Travel Eats

Entries in Hawaii (6)


Pa'ina Cafe

 Hoping to maximize our poke intake before returning to the Mainland we checked out Pa'ina Cafein Koko Marina Shopping Center on our way home from Sandy's.

Pa'ina means "gathering," and their mission is to bring people together with fresh, really ono food.  To that effect, their menu is diverse with a selection of sandwiches, plate lunch, salads and bowls to please the entire group.

The concept of a poke bowl is new to me, but echoes the ice cream sundae construction.   A base + toppings=huge variety of flavor combinations.

Take a base of brown or white rice, add a sauce (spicy/mild), poke of your choice, and as many toppings as you like and are willing to pay for at 50 cents each.  The cheerful staff will have the bowl of goodness to you in short order.   Can't decide on one type of poke?  No worries, they let you do half/half.  The day we went they had masago (flying fish roe) wasabi poke, and I mixed that up with the limu ahi poke, topped with scallions, kimchi and seaweed salad--see first picture in post.  Ian went heavy on the kimchi.

 Cullen got the Hawaiian bowl--poke plus kalua pig and lomi salmon.

 Maddy got the poke salad bowl--no rice + salad dressing.  Sophie got a grilled cheese--no surprise there.  The poke was super fresh, and no price increase this close to New Years!?  A large bowl will run you $6.35, and there had to be close to a half pound of ahi on each bowl.  The Hawaiian bowl is $7.25.  Time ran out for another stop at Pa'ina Cafe for me, but Ian returned for the Hawaiian bowl.  I am back to a poke-free existence in Texas and wishing Pa'ina Cafe delivered.

Paina Cafe on Urbanspoon


House of Pure Aloha

There is a new shave ice purveyor in town in the Aina Haina shopping center, and it makes a perfect stop on your way home from Hanauma Bay.  Uncle Clay Chang and his nephew Bronson opened this past fall with a double pronged mission of creating some really ono shave ice and spreading their message on living pure aloha.  For every dollar spent on gift cards, the Changs will give a certain percentage back to selected charities, and they are putting the local back in shave ice with local partners and suppliers. 

The shave ice pictured above is lichee and coconut with homemade mochi hearts and azuki beans--not the usual garish colors one would expect because the syrups are all natural.  Certainly less photogenic but definitely no less tasty.  They are also the first shave ice establishment to offer a kale-based syrup--a little too green for me, but I'm sure there will be takers.  

If you are in the neighborhood, stop in and live the aloha.



Fast Food with a View

Plate lunch: meat + rice + macaroni salad.  A winning formula, and Zippy's does it right.  No trip to Hawaii is complete without a stop here.  This is hearty fare, perfect for replacing the calories you just burned surfing or hiking.  

Korean Fried chicken: crispy and coated with a sweet garlic sauce.

The beloved Zippy's chili.  They will ship to the mainland for the die-hard fans.

Fried noodles: Sophie's favorite dish.

From Napolean's Bakery--the associated pastry shop within Zippy's.  This is their Reese's Cup Doughnut.  Sophie referred to it as "the Holy Grail of Doughnuts."  We were saving room for shave ice, or I would have had a coconut napple--a flaky coconut filled turnover unique to Zippy's.

 Zippy's... easy on your wallet not on your waistline.....


Matsumoto's Shave Ice and the North Shore

The two biggest reasons to go to the North Shore--Matsumoto's Shave Ice and big waves.  Waimea shorebreak (shown above) and Pipeline were going off!  

And don't you dare call it a snow cone.  Snow cones are the crunchy anemic treats you get from the creepy ice cream truck.  Shave ice is powdery and soft and drenched with the flavor syrup of your choice.  My choice is always something tropical like lichi and lilikoi.  Matsumoto's does shave ice right as evidenced by the line that usually winds out the door and around the building.

Spend the extra 25 cents and get the cone holder unless you don't mind sticky fingers.  For the adventurous and/or truly local, get the azuki beans and ice cream in the bottom of your cone.  

 There is a saying in Hawaii--"Lucky we live Hawaii."  Yes, indeed.

Matsumoto Shave Ice on Urbanspoon



We have been disappointed at Roy's and Alan Wong's, and Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch and Crab doesn't belong in the fine dining category.  What is a Pan Asian lover to do?  Head to Hoku's--our go-to restaurant on Oahu for as long as I can remember.  Every table has an ocean view, and the service is professional and understated with plenty of aloha spirit.

The amuse bouche was a tiny crabcake a top a little nest of ocean salad and dolloped with some Asian remoulade.  A little bite of the sea to start us off on our journey.

 Ian's Gibson became a martini when the server realized the bar was out of cocktail onions.  At least he knew what a Gibson was.  The drink menu is loaded with tropical drinks--unfortunately the craft cocktail craze hasn't invaded Hawaii yet?  They do have a nice wine by the glass selection--the rose and the pinot noir suggested by the server were an excellent pairing for my meal.

Big Island Hearts of Palm: shaved hearts of palm, ahi and hamachi, orange and grapefruit with yuzu orange vinaigrette.  Hearts of palm fascinates me--more textural than a taste it blended nicely with the other ingredients. The fish was buttery soft and fresh.  My only complaint was the relatively light hand with the dressing--the blandness of the hearts of palm could have used another splash. 

Short rib tempura: braised short rib, kalbi jus and avocado tempura.  This was one of those dishes I had to order because I cannot imagine myself at home braising short-ribs and then tempura frying them.  I have forgotten the names of the other sauces on the plate, but they had enough acid to cut the richness of the ribs and the avocado.

Chinese House Roast Duck with bao buns, wok fried vegetables and orange hoisin sauce.  Another dish I wouldn't dream of attempting at home.  I had missed out on the opportunity to get honest to goodness roast duck in Vancouver's Chinatown, and I took a chance on Hoku's.  This was my favorite dish of our meal.  The duck was seasoned and roasted to perfection and came to the table sliced and ready to stuff into the little bao with some sauteed bok choy and asparagus.

Fish special: onaga with citrus panko crust, fresh tomato salad.  Another reason I ordered the duck...Ian beat me to the fish special.  Hoku's does offer a whole fried fish for two, but after having this dish in Thailand for <$30 I doubted that the $120 version at Hoku's could be 300% better.  This was an interesting preparation, and I expected a thin panko coating instead of the slab pictured above.  The fish was moist, and the citrus in the crust really shone.  The tomato salad was meh.  The tomatoes were a little overripe, and I am suspicious of a tomato in December, even in Hawaii.

Haupia Katsu: mango sorbet and tropical fruit minestrone.  Haupia is a coconut pudding/gelatin dessert.  Coating it with more coconut and then deep frying it?  The best.  I am not sure why they called the sauce minestrone, but it was good.  

 Nondescript cookie, macaron, cranberry gelee, hazelnut/chocolate crisp, lilikoi truffle.  These came to our table with the check...yay!  The hazelnut/chocolate crisp was our favorite, and I would love to see a full-size version on the menu.  

If you are lucky enough to go to Oahu skip the craziness of downtown Waikiki and head down Kahala Avenue to Hoku's for a meal you will remember.

Hoku's on Urbanspoon