Part three of my Hawaii food trail! Honolulu is not new to me – I was here for hubby’s nephew’s wedding back in 2010 – just before I found out I was pregnant and well, fell in love with Hawaii. Since then we vowed to come back but wanted to explore more than just the touristy Waikiki. However, being a city girl myself, I LOVE Waikiki. As busy as it is, expensive… I just love walking along Kalakaua Avenue and it’s surroundings (it’s like the Las Vegas strip) and I’ll never get bored of it. This time though we rented a car and was able to drive around the island.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
After our disgusting breakfast at the Hilo Airport, I decided that we needed a good dinner. Ruth’s Chris came into mind due to many factors – a) they have a fixed price menu offered in the U.S. that includes a lot of food for a decent price (love how it’s NOT offered in Canada) b) I bought a $100 GC at Costco for $79.99 [instant $20.01 savings there!] and c) it was on the “strip” so we can walk around lots afterwards. Hubby was worried about the dress code and our potential screaming toddler but it’s Hawaii… and as we walked in we saw many families with young ones that definitely made noise yet our toddler slept the entire time.
Anyways, the service here is top notch. The service is formal but the atmosphere is relaxing. The manager came by to welcome us which made us felt very valued. Food was decent and you do get your bang for your buck in terms of portions. Maybe because it was such an awesome deal, you will read on the menu and be offered by the server that for an additional $5, you can upgrade to a full size dessert! Or for another additional whatever amount, you can upgrade to a full size side! Sigh. No offense but go ahead and charge me MORE for the full sizes entirely if you want but don’t try to make a few extra dollars here and there luring me to upgrade. Having tried the tenderloin back in Calgary, I do have to say that I do not enjoy the abundance of butter on my steak – I didn’t ask for extra but they put a lot on there! I could only eat half of the steak – ate the other half the next day minus all the liquidy butter and it tasted much better. Regardless, I think we had a great meal here and I wouldn’t mind returning for their fixed price menu.
Snapper Bar and Grill
Today was a beach day and well, we needed a quick breakfast. Snapper was close to where we were staying and we were attracted by the $3.99 breakfast special sign. Bars sure do open early in Hawaii! Lol. We were only interested in getting the breakfast special (2 eggs, bacon or sausage, toast and pancakes or house fries) but I was hoping to get something else for the meat (like ham, or spam) and the waitress said it was a $2+ upgrade. No thanks! Anyways, the food was decent and definitely a great deal.
The ever popular place which turned out to be a cafeteria style eatery… you order your choice of noodle (or rice), then go down the aisle and pick out your tempura or musubi and pay at the end. I guess this is just to ensure efficient service? Anyways, knowing how popular this place was, we went in for a very late lunch (you can also call it a very early dinner) and easily got a table. The three of us all enjoyed how fresh tasting the udon was and the soup base was very tasty, not laden with MSG. The tempura was lightly battered and not too greasy. I loved everything on the plate and wouldn’t mind eating here every day – seriously! I don’t get bored of noodles – ever (actually grew up on this stuff)! By the time we left the lineup was very long. Prices are quite cheap and I actually like the cafeteria concept after the experience.
Thursday Farmer’s Market at International Marketplace
Hubby and I are always excited about Farmer’s Markets, especially since we had such a good experience at the one in Hilo. Well unfortunately for us since Waikiki is a tourist attraction, the prices were quite… let’s just say, we were spoiled in Hilo. 6 papayas for $2 vs. 1 payapa for $3. Yeah, no thank you. We did decide to get a container of the freshly chopped pineapple and it was super sweet – it tasted really good with the Li Hing Powder which is a local favorite. It’s a salty and sour powder where when you sprinkle it over certain fruits, it really brings out the flavor. The banana cream thing (I really don’t know what it’s called) was a fritter-like thing which I really liked, but since the farmer’s market only happens on Thursdays, I couldn’t even go back to get more the next day. Oh well! If you’re wondering what’s inside the market place… there’s nothing. I hate to be so mean but there’s nothing but junk inside and every stand pretty much sells the same crap. The vendors don’t really like it when you try to negotiate the prices either. There is a nice food court inside which has a huge variety of food.
So after our quite late lunch and a visit to the Farmer’s Market, we decided to call it a night but because we haven’t grabbed dinner yet, I know I must get something small to eat or I will get really hungry by the time we head back to the hotel. I remember there being a sushi take out place somewhere around the Trump Tower (where we stayed back in 2010) but I couldn’t remember where, and then ah-ha… found it! I don’t even know if it’s the same place but I don’t care. This little cafe is small and casual and the owner/servers are very friendly. Prices aren’t too bad but having seen their previous menu back in 2011… quite a huge price increase! The food is pretty good and the fish is fresh, but nothing fancy (which is expected for a cafe). Portions are decent – great late dinner we had!
