Kalihi Eats: Koi Catering & Takeout

Pesto Mahimahi

Continuing our “good eats on the cheap” culinary quest deep into the industrial forest of Kalihi, yesterday we decided to try Koi Catering & Takeout. Raking in a unanimous 5-star rating by (so far) 8 Yelp users, we thought this place has GOT to be good, if not great.

Looking over Koi’s menu,  everything sounded so ono, it was difficult for each of us to pick and choose what we REALLY wanted to try.  With items like Garlic Ahi Ceasar, Crab-Topped Salmon, Steak & Portabello Salad, Pesto Mahimahi, Shrimp Scampi and Maryland Blue Crab Cakes, to Hamburger Steak with Mushroom Gravy and Pork Chops with Garlic Mash Potato… common! Stick a fork in me, will ya’!

Narrowing all options down (taking into consideration he had just polished off an awesome 12 oz. Ribeye from Stewart Anderson’s [Black Angus] the night before), Diner A decided to go with the Pesto Mahimahi…

Koi Catering & Takeout – Pesto Mahimahi, $6.95

According to the menu, this plate is described as “Island Mahimahi perfectly seared with a seasoned Japanese Breadcrumb blend on a bed of Linguine, infused with the house pesto”.

He exclaimed the Mahimahi as being moist , along with its panko-based crust being nicely-seasoned, making the fish a cooked-to-perfection delight. What was funny was that he used his Italian Dressing as a dipping sauce for the Mahi. lol Hey, whatever works. Being that Diner A’s not a pesto connoisseur, he was less critical of that part of the dish. The toasted bread didn’t have any garlic butter on it, contrary to how the photo may have you think. Yet it was a nice touch, allowing to sop-up all the oily “pesto” goodness.

That said, he gave his plate a solid 4 SPAM Musubi rating.

Diner AC ordered the same plate…

Koi Catering & Takeout – Pesto Mahimahi, $6.95

As you see, they did a better job grilling the bread included on AC’s plate, not burning the edge as much.

Contrary to Diner A’s unfamiliar taste for good pesto, Diner AC – a gourmand herself – was less favorable of the pesto pasta part of the dish. I’m a pesto fan as well, and know how to make excellent pesto if I might say so myself. This pesto was certainly sub-par. After having tried some (which Diner A shared with me), I could tell it was missing major key ingredients. What it essentially tasted like was regular salad oil blended with Basil, and perhaps a little salt and pepper, and that’s it. It certainly wasn’t carried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, nor was there Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese nor Pine Nuts in it. Those are CRUCIAL components that define the zest and character of REAL pesto. If there WAS Parm’ or Pine Nuts in there, there wasn’t enough to taste it, that’s for sure.

But we’re nitpicking. Taking costs into consideration (after all, they are just charging $6.95 for the dish!), it’s a noble execution and certainly a refreshing texture and flavor change versus “plain ‘ole vanilla” two scoops of rice.

With that, Diner AC rated her Pesto Mahimahi plate 2 SPAM Musubi.

Diner C decided to try the Garlic Ahi Ceasar Salad…

Koi Catering & Takeout – Garlic Ahi Caesar Salad, $5.75 (mini plate)

The menu describes this plate as “Fresh island Ahi crusted with garlic panko with our signature Koi Wasabi sauce on a bed of Romaine, Parmesan Cheese & croutons”.

Diner C notes that the Ahi was moist, fresh and flavorful, while the Wasabi sauce was prominently “Wasabi-ish”. After tasting a dab myself, I concur. They really choke the Wasabi in this Mayonnaise-based (remoulade/aioli) sauce. Enough to clear the sinus-ways, that’s for sure. The Ahi and Wasabi sauce in and of itself together is fantastic, says Diner C, but it’s the Caesar salad dressing that’s the problem. There’s too much Mayo’ action going on. The Wasabi Aioli and Caesar dressing on the salad doesn’t work. I mean, It works if your palate can separate the two as you eat through the plate. But if you eat the Wasabi-sauced Ahi together with a the greens covered in Caesar dressing, it’s too heavy and non-complimentary. The dish is workable but needs a little tweaking.

With the approvable crusted Ahi and Wasabi & fresh greens, along with the marriage issues of the sauce and dressing taken into consideration, Diner C rates her plate at just about 2 SPAM Musubi.

Last but not least, yours truly decided on trying the Steak & Portabello Mushroom Salad…

Koi Catering & Takeout – Steak & Portabello Salad, $7.50

Are you kidding me? Just $7.50 for this? This my friends is a STEAL!

The menu describes their grilled steak as “Award-winning Flavors of Honolulu 2008, seasoned with an 8-spice blend, served with a ginger sesame dipping sauce”.

Speaking of dipping sauce, here it is…

Koi’s signature Ginger Sesame Dipping Sauce (for steak)

They need to seriously bottle this stuff. OMG, it’s AWESOME! You could dunk a dead lizard in there and it’d taste great. lol But seriously, great stuff. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what’s in it, but I’m guessing it’s mayonnaise, shoyu, grated ginger, garlic, just a little bit of sesame oil and some salt and pepper. It reminds me a little of Angelo Pietro’s dressings.

Being a salad, you have a choice of Ranch, Italian, Balsami Vinaigrette or Creamy Pesto dressing. I chose Balsamic Vinaigrette…

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Or, if you must, you can opt for the Macaroni salad.

