Monday, November 5, 2007

October 2007 Hawaii Trip Part 1 - Food Review

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Since there's quite a bit to blog about from the most recent trip to Hawaii, I thought I'd do it in 2 parts. For the first part, I'm going to focus on the food.

Gyotaku in Pearl City, Oahu

We didn't make it out to the city (Waikiki) to Chiba-ken because we were just too tired on our last night in Oahu. We were staying on Ford Island so decided to get sushi close by. Gyotaku is a very popular place with the locals and with some of the great reviews we've read, we decided to try it. You can check out Gyotaku's menu here. Gyotaku was the only place we ate at on Oahu that I took pictures.

This is a picture of food we ordered. Starting from top center going clockwiser: mix sashimi plate, miso soup, mixed nigiri plate, chawanmushi, caterpillar roll.

Overall, the sashimi was just okay, the maguro (tuna) was best on that plate. The Mister said the salmon was pretty good. I ended up eating most of the fish off the nigiri because we were getting really full. The tako (octopus) and ebi (shrimp) nigiri were both chewy and not that good. The spicy tuna roll was okay.

The caterpillar roll was unexciting. The avocado was underriped with no flavor, which we ended picking off anyway. The miso soup was not too bad, tofu was tender and large pieces of seaweed.

I think the most interesting part of the meal was the chawanmushi. Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard dish and can be made several different ways. It's similar to a type of steamed egg dish that my mom used to make. This chawanmushi was pretty good. The custard had a good brothy flavor, and although you can't tell by the picture, there were shitake mushrooms, shrimp (chewy), and a few other items in there. I saved this for last but probably should have had it first since I was way too full to finish it.

The gal that served us was very nice and I think she thought we were local. She chatted with us about the UH football game earlier that day (which we didn't watch). I noticed that other servers were also very chatty with their customers. Very family friendly. Overall, I don't think I would go to Gyotaku again for sushi but would certainly try out some of their other dishes, like the kamameshi or misoyaki butterfish. In hind sight, I should have ordered the misoyaki butterfish.

Keoki's Paradise in Poipu Bay, Kauai

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt at Poipu Bay on Kauai. I'll write more about the resort in Part 2 but just as a teaser, it's the best Grand Hyatt IMHO that we've stayed at so far, much better than the Grand Hyatt Maui.

One of the first restaurants we had lunch at was Keoki's Paradise. This is part of the T.S. Restaurant chain (also owns Duke's Kimo's, Hula Grill, Leilani's on the Beach on the islands).

The Mister had the Omao Baby Greens salad and a fish taco. I don't recall what the fresh fish of the day was. The Mister said the taco was good but the salad was just okay.

I had the fish and chips, which was really good. The chips were lightly seasoned and very yummy. The batter on the fish was probably the biggest surprise. When the server placed in down, I was a bit tentative because I saw green things in the batter. But it was just herbs (couldn't tell you what kind) and it really made the fish very tasty. The tartar sauce was light and added a good flavor to the fish. It wasn't overly tart or sour. Overall, it was a good simple lunch.

Puka Dog in Poipu Bay, Kauai

Another place that we ate lunch at was Puka Dog. It's it the same mall as Keoki's. I first came across a Puka Dog on the September Oahu trip. I was intrigued by the different relishes and the various mustards. You can check out all of them here. With a shaka confirmation from our zipline guides (more in Part 2 about ziplining), we decided to give it a try.

Sorry the picture is terrible but I was tired, starving, and ready for a nap. Basically, it's a gigantic dog in a blanket. So the Mister and I both had the Polish Sausage. I had mine with mild original sauce, pineapple relish, and lilikoi (passion fruit) mustard. It was so yummy and the perfect to end a morning zipping through the trees. The bun was soft and yummy, although it was almost too much bun for me. The Mister had his with chili pepper, mango relish, and lilikoi mustard. He ate the whole thing. We also got the fresh squeezed lemonade, which was really good. Not too tart and not too sweet, just the way I like it. Although the price of a dog was a little higher than most dog stands, the size of the dog and the extra special types of relish and mustards sure made it worth it! I certainly would go back again.

Wrangler's Steakhouse in Waimea, Kauai

This was the second best meal we had on Kauai. We stopped in for lunch after sightseeing at Waimea Canyon.

Our lunches came with soup and salad bar. The salad had just the basic salad items but the winner here was the mushroom soup. The broth was very hearty, great mushroom and onion flavors. I probably could have eaten this with a good crusty loaf of sour dough bread.

