84 thoughts on “Restaurants (2021)

  1. 12th Ave. Deli

    Porchetta sandwich
    Porchetta is something that looks and sounds good, but everyone time I’ve tried this, it has disappointed me. The pork is often not moist enough and/or not so flavorful. Unfortunately, this was the case for this sandwich.

    Meatloaf melt
    This is basically a patty melt. Solid.

    BLT (Bacon, lobster, tomato)
    Lobster sandwich with bacon bread. (All the breads are made in house.) To me the lobster didn’t have much flavor. This also came with an avocado spread, which was just OK. The bad thing is that it overpowered the sandwich. I couldn’t really taste any bacon as well.

    french fries
    House made, natural cut. Solid.

    They make their own burrata. The texture was nice, but the flavor is very mild–and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

  2. Fooki (Pearl Kai)

    I thought I posted this, but I guess not.

    I believe this is a Taiwanese restaurant, known for their beef noodle soup. They also have these beef pancakes, almost like quesadillas, I guess. Quick comments: The broth was good, but we got it spicy. The problem is that they seem to make the broth spicy by dumping in that red chili oil, which makes the soup…well, oily.

    The noodles were just meh. (I also had the won tons which were generic.)

    The beef pancake thing was pretty good, served with a hoisin sauce.

    1. After your comment on oily soup, I went to look at the pictures on Yelp. The beef noodle soup is normally this brownish, gravy-like color, whereas Fooki’s seems to be a little bit more clear (without the chili oil). Was the meat a little tough? I sort of like the beef noodle broth, but normally I don’t care for the meat because it’s sort of tough.

  3. Youpo Noodles (Kaka’ako Farmer’s Market)

    Cumin Lamb ($16)
    Beef ($14)

    Hand-made Northern Chinese style noodles–like fried noodles, not like ramen. The noodles are wider, like paparadelle, but a little less wide. They put it in a takeout bowl, which is not puny, but not super large either. If I use the Don gauge, I would guess it would be borderline for him in terms of value.

    The noodles had that nice chewiness of fresh noodles. That stands out the most. The taste was nothing exceptional in my view.

    For the cumin lamb, my point of comparison is the cumin lamb at Hunan Cuisine–maybe a top ten dish for me. The cumin lamb at Youpo is not at the same level. (I think they may need more cumin.) But overall it was solid.

    The sauce in the beef noodle was a little more mild (in terms of taste), but it may have been better. (I’m not sure how to describe it, though.)

    Both were spicy, but not too much. Larri said it could have been spicier. I sort of agree, but if it was spicer it could easily have been too hot for me.

  4. Shabuya

    I’m pretty sure Reid went here and didn’t think it was all that great. I believe he was comparing it to Home Sweet Cafe and said the dipping sauces and shiru wasn’t great. I agree with that. The thing that makes Shabuya good though, is the ingredients. The Chuck Eye Roll (beef) and pork shoulder is great. Better than any meats that I got at any other shabu shabu place. I actually wish they had that same beef at pho places. I also thought the clams was really good too. The shiru is about the same as Ichiriki, but Shabuya’s dipping sauces is average at best.

    1. I don’t remember the meats being exceptional–but I don’t think I got the pork shoulder, or the chuck eye roll. I think we got the rib eye (or maybe it was the chuck eye). Was it sliced super thin? It was when I went and I didn’t really care for that; it was too thin.

      Yeah, I didn’t care for the shiru or dipping sauces. Larri really did like the spicy miso shiru–and she liked it with clams.

      1. Shabu shabu meat is thin? You thought theirs was thinner than most? I like that, like the yakiniku brisket. I think when I went for lunch only had five different meats. We didn’t get chicken, but got everything else. It’s all you can eat so why not? Are you saying you didn’t at least try everything? I forgot to add the angus beef toro (that’s what it’s called) wasn’t great. The texture was rough and the meat was slightly tough.

    2. I don’t think I tried everything.

      From what I remember, the meat was so thin that when you ate it, it was like eating rice paper. That’s an exaggeration, but that’s sort of the feeling. Maybe the meat was so thin that when the fat rendered and meat lost water, there wasn’t much left. The small serving size and the relatively long wait time between servings were two other big problems for me. By the way, you know how eating kona crab and moi can be frustrating because it’s like eating crumbs? That’s sort of the feeling I had.

      I don’t think I’ve eaten at another shabu shabu place, unless Ichiriki counts (I think of their food as as nabe) or that place at the top of Waialae Ave. Whatever the case may be, the meat there was not cut so thinly

  5. Shay’s Smashburger (Foodtruck across from The Forty-Niner Diner; located in a used car parking lot.)

    I had the American ($6), with an extra patty ($3). This is basically their deluxe burger (add lettuce, tomato, and oinions). Their regular and deluxe also come with cheddar cheese and special sauce. (More on the latter soon.)

