Palolo Valley Eats: North Shore Grinds

Hah? North Shore Grinds in Palolo Valley? How you figgah? Hold on, I’ll explain.

For this week’s Aloha Friday lunch, we decided on checking out da’ grindz at North Shore Grinds, where, as the slogan states on their menu, “The taste of the North Shore in the city”.  Except I wouldn’t quite call Palolo “city”, but more of a suburb in a valley.

Owner and Chef Wayne Takushi explained to me that he chose this seemingly out-of-place name for his restaurant in light of his very fond memories of many years working in the kitchen at the Turtle Bay Hilton on the North Shore of Oahu, where he also calls his home not far away on that same side in Kahuku. He went on to explain that his folks live in Palolo where he grew up, so coming full circle, he decided to set-up shop here, bringing his culinary experiences working in a resort hotel on the north shore of Oahu back to his childhood home away from home “in the city” if you will. Nice.

North Shore Grinds is located on 10th avenue (turn mauka off Waialae), several blocks inward, just a building past Hobbietat (which you can see in the far back in the photo above).

Looking over NSG’s daily menu, you’ll find a few dishes that indeed would be suited just fine at a beachfront resort mixed amongst the basics in plate lunch fair…

More from the daily menu…

The specials of the day…

Wow, the menu selection is vast and everything sounds so ono, it’s hard to decide!

As for accommodations, there’s 5 sets of tables and chairs in the rather small, hole-in-the-wall establishment…

It only looks empty now, as I took those photos when I arrived upon them just opening their door at 11am. By the time I left with my order, the place was pretty much filled up. Interestingly, the last arrival of guests as I walked out the door looked like a group of mainland tourists venturing in there for the first time. Word must have got around somewhere!

Well, it was the first time for us as well, and we live here, but hey, at least we made it! Wayne mentioned that he’s been here around 11 years now, expanding the size from one unit to two. The first unit he operated from is now entirely the kitchen, which is where you order from the service counter window shown here…

Without further ado, the man himself, Chef Wayne Takushi…

Whoah, as you can see by his shirt, braddah Wayne is really working hard in da’ kitchen!

Next time I go Vegas, this is the T-Shirt I’m gonna’ wear in the casinos…

While NSG doesn’t bake/make their own desserts, you can get Ted’s Bakery pies and cakes here, which is fitting, being that Ted’s Bakery is also from the North Shore…

Pick up a box of Romaine Hearts too, while you’re at it. Nah, just kidding. That’s for the kitchen. lol

Getting to our order, Diner E was more in the mood for a sandwich today, so he decided to try NSG’s massive Teri Burger…

North Shore Grinds – Teri Burger with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion & Pickle, $4.20

Diner A got the plate lunch version of this, adding Chicken Katsu to the mix…

North Shore Grinds – Teri Burger + Chicken Katsu Combo, $7.95

Yours truly decided on sampling the Seared Ahi with Cilantro Pesto…

North Shore Grinds – Seared Ahi with Cilantro Pesto, $9.25

Notice I substituted “white ‘n mac” for brown rice and tossed green salad in an effort to maintain my girlishly-fab figure. lol

Wayne also hooked us up with a couple sampler plates, including the popular Herb-crusted Mahimahi with Lemon Cream Sauce…

North Shore Grinds – Herb-crusted Mahimahi with Lemon Cream Sauce, $7.80

And Sauteed Chicken Breast with Papaya Salsa…

North Shore Grinds – Sauteed Chicken Breast with Papaya Salsa, $7.85

So how is it?

The herb-crusted Mahi was everyone’s favorite. The deep-fried herb-laced crust was golden crispy and coated with herbs we couldn’t pinpoint individually, but it worked really nicely. While the mahimahi inside was super moist, flavorful and tender. The lemon cream sauce tasted like a modified tartar sauce, as if he added butter into it. Very rich, with a slightly sweet and acidic twang, making this dish almost fish ‘n chips like. We all gave it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi. I’d give it a four it were my plate alone.

