Grindz of the Day: Tatsuo's, Chef Hardy's Veal Burger, McD's Saimin & Filipino Faves


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with a spread we enjoyed several “Aloha Friday’s” ago at Tatsuo’s, which is pretty much your typical plate lunch joint, albeit, kicked up notches unknown to mankind, of course, located in the heart of the industrial Sand Island area of scenic Kalihi Kai.

Here at Tatsuo’s on this visit, I ordered a combination Beef Stew and Harm Ha Pork plate…


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

What is “Harm Ha Pork”, you might ask? Well, Harm Ha is a Chinese fermented shrimp paste that has a VERY pungent odor akin to Filipino Bagaong, along with a flavor profile that must be acquired in order to be appreciated. My mother LOVES Chinese food, and with that, I grew up eating stuff like this. Like Tripe (stew), Harm Ha smells pretty nasty to the uninitiated as it’s being heated in the pan. Yet, once you TASTE the final result in a dish such as this Harm Ha Pork, you quickly >>>at least should<<< appreciate it, if not LOVE IT! I know I do!


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

In this version made by Tatsuo’s, they used ground pork, which was the only thing I didn’t care for, as I’m used to this dish using whole pieces of pork, not ground-up. Aside of that, the Ung Choy (Chinese Water Spinach) was  cooked perfectly al dente if you will, while the balance of salty “shrimpiness” from the Harm Ha was pretty much spot-on.


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

As for the Beef Stew, pretty standard fare, with a basic tomato-based taste, yet I think could have used either beef stock or simmering longer to extract more savory goodness from the cuts of actual beef cuts in it. The celery, carrots and potatoes still had al dente integrity and weren’t rendered to “mush”, so thumbs-up on that.

Rice was cooked perfectly of course. Greens were crispy-fresh, served with an also standard fare Thousand Island’s Dressing.

Off to a good start, I give Tatsuo’s Harm Ha Pork & Beef Stew Plate Lunch combo 2-SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner E’s Hamburger Steak “Gauge Plate”, by which he uses to measure every joint in this genre for their “Plate Lunch Savvy”…


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak mini plate

Sauteed onions? Check. Deep (and I mean DEEP), rich ‘n savory brown gravy? Check. Two char-grilled hand-formed beef patties? Check. Rice? Check. Game on!

Notice for the salad, for the most part, we all choose the tossed salad nowadays, as, well, we’re not getting any younger, and Mac’ Sal’ isn’t so kind in maintaining our “girlish” figure. Not that a heaping helping of hamburger smothered in gravy over white rice is so kind to that either, but hey, we gotta’ make some concessions somewhere. lol

And how is Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak? Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi, which to you and me would be FIVE!!!

Finally from Tastsuo’s on this visit, we have a combination Hamburger Steak and Smoked Chicken (yes, SMOKED CHICKEN) combo’ plate…


Tastuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

O.M.G. That smoked chicken is AWESOME! Broke da’ mout’! I was skeptical about it before tasting it, because it was an item that had been sitting in a warmer on the deli line, yet one bite and I was absolutely HOOKED! Smoked meats (whether pork, beef, poultry or seafoods) can either be on or off-putting, depending how well the smoke-infused flavor comes across on your palate. In this case, the chicken is extremely tender and juicy inside, with the just the right balance of smokiness and seasoning on the skin, while being permeated just a little within the meat fibers.


Tatsuo’s Smoked Chicken

I’m most DEFINITELY going to have to try smoking some chicken on my next “run”. While I didn’t ask, I’m guessing the “secret” is in the brine.

I also got to try a taste of the gravy from the Hamburger Steak, and WOW. Also AMAZING, and most definitely one of the best Hamburger Steak gravy I’ve had in my most recent collective memory..

That said, Diner A gives his Smoked Chicken and Hamburger Steak combo’ plate from Tatsuo’s an “I’ll be back for more!” 5 SPAM Musubi!

Next up, from KCC Farmers’ Market, we have a Gourmet Veal Burger by Michel’s Executive Chef Hardy…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Awwwe, ain’t them Hibiscus’ adorning the display model “purdy”?! lol

Here’s mine…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Witness the beautifully grill-toasted Onion Roll Bun…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Let’s do this…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

The finely-chopped red peppers laced within the veal certainly had an impact on the flavor profile, giving it a sort of south-western appeal if you will. It was surprisingly juicy, considering how lean veal is, yet can’t compare with good ole beef.


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

There was also a distinct seasoning either coating or mixed within the veal patty, yet ironically, I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what the parts of its sum were. The cucumber was certainly a welcome and refreshing, crispy touch, and something I’d certainly try doing in a home burger-making project. Winner!

Summing it up, I give Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger 2 SPAM Musubi.


Michel’s Chef Hardy cooks up gourmet Veal Burgers at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market

Learn more about Hawaiian Ranchers free range grass-fed Veal here…

Next, we stop by McDonald’s Waikiki location on Kalakaua avenue, right across Duke’s Statue, where I attempted to confirm whether their Saimin recipe truly needs help or not…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

That’s a cool ‘Hawaiianized” logo design with the polynesian canoe, although I think they should add the name “Saimin” in a script font going across the yellow double arches to boldly identify what exactly this is.

Let’s see what’s in the “bowl”…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

All the right stuff’s in there, including Kamaboko, Charsiu, Sliced Egg Omelet and Nori, except for one other standard garnish that must noted as absent is Green Onion. Ack!

Now, before I take a bite of this bowl from the Waikiki Kalakaua avenue location, you may remember about a year ago I reviewed McDonald’s Saimin from their Hawaii Kai Shopping Center location, which I was sadly disappointed by.

So let’s see if that was just a blunder, or an ongoing problem that needs fixing. Let’s do this…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

Meh. Still the same extremely BLAND broth, as if I’m eating “Hot Saimin Water”.  Like SERIOUSLY. The noodles are also “pasty”, while not entirely soggy, leaning more towards that end of the cooked doneness spectrum.


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

The best part about this saimin was the single slice of Charsiu, which was very tender and packed with authentic Charsiu flavor on the edge.

Summing it up, I give McDonald’s Saimin on this second try -1 SPAM Musubi, which is a first on this blog. Bottom line, FIX the BROTH! Go visit Palace Saimin in Kalihi for the REAL SAIMIN DEAL!