    We also tried the fun guy ($7), which comes with harvarti cheese, crimini mushrooms, bacon jam, and an truffle aioli.

    The patties are 1/4 pound, made up of brisket and short-rib, I believe.


    I preferred the fun guy, although the special sauce was a big reason for this. Basically, it was basically the same sauce as Teddy’s, which disappointed me. I like Teddy’s sauce (although I’m starting to like it less and less), but I didn’t want to eat a burger with the same sauce. If I wanted that, I’d just go to Teddy’s. Also, the burgers didn’t seemed to be seasoned well in my opinion.

    Here’s the thing, though: the burgers seem like a good deal. The regular is $5. For a 1/4 burger, that’s a pretty good deal in my view. (Fries were $3, and they were the thicker shoestring style fries.)

    1. Man, I’ve been trying to get there for weeks. It’s always been too crowded in the lot. I’ve considered parking at that park by the water and walking over. Okay, by “weeks,” I mean “Once on MLK day and once about two weeks later.”

  6. Pizza Mamo (Hotel Street, between Nu’uanu Ave. and Smith St.)

    Two styles of pizza–Brooklyn and Detroit. The former is basically New York style pizza or close enough. The Detroit style is similar to a pan pizza–except a whole pie is just four 4″x6″ squares. For over $20, that’s kinda pricey to me. I think the Detroit style comes with cheese from Wisconsin.

    The ingredients, including the sauce, was the good, if not very good. The bread/crust for the Detroit style pizza was tasty as well–including the burnt cheese on the edges. The Brooklyn dough was solid, but I think I prefer Boston’s. Overall, it kinda reminded me of Antonio’s bread (if you guys remember that place)–maybe it’s a little better.

    We had the Brooklyn style with fennel sausage, which I liked, and onion. I like the sauce, more like tomato sauce than marinara, which I liked.

    1. Went back recently–ate the same things.

      I didn’t care for the Italian sausage this time. It was bland. The Brooklyn pizza crust is like Antonio’s, which also reminds me of JJ Dolan’s crust.

      The Detroit pizza has a lot of sauce, which looks like a marinara sauce, but it’s not really sweet. Normally, I don’t like a lot of sauce, but I kinda enjoyed this.

      One thing I realized about eating pizza: It’s really not good to eat it right out of the oven, scalding hot. There’s a lot of things I can eat in this way, but this is not a good way to eat pizza. I realized this when I ate some of the Detroit-style pizza at room temperature–it tasted significantly better.

      I should also mention that the crust is a bit too bread-y versus being more toasted.

      Again, the pizza here is not cheap.

    1. Yeah I haven’t been, even though it’s close to my house. I think it closes on weekends or hardly opens on weekends. I was waiting to go with Reid so he can drop Jolene’s name and get us a discount.

    2. I hadn’t thought of that approach, but we’ll have to try it.

      I must say that I’m not that excited about the menu. I thought it looked it good at first, but when I looked again, I wasn’t as enthused.

  7. ‘Ili’ili Cash and Cary (Mo’ili’ili in the old Watanabe Bakery spot)

    They have pizza and (sub)sandwiches. I believe the pizza maker is the guy from Prima and V-Lounge. We tried three styles–spicy meatball, off white (with two types of cheeses, onions and something else), and pepperoni.

    First the crust. I was worried it would be too soggy in the middle as that was my experience with the V-Loung pizza. That wasn’t the case. The crust airy and on the dry side, with the dryness and taste of a cracker. The edges are puffy-hollow. I kinda liked it, but I think I prefer the taste and chewiness of Boston’s a bit better. The crust overall was fairly robust, not too thin, either.

    The spicy meat, cut in flat slices, is similar or the same to Prima’s, which I think is solid. The pizza comes with a non-sweet tomato sauce which was used in moderation, both of which I liked. It also comes with argula, which is just an OK combination.

    They give a lot of pepperoni, so that’s good. It’s tasty, too.

    The off-white was good. The onions were like French onion soup and baked into the bread. (One of the cheeses is riccota.)

    They also sell pizza’s by the slice, and they have those square style pizzas that seem thicker.

    A whole pie is about $25. These are good pizzas.

    1. Yeah it is that guy from V Lounge. My coworkers (the ones who still work in the office) got takeout from there a few weeks ago. My sandwich-loving coworker really liked her sandwich. My picky eater coworker (who’s about 50% as picky as Reid) didn’t care for the pizza.

      1. Coincidence. One of those same coworkers just submitted his monthly food column to our staff newsletter (edit partially by me) and his review is very positive. Two thumbs up and one sideways from the coworkers, then.

    2. Mitchell,

      Can you ask your friend who ate the sandwich, which one she had, and what were the portions like? The sandwiches are like $17, and I was worried it would be kinda small from the price.

      By the way, for what it’s worth, the final verdict about the pizza, from the rest of my family, was negative.

