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Grindz of the Day: Ilima Restaurant & Catering, Hana No Sato, Kahai Street Kitchen, Young's Fish Market, Don Quijote & OnoPops

Ilima Catering – Saimin Supreme: garnished with Teri’ Beef, Ham, Tofu and Green Onions (double order). $6

Well that’s a long post title. But eh, whatevahz. lol

Anyhow, back in November, Diner E took me to have lunch at Ilima Restaurant & Catering, a truly “old school, Triple-D” kinda’ place, located in the heart of industrial Mapunapuna near HNL airport.  According to Ilima’s successive owner (as of 1978) Paul Suyap (and his lovely wife, Florence), the original owner, Masaji Uyehara, opened Ilima Restaurant & Catering for business 57 years ago in this very same Mapunapuna spot…

FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO (1954)!!!!!!!! Wow.

With that, check out Ilima’s relatively “50’s-like” value-priced menu…

Wow, what a selection of local favorite comfort foods, all at GREAT prices!

There’s a small dining area to the right of a narrow galley fronting the service counter….

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said this place is “old school”. Seriously OLD SCHOOL! Notice the brown plastic catering warmer cube transport containers on that back wall.

With that, on this visit, Diner E decided to try Ilima’s Veal Cutlet plate…

Ilima Restaurant & Catering – Veal Cutlet Plate. $6

Good Lord and Hail Mary in Jesus’ name. Looking at that, I just wanna’  light up the fireplace (pretending I have one) on a chilly winter night and curl up on my sofa, pop in a Blu-Ray and eat that VERY slowly, savoring every bite as I enjoy the movie from beginning to end. lol Seriously, if that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t what will! Looks SO ONO!!!!!!!!

A “profile” angle…

Last but certainly not least for this mouth-watering Veal Cutlet plate, the ever-important “cross-cut” view of the cutlet itself…

Sheesh, I tell ya’, I wanna’ drink TANK that GRAVY just looking at it! lol

And how is it? “Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E immediately gave it a thumbs-up, super-solid 3 SPAM Musubi of approval, which to you and I would either be 4 or 5 SPAM Musubi. All I know is I hope tonight I have a wonderful dream of savoring a plate of Ilima’s Veal Cutlet by my fireplace while watching a movie. lol

On this particular late November day entering our “chilly” (at least by Hawaiian standards) winter season here in the islands, I remember I was “jonesing” for either saimin or ramen, and thankfully Ilima’s had me covered, where I immediately set my sight on their “Saimin Supreme”. Saimin Supreme? Great name! HOOK. ME. UP! Yet for just $3, I assumed it wasn’t going to be enough to fill me up, so I requested to double my order in the same bowl, which the owner was more than happy to oblige…

Ilima Catering – Saimin Supreme, garnished with Teri’ Beef, Ham, Tofu and Green Onion. $6 (double portion order; $3 regular order)

I asked the owner how they make their broth, and he said it was simply dashi-based, which is absolutely A-OK with me, as, quite frankly, I’m not particularly a fan of saimin broths that taste heavily like shrimp shells,  which some other saimin houses tend to make theirs. To note, like most restaurants that serve saimin or ramen here on Oahu, Ilima sources their noodles from Sun Noodle Factory, which I’ll say time and time again, I’m a HUGE fan of.

That said, the broth was spot-on, with just enough dashi to give it that  depth and “Umami” factor, while the noodles were cooked perfectly al dente. Ultimately, the most important thing to point out about this particular bowl of Saimin is how the Teri’ Beef actually ADDED to it, and wasn’t a distraction.  I  was afraid the Teri’ Beef flavor would overpower the saimin broth and noodles, but it turned out very COMPLIMENTARY. Sweet. While I would have preferred the more traditional Chinese style Charsiu over the American-style ham, for what it’s worth, it worked. I also missed having Kamaboko in it, yet the Tofu was nice, albeit an obviously neutral-flavored garnishment touch.

Summing it up, I give Ilima Restaurant and Catering’s “Saimin Supreme” a super-solid 3 SPAM Musubi. Where if I may, my only suggestion to improve on, would be to switch out the American ham for Chinese Charsiu, and add Kamaboko. To which I’m most confident this would then easily achieve 4 or 5 SPAM Musubi Saimin “Supreme” stardom. Yay!