Finally, hot on the heels of my previous review of Jollibee in Waipahu, we have some REAL Filipino grindz from an “unknown” vendor in the Maunakea Marketplace Food Court in Honolulu Chinatown…


(clockwise from top left) Dinuguan, Tinola, Pork Adobo and Pinakbet

A closer look, starting with the Pork Adobo (Pork simmered in Shoyu, Vinegar, Peppercorns and Bayleaf)…

Pinakbet (Bitter Melon, Eggplant, String Beans, Tomato, Pork and Shrimp)…

Dinuguan (Pig’s Blood Stew)…

Tinola (Chicken, Green Papaya, Malungay and Ginger soup)…

The Tinola could use more Malungay leaves IMO, but still, the broth ROCKED. Laced heavily with ginger, while throwing out a subtle-yet-distinguishable “chicken-ee” punch. Rounding it out, the green papaya chunks were cooked perfectly al dente, along with the malungay leaves adding that added dimension of texture and flavor to this soup that it could never do without.

The Dinuguan, Pinakbet and Pork Adobo were also all AWESOME, and as good as I’ve had from anywhere else, giving this “no name” filipino food vendor in Chinatown Honolulu’s food court a “Masarap-sarap” (really delicious) 5-SPAM Musubi!

Speaking of favorite Filipino dishes, for today’s BONUS ‘Grindz of the Day’ feature, I also recently made Chicken Tinola using my handy-dandy new Pressure Cooker, where here’s how it turned out…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

Diner C got me the Malungay leaves from Pu’uhale Market, located in that little blue building on the corner of Pu’uhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard, where Wild Bean Espresso was located, across the street from OCCC.


Malungay from Pu’uhale Market. $1.50/bunch

I got the green Papaya from Don Quijote, which ran $1.49/lb., while for the chicken I used drumsticks that I carefully deboned and cut into chunks (Diner C recommends using a whole roasting chicken for this dish). For the broth, I first made a basic chicken stock using a miripoix (onion, celery and carrots), along with the chicken drumsticks bones. This took 45 minutes in the pressure cooker, which yielded FANTASTIC results, and tasted as if I had been simmering it for HOURS. Of course I could have just as easily used canned chicken stock, but I wanted to test my new pressure cooker out, so decided to make the entire dish from scratch.

Then to make the Tinola, to the strained chicken stock, I simply added CHOKE (plenty) ginger, along with the chicken, cubed green papaya and malungay leaves and let it cook under pressure for a speedy 5 minutes, finishing it off using the natural pressure release, after which yielded the final result you see here…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

It turned out FANTASTIC. The chicken pieces were tender and cooked all the way through, while the green papaya was cooked perfectly al dente, leaning a little towards the firm side, which is good, as when I heat it up for leftovers, it will still have some firmness. But what REALLY separates this from any other chicken soup are the malungay leaves, which really do impart a flavor that’s difficult to describe, but you know it’s there, and it would certainly be lacking that “somethin’-somethin’ without it.

I LOVE Tinola! It’s so comforting, medicinal (think Chicken Noodle Soup), delicious, and best of all, so easy to make! Chicken, Ginger, Green Papaya, Chicken Stock and Malungay leaves and that’s it. Try it!

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First Byte: Jollibee in Waipahu

With a large part of the demographic in this old plantation town on Oahu’s west side being made-up of folks originally from the Philippines, it’s no wonder Waipahu has been appropriately labeled “Little Manila”.  Waipahu is certainly an ideal town for a national chain restaurant originating from the .P.I. “motherland” to set-up shop, with Max’s of Manila in recent years also first setting foot here. While not from P.I., another Filipino chain originating from California who also set-up shop here in Waipahu is Valerio’s Bakery, famous for their Pan De Sal rolls.

Now, adding to that list of Filipino chains in “Wai’pa-HOOO!” is Jollibee, who recently opened for business in the same shopping center where anchor tenant Pacific Market is located.

Jollibee is the equivalent to the collective mind in the Philippines as McDonald’s is in the U.S.. While like McDonald’s, who have expanded their menu far beyond just burgers and fries, Jollibee is also well known for their “Chicken Joy” fried chicken and sweet “Filipino style” Spaghetti, amongst other new menu favorites to suit the current trend.

Here’s Jollibee’s whimsical mascot standing near the doorway in front of the restaurant…

Also in front, “Crispy Bangus,”, along with some of their breakfast dishes are promoted on this poster stand…

Upon entering Jollibee Waipa-HOO! on this peak Aloha Friday noon lunch hour visit this past week, I soon learned this place still has plenty of novelty, hype and popularity with the Waipahu locals, as was evidenced by the LONG LINE of folks waiting to order…

Thankfully Jollibee lives up to the “fast” in fast food, and the line moved very quickly, where from standing in back of the line to arrival at the front counter took what seemed like no longer than five minutes. Helping that efficiency, there’s a worker who checks off an order ticket for each person in line and hands it to you…

I don’t recall seeing him calling in my order to the kitchen through his headset. Instead, all his function seemed was to speed the ordering process by checking off a menu ticket that he then hands to you, which you in turn hand to the cashier. Regardless of this effort in efficiency, I still had to wait on the side at the counter for a few minutes for my order to be completed as they hurriedly rushed more customers at checkout.

You a fan of Jollibee’s famous sweet Filipino style Spaghetti? Then make it a party platter!..

Where there’s burgers, there must be dogs..

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear their “Signature Dressing” is essentially Banana Ketchup.

Here’s the takeout menu from the Waipahu location…

I wanted to dine there, yet every table was taken…

In the photo above, if you look towards the front service counter, there’s a “party room” in the right corner (just past the soda fountains) where you can hold private parties, including “Jollibee” themed party favors and even an appearance by the Jollibee mascot, similar to Chuck E. Cheese. I’m SO there for that on my next BD! lol

Since all the tables were taken inside, and there were no tables outside in the shopping plaza, I decided to take my Jollibee grindz back to the office.

On this “First Byte” visit, I decided to try Jollibee’s Spaghetti & Chicken Joy Combo’, along with a Cheeseburger on the side, which pretty much covers their most popular signature menu items…

Packaging looks fun and well-presented. Let’s check out the Spaghetti and Chicken Joy combo…

As you see, the “Chicken Joy” on the left includes a side of gravy that you pour on it, dip it, or not use at all, up to you.