    3. Unless her hands are really tiny, the sandwich seems pretty small, which was my impression from other pictures I saw. Bummer.

    4. It looks comparable to a Subway 6″ sandwich. If I’m not that hungry, a 6″ sandwich would not leave me hungry, especially if I drank a carbonated drink. But if I were really hungry, I would probably want more. But a 6″ hoagie for $17 better be really, really good.

  8. Do you guys know Cyrus Goo (the original proprietor of Cafe Laufer) opened a new spot in the Ala Moana Hotel? He’s got a lot of the familiar desserts there, including the fruit gelee, but my friends haven’t noticed the hazelnut torte. I’m staying away until I’m fully vaccinated, but if you’re brave and you want to check it out, the same friends recommend you get there before everyone else discovers it.

    1. I did not know this. I looked this up and apparently it’s part of a hair salon. It’s called Cafe at DaDa, or something like that. I’m interested in checking this place out.

      Did we have a thread on places just for dessert and coffee? I need to start one up again.

  9. I finally tried Raising Cane’s chicken tenders. I recall Mitchell saying something like he really liked it, partly (mainly?) because they don’t season the chicken, that it has a kind of bland taste. When I read that, I thought that was a bit strange, as that didn’t sound very appealing to me. But what do you know, he was right! I wouldn’t say I really liked the chicken, but it was strangely good–in spite of the “bland” taste. The thing is, it’s not like the chicken flavor was particularly pronounced or outstanding. Also, the batter doesn’t seem very noteworthy as well. And yet, it taste good. It’s weird.

    1. But well-seasoned chicken can taste like chicken, too. I mean any food “x” can taste like food “x” if it’s not seasoned–but that doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good. ?

      1. Yeah but when I wrote about it the first time, I said I like chicken breasts with no seasoning. I wouldn’t really want to pay for plain chicken breasts with no seasoning in a restaurant necessarily, but that’s not what these are. The chicken flavor comes through, which pleases me.

  10. Empty Elle (sp?)

    This is a pop-up bagel place in Kailua. Supposedly they make Montreal-style bagels. They have set bagels with various spreads or fillings. We tried the egg and pork cracklin’s (?) and honey-butter and rasberry jam. The former was just OK, but I really like the spreads on the latter. (It’s kinda pricey, though–$8, I think.)

    We went here hoping the bagels would be awesome and a place where we could buy bagels regularly and bring them home. Unfortunately, the bagels were just OK, not really worth driving to Kailua and buying a bunch of the week.

      1. There are set locations in different neighborhoods, I think, but sometimes he delivers to homes. According to today’s IG post, he begins in Kapolei and works his way into town.

        The website says pickups are in Kapolei, Ewa, Waipahu, Kunia, Waipio, Pearl City, Moanalua, Kam Shopping Cntr, Honolulu, Kaimuki, Ala Moana Center, and Kailua/Kaneohe. Looks like there’s a charge for Kailua/Kaneohe. My friend picked his up in the Pali Safeway parking lot.

        Edit: Just to see how it works, I tried to order something for delivery to Kam Shopping Center, and it asked for a delivery address. So it looks like he’s delivering to homes in some areas.

  11. My friends have been talking about So Gong Dong for years and I kept meaning to try it, but dining out for Korean food when you’re eating alone is kind of a bummer sometimes — it’s one of those cuisines that seems better with company. Although I don’t feel that way with the ubiquitous Korean plate lunch spots, so maybe I just have to get over it.

    It’s located in a small, one-story retail building across the street from Yogurstory, Asahi Grill, and Sorabol. I don’t remember where it used to be, but this location is far more convenient for me, since my office is nearby.

    Its specialty is sundubu, or tofu soup, and the number 1 on the menu is a pork-beef sundubu. It seemed like a good place to begin.

    The banchan was standard: kimchi, choi sum, shoyu potatoes, bean sprouts, daikon. It was all solidly average, although I put the kimchi ahead of the others on the table. Something about it worked for me.

    The broth in the sundubu leans fishy, so if you don’t like fishy soups you might want to try something else. I ordered it medium spicy, and it was a good, comfortable level of heat. Quite tasty.

    The beef and pork were in small bits, perhaps ground. So the star isn’t really the meat; it’s the tofu and the flavor of the soup, which I suppose is the point. I have nothing to compare it to except the tofu soup at Yummy’s, which I always liked. That soup is thin and watery compared to this.

    At lunch it was under $12, which I think is reasonable for a sit-down lunch in a restaurant. With a tip it was $15. I’m definitely going back. They have some interesting combos with the soups, for about $18, but I can’t imagine ordering one unless I plan to bring leftovers back to the office. I ate almost everything in front of me and it was exactly enough.

    1. Yeah $12 seems like a good deal. I think the soups at the Korean place next to Eggs and Things near Ala Moana is supposed to be good too, but I haven’t had it in like 15 years maybe.