Here you can see how perfectly-grilled medium-rare the steak is, with just a slight hint of pink inside…

The best way to grind this plate is by pouring the dressing over just the greens underneath, then drizzle the Ginger Sesame sauce over each piece of grilled steak…

Take your fork and pick up the steak, mushrooma greens and bite through a layer of each of those. BRAH! Winnahz! The earthy Portabello mushrooms sauteed in garlic butter, so when you pop that in your mouth along with the savory steak, complimented by the lightness of the greens, your brain’s communication with your taste buds on your tongue – just for that moment – says you’ve died and gone to heaven. Yum, yum, yum. Oh, did I mention the seasoning on the steak? And the fact that it’s fire-grilled? And that Sesame Ginger sauce? Quadruple yum. Koi’s Steak & Portabello Salad plate gets 4 SPAM Musubi from me.

Diner A enjoyed his Pesto Mahimahi plate so much, it has now been added to his “polished plate” wall of famel…

Pesto Mahimahi plate – the aftermath


Yours truly liked my Steak & Portabello Salad plate so much, I added it to Diner A’s “Polished Plate” wall of fame…

Steak & Portabello Salad – the aftermath


The establishment is very small, with barely enough room to stand around and wait for your order, which at least on the day we visited (yesterday) was considerable. I’d say about 15 minutes.  Since the word is out on how good this place is (as one gal in line reaffirmed to me), the place was very crowded (a good sign!). Therefore, to skip the wait in this crowded small space, I’d recommend phoning in your order in advance. Run in, run out.

If you want to dine-in, there is seating in a clean, rather contemporary – albeit small – dining area…

Seems flat screen TVs are everywhere nowadays, including places like this…

Judging from how good the food is at Koi’s, I just might watch the Superbowl here! lol

Here’s the business end of the place…

Click to enlarge view

Koi logo t-shirt…

Check this out: they’ve got separate lunch cards for regular and mini plate purchases…

Interesting marketing strategy.  I guess. lol

Koi identifies themselves as “Award Winning Gourmet Local & Fusion Takeout”. Their history goes like this…

In September 2002, Marcos Rebibis Jr. & Lendy Rebibis attempted to change the faire of the typical lunchwagon experience. Pu’uwainani’s Plate Lunches was born. Marcos being a gratduate of the Gros Bonnet Culinary Program, he catered to the gourmet palate & presented it in a styrofoam box. It seemed to be the new wave of “healthy living”. Over the four years in business, their accomplishments included write-ups in the local newspapers, appearances on news channels, and the prestigious title of “Best Lunchwagon 2006” in Honolulu Magazine.

In January 2007, the lunchwagon on South Street & Halekauwila was sold. A new venture then arose when a space on Dillingham opened up. The husband & wife partnered up with Eric Bond, a head chef from New York. The new business was still “family run” for Eric is related to the Rebibis family by marriage. With the knowledge of running a small business in Hawaii and the influence of East Coast cuisine, Koi Catering & Takeout strives to stand out from the rest.

Great story. Good to hear about the success of small businesses, especially in today’s economy.

Koi Catering & Takeout is located across the Blood Bank of Hawaii on Dillingham, in between Pu’uhale & Mokauea streets…

As you see by their name, they also do catering, including this nice van to deliver the grinds…

Koi Catering & Takeout
2028 Dillingham Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 845-4564

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
koi808.net – The official site
Koi Catering & Takeout – Yelp user reviews
Koi Keeps it Local – Metromix review
Koi is Choice – KHON’s Manolo Morales visits the Koi

Just for fun, let’s take another poll!…


12 thoughts on “Kalihi Eats: Koi Catering & Takeout

  1. So that was you taking the pictures when I looked outside from my office window to see how busy Koi was. I think you were wearing a black tank top…or was it white. I’m sorry, that sounded stalkerish. But I really do work across the street from Koi and I just happen to see someone taking pictures when I looked out my window.

    Anyway, I go to Koi about twice a week (I rotate between Koi and Pongo’s) and right now I’m hooked on their grilled steak with that delicious sauce, which for some strange reason I didn’t try until recently. Pretty much everything is ono.

  2. Nah Marvo, that wasn’t me. I was the guy wearing the Elvis costume, with the thick, jet-black sideburns and oversized sunglasses. Did you see me? lol But nah, just plain ‘ole office attire.

    So you must work at the Blood Bank. Or perhaps a prison guard at OCCC just a block down, wasting tax dollars scoping out what’s to eat for lunch across da’ street with your binoculars when you should be watching inmates. Nah brah, Jus’ kidding!

    If you’re a regular at Koi’s and Pongo’s, you must also be a regular at Kahai Street Kitchen. They offer the same gourmet style plates at styrofoam prices. Great food there, too.

    Nate, you won’t be disappointed. Guaranz.

  3. Price not really bad at all. I will take it home and put on nice plate like eating in a fine restaurant with a nice wine with it. That chic. More businesses are using low overhead ways to run businesses. It best way to go now days.

  4. I haven’t been to Kahai Street Kitchen. It out of my range of how far I’m willing to walk to eat lunch. I’m happy with Pongo’s and Koi…and the Nippon bento man who comes almost every day.

  5. Pomai, Not going to stick a dead lizard in that ginger sesame dipping sauce. Dead cows and dead chickens that been executed so lightly and cooked to perfection dip in the ginger sesame sauce.

  6. Pomai, I think you took it off your blog due to Koi was so popular already with people. I do agreed with Amy with that entry might cause SUPER MASS BUSINESS for them.

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