Being a fast food fried chicken, naturally us folks who grew up in the U.S. are going to compare it with absolute top-of-mind, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), along with Popeye’s or Church’s or other regional favorite, depending which chain you like best in your neck of the woods. Upon taking a first bite, I immediately notice the batter is nice and crispy, even after my 30 minute drive back to the office. The meat inside was also quite juicy and tender, albeit not really packing much as far as seasoning (salt) within the fibers.

The batter also didn’t have much in the seasoning department, tasting like there wasn’t much going on besides flour mixed with some salt ‘n pepper, and that’s about it. At least that’s all I could detect. Overall, “dry” without the gravy, it was just a basic fried chicken done right, no more, no less. Note this was the “Classic” Chicken Joy, not the “Spicy” version.

Now let’s REALLY add some “joy” to this fried chicken by pourin’ some gravy on it…

Aaahhhh…oooohhhh…aaaaahhhh. Now THAT looks more like it! Upon a bite of “Chicken Joy” all smothered in gravy, I found the gravy’s texture fairly gelatinous, thanks to what seemed more like a cornstarch thickener than roux (flour and butter) or a flour slurry. Flavor-wise, the gravy tasted pretty much like your typical “McPackaged” poultry or even turkey gravy, where I’d say the “McPackaged” stuff is actually better, as far as depth and overall savoriness. Go figure.

Like the chicken’s batter, the gravy’s seasoning tasted like there wasn’t much going on besides salt n’ pepper basics, with perhaps just a small hint of sage or bay leaf, if any. I suppose the rather basic-tasting gravy did indeed bring some added “joy” to the fried chicken, which was good in and of itself, yet not by much, and I probably wouldn’t have missed it had they, say, forgot to pack the gravy in the box.

With that, I give Jollibee’s Classic recipe Chicken Joy 3 SPAM Musubi and the accompanying gravy 1, where in this sector of the fast food industry, Colonel Sanders’ “original recipe” is still is the benchmark by which all others are judged.

Now let’s try Jollibee’s sweet Filipino style Spaghetti…

That yellow “slick” is the grated cheese, which has already melted over the course of my 30 minute drive. OK, let’s mix it up and do this…

And? Well, um. Well, um. All I can say is, if you’re a purist when it comes to authentic Italian cuisine, stay CLEAR AWAY from this dish, because Jollibee’s Spaghetti has clearly abandoned all rules in that regard.

Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind upon tasting it was Chef Boyardee, at least for the sauce. The chunks of  what looks like hot dogs in it  actuality tasted more like a sausage of some sort, and was actually quite delicious, with an almost “chunky” texture in its filling, having me wish there was more sausage pieces mixed in with the sauce.

Just like I assume their “Signature Sauce” is Banana Ketchup-based, I also think this Spaghetti “sauce” (God it’s painful to say that) is also Banana-Ketchup-based. There’s just this “fruity” twang about it (“twang” is my new favorite word for “twist”) that’s hard to pinpoint.

I must say, the Spaghetti noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, so thumbs-up there.

Overall, Jollibee’s Spaghetti is something probably most appreciated by those who grew up eating this sweet style. If not, you’ll either hate it, or scratch your head and wonder “What the heck did I just eat?”. I’m in the last camp, still scratching my head in retrospect. I’ll have to go refresh my memory and get a can of Chef Boyardee SpaghettiOs, then I’ll get back to you on that thought. lol

So as it stands, as for a SPAM Musubi rating on Jollibee’s Spaghetti, all I can say at this time is “No comment”. lol

Finally, let’s sample Jollibee’s Cheeseburger…

Note, like McDonald’s basic burger, Jollibee’s “standard” Cheeseburger’s bun are plain, whereas their premium models get a sesame bun.

Let’s get the cutaway view…

I certainly appreciate the crispy, fresh Iceberg lettuce topping is kept in whole pieces and not shredded, as I’m not a fan of shredded Iceberg Lettuce on burgers (like they do at Micky D’s).

Let’s really take it apart (done after I took several bites)…

Notice they also toast the inside of the bun, so thumbs-up for that. Notice there’s their “Signature Sauce”slathered lightly on the inside part of the top bun, which I tasted by itself (without the burger) and am almost POSITIVE now (almost) this is essentially banana ketchup.

So how is it? Eh, OK. Eh. Meh.

The highly processed burger patty (common’ now, this is corporate fast food, what do you expect?) seems to be made up of plenty of filler, and was obviously cooked on a flat top griddle (fried), and not an open flame grill, which you know how I feel about that.

It also tasted like someone on the line missed putting salt and pepper on it, as, well, there wasn’t much taste to the patty at all. As if I was eating a Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, where the predominant flavor component came from the the slightly acidic sweetness of the sauce, while the burger patty itself was an underseasoned, overprocessed afterthought. Ouch.

Summing it up, I give Jollibee’s Cheeseburger 1 SPAM Musubi on this “First Byte” visit, with 1 barely making the grade, thanks to the freshness of the bun and veggies, as well as the “interesting twang” from their Signature sauce.

I’ve been told their “Big Yum” Premium Burger is “the one” to get, but if that 1/3 pound burger patty is essentially a larger version of the one here, I’ll pass.

A Jollibee regular standing in line in front of me highly recommended I try their Halo-Halo and Peach Mango Pie, so if (if) I return, that’s what I’m gettin’. Not sure about anything else. The hot dog looks kinda’ interesting with the grated cheese and signature (banana ketchup) sauce.

A coworker who grew up in P.I. noted the food served at this new Jollibee is pretty much authentic and the same as the one he remembers from back home. And it’s exactly that demographic who will enjoy this place most. Surely young children will enjoy Jollibee for its whimsical appeal, along with a menu to match.

Jollibee
Chicken & Burgers
94-300 Farrington Highway (in the Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
Waipahu, Hawaii  96797

Tel. 671-7448
Web: www.JollibeeUSA.com

The Tasty Island rating:

(1) Average.

P.S. Adjacent to the new Jollibee (and neigbhoring Golden Coin) is Pacific Market , the anchor tenant of Waipahu Shopping Plaza, where I swear, EVERYONE MUST experience this market at least once. EVERYONE. This place is AMAZING! It truly is like taking a tour with Anthony Bourdain through the open markets  throughout the entirety of asia, all wrapped up in one convenient store right here on Oahu.

You think Whole Foods has interesting and unusual stuff? Well, wait until you check Pacific Market out! There’s so many fascinating imported food products from all over asia. While the focus are products from the Philippines, there’s also many items from the likes of Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, China and Korea. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of imported asian food products that, if you can’t find in Honolulu Chinatown, you’ll find it here. In fact, I recently checked downtown Chinatown for Fried Dace, and couldn’t find any. And guess what? Pacific Market had it!