      1. Yeah the prices are supposed to be good there too, at that spot next to Eggs n Things. Haven’t tried it yet even though I’m in the area all the time, AND it’s open for breakfast! Or it used to be. Who knows what’s open when these days?

  12. I went with some coworkers to the new(ish) bingsu spot in Ala Moana, Jejubing Dessert Cafe.

    I had the injeolmi bingsu. Almond slices, azuki beans, Korean mochi with kinako (that’s the injeolmi), condensed milk, and lots more kinako. I thought it was great. My coworkers had the strawberry bingsu and the watermelon bingsu. They said it was good.

    I liked mine so much I went back the next week and had the same thing after a swim at the beach.

    1. I love patbingsu (Korean shave ice), but never had Jejubing’s. I went once and the line to eat in was about 45 minutes long. Crazy. I will definitely have to try it. There are two other places to get patbingsu: Ohana Marketplace has one adjacent to the side door to Ohana (the one facing Starbucks) and there is one called En Hakkore. En Hakkore’s patbingsu comes with two (I think) shots of espresso, sort of like a affogato. So dang good.

  13. Some of us went to En Hakkore Cafe (inside the 88 Mart on Keeaumoku) for Penny’s birthday in November 2019. I couldn’t remember it very well, and I wanted to compare my experience at Jejubing with this other spot a Korean friend of mine who lives in Korea said is better than a lot of the bingsu she gets there. So I checked it out last week during my lunch break. Instead of having a proper lunch.

    I don’t know. I don’t love these fruits except the strawberrry. And I really don’t love them with the espresso pour-over. It wasn’t what I was expecting, so I can’t say how I felt about it. I’m going back very soon to try it again with a fresh brain.

    This is the small. If you’re sharing, you probably want the large, which I think comes with two shots of espresso.

  14. I went to Hungry Ear in Kakaako to pick up my Record Store Day purchases and stopped at Shay’s Filipino Cafe for lunch. Mostly because it was right there and nobody else was dining.

    Yeah, the Butcher and Bird had a small line. Shay’s had nobody dining in the restaurant and only one person ordering at the counter. A quick look at the menu revealed a few things I’d put in my mouth, so I took my spot six feet behind the lone woman at the counter.

    …who immediately was joined by the rest of her party. Three adults and two kids, running around inside with no understanding of social distancing. The kids, not the adults.

    And they took for-e-ver to order. But ah well. I was committed. I’m not exaggerating when I say it took at least ten minutes for them all to get their orders in. It might have been fifteen. The entire thing sorta ended like this:

    “Anything to drink?”

    “Oh yeah. Ey! What do you want to drink?” (shouting to the table at which some of the party was seated)



    “I don’t care. Coke.”

    Anyway. I ordered a mini chicken adobo pizza. And a Diet Coke. The crust is a soft, almost pita-like thing which I kind of liked. Sauce was a red sauce but there wasn’t enough of it for me. Cheese was kind of a pedestrian pizza blend. The chicken adobo topping was pretty good. The whole thing kind of tasted like a frozen microwavable pizza, but maybe the second-best kind available, maybe the kind you get at Whole Foods or something.

  15. There’s this new poke bowl spot in the Kaheka Professional Center called Mama Kim’s. The building’s name may not ring a bell but you’re familiar with it. It’s at the corner of Kaheka and King.

    Best dang poke bowls I’ve ever had. It’s a short walk from the office, and thank goodness, because if it were in our building I would eat there every day and go broke.

    I have to confess that I don’t love poke bowls as much as I love poke. Something about hot rice and cold poke just never did it for me. But now I know why.

    Because it shouldn’t just be hot rice. It should be SUSHI RICE.

    And I don’t know what kind of rice they use at Mama Kim’s — I asked. The young woman at the counter disappeared for a moment, then came back and said, “Apparently it’s a secret.”

    Well darn. It’s a good secret because I love the rice here.

    I’ve been three times. The first time I just had a regular spicy ahi poke bowl and it was delish. The second time, they had a special. Same bowl but with a couple of shrimp tempuras on top (photo on the right). You know how tempura can be heavenly when it’s really good? This qualified.

    Last week I had a special. It’s always worth checking out what the special are, I’m learning. They usually announce the specials on IG in the morning.

    The photo on the left was described as “Fresh lochland Scottish salmon seared with garlic aioli topped with truffle sea salt.” I don’t know what all that means (and I’m looking the other way on the “garlic aioli” redundancy), but this was to die for. Delicate and bold at the same time, and it somehow made wasabi and shoyu taste better. The combinations all worked. I almost got teary, my mouth was so happy.

    One thing I love about this place is it’s open from like 10 to 5 (to 6 on Saturdays). Most of the good lunch spots in the area close for lunch at two, which is a problem for me because I take lunch late. Partially to avoid crowds. I love that Mama Kim’s is open whenever I’m ready for lunch.