While on the subject of “oriental noodle soup”, moving along to our next venue, we land smack the center of Waikiki on Koa Street behind the Hyatt Regency & Spa Hotel over at Hana No Sato, where on this also first time visit, I couldn’t resist trying their Shoyu Ramen…

Hana No Sato – Shoyu Ramen. $8.00

Remember what I said a moment ago about curling up on the sofa with the fireplace lit, while watching a movie and DEVOURING that incredible looking, gravy-covered Veal Cutlet plate from Ilima’s? Well, OK, if you want, simply switch out the Veal Cutlet plate for this bowl of Shoyu Ramen from Hana No Sato and I’d be just as happy a camper! Seriously! lol

First I observe the bowl and go into my usual deep spiritual trance as I take in the “mana” (spirit) of what I’m about to partake on. Because, you know, Japanese Ramen is DEEP STUFF. Breath in the aroma of the hot, steaming broth. Appreciate it. Let it uplift your heart. Your “Tamashii”. OK, hai, itadaki masu….

Sugoi! Oishii-to-da’ max desu yo (my new hybrid word)!  Oh man, this is some mighty onolicious Shoyu Ramen! I won’t say it’s Tokyo style, because it ain’t. Yet for what it’s worth, this one is rockin’ it!

The (again) Sun Noodle Factory-sourced ramen noodles were cooked perfectly, while the broth had a complexity, yet simplicity all its own. I’d almost go on a limb and say it tasted “saimin-like”, yet in a GREAT WAY, that quite honestly I don’t think any local saimin house in the islands could ever achieve. Reason I say that is because owner Shogo-san is from Japan, and Nihonjin just have an understanding of the complex ingredients that make a great ramen that us local folks would never understand unless we lived there and/or worked in an authentic ramen-ya.

Anyhoo, let’s try the Charsiu…

Not bad. Can’t touch Goma Tei’s superior, melt-in-the-mouth, oh-so-fatty-good rolled pork belly Charsiu, yet for what it’s worth, this thinly-sliced simmered pork loin works. Thankfully Hana No Sato also includes Menma (marinaded bamboo shoots), which of course add an extra dimension of “Umaminess” to the broth, as well as the stringy-rubbery texture while you chew it along with the soft noodles. I am SUCH a menma fan, you don’t even know! Between that and mushrooms, I don’t need any meat. Just that and I’m good!

Here’s the main man of Hana No Sato, chef/all-around-cool-dude Shogo-san…

Hana No Sato’s main dining counter…

Up next we return once again to what is probably my ichiban favorite “hole-in-the-wall plate lunch joint-gone-gourmet”, over at the ALWAYS FAN-TA-BULOUS Kahai Street Kitchen in the ever-so-scenic and picturesque industrial area of Kalihi Kai. This time around, where on two recent visits I tried their Nori-rolled Kataifi-wrapped Mahi Mahi plate…

Kahai Street Kitchen – Nori Rolled Kataifi Wrapped Mahi Mahi: Mahi Mahi rolled in Nori and Shredded Phyllo Dough, Fried to a golden brown Served with Wasabi Tartar. Choice of White or Brown Rice & Potato Mac or Tossed Salad. $8.50

Are you kidding me? This would EASILY run you three times that price in a Waikiki restaurant, yet don’t let the price fool you. Kahai Street Kitchen owner/Chef Nao Iwata has already proven he really KNOWS his stuff, and this was absolutely no exception, where it was PERFECTLY EXECUTED.

Behold this beauty…

Melts-in-the-mouth tender, moist ‘n flaky Mahimahi? CHECK!…

Then factor in the blast of “Umami” from the Nori that’s generously wrapping the Mahimahi filet, along with that delicately golden crispy ‘n stringy texture of the Kataifi, bringing it all home with the fat-meets-zesty heat punch of the Wasabi Aioli sauce and POW! That is seriously GOOD EATS (mahalo A.B.). No better way to put it. Nothing else to say but 5 SPAM MUSUBI for Kahai Street Kitchen’s Kataifi Mahimahi!

Several weeks later I decided to try their “Hamburger Club”…

The “profile” angle…

A quarter-slice…

The verdict? Unfortunately the burger patty was overcooked, while there was just too much going on. Thinking positively, now if they would just stuff this Club Burger with Crab and Artichoke, then wrap it all up in Nori and Kataifi and then deep fry it, then we’ll be TALKIN’! lol

Summing up KSK’s Club Burger, 1 SPAM Musubi.