The prices here also seem very reasonable, no doubt due to the exchange rate with the countries they come from.

I’ve seen never a larger selection of Patis, not to mention Longanisa, both packaged and freshly-made. There’s also all these interesting canned fruits imported from Thailand that I’ve never heard of, nor would I have a CLUE how to use in a dish. I’d love to learn, though!

I’ll admit, when it comes to browsing in the store, I have this fetish for sauces, and spend plenty of time in the grocery aisles just reading the labels of exotic imported and new, locally produced bottled sauces. Well, here at Pacific Market, it would probably take me an entire DAY just to go over the HUGE SELECTION of imported asian sauces alone.

As far as retail, I also haven’t seen as much variety and quantity of rice than I have in this store, including 50 lb. and 100 lb. bulk sizes. Whoah!

Then there’s the meat and fish department, which is the part that may make you want to put on a respirator mask, as it SMELLS STRONG in there, being there’s chest after chest after chest of fresh-caught whole fish on ice on display throughout the area. Like Chinatown, you can buy pretty much EVERY PART of the pig here, and I must warn, if you’re squeamish about looking at animal “guts” on display in food cases, you best stay clear of the meat department at Pacific Market. They even had goat (Kalding). Didn’t see any live frogs though, which Chinatown does have.

Finally, the produce department has lots of unusual, exotic greens and fruits you definitely won’t be able find at your neighborhood Foodland or Safeway, including Malungay and Saluyot leaves, just to name a few. They also sell cartons of cooked and uncooked balut duck eggs, which were going at $7 for 6.

The front checkout area also has this interesting novelty shop, as well as a takeout deli.

If you ever are entertaining visitors (tourists) and driving them around the island, make it a point to stop by Waipahu and take them on a “tour” of Pacific Market. It truly is one of the most fascinating shopping experiences to be discovered here!

Finally, while we’re talking about fast food chains, the very first McDonald’s to open in Hawaii was in Aina Haina in 1968, where they’ve recently knocked that original structure down and built a modern McDonald’s right next to it.

Here’s the original McDonald’s Aina Haina (first McDonald’s in Hawaii) back in its glory days (photo taken 2007) …

Here it is in the process of being demolished (photo taken last month)….

Out with the old, and in with the new (located about 50 yards to the right of the old McDonald’s Aina Haina shown above)…

The original McDonald’s building in Aina Haina Shopping Center has since been razed (demolished).

RIP Aina Haina McDonald’s circa 1968 building.

A Catered Luncheon with Soul

By now, regular readers of this blog must think all we do at work is throw parties and EAT. Well, we certainly work hard, so when it comes time to relax, like everyone else, we love to sit down and enjoy a good meal. So here we are this past week, where we threw a nice going-away party luncheon for one our people in accounting, this time catering the food from Soul Cuisine with Aloha & Spice.

Soul is a still relatively new restaurant by Chef Sean Priester, who had a long run as executive chef at the highly regarded Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. Compared to the posh, high tech (literally) digs at Top of Waikiki, Soul is a very tiny and humble hole-in-the-wall restaurant located in a rather “mishmash” strip mall on the corner of Waialae Avenue and St. Louis Heights Drive at the Ewa (west) end of Kaimuki.

I personally haven’t eaten there yet, although I’ve heard and read favorable reviews about the place. However, I HAVE had the opportunity to try all the food here already, back before Chef Priester opened his restaurant, when he had his “Soul Patrol” lunch truck while making the brave transition from employee to entrepreneur. To note, the “Soul Patrol” lunch truck is still in service as an extension of their brick & mortar restaurant.

Us folks always like to try new types of cuisine for luncheon themes, and we were all eager to sample some “Soul Cuisine with Aloha”. Which really is what Chef Priester’s concept is, using locally-sourced, high quality ingredients in his classic southern style dishes.

Without further ado, let’s see what Soul has prepared for us on this occasion, starting with some good ‘ole Mac ‘n Cheese!…

Next up, Chef Priesters EXCELLENT Coleslaw…

You see what’s coming next, right? Some FRIEEEEEED CHEEYIKIN!…

Let’s stay here for a brief moment and bath in cooking lard, savoring a few more pics of these absolutely delightful morsels of “Aloha & Spice” Chicken with serious SOUL!…

Soul’s Fried Chicken is accompanied with this KILLER Honey-Butter Sauce, that you drizzle over the chicken right before service…

So you’ve got the super-juicy, savory, slightly spicy ‘n crispy thang with the chicken, along with the sweet ‘n buttery thang goin’ on from the sauce and BAM! AWESOME.

Next up, Soul food would never be complete without Collard Greens!…

Another one my personal favorites is Chef Priester’s Vegetarian Chili…

Then wrapping things up from Soul, the also must-have dish for this type of cuisine, Corn Bread…


Not stopping there, folks from various departments in our office also contributed to the spread, where adding to the selection of main dishes, here we have some (Filipino) Pancit, courtesy of accounting…

Also from accounting, (Filipino) Lumpia…

There was also all kinds of scrumptious desserts, where our department contributed these EXCELLENT Brownies from Kilani Bakery in Wahiawa…

Back to P.I., we have a pan of Kakanin…

Peach Cobbler…

Blueberry Cheesecake…

\

Custard Pie…

Cherry Pie….

Wow. What. A. SPREAD!!!!!

Time now to check out some plates hot off the “assembly line”….

Here’s my plate…

Angle “B”…

Let’s try that “Cheeyikin”…

Oh man. Even though this piece of fried chicken had gone down to air conditioned room temperature by the time it landed on the plate in front of me, it was still STELLAR! The batter was still crispy, with a pleasantly-blended, subtle hint of spices going on in it.  While the chicken meat was super buttery-tender and incredibly MOIST ‘N JUICY, while being cooked all the way through, with no raw spots towards the bone or blood at all. It also wasn’t greasy at all. Just so, so, so, so, so, SO GOOD!

5 SPAM Musubi for Soul’s Fried Chicken for sure, even at the less-than-optimal a/c room temperature service when I ate it. I’m confident if I had the luxury of eating it FRESH ‘n PIPIN’ HOT out of the deep fryer, Soul’s signature Fried Chicken would score an EASY TEN!!!

