Grindz of the Day: Don Quijote

Nigiri set, $3.99 from Don Quijote on Kaheka street

That sure looks pretty, but in this case, you can’t judge the sushi by its cover. While the Ahi, Sanma (or Saba?), Ebi (shrimp), shellfish (which I can’t identify, but it tasted similar to clam) and tamago (egg omelet) look mouthwatering (well to me, anyway), the sushi rice underneath it was just as expected: somewhat stiff.

Those trays upon platters, upon platters and trays of colorful, beautifully-presented sushi that fill the open reefer’ cases in the supermarket are almost irresistable to NOT put one (or more) in your cart, yet I’ve found time and time again that pre-made, refrigerated sushi just doesn’t work.

For me, refrigerated rice in general doesn’t work. The rice has to be fresh-made, and cooled to room temperature. Once it hits the fridge, the only way to bring it back is by nuking it, which for sushi, is something you obviously can’t do, lest you “kill” the raw seafood topping it. Nothing against Don Quijote (I love this store!), as this is an issue no matter who the retailer is, whether its from Costco, Foodland, Star Market or anywhere else.

All that said, Sushi MUST be made-to-order. Period. No way around it, and preferably consumed within minutes after leaving the hands of the chef.

I took a small bite from each one these refrigerated “seafood and starch blocks” for a taste and ended up tossing the bulk of it. While I hate to waste food, the rice was just not good. The seafood items and tomago very fresh and nice, but the rice was a deal-breaker.

Hopefully I’ve finally learned my lesson and will not give in again to the visually-tempting appeal of pre-made refrigerated sushi.

Being in impulse shopping mode for lunch, I also picked up this beautiful looking tray of Nameko…

Nameko (mushrooms), $2.86

These tiny brown mushrooms have a gelatinous, slippery-slimy texture to them that carry onto the greens; I couldn’t tell what those were, but it was similar to Warabi (fiddle ferns), though I’m not sure. The mushrooms are fairly mild in “earthyness”. Again, that slimy coating is its most distinctive attribute. The seasoning was in the typical Fukujinsuke style of shoyu and sugar. Eating it over hot rice (which I’ll get to in a bit) made this a fairly satisfying and healthy “lunch”, even though you might regard this as being more of a side dish. I’d like to try adding Nameko (by itself) into Miso Soup. Never had it that way before, but it sounds like a winnah, being the mushroom fan that I am.

As you know, Don Quijote (a.k.a. Daiei, a.k.a. Holiday Mart) offers a variety of sub-leased eateries fronting their stores. The Kaheka location includes a take-out for Greek, Chinese, Japanese, KFC and what we have here with this Chicken Katsu plate from Yummy Korean B-B-Q…

Chicken Katsu from Yummy Korean B-B-Q, $8.50

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, my favorite part of Korean food are the variety of prepared vegetables you get to pick and choose for your meal. At Yummy’s, like most other Korean take-out eateries, you get up to 4 choices with the regular plates.

The choices for this plate include kernel corn, Sigumchi Namul (seasoned spinach) and bean thread sesame noodles. If it were my plate, I’d certainly have the Korean style seasoned potatoes on there… that’s my favorite.

The chicken katsu was done quite well, with a nice golden crispy panko crust, and the chicken moist and tender, although the cut of chicken could have been a little thicker. As it was, the panko crust was a bit more dominant than the chicken (the main part) in flavor.

Speaking of dominant flavor, I was impressed with the katsu sauce Yummy’s provided here. While it certainly ain’t no Bulldog Brand, it’s a pretty good mock-up of the traditional Japanese style “fruit & vegetable” Tonkatsu Sauce. Certainly a far cry better than Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce (bleck!.. cough cough.. spit spit). Good enough where I didn’t actually grab my handy-dandy bottle of Bulldog out of the fridge. What they gave works. I’m speaking about this plate as if it were mine, but actually I just finished the other half of what my girlfriend couldn’t finish. This made up for my lacklustre Nigiri Sushi quite nicely. Especially with the Nameko over the still-hot rice served with this Katsu plate.

Hanahou addition (11/18/08) from Yummy’s, a Kalbi plate…

Kalbi plate from Yummy B-B-Q at Kaheka Don Quijjote, $9.00

This time, the Korean vegetables chosen were (left to right) Seasoned Potatoes (made with Mayonnaise), Sigumchi Namul (seasoned Spinach) and Seasoned Seaweed.

Making our shopping rounds in the Ala Moana area, we also stopped by Walmart for some household and automotive cleaning products. Greeting customers at the front right door entrance, next to the Hawaiian Telcom public telephones, I spotted this “something you’ll only see in Hawaii” Plumeria-draped TheCab dispatch phone…

All this photo needs is a hairy middle-aged man dressed as an Aunty in a mu’umu’u, wearing a lauhala hat and 1960’s era sunglasses, standing next to it holding up a sign saying “Just call TheCab at 4-tu-tu, tu-tu, tu-tu”.