Diner A really enjoyed his Chicken Katsu, noting how perfectly panko-battered and deep-fried it was, with the chicken inside being very moist and cooked to perfection. I tried a piece and concur. The sauce was kinda’ strange though, being some kind of odd mixture of American style barbecue sauce combined with Worcestershire sauce and horseradish. It worked though. Just very unusual. By its appearance, I was expecting it to be traditional Japanese Tonkatsu Sauce… like, oh, say, Bull Dog brand.

For the teri burger, his only gripe was that the burger itself wasn’t marinaded at all in teriyaki, but simply grilled and topped with teri sauce. See, Diner A and E are hardcore Teriyaki fans, so when they take notice to discrepancies like that, I have the utmost respect. lol  I tried the Teri sauce myself and thought it tasted great! Nicely thickened, perfectly shoyu-sweet, with just a hint of ginger.

All said and done, if polishing his plate means this plate was ono, that’s exactly what Diner A did with this one…

Diner A’s “polished” Teri Burger & Chicken Katsu combo plate… burp

Diner E wasn’t nearly as impressed with his Teri Burger, having several problems with it. First of all, the patty was overcooked and on the dry side. Secondly, like Diner A’s Teri Burger on his combo plate, Diner E’s Teri Burger Patty wasn’t marinaded in any Teriyaki, but simply grilled and then covered with Teriyaki sauce after the fact. Even at that, there wasn’t enough sauce to evenly coat the entire burger, having some parts exposed with none at all.

Here’s a bite-through view of his Teri Burger…

North Shore Grinds – Teri Burger

That photo speaks a thousand words about this Teri Burger. The lack of sauce being one, as if there were enough, it would be dripping and soaking into the bun.

Case in point, from Forty Niner Restaurant in Aiea,  here’s a perfect example of a how great Teri Burger SHOULD LOOK…

Forty Niner Restaurant – Teri Burger, oozin’ ‘n drippin’ with sauce

His other problem with NSG’s Teri Burger was that the bun was stale, causing it to crumb as he bit through it. Not good. It also wasn’t toasted on the inside, which is a MUST for a properly prepared burger. I really don’t know how Wayne, a highly trained chef, let that small yet important step slip through the cracks. Diner E also noted the overcooked beef patty didn’t have any notable flavor on its own, just being plain ‘ole bare-bones ground beef that perhaps wasn’t even salted and peppered.

On the positive side, it is quite huge, which it should be for $4.20, not including fries, which they don’t serve anyhow.

With that , Diner E gives NSG’s Teri Burger 1 SPAM Musubi by a stretch. Surely Wayne will heed criticisms like this constructively and make the improvements necessary for future Teri Burger orders.

Moving on to my Seared Ahi with Cilantro pesto plate, yum! What I must note is that the kitchen actually asked how I want my fish done: rare, medium or well. Awesome! Most places would just assume you want your fish medium-well, but not me. For me, any fresh Ahi beyond raw or rare is KILLING it. Killin’ it, I tell ya’. I always prefer fresh Ahi practically still swimming raw to rare, no matter how the dish is prepared. So I screamed into the kitchen to Dwayne and his assistant that mines be done that way. To which they obliged, here’s how it turned out…

North Shore Grinds – Seared Ahi with Cilantro Pesto

My only complaint about this dish is that the Cilantro Pesto LOOKS dead, as if it had been sitting in a jar on a rooftop for two days. I was expecting it to appear vibrantly fresh and green, but instead it looks pale olive drab, having me wonder what exactly I’m eating. Yet not to judge a book entirely by its cover, in taste it was DELICIOUS. It didn’t quite taste like the Cilantro Pesto used on Chinese Cold Ginger Chicken, but had a more earthy flavor. However Dwayne prepares it, it matches perfectly with the seared fresh Ahi.

I also really enjoyed the dressing that came with my tossed green salad. It says on the menu you can choose either Caesar or Hoisin dressing, but this one tasted more like it had Miso and Mirin in it, like the Pietro dressing you can buy in the store. However it’s made, it’s really good.

