce and provolone cheese loaded with veggies) was my favorite, but they were all good. I was especially impressed by the Hermione (zesty orange glaze, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, provolone) which for some reason didn’t taste at all like just a veggie sandwich. My coworkers both preferred the Menage a Trois (halal chicken, bbq, honey, honey mustard, Swiss, American, provolone).

    You’re presented with several bread options, but for now they only have the Dutch Crunch and the sourdough. If you’re getting a few sandwiches get ’em both, but if you’re only getting one, get the Dutch crunch. The breads really add to the overall taste.

    I suspect Reid will be mildly impressed at best — he doesn’t really seem like a sandwich guy although he keeps trying them. I hate getting food on my hands and face, but it was worth it for these sandwiches.

    This isn’t a great photo but it’s the Hermione.

    1. …he doesn’t really seem like a sandwich guy although he keeps trying them.

      I’m curious to hear what gives you this impression. Is it because I give a lot of negative reviews for sandwich places? (I don’t know if this is actually true, I’m just fishing for an explanation.) Brent’s in Kailua was one of my favorite restaurants. I was super sad when they closed down. Also, Shaloha’s falafel sandwich (when the owner makes it especially) was one of my favorite sandwiches, and if I didn’t care about caloric intake I’d go there more often.

      With regard to Ike’s, how was the price versus portion size? One turnoff I have about some of the newer sandwich places (e.g., Earl of Sandwich) is the value. Specifically, the portion size seems pretty small for what you pay, and the quality isn’t quite enough to make it for it in my opinion.

    2. This place is supposed to be a famous San Fran place right? The sandwiches look pretty generic, like an upgraded Subway. Your review makes it sound much better than that, so I’ll give it a try.

      1. The sandwiches look pretty generic, like an upgraded Subway.

        I have a similar impression, and that’s somewhat of a deterrent. At the same time, I like Timmy T’s Grinders in Kailua, which is very similar to Subway, except I like it better for some reason. (I guess the bread and other ingredients are superior?)

      2. I don’t understand the Subway comment, which Reid also made of Island Subs some time back. It’s a sub sandwich; don’t they all look alike?

        1. No you probably right about that. Now that you say that, I guess I’m comparing it to a deli sandwich. I’m going to say then that I probably think deli sandwiches are better, and so for the most part I would be uninspired by sub-sandwiches.

          What about cubano sandwiches that are in the sub form (not Paninis). Are those sub sandwiches? If so I rather have those over Subway looking kind.

        2. Sub-sandwiches look similar, but Subway sandwiches are a specific type and taste. For example, Don mentions the Cuban style sandwiches, which can look similar, but the taste is really different. There are also hoagies, which use thicker bread. These are sub-sandwiches, too, but they’re not really the same.

        3. Okay, but then shouldn’t just “sub sandwiches” be descriptive enough? I don’t know why I’m getting all defensive about Subway but “upscale Subway” sounds disdainful for some reason. I guess because Subway is the fast food version of a sub sandwich, the way those pre-made sandwiches at 7-Eleven are the convenience store version of a deli sandwich.

          1. Okay, but then shouldn’t just “sub sandwiches” be descriptive enough?

            You posted a picture, and that picture made me think of Subways-style sandwich. It’s really hard to tell, though, but that’s the overall impression I got.

            Compare that picture to the ones here. Those pictures don’t make me think of Subway, but I guess you could call that sub-sandwiches.

        4. Like, I think of Blimpie and Quizno’s as more expensive versions of Subway. A real sub with specialty breads and quality meats and veggies, plus sauces specific to the establishment just sounds to me like a good sub.

    3. I tried the Hermione yesterday. I wanted something lite, so I went for a vegetarian sandwich. I was skeptical about this, but I totally trusted Mitchell. The verdict? I’m not sure I’d get this again, but it was solid. My kids even liked this, and they’re not big on veggies, especially tomatoes. I’m sure the orange sauce was a big reason for this. I agree the sauce adds to this, and it’s surprising. I would never think of putting this type of sauce the specific veggies and cheese in the sandwich, primarily because I just wouldn’t think it would be as good as it actually is.

      By the way, as Mitchell says, the orange (and even citrus) flavor is muted to the point where you might not even know the sauce was orange based, if you weren’t told. It almost seems like the sauce is watered down. That doesn’t sound appealing, but I think the description is misleading, even if it’s accurate.

      I got the Dutch bread, and that was solid, one of the things that makes this better than a Subway sandwich, in my view. I should say that “upscale” or “scaled up” Subway sandwich is a pretty good description of the sandwich. If you like Subway sandwiches you almost definitely would like these.

  74. You also turned me on to the curried chicken salad sandwich at that deli in Manoa; don’t think I’ve forgotten. What a sandwich.

    But yeah, you seldom seem impressed by a sandwich, at least by sandwich people’s standards. I’m of the opinion that almost everything is better between two slices of bread and if there were no negative consequences, I’d eat them every day.

    Anyway, the three sandwiches I had were $9, $11, and $12 and I had the equivalent of a whole sandwich, and I was so full, when we went to Purvè afterward, I bought two doughnuts and didn’t want to eat them. I had them for dinner later when I found myself working late in the office. I’d say definitely worth a try, although if fullness is what you want, maybe don’t get the Hermione.

    1. I forgot about that curry chicken sandwich and that place in Manoa, which I liked in general. (They also had good salads, if I recall.)

      I’m of the opinion that almost everything is better between two slices of bread and if there were no negative consequences, I’d eat them every day.

      Yeah, but some places don’t give a lot for what you pay for, and the quality isn’t enough to make up for it. It wouldn’t be so bad if they gave a side of fries, but a lot of these places don’t do that; they don’t even serve fries. Brent’s was expensive, but they gave a lot of fries. Also, their portion size was pretty substantial. I really miss that place.

      Anyway, the three sandwiches I had were $9, $11, and $12 and I had the equivalent of a whole sandwich, and I was so full,…

      OK, I will definitely attempt to try this place.

  75. Don said that Aunty’s Ramen might have the best–or his favorite–ramen, and that comment surprised and kinda confused me after the first time I went. However, I went back recently and had golden broth, which is basically the pumpkin soup–but I ordered in spicy. Man it was really good. I don’t think you can do this at Sweet Home, but it was way better. I don’t know if the soup is exactly the same except spicier or if it has different ingredients, but in any event, I really like it. It kinda reminds me of laksa without the coconut milk. Oh, and I tried it with the flat ramen noodles, with is basically like e-mein. I really like e-mein, so I liked this combo. (I need to cut back on the veggies though–because the amount I chose pushed the ramen up to $16.50.)

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