    It’s not cheap but I’m not complaining.

    EDIT: They don’t just have poke bowls. They have some cooked things with rice, but I never do more than glance over them on the menu board, so I can’t tell you what they are.

    1. The salmon bowl looks heavenly. Yeah this place has been getting great buzz. Hope it can last, because in the same building (different spot, I think) used to be a sushi restaurant that was getting good buzz and it closed. It used to be called Kaheka Sushi.

  16. I had a little errand to run at lunch, so I was on Kapiolani near Piikoi Thursday. Good time to check out Chodang.

    Just a regular pot of soondubu. Nine bucks, plus a $3 tip. It was good, but pretty much everything in this photo was slightly better at So Gong Dong. It’s about ten minutes further (walking) from the office so I may not do lunch here as often, but I’ll definitely be back. Especially since it opens at 8 in the morning and I go to the beach a few mornings a week before work. I look forward to trying other stuff.

    The daikon was kind of gross. Everything else was solid, just not quite as good as the stuff I had a few days earlier. I just remembered that the So Gong Dong order was specifically a beef and pork tofu soup, which I don’t think was part of this dish. Mushrooms, though. Those were nice.

  17. Lunch at Mian in the 808 Center (Sheridan and Rycroft Streets). Sichuan food! Closes for lunch at 3:30, so it’s another spot I will visit again.

    I had the house pancake beef rolls ($7) for an appetizer. Delicate and spicy, but not hot. The pancake is flaky and almost pastry-like. The beef slices taste cuminy (I think) and they’re pretty tender, and the julienned cucumbers are a nice balance. A good start.

    The Sichuan cold noodles ($12) seem popular on Yelp, so I ordered that. Good, chewy noodles (they’re also rather long) served on top of spicy Sichuan sauce. I like it this way — you can mix the noodles into the sauce lightly or heavily, depending on how much spice you want. The shredded lettuce and julienned cucumber are also a nice balance here — in fact, when I order this again I may ask for extra lettuce and cucumber. Yelp says you can ask for extra noodles at no extra charge, so hopefully they’ll accommodate a request for a little more greenery.

    If you like that cold, sweet, rice-tea thing you sometimes get at Korean restaurants, you’ll like the thing they serve here. I didn’t get water — and I didn’t see anyone in there drinking water. I have mixed feelings about this because shoot, you’re serving spicy food. People want water, right?

    Also, you have to scan a QR code at your table to look at the menu and place your order, so Reid’s out of luck unless he’s there with his kids. It’s kind of cool, because the QR code is specific to your table, so the waitress knows where to bring which orders. You can pay the same way or you can indicate with your order that you’ll pay in person. I like this too because it meant not waiting for a check when I was done.

    Definitely a recommendation.

    1. Your noodle dish didn’t have the Szechuan peppers in it? The one that makes your mouth numb? I sort of can take the mouth numbing, although I could do without it, but the Szechuan pepper has a weird sour taste that I do not like.

      1. I don’t know what Szechuan peppers are, but there was something very hot in the sauce. I don’t remember my mouth being numb, though, so maybe not? Are you talking about your experience at this spot?

        1. Szechuan peppers actually make your mouth numb or tingly. In the past Mien (and yes I was talking about Mien) had this paper used as a place mat that explained the noodles, the mung bean drink which supposed to cool your mouth, and the Szechuan peppers and chilis. I’m guessing you didn’t see that. I think if you go to Yelp, you can see pictures of it. I’m guessing your dish didn’t have the Szechuan peppers. I have a chili oil I bought at HMart that has Szechuan peppers in it and I like that, so I’m guessing I’m adverse to the amount of it that’s in most of Mien’s soups.

          1. What I had was pretty hot but I don’t remember numbness or a tingle. I’ll have to try again and pay better attention.

            No paper mat and no explanation for the drink! Bummer. Or maybe I wasn’t paying attention.

  18. Spice Up. King St. between Piikoi and Keeaumoku, in the space where Choi’s Family Restaurant used to be. This is a new favorite in the office — some of my coworkers have been five or six times. I’ve been twice, and both times I had a really good meal.

    This photo is from my second visit. From left: rice, chicken tikka masala, malai kofte (spicy potato balls reminding me a lot of falafel), dal makhani (black lentils), and something I don’t remember at all.

    One of my coworkers lived for a year in India, and the other who came along had never had Indian food, so I just let the one who studied abroad make our picks. We also had naan and some raita (which is an extra $2.50, which kind of annoys me). I’ve had the butter chicken, samosas, and one of the kormas too, and they were great.

    1. I’ve been here for lunch as well. The sauces are awesome. The thing with Indian food though, is the protein is boiled to death in the sauce. For example the shrimp we got was overcooked and rubbery. They should learn some Chinese wok techniques and cook the protein separate from the sauce. That was be incredible. We didn’t know that the food comes with rice, so we ordered too much bread (What no such thing?). But yeah we took home the sauce and bread, which made for great leftovers.