Earlier in the week, I read an article in the local newspaper about the old plantation workers and the kau kau tins they used to carry their lunches. Some say this was the origin of what we know as the plate lunch. One of the specialties of Wrangler's is the kau kau tin so I had to try some tradition. This picture is the kau kau tin lunch special. Three stainless steal tins stacked up neatly, holding yummy food treasures. I couldn't wait to dig in.

The bottom tin contained the steamed rice. Also in that tin was homemade kimchee and a red preserved plum. The preserved plum was very salty. The kimchee was light in flavor and not very hot. But a good addition to the meat dish.

The second tin contained the tempura and tempura sauce. The lightness of the tempura batter was delicious. There were 2 pieces of butterflied shrimp, eggplant, and zucchini. All were very good!

The last compartment contained the teriyaki beef. Sorry the picture is a bit blurry but it tasted really good. Not overly sweet, just the right amount of flavor and went well with the kimchee. I think the cost was around $9-10. It was plenty of food since I didn't finish all of the beef.

There was fish special and a chop steak special that day. The Mister decided on the chop steak special. It had a local style flare to it and the Mister loved it! He said the steak was very tender and the gravy was just delicious. I tried a bit of it and it was very good. Lots of mushrooms and onions, which we both loved. The cost for this meal, including 2 sodas came just slightly over $20.

A little side story to go along with this meal. In the article I read, Wrangler's sell kau kau tins as souvenir items in their little gift shop within the restaurant. I was contemplating on getting one, thinking it would be kind of cool to bring a plate lunch to work. The article said the tins sold for $20 for the set but the price has increased to $30. I decided to get one anyway for nostalgia purposes and I got the last one, the display.

When I was paying for it, the nice gal behind the counter said that she just sold 2 the day before. Someone had called to reserve 2 because a friend of his wanted them. He asked her what they were for and she explained about the lunch. Before we were done, she asked if we were local (it's got to be my board shorts and slippas). I told her that we were from San Diego and it was the first time to Kauai but we've been to other islands. She asked, "We're more laid back, yeah?" I agreed and told her we love the island. It was a great way to end our last day in Kauai.

Other places that we dined at on Kauai (no pictures) were mostly at the resort. We were just too lazy to drive around. Our best meals (we ate there 3 times) were at Stevenson's Library and the Poipu Bay Golf Club Restaurant. Stevenson's Library offer sushi on certain evenings and we always sat at one corner of the koa wood bar. It was one of the best sashimi we've ever had. Their taco sunomono martini was delicious and the unagi roll was awesome. We couldn't get enough of it. The bartenders were great and it certainly was convenient since we didn't have to drive anywhere. We paid the price, of course, but we really enjoyed it.

Another place we ate at the resort was the highly acclaimed Tide Pools. The food was awesome but our server was a boob. He got the Mister's drink order wrong and then tried to play it off like the Mister ordered it wrong. Instead of a Bombay Sapphire straight up, the waiter brought back a dirtied martini (yuck). The waiter made some snide remark as to that's exactly how he likes his drink so I told him he can drink it. No, I wasn't being a brat about it and said it as a matter of factly in response to his remark. And we got the cold snobby attitude for the rest of the service. If the food wasn't so good, I would have spoken to the manager and/or walked out. I certainly expect high class service when they are charging high class prices. I don't think my expectations were unreasonable. Good thing was, this was the only negative experience of our entire trip.

We had complimentary breakfast with our stay at the Grand H, which was good because the breakfast buffet was very expensive. They changed it up everyday, but much to my chagrin because I love to have steamed rice, scrambled eggs, and Portuguese sausage, and they didn't always offer the sausage. It wasn't until our last day that we tried breakfast at the Poipu Bay Golf Club Restaurant. Too bad we didn't realize it earlier in our stay because we loved it. All the servers were so friendly, chatted with us like we were long time friends. The menu was ala carte and they served a local style breakfast called the Kaima'aina. Needless to say, the Mister and I both ordered it. It was a wonderful blend of very good fried rice, egg, and gravy. The fried rice was almost perfect, carrots, peas, green onions, Portuguese sausage, and laap cheong (Chinese sausage). If they would have added some char sui (BBQ pork), it would have been perfect! We both had over-easy eggs, which were fried just right. I think the Mister and I can have this local dish just about any day of the week. My stomach is grumbling now just thinking about it. I was sad to find out that they didn't open for breakfast until 7 am, so we weren't able to go for one last Kaima'aina the morning we flew out.

So these are the food highlights of the trip. Part 2 coming up soon, hopefully by this weekend.

Have a great week. Now go and eat well.


KirkK said...

Hi CAB - I knew I wouldn't have to worry about you eating well on vacation! ;o)

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hey Kirk! Food junkies always find a way to good food!