Finally, walking down Kalakaua late yesterday afternoon, I spotted these radical choppers parked near the Cheesecake Factory…

What? Mean Green not loud enough for you? Then how about this?…

All this photo needs is a beautiful bikini gal standing next to it (or sitting on it) with a rainbow shave ice in her hand.

I’ll conclude by mentioning that the main reason I went shopping at Don Quijote (Daiei/Holiday Mart) was to buy Poi and some other prepared Hawaiian foods for a soon-to-come “Hanalei vs. Taro Brand Poi Shootout”. That’s gonna’ be a fun one!


13 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Don Quijote

  1. Did you ever try the garlic stem as a side veg? I don’t think you can get this at the take out places, but you can get it at the Korean restaurants, like Jang Su in Waimalu. You might have to ask for it if they don’t automatically bring it out.

  2. I like it and just as good a fresh made one to me. Some people like fresh yet not pay the high price also. When I there in Don Quijote it still good deal. To me it all in the mind. Reason is growing up poor made me appreciate what in front of me. To me picky is wasteful in my family and eating stale breads whatever leftover if any still good to me.

  3. Being to Don Quijote and find sushi not bad at all. I am not really a picky eater and enjoy many kind of foods. Been to restaurants and seen people do waste food and money. Now facing hard time everywhere so people now must not to be so picky and wasteful.

  4. A restaurant that I visit in Tokyo for their pork cutlet (not tonkatsu!) serves a miso soup with nameko. It’s very good.

    No trip to Oahu is complete without a stop (usually more than one) at Don Quijote!

  5. Don Quijote is not bad at all. Time are hard on people wallets and any where that offer good deal is where every body will be heading. Their sushis is really not bad at all. Be Thankful what in front of you.

  6. Kimo, Michale and Shelly, sorry if I came across as being unappreciative, picky and/or wasteful (of food). In reality, for the most part, I’m farthest from being like that. From a young age I was taught to be open-minded (about various ethnic foods) and to eat everything on my plate. If I couldn’t finish it then, save it and finish later (doggy bag it). If not, give it to someone who would. Even something as petty as $3 worth of sushi was difficult for me to throw in the rubbish, but on this one occasion didn’t have any options (someone to give it to). And I knew I wouldn’t eat it later. I guess I could have made fried rice out of it, but that never came to mind at the time. Anyway, just thought I’d make that clear. I’m glad you brought that to attention, as folks really need to think like that, and I’m glad you folks are on the same train of thought I’m on.

    Amy, as far as take-outs go, I still think almost $9 for a chicken katsu plate that Yummy’s charges is steep, regardless of the 4-choice veggies. Then again, reading through my blog here, you can see I can be a tightwad when it comes to judging prices. lol

    ilikegrind, next time I go to a Korean-operated Korean restaurant I’ll ask about the Garlic stem side dish. Sounds ono! Yummy’s (Kaheka location) is run by non-Korean staff who would likely not know what I’m asking for.

    Otot Mo, nice screen name. You must either be Filipino and/or really like Mexican food. lol

    Ulla, thanks for that New York Times link! I read the entire article. In fact, I have a post sitting on the burner on the subject of Barack Obama, plate lunches and shave ice.

    Mahalo everyone (including you lurkers) for visiting!

  7. I concur about store-bought sushi. You can find that at most supermarkets here in my area (north of Seattle), and most of the ones I’ve purchased have had hard rice and I could tell it had been sitting in the refridgerated cases for several hours (at least).

    One exception is a small family-owned chain here where there are sushi chefs present most of the day and they make small batches at a time. The rice is chilled but still nice and pliable with the right portions of vinegar. You do pay more for that quality.

    I agree with not wasting food and with spending your pennies wisely (of course, I am full-blooded pake!), but I also believe that we should get quality when we do spend our money. I guess you do get what you pay for, huh?

  8. Radish kimchee has got to be one of the best veg; the kind made with just some thick chunks of daikon and green onions. Yellow beans (maybe soy?) with a savory/ salty dressing are good too.

    About the supermarket sushi – some of the best sushi I’ve had has been supermarket sushi, but only at one particular chain which has an in-store sushi shop with a large handful of chefs. So they’re always making stuff fresh, and more often than not, I end up getting it while the rice is still soft and room-temp. Plus, add the fact that they’re getting the fish from the seafood department 30 ft away, and the veggies from the produce dept 20 ft away. It all makes for a stellar sushi shop!

  9. How funny, you went the same day I did (as I went from mainland plane, to Zippys to Don Quijote). Next time you should get the unagi bento and a chunk of the char sui. The rice under the unagi doesn’t dry out ’cause the box is in the heated case.

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