      There is a Indian food place in downtown called Kamana (sounds like it could be Hawaiian). I don’t know if their food taste better, but they have like the Indian version of the plate lunch, where you get a few different stuffs including a little bit of veggies. I like that concept better.

      1. I don’t think I’ve ever had seafood in Indian food, so I can’t testify about that. I don’t mind the boiled to death thing for the meats I’ve had, though.

        If you’re talking about Komala Curry House (I think in the Remington College building), I’ve eaten there a few times, but darn if I can remember anything specific. There’s an Indian plate lunch spot in the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange food court (open to the public, but don’t go NOW for crying out loud) that does the plate lunch style. Pick an entree and two sides. I ate there a lot when I worked nearby.

        There’s a similar, better plate lunch kind of Indian spot in Paradise Palms at UH Manoa. If you haven’t been on campus in a a couple of decades, it’s a food court kind of building right outside Hamilton Library. The spot was Greek and Indian a few years ago, but it changed its name (and possibly vendor) and is just Indian food now, and it’s VERY good. Probably not worth driving to Manoa JUST for that, but if you’re ever on campus around mealtime. Just don’t go NOW.

        1. https://www.yelp.com/biz/kamana-indian-cuisine-honolulu-2

          I’ve been to Komala Curry House and I used to like it, but the price for the quality is not worth it. I think the price of their food can be the same as Spice Up and the food is in warmers ala Patty’s Chinese Kitchen. Kamana is a sit down restaurant and is almost directly across the street near the gyro place. I think their original restaurant may be from Hilo, but I could be totally just making that up.

          Thanks for the tip on the UH place, and I remember you mentioning the Navy Exchange one before.

      2. “The protein being boiled to death” is a valid point, I guess, but like Mitchell, I was never really bothered by this. To me, it’s all about the sauces. Still, I do agree the quality of the proteins aren’t really exceptional or noteworthy. Is it because they’re overcooked? Could be.

        I will say that I never thought the shrimp do piazza at Maharani tasted bad. Then again, maybe the sauce was just so dang good that I didn’t notice.

        1. No you right, I don’t think Maharani’s shrimp dish is like that. So maybe not all Indian food are created equal.

          Beef (ala stew) and lamb being boiled too death, I don’t mind, but seafood gets rubbery, and chicken can start to shred or have a not great texture. So I normally will get beef or lamb, but if you want to get more than one dish, beef and lamb are too similar so I usually try to get shrimp or chicken. It doesn’t work out a lot of the time.

  19. I haven’t commented yet, but I like these reviews of the restaurants in Keeamoku area, particularly the Korean ones, as I’ve only been to a very few of them. It’s great to hear that there’s a good Indian spot. The entres you got at Mian sound good, too, something Larri would probably like.

  20. Obento Rinka is on Beretania across the street from Grace’s. It used to have a few locations, including one in Waikiki sorta near Hobron St., in that weirdly placed mall you’d never be aware of unless you’re familiar with the area. That’s closed now, but they have a sit-down restaurant in Kakaako near Whole Foods.

    I haven’t been able to tell if there’s a make-to-order option because both times I’ve been here I just got a grab-and-go selection.

    This is a tonkatsu bento. The tray with the katsu nests in the deeper tray with the rice. It’s standard, very Japanese bento food, and you don’t get a lot but it’s high quality and good enough for lunch if you aren’t starving. I supplemented this with a couple of Nutter Butters a little later.

    As you know, I’m big on food prepared and served with care, and honestly who does that better than Japanese establishments? I mean, look at those tamago shavings and the sprinkle of sesame seeds. You pay for it, of course, but sometimes it’s worth it.

    We’re not supposed to eat anywhere in the office except in the break room, but with social distancing they’ve allowed us to eat at our desks this past year, and this was a good meal for eating while working.

  21. AAA Local BBQ. This is that plate lunch spot at Don Quijote in town, one of those spots with an enormous menu where you kind of have to know what to get. It’s open at 6 in the morning and the whole menu’s available then.

    A lot of the places that used to be open in the morning hours before work have been opening later this past year, and some are just gone, so finding a good spot to grab breakfast after a morning swim is a little bit of a challenge.

    I kind of like this spot because the coffee kiosk there is quite good and because the wait for my breakfast is pretty short. They don’t open up the picnic tables area until 10, though, so I’m usually eating on the trunk of my car.

    Anyway this is my usual order when I go. It’s a veggie omelette, which isn’t on the menu. It’s simple: just tomatoes, green onions, and bell peppers. Cheese is an extra $1.20, which I sometimes get. It’s a good size for breakfast after physical exertion.