Hubby was flipping through some paper and saw an ad for Kimihan’s special ramen… soup base made with anchovies or something like that. He was very excited to try so this morning we went to Shirokiya. I had no idea that Shirokiya was a department store with the MOST AWESOME food court on the 2nd level. Most awesome = twenty something different vendors serving mostly Japanese food = Peaches’ dream food court. It reminds me of the awesome food courts in Hong Kong/Taiwan where you can get pretty tasty food for a good price. So we ordered the ramen from Kimihan, and I also went around and got us drinks, a small tray of sashimi plus the pork belly. It’s not that much food really, since ramen is based on quality, and not quantity, and when I have a noodle loving toddler – that bowl of ramen is just not enough to share! Hubby had to get the pork belly in mantou for our toddler after b/c I know he didn’t have enough to eat. Anyways, the ramen was really well done. I don’t know if it’s freshly made on site but it sure tasted like it. The soup base was one of the better shoyu I’ve had. The two slices of char siu in there was painfully thin… good thing I bought the pork belly! I warmed it up in my soup and it was fatty and melt in my mouth goodness, hmmmmm! The sashimi moriawase consisted of hamachi and ahi tuna and both were absolutely fresh! The mantou on the other hand was a bit disappointing – it would probably taste better if it was served hot.
Mike’s Huli Huli (Kanoehe, HI)
We spent most of the day driving around looking at beaches and when we were starting to get hungry, we found Mike’s Huli Huli food truck. Seeing Guy Fieri’s picture on there was pretty much a seal of approval for us (lol). Huli Huli chicken is a type of barbeque chicken that is uniquely Hawaiian. We also wanted to try the garlic shrimp, so hubby got the two item plate while I ordered half a chicken to munch on ($8 for 1/2; $11 for whole). The chicken was fabulous – I said to hubby – the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, and he said, I’ve never heard anyone describing that about chicken before! Well… it really was! A gentle pull on any part just came right off the bone and it was the most smooth, tender chicken meat I have ever ate. The sauce can be described as a mildly spicy barbeque sauce. It was delicious. It was finger licking good! The shrimp was also amazing – plump, juicy and topped with the best garlic oil/butter sauce ever. I can’t believe how something so simple can tickle my taste buds like that. I shall see if I can find a good recipe for the Huli Huli sauce!
Some more random food pics while we were driving!
Gaku Sushi Izakaya
Gaku is a place I became really interested in after reading all the rave reviews from fellow blogger Eat Your City. I am all for Japanese cuisine (as you know) but traditional, authentic Japanese? Yes please. After all the very favorable reviews on Urbanspoon I decided I must go visit there, though I wasn’t sure if I wanted the omakase. I like having control of what I order and eat. Since we weren’t sure what day we would actually make it there, we didn’t bother with a reservation and hoped for the best and what do you know… we got the last table at 8:15pm on this day. Anyways, as you can see from my pictures – everything looked picture perfect. This meal, was one of the best Japanese meals I have ever eaten. Everything was just so good – all the tastes were spot on – portions were the right amount. I have no complaints. Not even the price, though I didn’t think anything was that expensive except maybe for my sushi set, but the quality of the fish was just… it was worth it. The bluefin otoro was just oily and buttery… something I know I can’t really get in Calgary, so even at $6.66 per piece, it was worth it to me to eat it. Hubby’s bara chirashi is not your usual sliced sashimi topping rice, but rather, everything is chopped up in chunks. Hubby said there was so much toppings that even when he finished his rice, he still had fish leftover! All the nigiri in my sushi set was carefully made and my favorite was the uni and marinated salmon roe. The negi toro maki was melt in your mouth goodness. Seriously, all the fish was just fresh, fresh, FRESH. I do have to say the one piece that I didn’t like as much (though it seems to be a restaurant favorite) was the seared garlic toro – I found the garlic too strong and completely masked the flavor of the toro. The spider roll was an add on afterwards because… I am a glutton, and knowing that I won’t be back for a while, I just want to have something else. Each piece of the roll was a perfect bite size. The soft shell crab was lightly fried and went well with the ripe avocado and the minimal bit of rice. Hmmmmmmmmm. It was easily one of the best spider rolls I have eaten. Still makes me wonder why Wa’s need to charge $30 for theirs. I don’t care if it’s jam packed with ingredients – they can easily cut the size in half and charge $15. Anyways, the service here was really good – all the staff were Japanese and I enjoyed seeing the chefs at work. Next time I go to Honolulu I must return.