As for the other dishes, the Vegetarian Chili was delicious, yet I must note it tasted and had the pasty texture more like baked beans than Chili. The Collard Greens were good, especially in that they’re enhanced with  pieces of smoked ham hock meat in it, yet everyone mentioned there was a distinguishable “tang” to its flavor profile, not sure if that was vinegar, or if there’s some spoilage factor, or if that’s just the nature of Collard Greens, as that’s certainly not a green commonly eaten here in Hawaii.

The Mac ‘n Cheese was congealed, thanks to the air conditioning, and also what seemed like the macaroni noodles had absorbed most of the cheese’s moisture. Other than that, flavor-wise, it was dee-lish. Which has me thinking we should SERIOUSLY invest in sterno warmers for our company luncheons. That would most DEFINITELY be a HUGE improvement when it comes to serving temperature “issues”, such as it was for this Mac ‘n Cheese.

I LOVE Soul’s Cilantro Coleslaw. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. PERFECT Coleslaw recipe. Nuff’ said.

The corn bread was a winner as well, with the right balance of “sweet” going on, although I would have preferred it to be a little more BUTTERY! Shoots, with this here soul food, I’d just as well take some melted drawn butter and drizzle it over the entire plate! lol

As for the dessert, the Brownies from Kilani Bakery were FANTASTIC, with the perfect “brownie texture” going on, not being too dry nor too moist, but, as Rap Replinger says, “Jussssssss’ right”….

The Kakanin was also fantastic, especially the one with the Latik-like glaze covering it…

SOUL Cuisine with Aloha & Spice
3040 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826

Tel. (808) 735-7685
Web: www.PacificSoulHawaii.com

The Tasty Island rating (for catering service):

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
First Bite: ‘The Soul Patrol’ by Chef Sean Priester – The Tasty Island
360º View at the Top of Waikiki – The Tasty Island
Soul – Yelp user reviews

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7Z56dxeGMA

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Chinatown Eats: Tai Pan Dim Sum

Well that was a long and much needed blogging break. Hope you folks all had a wonderful 2010 holiday season and are off to a good start for the new year 2011.

Speaking of which, our office gang celebrated yet another holiday festivity several weeks ago enjoying some Cantonese grindz at Tai Pan Dim Sum in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Where, needless to say is a MECCA of Chinese restaurants, including Fook Lam, another favorite spot for Dim Sum, and Legend Seafood, just to name a few.

On this lunch hour rush visit, we sort of just “landed in” on Tai Pan, not really sure which specific dim sum restaurant to settle on, since there’s so many to choose in the area. Yet we were lucky to snag a table here without any reservations, even as busy as they seem to usually be, which I suppose would be the equivalent of getting a front-row parking stall in a packed shopping mall on Christmas Eve. Score!

Tai Pan Dim Sum is located in Chinatown Honolulu on the ground floor of the Chinese Cultural Plaza, in the center part nearest to Nu’uanu stream (a.k.a. the river), right across Hifumi Japanese Restaurant (go figure). There’s plenty of validated parking in the CCP structure that costs just $2 flat rate with validation.

Tai Pan certainly packs a crowd, where as I mentioned earlier, we were very fortunate that a table opened up for us upon walking in without a second’s wait!…

Without further ado, time to check out the menu, where the writing’s written on the wall…

Those are their “specials”, while here’s Tai Pan’s regular menu, which they have placed all around under the clear plexiglass covering each round table in the joint…

There’s a display case alongside the entrance of the restaurant showcasing a number of their dim sum specialties, where these are what were featured on this visit…

Dim Sum restaurants are all about speed and volume, and Tai Pan’s certainly equipped to turn ‘n burn..

Here’s the kitchen line where they have a few items prepped and ready to hit the steamers ‘n woks…

Now for our Dim Sum selections of the day, beginning with Baked Char Siu Buns, a.k.a. Baked “Manapua” ($2.45)….

Steamed Char Siu Buns, a.k.a. Steamed “Manapua” ($2.45)….

Seafood Siu Mai (pork hash with a sizable shrimp tail stuffed in the center; $2.45)….

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (Har Gau; $2.45)…

Steamed Chives Dumpling ($2.45)…

Char Siu Look Fun Roll ($4.00)…

Chicken Feet with Chinese Herb Soup ($3.20)…

Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce ($2.45)…

Eggplant stuffed with Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce ($?)…

Deep-Fried Bean Curd Shrimp Roll ($2.45)…

Custard Tart…

Chinese Green Tea…

That’s it. Time to plate ’em up and whack sum dim sum…

And how was it? Everything was excellent. Believe it or not, one of my favorites was the Chicken Feet with Chinese Herb Soup, which in fact was the first time I’ve ever tried chicken feet. Good stuff! “Cartilage-ee” good and kinda’ fatty. Kinda’ reminds me of turkey tail. I also loved their pork hash, which had a nice-sized shrimp tail stuffed in the center, which added a nice flavor and texture contrast to the also-flavorful ground pork.

And you wanna’ talk excellent manapua, I think Tai Pan’s Steamed Char Siu Bun and Baked Char Siu Bun may have Libby’s, Chun Wah Kam and Char Hung Sut beat! Seriously, Tai Pan’s chunky (not ground) char siu pork filling tastes better, IMO.

I also really enjoyed the Steamed Chives Dumpling, Char Siu Look Fun Roll and Shrimp-stuffed Eggplant. EVERYTHING was ono, with not one thing on the table I didn’t like.

As busy as the place was, service was quick and friendly, with our entire dim sum order  arriving literally within minutes and water glasses kept topped throughout the meal, as well as our hot green tea pot.

There was just enough leftovers where I was able to make myself a little “doggie bag” for later…

Notice how I strategically placed the black bean chicken foot for a more dramatic, visually stunning exciting presentation. lol

And check this out: that entire dim sum spread which literally covered our table with dishes and steamer baskets came out out to just $55 to feed the five of us. Now THAT’S what you call one awesome “Pake” deal of a dim sum meal! lol

Tai Pan Dim Sum
100 N. Beretania St. (Chinese Cultural Plaza)
Honolulu, HI 96817

Tel. (808) 599-8899

Tai Pan Dim Sum menu (88kb PDF documment; 2 pages)

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Two other Dim Sum restaurants also located in the Chinese Cultural Plaza:
Legend Seafood menu
(248kb PDF document; 2 pages)
Fook Lam Seafood menu (418kb PDF document; 2 pages)

For today’s bonus content, we have Hopia (not to be confused with Hawaiian Haupia), a Filipino bean-filled flaky crust pastry dessert that’s pretty much the equivalent of Japanese Manju and Chinese Moon Cake…

According to Diner E, he bought them from the “Fiesta Market” in Waipahu, although he thinks they may have been made by Nanding’s  Bakery(famous for their Spanish Rolls).