Finally, I returned to Kahai Street Kitchen for yet another take on Mahimahi, this time in the form of being (as suggested above) crusted with Crab, Artichoke and Spinach…

Kahai Street Kitchen – Crab, Artichoke and Spinach Crusted Mahi Mahi. Served with White Wine Sauce. $8.50

Common now. If you seen “Mahi Mahi crusted with Crab and Artichoke” listed on the menu, could you resist? You can’t! At least I couldn’t!

Check it out…

The verdict? Yum! (I couldn’t say “ono” lest I confuse you with whether this is Mahimahi or Ono the fish lol). It didn’t have as much “impact” as the Nori and Kataifi-wrapped version, yet the added fattiness from the mayo-based Crab and Artichoke, along with the generous garlic in there had plenty-oh-punch on the palate. 3 SPAM Musubi.I also must note the Linguine pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, simply flavored with a light drizzle of EVOO, finely-chopped parsley, salt ‘n pep’. Nice. The slices of perfectly toasted French Baguettes were also a welcoming touch.

Next we have a BROKE DA’ MOUT’ Kalua Pig and Lomi Salmon plate from Young’s Fish Market, compliments of a private invitation to a product expo’ by IKON OFFICE SOLUTIONS (mahaloz Cynthia!)…

While I personally find eating Hawaiian food with RICE almost a tragedy (if not an insult) vs. with POI, I understand the cost and demand/popularity considerations for not providing the latter. Thankfully Young’s completely REDEEMS any hangups I have on that by providing absolutely BROKE DA’ MOUT’ ONO Kalua Pig! It’s super moist thanks to copious amounts of pork fat, while being perfectly smoked, having a truly genuine Imu (traditional Hawaiian underground oven) flavor. I don’t know if Young’s actually does Imu-roast their pig, as this just as well may be oven-roasted with the help of liquid smoke and Ti leaves, yet for all I care, Young’s NAILS Kalua Pig (that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean). lol

They also hit a home run on the Lomi Salmon, with generous chunks of salt salmon, immediately reminding you this is Lomi Salmon and NOT “Lomi Tomato”. Perfect balance of salt as well. What’s nice is the Lomi Salmon sort of is a psuedo-replacement for Poi, where the combination of the salted salmon along with the savory, smoked pulled pork flavor compliment each other in a truly “Hawaiian style” way eating experience. Ya’ know?

Summing it up, solid 5 SPAM Musubi for Young’s Kalua Pig and Lomi Salmon plate. 10 SPAM Musubi if had Poi!

Speaking of Young’s Fish Market, one of Oahu’s most respected purveyor of Hawaiian food, lately their Laulau hasn’t been quite up to snuff, with the Luau leaves being under-steamed and tough, while the filling hasn’t been seasoned with enough Hawaiian salt, and basically overall disappointing. That said, my Kuliou’ou cousins recently made a batch of homemade Laulau for a family fundraiser that was OFF THE CHARTS AMAZING!…

I didn’t get a photo of it cut open for service, but I’ll just say again, it was OFF THE CHARTS ONO!!! WOW LAU “Kuliou’ou” LAU!

Speaking of foods in wrapped-up form, one of my all-time favorite meals-on-the-go is Musubi. More specifically and simply, UME MUSUBI. That’s it. I don’t need no SPAM or this or that (although there is a time and place for it).  Just Ume and I’m GOOD! Where thanks to convenience, I regularly get myself an Ume Musubi from the Kaheha Street Don Quijote Omusubi counter, which is located adjacent to their meat and fish department…

Like the absolutely AWESOME Musubi-Ya Iyasume in Waikiki (next door to Hana No Sat0), DQ’s Omusubi uses Premium-grade rice…

Where’s the beef? Or actually, the Ume? Have a bite and you shall see, grass hopper…

Ahh, oooohhhh, aaaaahhhh.

