A month ago, on October 7, we left for Hawai’i where we stayed in the Big Island for four nights then left for O’ahu on the 11th. Now, here’s the finale of my ono Hawai’i two-part series. We had the fortune to stay with relatives while in the Big Island, but for our O’ahu trip, we stayed in Aqua Bamboo and Spa at Waikiki. We were in the heart of Waikiki action, only a couple of blocks from the beach and surrounded by tourist traps incognito as shops. We arrived in O’ahu around eight in the morning, and as most hotels go, check-in is not until early afternoon and in our case, 3:00 PM. There was no choice but to take our luggage with us as we went sight-seeing. We stopped by a Safeway for necessities such as water, another bottle of sunblock, bananas, and yakult. For those of you not in the know, yakult is a probiotic liquid yogurt. The drink is popular among Asians and it’s one that my sisters and I grew up with. Yakult is useful when traveling, especially with all the foods we’ve encountered, our gut flora could use some assistance. First in our itinerary is a drive around the island. By the time we were done sight-seeing on wheels, it was about time to check-in.
Great place for lunch in North Shore! The restaurant known for its fish burgers can be found in Hale’iwa. Like many restaurants in Hawai’i, seafood is a serious business and the best places will boast that they only serve the freshest catch of the day, and Grass Skirt Grill serve fresh fish dishes. And they are true to their word. The Hubz ordered an ebi burger which we shared along with a beautiful salad called “Luau Salad” and two orders of fries. I don’t want to use this word to describe what I thought of the fries but I’m going to anyway… those fries are da bomb! That’s right! They are finger-lickin’-licious good. Just thinking about them is making my mouth water.
October 12, 2010
Mai Groceries: 1120 Maunakea St., #187, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
Chinatown Honolulu is fifteen blocks of grocery stores offering exotic and tropical produce, popular and mom-and-pop Asian restaurants, and stores selling knick-knacks from the usual to the bizarre. While driving around looking for parking, we spotted a couple of stores that caught our attention. That first store was Mai. At Mai’s we found bright and colorful tropical fruits and had the best bubble drink smoothie ever. Since the Hubz and I originally hail from California and quite familiar with the Bay Area, bubble drinks are a well-known warm (even cold) weather potion for us. So when I say it’s the best bubble drink smoothie ever it is. The bubble smoothie we ordered was a blend of fresh lychee and mango. No powdered stuff for the store. The result was not suffocatingly sweet like others I’ve had before (no particular San Jose and Seattle cafés will be named) and the fruit flavors are well-balanced. A refreshing drink, perfect for 80degF weather!
Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery: 1027 Maunakea Street Honolulu, HI 96817
And this is store number two. It was the moon cake promotion that made me cooed, “Oooh, moon cakes.” While we were at Mai’s, we met Darrell, a fellow Californian on a business trip in Hawaii and who has been using his downtime exploring the various eats. We got to chatting with him and discovered that he has kept tracked of the many eateries he has patronized. A friendly guy, he shared info on the best eateries for saimin, chili loco moco, and sweets. For sweets, he recommended Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery. After the recommendation, how could we pass up the bakery. Aside from moon cakes, they had baked and steamed manapuas, cookies, and tons of dried fruits. We were there for the moon cakes but we left with manapuas, moon cakes, and a bag of coconut macadamia brittle. Scrumptious!
Triple One Chinese, Singaporean, & Malaysian Food: Maunakea Marketplace, 1120 Maunakea St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
If it weren’t for the menacing looking statues manning the entrance of Maunakea Marketplace, we wouldn’t have explored it. And we’re glad we did. Inside the marketplace is a food court lined with stalls where vendors of various Asian descents promote their nation’s cuisine. I consider the food stalls gems in the rough. And one particular gem that we’re glad to have discovered is the Triple One Chinese food stall that offers humble but satisfying dishes. The Hubz and I both ordered a meat and vegetable noodle dish. Out-of-this-world tasty.