Singha Thai Cuisine
I blame Guy Fieri for this one. To be fair, he didn’t endorse it, but right before we left for dinner I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and he was talking about Opal Thai Food in Haleiwa, which looked amazing on TV… but too far from Waikiki. Suddenly I had a craving for Thai food and since Singha was nearby, we decided to eat here. I wish we had checked the Urbanspoon reviews beforehand b/c this was another of the worst meals I have eaten in Hawaii. We thought it’d be ok since Zagat said they were good, but man, it was not. The food was way overpriced and the portions were small. Not only that, but the taste was just not there. To add insult to injury they decided to tack on a 16% gratuity on our already overpriced bill which I was not very happy about. I believe the manager himself added it on so disputing it wouldn’t resolve anything. Hubby said I could’ve just paid the exact amount in cash without the gratuity but… whatever. I can see if the service was exceptional but it was not. The servers just did their job and didn’t go above and beyond or anything like that. I’m very opposed to automatic gratuity IF I WAS NOT INFORMED AHEAD OF TIME. So yeah, don’t eat there. I’m sure there are way better Thai food around.
Malia’s Pastele and Poke (Kapolei, HI)
The next morning we woke up bright and early to Hanauma Bay, the only beach where you have to pay an admission to get in (unless you’re a resident of HI) but that didn’t deter visitors. Hubby wanted to check it out b/c of the awesome snorkeling, and apparently it’s a very nice reserve. We got there, found out they may close the beach due to high tides but it took them an hour to decide to finally close it. Darn. Ok, let’s try to come back the next day (our last full day in Hawaii). Still closed… sigh. We eventually found some other beach to go to but needless to say it was very disappointing to try two days in a row and didn’t get to go in. While driving back we saw another food truck and decided to give them a try, although I was hesitant at first b/c I had no idea what pasteles are. Well, it’s a Peurto Rican dish that is made with bananas and other ingredients. The owner was very nice and saw my reluctance and offered us a sample of the stew, and immediately I fell in love. It was a very rich tomato-y sauce with a lot of ingredients – went very well with the flavored rice. My only regret was to not have gotten the poke on the side but I really wasn’t feeling it that day. This box turned out to be too much food for me so I split it with hubby, which he happily ate. He got some ahi jerky as well and it tasted like pork jerky, but it was good.
Since we were shopping at Ala Moana, and hubby didn’t get to eat any shrimp last time at Bubba Gump, I decided to treat him to here tonight. We got three mains to share – I got the pasta again b/c I really liked the one I had in Kona, and it is easy for my toddler to eat. Unfortunately, it was not as good as the one I had. The pasta was a bit past al dente, and the sauce wasn’t as flavorful. The Shrimper’s Heaven had a lot of shrimp and my favorite was definitely the tempura style, but they were all decent. Hubby’s Shrimp New Orleans was good as well – I thought it was better than the pasta dish. Service was only ok at this location – I don’t know if our server is too new or something but halfway through she picked up some of our empty plates (we were still eating) and she asked if we wanted dessert. Uh, what? Then when we were finally done she didn’t offer us dessert (we didn’t want any, but still). She also never checked on us and at the beginning, I didn’t order a drink (I hardly ever do), but she didn’t even bring me a glass of water, where almost every other place would until I asked her for it after she brought hubby and my toddler’s drinks. She was smiley and friendly but just very poor with the service.
The Cheesecake Factory
I had to buy this but didn’t eat it until we were on our flight on our way home the next day. The restaurant itself is crazy busy and I have always wanted to try their cheesecakes, but I have no interest in eating at the restaurant, so I thought buying a slice of cheesecake to go would be a good idea, except even that took like 20 minutes. Anyways, they are known for their cheesecakes for a reason – because it is really good. It’s very rich and decadent, but since I love red velvet I thought this was just perfect. If I didn’t have a bunch of carry on I would’ve bought a whole cake home. Maybe next time when I drive to Seattle. Hmmmmmm.
We decided to eat at Shirokiya one last time and buy some food to go to eat on the plane (not interested in paying $6.00 for a dinky sandwich on board!). Yes, I wanted ramen again just b/c I wanted authentic Japanese ramen, and this time we tried it from Ifu Do Do. This place knows how to make soup – it’s a pork bone base and it was rich and creamy. The noodles were slightly undercooked though. Knowing that the char siu would be paper thin I also bought the tenderloin katsu from Tonkatsu Ginza Barin to eat with it. Since we got there right when it opened the pork was freshly fried and it was very tender. We then got some food to go – hubby didn’t want to get anything big so he only got the musubi, but I know it wasn’t enough for him. I got the mini unagi don for my toddler and he ate most of it. I loved my butterfish bento – even though it was cold by the time I ate it, I could tell the passengers around me wish they could eat that instead, LOL. I wish I lived near a Shirokiya – but then I would become very poor and very fat. So maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t.
And there you have it! I had a fabulous time hanging out AND eating in Hawaii. I hope to go back again very soon… I hope you (my readers) enjoyed my reviews and if you happen to try some of the places I visited, please let me know your thoughts!