For that, I’ll give NSG’s Seared Ahi with Cilantro Pesto plate a solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

I brought the Sauteed Chicken Breast with Papaya Salsa home for my girlfriend to try, which she thought was outrageous, even considering it had been reheated in the microwave. She loved it! I didn’t try any myself, but she gave it a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi, saying she’d probably give it four had she eaten it there at the restaurant when it was fresh made and piping hot. She suggested that they should consider selling a burrito version of this, wrapping the sauteed chicken and papaya salsa in a soft tortilla, along with some chopped lettuce.  Sounds good to me!

If I lived in the Kaimuki/Palolo area, I’d certainly be visiting this place very often. There’s certainly a ton more stuff on the menu I want to return again for and try. Like, oh, say, the Breaded Pork with Apricot Glaze, and the Garlic Calamari with Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce. OMG, do those sound ono!

North Shore Grinds in Palolo Valley, I will be back!

North Shore Grinds
1429 10th Avenue
Palolo, Hawaii  96816
Tel. 732-7775
contact: northshoregrinds<at>gmail<dot>com

North Shore Grinds Take-Out Menu (<—download PDF; current as of 10/09)

Business hours: 11am to 7pm Mon – Sat (closed on Sunday)

The Tasty Island Rating:

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


11 thoughts on “Palolo Valley Eats: North Shore Grinds

  1. Hey Brah, I always order the Sautted Chicken Breast with Papaya Salsa and yes it deserve 3 musubis rating. I am glad they serve desserts for I always have some with my order.

  2. Pomai, you shown something that got me wanting to head out there and that the Herb Crusted Mahimahi with Lemon Cream Sauce. White Table Cloth Dishes at TakeOut Price. Got get me a T shirt while at it too.

  3. Hi Pomai,
    I’m a long time lurker. I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your website. Your descriptions of the food are so engaging and the photos are beautiful. I even e-mail some links to your entries, like this one, to my sister who lives in Hawaii so she can experience some great eats too. It makes me miss Hawaii even more!
    Anyway -thanks so much for sharing and letting those of us away from home “eat” local grinds vicariously through your blog!
    P.S. I loved the previous Nibb-its entry! I could see from the pics that the new Nibb-its were just not the same, as you pointed out. I’ll be on the lookout for Tims 🙂

  4. Aloha Karen,

    Mahalo for the kind compliments. Truly appreciated. 🙂

    I think you’ll be very pleased with Tim’s Cascade Snacks Hawaiian Luau Barbecue Rings. Tastes just like the original Nibb-its, albeit considerably more spicy-hot.

    Molly, Ha-ha, Bento Man! I should have worn that around Waikiki last night. I forgot the costume at work. Waikiki was pretty insane last night, although not as much as last year. Got some great photos of folks in costume. Will share it in post coming soon.

    Nate, shucks, sounds like she had didn’t like her dish?

    Kelike, you can’t go wrong with the Herb Crusted Mahi plate. That was a winnah.

    Kimo, FYI, Ted’s pies are sold whole only there, not by the slice. Although I’m sure they’ll provide you some plates, forks and a knife to cut it.

  5. aloha pomai….saw your pics at work and wow….even if the taste is just so so…they look onoliciousssss and those desserts sitting in the fridge just look so decadent–a slice + some coffee would be awesome. keep up the good work pomai and keep the reviews and tasty pics coming!!!!

  6. So delicious. Seriously, this blog should have a warning at the top: do not read if hungry! Especially since I can’t always get this food where I live! But it definitely inspires me to cook it at home. Love their shirt — good luck on your next Vegas trip. They didn’t have it in red?? 😉

  7. Man, the days of the 5 dollar plate lunch and cake/pie are long gone, but I would prefer to at least see the people who are making my food and know it’s going to them. Then again, I know how filling a mini-plate at the Makiki Drive-In could be, and that was worth the price, as I’m sure the items on the North Shore Grinds menu are.

  8. Pomai, was that you in Waikiki on Halloween dressed as bag of Hawaiian Potato Chip Man? Maybe not. I will try this place for that Mahimahi dish.

  9. Tried North Shore Grinds…. My favorites are the Calamari, Sauteed Chicken and Papaya Salsa, and the breaded pork w/ apricot glaze….mmmmm i can’t wait for my next trip to Oahu for some ONO grinds!!!!!

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