  22. Griddle n Grindz. This is a new thing in the Dillingham Plaza, between Foodland and Savers, in the old Yummy’s spot. A Frolic writer featured it a few weeks ago so I stopped by Saturday.

    I went in around 12:30 expecting a crowd, but I was the only customer. Three parties came in right after me, but still it’s clear this spot hasn’t been discovered yet.

    It’s Korean food, plate-lunch style. Pick an entrĂ©e and four sides. I ordered the chicken katsu and the bulgogi. Each plate is a few ounces shy of a ton of food.

    I love chicken katsu and tonkatsu but as you may know, I’m a little particular about a few things. Partially this is because both were in the regular rotation in my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up, and nobody will ever make it as well as her. This chicken katsu at Griddle n Grindz is the closest I’ve ever had to hers. The panko is seasoned but not aggressively, and it’s not overfried. I think this is key. Katsu should be slightly crispy, not crunchy.

    I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but the pieces are sorta bite-sized, and they are breaded and fried this way, with no exposed sides where someone sliced them after frying. This isn’t the best decision, but it’s far better than what too many local places do, which is fry all the katsu ahead of time, then when it’s ordered, slice it up and refry it. You’ve heard me complain about this before.

    I have to say this is tasty as heck. Recommended.

    With no Korean food childhood memories, it’s easier to be objective about the bulgogi, which is tasty and tender and delicious, if a little on the fatty side. I like that it’s not oversauced, although what’s with the carrots? I could have done without that.

    I can’t rate the sides yet because they’re still in containers in my fridge. I got three meals and a snack out of just the meat and rice (and threw away some rice), and it looks like I have enough sides for two meals with some hapa rice. Oh, I ate the mac salad, which I never ever order at a Korean place, but since I was ordering eight sides, I just got one of almost everything. They brought the chopchae out after I ordered, dang it.

    $13 for the katsu is a good deal. $18 for the bulgogi seems a little high, but it’s pretty dang good. I think most of the Korean-Korean entrĂ©es are in the $18 range. The Frolic writer says the kalbi is the most popular item but I pretty much never order that anywhere.

    They have pretty well-spaced indoor dining but I didn’t stick around. I knew I was ordering meals for the next few days, so I just took it all home.

    Open 11 to 7 every day except Sunday.

    1. I forgot about this review, but when I read it, I wanted to try it. How were the sides? (The thing is, I’m rarely in that area.)

  23. Piggy Smalls

    I went to Piggy Smalls for lunch (actually brunch) this past Saturday. My son got the breakfast pasta, which is a red sauce with Arabiki sausage as the meat with a omelette egg on top. I only tried a little bit, but it was good, but probably not worth the price at $16.

    Tracy and I both got the soups of the day. Tracy got the crab based soup. This is a common soup at pho places, but at the pho places it has a tomato base. It’s a clear soup with tomatoes in it, but it has a strong tomato taste normally. The soup at Piggy Smalls didn’t have tomatoes in it nor did it have a tomato taste. It’s a pork bone based soup but with crab flakes in it. The soup itself has amazing depth and really, really good. The ingredients with a pork rib being the meat and a ball of crab was just okay. This was $17, but it was big.

    The soup I got had four huge chunks of braised beef, potatoes, with purple carrots. The purple carrots are way better than regular carrots. The soup base is curry base with coconut milk. The soup was pretty darn good, but probably not as good as the crab soup, Tracy got. But because I liked the braised beef, potatoes, and carrots, if I went back I would get the curry soup. Plus my noodles was like yakisoba noodles, and Tracy was the thick rice noodle.

    I got Vietnamese coffee, which is the cold coffee with the condensed milk. I think they don’t use the normal Carnation condensed milk, which makes Piggy Small’s Vietnamese Coffee better than any other pho places that I tried in Hawaii. Tracy got the Hanoi Egg Coffee. An egg whipped with sweet cream is added to Kona Coffee. This was surprisingly super delicious. That being said I think I may get tired of the egg taste by the end of the cup, so if I went again I would get the Vietnamese coffee again, but Tracy said she would probably get the egg coffee, which is served hot.

    Some of the pho places we go – Saigon by the old MW location and Mama Pho at Ala Moana, the pho is $15. We paid $17 for the crab soup and $18 for my braised beef soup. We both agreed that the Piggy Smalls soup with what you get in terms of taste and ingredients and amount is way more worth it than a $15 pho.

    1. Both soups sound really good (except the rice noodle in the crab soup). Are those available every Saturday?

      I was also curious about that egg coffee thing. It sounded intriguing, but I also thought there would be a chance that I would really dislike it.

      1. I’m pretty sure the soups are the same every Saturday. Before we went though, when I went to the Piggy Smalls website, the soup that I got, said it was braised chicken wings instead of the braised brisket. Cannot imagine chicken wings being better than brisket.