How is it? Masarap (delicious/ono/oishii)! What made them especially good was they were still warm and tasted fresh-baked, so the delicate, golden flaky crust just melted in the mouth, while also having an almost buttery-savory flavor to it, including the slightly sweet and smooth-textured azuki bean filling. If you’re  a manju fan, you’ll dig Hopia.

Balut

I’m a big fan of the Travel Channel show ‘Bizarre Foods’ with host and foodie madman, Andrew Zimmern, where even he proclaimed Balut to have been one of the strangest foods he’s ever eaten. This, coming from a guy who’s eaten bats, lizards, toads, bugs, worms and just about every other, ehem, “edible” creepy, crawly creature you can imagine.

I’ve experienced my share of traveling the world as well, and one of the most important things I learned from the experience, is to have an open mind and respect for cultural traditions, including of course the cuisine.  While I’m definitely not as brave as Andrew as far as trying “extreme” foods — at least to what I think is extreme in my western-trained mind — Balut is one I’ll give a shot at.

I mean, heck, many of us eat commercially produced chicken and eggs, including foods made with eggs such as mayo’, so what’s so bad about having the both of them all rolled into one? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

That said, this actually isn’t the first time I’ve tried Balut. My first time was about ten years ago when a Filipino friend of mine brought me a Duck Balut to try, which I’ll elaborate more on later.

Balut may seem a bit extreme to me, and perhaps many of you, too, yet it’s as commonly eaten in the Philippines as hot dogs and hamburgers are here in the U.S.. For Filipinos, Balut’s cheap, easy to produce and, aside of the “bad” cholesterol, it’s packed with beneficial nutrition, including protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron.

According to Andrew Zimmern, Balut was first  introduced to the Philippines by Chinese traders in the 1800’s, and has since become a signature of the country’s cuisine. The Balut capital of the Philippines is Pateros, a small town just outside of Manila. Pateros is named after the duck that produces the Balut egg.

You buy Balut from any of a number of purveyors aptly named a ‘Balutan’. A Balutan is where they incubate the duck eggs by storing them in a basket between bags of warm, toasted rice. The exact incubation period is 18 days. No more, no less. This is at just the right stage of duck embryo development for Balut. Once the duck embryo, which has now become a fetus reaches the 18-day incubation period, they remove it from the warm rice basket, where it then goes into a steamer and then it’s ready to be sold and eaten.

So a few weekends ago I purchased two Balut from a vendor at the 18th Annual Filipino Fiesta. Although instead of the more traditional Duck Balut, which are a bit larger and light grey in color, these were Chicken Balut, which are smaller and have a light tan color instead.


Chicken Balut. $1.50 each.

I asked the lady working the booth at the Filipino Fiesta how many days these Chicken Balut were incubated,  and she didn’t have the answer, only saying “the chick are very small”. Well that’s comforting to know. lol  So I figured what the heck and bought two just for adventure’s sake and to reacquaint myself with the dish.

Luckily I have Diner C, a native of Manila, who joined me on this latest Balut eating adventure (at least for me it’s an adventure), providing a few tips as she ate one and I ate one.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AHEAD. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.

Before we crack open the Balut, let’s first look at what parts make up a developing chicken egg…


Illustration graphic courtesy of http://universe-review.ca/R10-33-anatomy.htm#birds

Next, let’s look at the stages by measure in days of a chicken egg’s embryo-to-fetus development…


Photo courtesy of http://happyheartsplaycare.com/id7.html

Looking at that (and we haven’t even got to the photos yet), I’ll say first and foremost, personally the hardest part visually for me to get over are the EYES that “stare” back at you. Secondly is the very principle of eating a FETUS. What?!

Although how much worse can this be than eating a slaughtered, fully-matured bird or animal? I mean really, if I were to look at this from a philosophical perspective, I may as well become a vegetarian to free my conscience.

On that note, apparently some folks in the Philippines believe those who eat Balut become possessed by female vampires of some sort. Mananggal, perhaps?

Anyhow, I’m not going to dwell any deeper on the ethical or spiritual side of it. Gosh darned it, I’m here today to eat the bloody thing! Well, actually, it’s not bloody at all, thank goodness.

O.K., let’s do this!

Here you see we have everything we need: a Balut egg and a shaker of salt. Folks sometimes also add vinegar, shoyu and/or other flavor enhancers/cloaking agents?, but for this occasion simple salt will do.

Sitting down with Filipina Diner C for our Chicken Balut eating session, the first question I asked her was which side to first crack the shell from. To which she instructed me to place the egg on the (flat surface) table and watch for the side that tips upward. This is the side that has an air pocket, making it easier to peel the shell away where there’s enough space inside to add salt and drink the “soup”, which is the amniotic fluid. Mm-mm-mm, doesn’t that sound delicious?  “Hey Pomai, what did you have for lunch today?” “Oh nothing special. Just the usual Chicken Fetus and Amniotic Fluid Soup”. lol

So I crack open the wider round end of the egg (opposite the pointed end), where sure enough I discover inside there’s a slightly open, void space…

There you can clearly see the amniotic fluid “soup” surrounding the yolk. This is where you add a light sprinkle of salt and slurp away!

So how does a semi-developed, cooked chicken egg’s amniotic fluid “soup” taste? Ang sarap sarap! (really delicious!) Simply said, like chicken soup! Nothing surprising or strange at all about it. I seriously could go for a whole bowl of the stuff, I kid you not! Of course it would take a whole lot of Balut eggs to make up one bowl of amniotic fluid soup. lol

Now that the soup’s been slurped up, I begin to peel more shell off…

Once inside, one of the hardest things to look at besides, well, EVERYTHING, are the dark-brown colored blood vessels that snake all over the yolk , making it appear like a prop straight out of a sci-fi horror film.

This is the point where most folks familiar with eating Balut would add more salt and already start biting into it. But I wanted to get a better look at what’s in there, so I decided to remove all the shells first before going at it…

Notice how, similar to the illustration,  the yolk sac envelops the chicken fetus.

It smells pretty much like a hard-boiled egg, albeit with a hint of chicken meat aroma, but not by much.