Kincaid’s Fish, Chop & Steak House: 1050 Ala Moana Blvd #2100, Honolulu, HI 96814
Arthur wanted a simple pub restaurant to dine in; instead he got a chic restaurant tucked in the corner of Ward Centers in Honolulu. The only complaint about the place was that it was not easy to find. Funny, really, since they used their GPS devices… In any case, we all eventually found it and we all were impressed by the fancy delivery of pupus and ordinary pub foods. Take a look at the ahi poke garnished with dill and sour cream, served with gherkins on the side. Great food but parsimonious serving sizes.
Yard House: 226 Lewers St., Honolulu, HI 96815
Someone just can’t get enough of pub food. Second evening hanging out with Arthur & Co. and we found ourselves in a pub that is also popular in LA… where Arthur hails. We were told that the Yard House was chosen not so much for the food but for its “largest selection of draft beer”. Fine. But I was really hungry at the time and I needed some form of sugar in my bloodstream. It was a long wait. So what did I end up getting? A macadamia and lilikoi (passion fruit) cheese cake. Sweet? Yes, very. But good. The service was excellent. We were a party of eleven and I noticed similar large-sized groups. Thumbs up to the staff.
L & L Hawaiian Barbecue: 55-510 Kamehameha Hwy., Laie, HI 96762
L & L has franchises in California, Washington State, and a few other mainland states, but for some reason I have not been to one. Well curious little me was a bit timid about trying but the Hubz easily persuaded me. So we did go to one and oh my goddess! After a couple of hours of ocean swimming, the lunch plates we got were devoured in minutes. There’s nothing like eating al fresco good fried food, just a few feet from the ocean.
Seafood Village, Hyatt Regency Waikiki: 2424 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite 103, Honolulu HI 96815
The rehearsal dinner took place in what is considered to be one of the best Chinese restaurants in Hawai’i. That’s Seafood Village’s claim not mine since I haven’t tried all the Chinese restaurants in O’ahu to be able to confirm that, but the restaurant has a proof in the form of an ambiguous award. Not the best proof. At any rate, the food is relatively better than other contemporary Chinese eateries we’ve eaten at. Being Asian and having lived in New York, the Bay Area, and Seattle region, I’ve eaten at more Chinese restaurants than the average joe’s. Although, to be fair, it was a private party so maybe there was more care put into the food preparation.
October 15, 2010
Ryoko and Arthur’s beautiful wedding at Ko’olina Resort. Great food, first-class scenery, and fabulous company. Simply said, it was a wonderful event. Congratulations to the newlyweds!
October 16, 2010
Sorabol Korean Restaurant: 805 Keeaumoku St, Honolulu, HI 96814
The young ones wanted to hang out and continue the festivities after the wedding so a troupe consisting of the bride and groom and their friends and family went to Sorabol. A restaurant discovered by the groom’s friends a couple of nights before when they hunted for a late-night venue. What they found is a 24-hour restaurant that serves unbelievably good Korean dishes. The restaurant has been awarded with Honolulu Magazine’s Hale Aina Gold Award three years in a row starting 2007. We arrived at our hotel about 4AM feeling stuffed but wanting more.
Ted’s Bakery: 59-024 Kamehameha Highway, Sunset Beach, Hawaii 96712
We wanted malasadas. An aunt who lives in Honolulu recommended Leonard’s but since we were going to be in North Shore, we wanted to try a bakery there. Thanks to the internets, the Hubz found Ted’s Bakery. We arrived there just after lunch time and their bread trays were practically empty. When I asked for malasadas, the lovely lady at the register apologized because they were out. I sniffed and a tear ran down my cheek. But they had pies and cakes so I smiled again. The Hubz can’t pass coconut so he got a chocolate haupia cream pie while I got a pineapple mac nut cheese cake. Yum, yum.