        If you like eggy custard, I’m pretty sure you would like the coffee. It taste like if you put one of those custards you get from Ice Garden into a very strong cup of coffee. It’s really good, but too eggy for a whole cup for me.

  24. I went to Thyda’s Tacos and Greek Aloha Kitchen. I’m too lazy to write a full review, so if you want to know more, let me know.

    Thyda’s is mauka of the Kaka’ako Whole Foods. It’s a small taco stand. We went on Tuesday, where the tacos are between $2.00-$2.50. We got the carne asada, chicken, lengua, and I can’t remember what else, but ultimately the food was disappointing. If you told me they forgot to add salt, I would have believed you. Having said that the texture and juiciness of the lengua was very appealing. (The meat was cut in quarter inch cubes.)

    As for Greek Aloha Kitchen, I can’t remember what we got, but nothing really stood out except for this filo custard dessert. I think it’s the type of thing that could become the coco puff of the restaurant. Well, maybe that’s going too far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.

  25. Little Joe’s Steakhouse (next to Liliha Bakery on Nimitz)

    We went hear for the happy hour. I saw the prices, and I just assumed we’d be getting good deals. In actuality, the happy hour prices were like a $1 off or close to 20% off, which may not be bad, but seemed less impressive once I realized the actual discount.

    But on to the food. Short answer: It was just OK. Based on this one visit, I don’t think I’d go back.

    I’ll mention one dish we got. There as a 12oz rib-eye, pupu-style, for about $18. You know how good steakhouses serve steaks that may be better than what you can make at home, but often aren’t worth the high price? Well, in this case, the price is much lower, but the steaks are actually the same, if not worse, then the steaks you can make at home. Indeed, my father-in-laws steaks, which he’s been making a lot, are better in my view. Specifically, the steak wasn’t seasoned all that well in my view. There was sufficient salt, but the salt wasn’t all that flavorful, and they didn’t have any pepper. I looked like they cooked the steak in some kind of flavorless oil as well. (The steak also came out overcooked–medium. I would normally eat it, anyway, but it was a little too overcooked for me.)

  26. Palace Saimin

    The last time I remember being here was when I was probably in elementary school, but I remember liking it. I wanted to give me kids the old school experience.

    The verdict? If you wanted someone to experience saimin, this is a great pick (although I will say that Zippy’s version is real close in quality to this). The shiru was solid–tasty–as were the noodles. Nothing special, but really representative of old school saimin.

    Of course we also got bbq sticks. I understand they use tri-tip. The meat was a little chewy, but I’m pretty sure they grill the meat, which had a decent char. The teri sauce is solid, too.

    On negative note, the won tons were kinda meh.

    Finally, I got the extra large. Maybe I wasn’t really hungry, but it was too much for me.

      1. Mitchell,

        Does your mom make better meat sticks? Just following up since you said “best I’ve had in a restaurant”.

    1. I wouldn’t dispute that–then again, I don’t think I’ve tried a lot of bbq sticks. Have you tried many different versions? If so where are some of the places? (Does Shiro’s have bbq sticks?) Really, I don’t think I’ve eaten a lot or any bbq sticks and saimin as an adult.

      1. My mom makes killer yakitori, but I don’t think she’s ever made bbq sticks. She used to do shish kebabs (which I consider a different thing) that were great. But I’ve had really good bbq sticks at potlucks and parties that were probably better than at Palace. And there’s something about cheap, watery S&S saimin with bbq sticks at carnivals.

        I almost never get them in restaurants because they’re overpriced, but the other good ones I’ve had are at Nori’s in Hilo. Saimin and a bbq stick. Great combo. Even if you get a Noriburger, you still kinda want a bbq stick.

  27. Cafe Kopi (Kailua)

    We went here for the laksa, which they only serve on Saturday and Sunday, and the french pastries (mostly croissants).

    For pastries, we got the almond croissant, bread pudding, and lilikoi cheesecake. The first two were good, although the croissant was a bit too hard–I’d go there again just for that. (The latte I got was disappointing.)

    As for the Laksa, it was good, but Larri claims the Panya shiru is better. The portion size is not very large, too.

  28. Istanbul (Diamond Head of Whole Foods in the Ward area, close to Merriman’s)

    We got the meze platter, which is a sample of various appetizers. I liked the red pepper based spread, which reminded me of the hot sauce at Shaloha (but this wasn’t spicy). I also liked the baba ganoush, particularly because of the smokey taste. The hummus, spanikopita, this cheese dish with philo, and a watermelon, olive, and feta salad were fine, but not outstanding. I wouldn’t really order this again, although everything was solid.

    I had the doner wrap ($18). You don’t get anything but the wrap, although it’s a decent size, with good portions of lamb. The lamb doner (shaving) was good.

    We also got this rib-eye hamburger thing. It was solid, but I don’t know if I would order this again.

    The review may not sound positive, but I would go back. I want to try their lamb dishes.

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