Let’s look at the other side…

That white part on the left side is the albumen, which was formerly what would be the egg whites. Come to find out the albumen is rarely eaten in Balut, as, in this stage and cooking process, it’s very hard like cartilage. Diner C calls this part the “rock”.

Taking it apart, here’s where it gets really interesting…

You’re probably thinking right about now that I should change the name of this blog from ‘The Tasty Island’ to “The Island of Horrors”.

This, and the following sequence of photos are the main reason for the disclaimer warning stated above, which I think you’ll agree with me was a necessary thing to do.

Seriously though, here we have three major parts of a typical Balut: the albumen, a.k.a. the “rock” (egg white) on the left, the yolk (what the developing fetus eats from) in the center in yellow with beautiful dark-brown blood vessels enveloping it, and the the chicken fetus on the right, in what appears to be far earlier in stage of development than the 18-day Duck Balut. Referring back to that incubation chart above, I’d say this Chicken Balut is at about day 7.

Remember earlier where I said the most disturbing part from a visual aspect is the EYES? Well there it is. And that’s the only discernible feature I can make out at this stage of development. Notice the feathers around the eye are still just “hairs”…

As you can see (no pun intended), the wings, legs, beak and feathers haven’t developed yet. Neither have any bone structure. Which believe it or not, actually made it easier to eat than 18-day duck Balut, which has all the aforementioned features.

Before I eat the “main part” (we’ll name it that from now on), first let’s try the yolk…

It really looks like a “regular” boiled egg yolk, save for them lovely blood vessels wrapped around it. Cutting it in half reveals the same thing…

What, are we in med school here or what? lol

As always, the million dollar question is, how’s it taste? As it appears, it pretty much tastes like any other boiled egg yolk. Except! Except those blood vessels surrounding it add a subtle element of “innards” to the flavor profile. Still, mostly like a good ‘ole egg yolk, and really not bad at all.

Next, on the other end is the albumen, or egg white part, also known as “the rock”…

Like most folks, Diner C doesn’t eat this part, but I decided to at least try it and see what’s it’s like. It tastes basically like the white part of a boiled egg, except much more firm, with the texture of cartilage. Some older folks think this part is rich is calcium, although I have yet to research any factual evidence to back up that claim.

Finally we get to the “meat” of it, the “main part”…

Oh my. My-oh-my, oh-my. This has got to be so wrong on so many levels. You want me to eat this? Are you out of your bloody mind?! Ackhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But yes, I did it. Admittedly, it took at least a momentary deep, deep breath, but I indeed “bit the bullet” (as I’ve done once before with the Duck Balut), taking it to an even further extreme by pulling an “Ozzy” and chomping it in half…

Shocking? Nah, not really. So how is “the main part”? It basically tastes like white and dark chicken meat, combined with an accent of chicken liver and miscellaneous other innards as a subtle undertone.

While not nearly as horrific as it appears, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Let me put it this way: if you’re the type that can only eat fish if it doesn’t taste “fishy”, then Balut most likely won’t go over well with you. But if you’re the type who can eat Poke (raw fish), Opihi,  and other “fishy” things, Balut shouldn’t be a problem. How much you actually like it I suppose depends on your passion for poultry.

Texture-wise, this is where this Chicken Balut differed the most from the Duck Balut I had a while back. That Duck Balut had more young feathers,  and semi-calcified beak and bone structure, giving it this rather disturbing “crunch” as I bit into it. On the other hand, this less developed Chicken Balut didn’t have any of that, having it come across as “boneless”; and with that, much less “painful” from a psychological aspect, if you know what I mean.

Probably most folks who regularly eat Balut are now saying that they never eat it the way I ate it by taking it apart like that. No worries, as I have Diner C to show us how the pros do it at home in P.I…

Here she partially peels it, adds a light sprinkle of salt, drinks the “soup”, then simply haves at it…

This way you get the “essence” of both the yolk and the, ehem, “main part”.

Peel more shell down, add more salt, then continue at it…

Almost done…

Pau…

All that’s left is the hard albumen “rock”, which gets tossed in the rubbish, along with the shells…

That’s it.

What I noticed though, is that there was a strong after-taste of “chicken liver” that lasted well over an hour after eating this Chicken Balut. Thankfully we had some Drumsticks Ice Cream Cones in the fridge to counter that…

Ah, that’s sooooooo much better! Hooray for Ice Cream!

No, but really, Balut isn’t half as bad in taste as it is in appearance. Then again, the appearance, while certainly not pretty, isn’t that bad either, provided you don’t deconstruct it like I did.

Summing it up once again, It’s essentially like eating a combination of a variety of chicken (or duck) meat parts and a hard-boiled egg, all rolled into one ready-to-eat package. Notice I didn’t say “easy-to-eat”, as most folks who weren’t raised eating Balut (like me) will shudder at just the thought of what it is.

Now I’m trying to brainstorm all kinds of culinary possibilities. Balut Katsu perhaps? How about Balut Yakitori? Balut (Oyako) Donburi? Balut Rancheros? Baluts Benedict? Balut Salad Sandwich?

Hey, can’t knock it ’til ya’ try it! At least that’s the lesson learned here today eating Balut.

Watch the Bizarre Foods’ Philippines episode Balut segment here…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s31nWSiminI


18th Annual Filipino Fiesta


Photo courtesy of FilCom.org

The 18th Annual Filipino Fiesta took place last Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at Kapiolani Park. Following is a pictorial walkthrough of the event. The booth preceding each photo set of food or other items are where they were located.

Enjoy!

The next booth didn’t have a name, but were serving the following Thai dishes…

These folks were selling tray loads of satay sticks.

I didn’t know Hibachi San was part of Panda Express. Learn something new every day!Hibachi San in Ala Moana is pretty good!

This gentleman’s name is Hugo, who owns all the pieces on display in the Cordillera region booth…

In case you’re wondering, he’s half American-German, and half Filipino, and speaks both languages fluently. I should have brought a notepad with me, as he explained the use and meaning of each piece to me, but I can’t remember most of what he said. Next time I’ll be sure to write it all down!

Honolulu City Council Chairman and Mayoral candidate Dunovan Dela Cruz (in blue jeans and aloha shirt) gives Tinikling a try…

A “stitched” panoramic shot of Diamond Head, looking from Kapiolani Park that I took before heading back to the car…

Well, that’s all folks. As far as things I tried, I picked up a plate of Dinuguan and Sweet & Sour Pig’s Feet from Claire’s Lunch Place booth, which the Sweet & Sour Pig’s Feet were especially masarap-sarap (really delicious)! I also got some Chichuron and, yes, Balut! But we’ll save my Balut eating experience (because it is an experience) for another day. lol

Check out The Tasty Island coverage of last year’s 17th Annual Filipino Fiesta here.