Macky’s Shrimp Truck: 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
I’ve heard of the shrimp truck “wars” going on in North Shore, but since we didn’t make the time to try both Giovanni’s and Macky’s, we went to Macky’s. The name was mentioned a lot, primarily by Arthur, so of course we went for that. I’ll describe the experience with this one made up word that I’ve used once before: finger-lickin’-‘licious.
Aoki’s Shave Ice: 66-117 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI. 96712
After our shrimp fest, Arthur & Ryoko, Ryohei & Stacy, and Ryan & I drove south to get shave ice. The newlyweds and I patronized Aoki’s while the other half of our company stood in line at Matsumoto’s. Verdict for the best shave ice in the North Shore… Aoki’s and Matsumoto. It’s a tie for me. What I like about Aoki’s is that the line is shorter. As for taste, there wasn’t any obvious difference with the syrups both shave ice houses used.
Matsumoto Shave Ice: 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712
An old favorite. But this time around I went to Aoki’s instead while Hubz went to Matsumoto. We got similar flavors of shave ice so we can test and compare and as my verdict goes, they’re both equally good. So let’s put an end to these food wars. Make food not war!
October 17, 2010
The night before, we spent time with my O’ahu relatives at an aunt’s house in Waipahu. The aunties prepared a dinner of Filipino cuisines with a local touch. There were a lot of leftovers and so my great aunt packed us what she thought of enough food to last us for the rest of our stay, but given our appetite it was only enough to last us for two breakfasts and a lunch. By the by, we were thankful for the home-cooked meals and appreciated their warm hospitality and thought of putting a dinner together for us.
Leonard’s Bakery: 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI
Another place that receives a lot of hype. Does Leonard live up to the hype? Yes. Fried greasy dough balls sweetened with sugar and filled with flavored cream. According to locals, Leonard’s is the place to go for malasadas. For me though, nothing beats the malasadas from Tex Drive In at Honokaa in the Big Island. Sorry Leonard’s but my heart has already been won over. But the Hubz’ is in love with their haupia-filled donuts. So much that we stopped by the bakery again before driving to the airport on our last day.
Sansei Seafood & Steak House: Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa, 2552 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Lesson 1: Choose where to eat in advance, that way, your stomach is not the one doing the thinking. Lesson 2: Avoid hotel restaurants. You can get the same dishes for less than the inflated price of what hotel restaurants offer. Lesson 3: Eat at Sansei Seafood & Steak House if you really must.
To sum up the experience, the service is friendly and fast, and the food is good, but it is your typical Japanese and local fare, which means that we could have had the same dishes we ordered in Sansei at other eateries in the island and find them priced lower.
October 18, 2010
Kona Brewing Co. and Brew Pub: 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy Bldg I, Honolulu, HI
After a day of surfing and snorkeling, Kona Brew Pub was the place to we chose to kick back and get grub. It also helped that I had a coupon for a free pupu platter with a purchase of a beer sampler. The restaurant serves typical pub fare but with an island twist. The Hubz ordered a shrimp and cheese sandwich while I chose a chicken bbq sandwich. The sandwiches hit the spot but the side dishes of fresh kettle chips and papaya slaw are excellent. I’m a big fan of potato chips (ever tried potato chips and champagne, that’s a story for another day…) and so we ended up getting another order of it.
Costco Hawai’i: 333 Keahole St Bldg A, Honolulu, HI
When we travel and discover that the state or country we’re in happen to have a Costco, we usually make a trip there for kicks. Since Costco carries local goods, it’s a good indicator of what is popular with the locals. Like when we were in England, that pang of “it’s greener on the other side” hit us. Check this out: mochi by the platter, kalua pork by the tub, and oysters by the dozens. And that’s not all, think macadamia nut chocolates, Portuguese sausages, and other local favorites. Harrrumph. Yes, I’m jealous.
October 19, 2010
And so we say aloha oe to the beautiful islands of Hawai’i, and as the song goes, “until we meet again…”