Wednesday, October 15, 2008

eating well in Hawaii (days 1 & 2)

I did mention that I'd been eating particularly well recently, right?

About a month ago, I went to Hawaii for a week. (For another wedding. Yes, poor me.) After last year's experience, I knew that the food in Honolulu varied wildly, from the overpriced tourist traps around Waikiki to the delicious hole-in-the-wall bento box type places further from the beach, so I did some research in the days leading up to the trip, which paid off handsomely...

We got off the airplane around 7pm on Wednesday, met up with some friends, and promptly headed for a Japanese BBQ place called Gyu-Kaku. It's actually a chain but has only spread to New York and Los Angeles so far, unfortunately. The four of us ordered two set meals, with interesting side dishes like cream cheese salad (good, but a bit heavy in large amounts) and a rice bowl resembling bibimbop, as well the omnipresent ahi poke. We then added a bunch of meat, doubling up on the happy hour special of "harami", or skirt steak in miso sauce. Both the service and the meat quality were quite good, and I would have ordered another rice bowl if I hadn't been way too full already. Then, for dessert, there was a grilled pancake with red bean paste, which is right up my alley.

The next morning, we stopped at a Foodland for some poke:


Then, we headed over to Mitsu-Ken to find the garlic chicken that we had enjoyed so much on our last trip. Even though it was mid-morning, we had to stand in line for a good 10-15 minutes to get our chicken. We took the poke and the chicken and had a picnic of sorts in a random park. I think I really started to feel like I was on vacation when we spent all morning just driving around town assembling lunch.

My friend, an avid quilter, had mentioned before arriving that she was determined to go to Fabric Mart while in Honolulu, and we just happened to drive by it after lunch, so we had to stop by:


I haven't bought much fabric myself since high school, but apparently the prices were about half of what they are on "the mainland" and it certainly looked like the selection was good.

After some sightseeing (Iolani Palace, then Diamond Head again), we decided we wanted sushi for dinner. Luckily I had read online about a place called Mitch's Fish Market, so we called for a reservation, and headed over shortly afterwards.

We were a little surprised upon arrival, as the "restaurant" appeared to be tucked into a row of dark warehouses, and was not too inviting itself. We proceeded anyway, and pushed open the door, only to find a tiny room with a fish counter and maybe three tables seating two or three people apiece. I told the person behind the counter (a bit hesitantly, since I wasn't sure where they were going to put us) that we had a reservation for four, and he cheerfully led us across a dark alley to another building, where we found four cozy tables of four. This room looked much more pleasant, so we relaxed and began to order.

The food was AMAZING. We started with a "ume kurage" appetizer; jellyfish with plum paste. I love sour plum paste, and this dish was very, very strongly flavored with it:


Next up, spiny (Pacific) lobster and toro sashimi:



The toro was strangely cold, and at first I didn't like it too much, but it was very good after getting to room temperature. The lobster was excellent; I am very fond of lobster sashimi in general but I think it may have been the best I've ever had.

Then came some of our favorite nigiri sushi, rolls, and chirashi/sashimi specials for the (still hungry) guys:




I distinctly remember someone saying the negitoro rolls were "sinful" because they were so fatty and delicious. The ume shiso rolls were excellent as well; I wouldn't have thought that I would have liked a vegetarian roll so much.

Finally, the cooked-fish-eaters wrapped up the meal with some hamachi kama:


I myself admired the size of the portion but left it for others to enjoy the taste.

The entire meal came out to about $75 a head, including tax and tip, which is actually very reasonable for sushi, especially given that we stuffed ourselves silly and ordered things like lobster and toro.

More Hawaiian food doings to come...

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