My only complaint is that they don’t add ANY seasoning (salt) to the rice, so it depends entirely on the saltiness from the Ume and robust undertone from the Nori for flavor. Otherwise the premium-grade rice is cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of “stick”. All-in-all, 3 SPAM Musubi. Or, err, make that 3 Ume Musubi! lol

Finally for today’s “Grindz of the Day”, we’re back yet again at KCC Farmers’ Market this past Saturday morning to try another flavor. Where on this visit I decided to sample yet another NEW FLAVAH!…

I asked Joe which one he liked more, to which he immediately pointed me to the Apple Banana-Mac Nut,  where here they are chillin’ in the chest…

I’m shivering just looking at that (a good thing)! lol

The selling point for me on this was the fact that Joe said these were generously laced with real chunks of Macadamia Nuts, which you shall soon see he wasn’t kidding!

Here’s OnoPops all-new for January ’11 “Apple Banana-Mac Nut” flavor, unwrapped and about to be completely DEVOURED by yours truly…

It certainly has a “Banana-ish” color to it, along with what appears to be chunks of Mac Nuts in it.

The “profile” angle…

It also looks frosty-cold, which is a welcome sight on a hot Hawaiian Saturday morning at the foot of Diamond Head crater (where KCC is located).

OK, let’s do this…

And?  It’s definitely “Banana-ee” in flavor profile (the other descriptor to “Banana-ish” lol), with a hint of acicidity due to it being sourced from Apple Bananas, which have that edge of tartness to them.

As for the Macadamia part of the equation, Joe was not kidding when he said there’s CHOKE NUTS in this Banana Pop (that didn’t sound right lol). Check it out…

See it? Here’s more as I eat my way through…

Summing it up, this is DEFINITELY A KEEPER and needs to make OnoPops already long list of regular menu items. I can just imagine this being dipped in Chocolate, either milk or dark variety for added “oomph”. Rating? 5 SPAM Musubi! WINNAH WINNAH MAC NUT ‘BANANA POP DINNAH.. or, err, dessert, that is. Or in my case this past Saturday morning, breakfast.

Father's Day Up In Smoke Cook-Off

Click flyer image above to visit the official site for more contest rules and information

I heard about this smoked meat contest just the other night while watching Tiny TV (OC-16), when Tiny featured Fresh Catch, a local style eatery in Kaimuki on Waialae avenue, located across the street from W&M Burger. Being a smoker myself (of meat; I don’t smoke cigarettes or the Cheech & Chong stuff), this was exciting news. In fact, right now I’m about 90% sure I’ll enter my Big Island style Smoked Pork into the competition.

You might remember a post I did recently on smoking home-made Pastrami. Killing two birds with one stone during that smoking session, I also threw in some pork to smoke along with the corned beef briskets.

That time, I did a little experiment, using the ready-to-use store-bought Huli Huli Sauce for the marinade…

Looking at the ingredients, this Huli Huli sauce is made simply of shoyu, sugar and ginger, which is essentially a basic teriyaki sauce, except this Huli Huli is is thinner and more mild, like say Aloha Shoyu. So I thought it sounded (and tasted) like something that would make ono smoked meat straight out of the bottle.

Also notice there’s a bottle of Honey, a bulb of garlic and a packet of crushed red pepper flakes left over from a past Pizza Hut party. Since I didn’t have fresh Hawaiian Chili Pepper, this should suffice for my little experiment in the doctored-up marinade.

So what I did was marinade half the cut pork butt pieces in straight-up, non-doctored Huli Huli Sauce straight out of the bottle. Then with the other half of the pork but pieces, I marinaded them with a doctored-up Huli Huli Sauce. Meaning I added about 1 cup of honey to about 3 cups of the Huli Huli Sauce, along with plenty of minced garlic and a generous sprinkle of the crushed red pepper flakes.

Here you see I have them labeled which is which in Zip-Loc bags…

You can clearly see the red chili pepper flakes and minced garlic in the Honey-sweetened Huli Huli Sauce marinade on the left. I then let them marinade in the refrigerator for 2 days.

See, that’ s where the “art” of smoking meat comes in. Not only do you have to create the right balance of spices and sweetness in the marinade, but you also have to decide how long to marinade it, and finally how long and how much you want to smoke it. All those factors will determine the outcome of whether your smoked meat is just “ono”, or whether everyone proclaims it as “broke da’ mout SUPAH” ono!”

Of course I could formulate the recipe into solid numbers by measurements, cooking temperatures and such to make it a “science”, but then I’d be giving all my secrets away, and I wouldn’t wanna’ do that. Especially with a contest coming up soon. He he.