Mabuhay!

Airport Eats: Driver's Diner

For yesterday’s greasy spoon pauhana Friday grindz, the three of us decided to check out Driver’s Diner near HNL. They’re located on the corner of Ualena and Ohohia street, right across the street from Royal Hawaiian Movers…

If for some inexcusable reason you don’t know where Royal Hawaiian Movers are (because you know, everyone living on Oahu should know where they are lol), than this lonely high rise office building in an otherwise low-rise industrial warehouse area still emblazoned with Wyland’s Humpback Whale mural art a little down the street should help point you in the right direction…

Once inside, you’ll find a quite large, very clean and newly renovated dining room space…

I think owners of restaurants are putting flat screen TVs in their establishment as much for themselves as they are for their guests. lol But no, that’s not the owner sitting there slacking off, but a customer. The owner is a pretty young looking Filipino guy (although all Filipino folks look young, even when they’re old!).

I wanted to ask more questions about the restaurant, but before we knew it, the lunch hour rush busted down the door and they became too busy to bother…

Once again Diner A’s made it into one of my shots, this time giving a shaka, although sometimes he’s been known to sneak in hand signs of the New York variety. lol Notice the clientele of mostly blue jeans and workboots “truck drivers” (actually they were roofers working next door). Fitting for a place named ‘Driver’s Diner’.

Actually, we had heard of this place through Lyle Galdeira and Russell Yamanoha on KHNL News 8’s latest “Cheap Eats” segment. There used to be a place on the corner of Nimitz Highway and Kalihi street named ‘Driver’s’, but we don’t think it was the same owner. That place has recently opened again under the name ‘Lotto & Bento’, which now serves Korean food.

Back to Driver’s, they didn’t have a permanent menu board, but only this dry-erase set of selections for the day…

With that, Diner A decided on trying the Cajun Grilled Ahi with Garlic Shrimp…

Diner E went for the Philly Steak Sandwich with Fries…

A look under the hood of this bad boy…

Man-o-man, that looks AWESOME!

Diner AC ordered the Laulau, which came accompanied with green “salad” (that’s pretty weird)…

Finally, yours truly decided to try their Shrimp Scampi Fetuccine (SIC on the menu as “Fetucinni”)…

Let’s have a bite…

The sauce coating the perfectly al dente Fetuccine pasta tasted like a lemon caper cream sauce, with maybe  just a slight amount of Parmesan cheese in it, but not heavily. It was more like just a thickened cream. There were also generous bite-size pieces of fresh tomato, sauteed onions and mushrooms in the mix. Overall, the sauce was just OK but a little plain tasting and lacked any herbs or “kick” if you will. I would have preferred if it were more like an Alfredo with a heavier-hitting cheesy punch to it.

Let’s try the shrimp…

They were cooked just right, but flavorwise, kinda’ plain and lacked any garlicy-buttery goodness to it that I was expecting them to have.

The green “salad” (if you want to call it that) was really lame, only consisting of cut pieces of romaine lettuce with barely a hint if none at all of dressing on it. On top of that, it was kind of wilted and not crispy fresh.

Summing up my Shrimp Scampi “Fetucinni” plate was generally a satisfying lunch thanks to the HUGE “truck driver’s portions” and perfectly al dente pasta, but lacked anything that stood out in taste. Then again, what can I expect for just $6. With that I give it 1 SPAM Musubi.

Moving on, let’s sample Diner A’s Cajun Grilled Ahi…

Diner A gave me a piece to try, and I must say, it was really, really good. Super moist, and the seasoning was DYNAMITE! It made it almost taste like a beef steak, and not fish. Thumbs way up on this!

Now let’s sample the shrimp…

Notice they’re individually deveined and left with the shells on for flavor. I didn’t try them, but Diner A RAVED about it, giving the them 4 SPAM Musubi right off the bat.

Here, Diner A shows off how jumbo-sized these shrimp are…

He noted that he enjoyed these shrimp as much as he did the ones we had at the Blue Water Shrimp Truck. He also gave a thumbs-up on the Mac’ Salad, giving our “simple, cool and creamy” seal of Mac’ Sal’ approval. They got the Mac’ Sal’ right, so that alone gives Driver’s Diner all the respect.

With that, Diner A weighed in between giving his Cajun Grilled Ahi and Shrimp plate either a 3 or 4 SPAM Musubi rating, but since they passed our critical Mac’ Sal’ test, I’ll take the liberty of awarding it a FOUR!  I must say, that Cajun Grilled Ahi was definitely in it to win it.

Diner AC gives her Laulau 2 SPAM Musubi. Not bad, not great. The “salad” not even worth mentioning. She thinks it’s a store-bought brand, not house-made. I’ll stick with Highway Inn, who I think so far makes the BEST LAULAU on the island.

Finally, let’s see what Diner “Saimin Kaukau” (Simon Cowell) E thought of his Philly Steak sammy…

Oh. My. God. In all of its downright sloppy, drippin’ ‘n oozin’, meaty ‘n cheesy glory,  doesn’t that look absolutely ONO?!!! Dammmmmmm’, I just wanna’ reach right through my monitor and take a bite of that right now! Gino’s & Pat’s, eat your heart out, baby.

“Saimin Kaukau” liked it. Thumbs up. Not way, way up, but enough to grant it 3 SPAM Musubi, which by his critical Simon Cowell standards, is considered very, very good. He noted the beef was grilled nicely and was very tender, which I tried a piece and can concur to. The grilled red bell peppers and onions added tasty fourth dimension to the toasty hoagie roll, melted swiss and grilled beef, although he said there just  might have been “something” missing, but he didn’t know what.

He was also OK with the fries. Not great, but OK.

Summing up Diner E’s Philly Steak and Fries, he gives it 3 SPAM Musubi. I gotta’ say though, just lookin’ at it, I’d give it a 10!

Driver’s Diner
3006 Ualena st.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel. 836-1575

The Tasty Island rating:

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

Related links:
Cheap Eats: Driver’s Diner – KHNL News 8 (Hawaii News Now) Video Report
Driver’s Diner – Yelp user reviews