Oh we go a smokin’…

Here’s the smoked pork, pretty much almost pau smoking at this point…

The two foil-wrapped items in back are the corned beef briskets-turned-pastrami.

Some might consider this GOLD…

Let’s cut a few slices and fry it up!…

Fry ’em ’til da’ buggahz papa’a (crispy) on da’ edges, then serve with none other than POI!…

How did it compare between the “plain” Huli Huli Sauce and the the smoked meat made with honey, garlic and red pepper doctored marinade? I’d say the regular Huli Huli Sauce smoked meat is better for using in a dish such as a stirfry, where you’ll be adding other ingredients. While the sweeter, spicier smoked meat was much much better as a pupu eaten by itself. Both of course were supah ono with Poi. That’s the magic combo right there. I didn’t rub these with Hawaiian salt before marinading them, but I think next time I’ll do that. It could have used that extra boost of flavor. Not too much, but just a sprinkle.

So perhaps you might see me there as one of the competitors, Sunday, June 21st at the Father’s Day Up in Smoke Cook-Off!

Related links:
Backyard Kiawe-Smoked Pastrami
Big Island Smoked Pork

Coffee, Chocolate & More at the Taste of Waialua

Press release courtesy of Watermark Publishing:

Support Local Agriculture and Help Keep the Country Country!
Experience a Taste of Waialua

Island X Hawaii and Coffea Consulting will host a gourmet tasting event at the Old Sugar Mill in Waialua on November 22, 2008.

Shawn Steiman, author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i and owner of Coffee Consulting will lead a coffee cupping (professional tasting), followed by a book signing.  Together with Bill Martin of Island X Hawaii, Steiman has also arranged for a gourmet sampling of food items produced in Waialua.

Buy this book

The coffee cupping kicks off at 10:30AM, the tasting event at 11:30AM.  Tickets to each event are $10, or purchase admission to both for $15.  Seating is limited, so reservations are a must.  The cupping event can accommodate 15 people, and the tasting seats 30.  Tickets are available through Island X Hawaii, (808) 637-2624 or islandxhawaii@msn.com.

The event will feature:

  • Waialua coffee
  • Waialua-grown chocolate
  • Waialua chocolate-covered macadamia nuts
  • Waialua Soda Works sodas
  • Hawaii ’s Special Papaya Seed salad dressing
  • North Shore Naturals organic snacks
  • Francis’ Huli-Huli Kiawe BBQ chicken
  • Kai’s Thai “Karma Free” green papaya salad
  • Waialua Farmers’ Market fresh fruit & veggies
  • Waialua-grown mango and coffee shave ices

Island X Hawaii is a family-owned and operated business with a storefront in the historic Waialua Sugar Mill, offering clothing, furniture and Hawai‘i-made food products.

Shawn Steiman is a coffee scientist whose business, Coffea Consulting, provides consulting services to coffee farmers and individuals seeking to learn more about coffee.  Steiman’s book, The Hawai‘i Coffee Book, includes information about all of Hawai‘i’s coffees, listings of farms, cafés and roaster-retailers and 20 recipes incorporating coffee, ranging from appetizers and entrées to desserts and drinks.  It is available at Island X, local bookstores or at online retailers.

For further information, contact:

  • Bill Martin, (808) 637-2624 or islandxhawaii at msn dot com or
  • Shawn Steiman, (808) 223-0982 or coffeaconsulting at gmail dot com

Waialua, Oahu (North Shore) Google Map:


Editor’s note: The Tasty Island does its best to be a positive voice and supporter in its efforts covering the unique products, people and places that make up Hawaii’s exciting and dynamic culinary scene. With that, a dedicated category has been added aptly named “The Tasty Calendar”  to post upcoming related (foodie) events around the island(s). While some, if not all these events are/will likely be published and/or broadcasted by mass (local) media (including online), as well as their own websites, this blog offers yet another outlet to further get the word out on what otherwise may be an opportunity to attend what readers here may still have not heard about.

If you’re an organizer of an upcoming Hawaii-based culinary event and would like it announced on this food blog, email me @ pomai_05 at yahoo dot com and I’ll review it for consideration. Mahalo.


Coming soon on The Tasty Calendar! “Restaurant Week Hawaii“.