28 July 2008

Hiroshi's in Honolulu

I guess my excuse for all the fancy restaurants is that this is a continuation of my birthday celebration--combined with me and Kea wanting to get to all these restaurants before we have to fly back to Michigan. So, Hiroshi's is one of my other favorite restaurants. We dream about the Kampachi Carpaccio--or as we like to call it, Kampaccio--all year. Honestly, I don't even know what kampachi tastes like because it's the sauce and garnishes that really make the dish. We found green onion, ginger, tiny cubes of tofu, tomato, and yellow bell pepper. And Kea doesn't even like tomato and bell pepper.

My new favorite dish is the chawan mushi. Usually it's basically a savory custard with things like little bits of seafood and shiitake in it. It is typical Japanese food but I never had it growing up so any kind of chawan mushi kind of excites me. This one was amazing though. The custard was on the bottom and there was broth on top. I think the truffle oil really made it because it was just rich, yummy goodness. But not too rich. Kea said he was sure there were ingredients in it that he didn't like but all together it tasted great. It was so good that I didn't mind at all that the portion was small enough that it was served in an espresso cup. That's how good the food is here. It's so expensive ($88 for two, no drinks) but so worth it.

Our other favorite thing was the complimentary rice crackers and wasabi aioli that are served before the meal. The crackers are made out toasty puffed rice stuck together and broken into irregular chip-sized shapes. It somehow manages to taste better and better throughout the meal.

We also made sure to save room for dessert. I had the Haupia Lemongrass Creme Brulee and Kea had the Bananas Foster Ice Cream Puff. Both were awesome. The desserts here are beautiful and not too big. They're served on rectangular plates with different elements set out in a row. So I had the creme brulee on the left, orange sorbet on the right, and some fruit and sauces artfully set up in the middle. Dessert here is so satisfying!

We also had the sushi duo, panko-crusted ahi, spinach salad, and almond-crusted mahi. These were all okay. The miso salmon in the sushi duo was a little salty; I liked the ginger-scallion ahi better. The almond-crusted mahi was my least favorite. It was a little too rich and I think mahi just reminds me of junk fish.

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27 July 2008

Sansei Waikiki

This is one of my favorite restaurants, although there were some disappointments since the last time I visited--back when it was still in Restaurant Row. (Also, note that there are *that* many good restaurants in Honolulu that I can not visit a favorite restaurant for years!)

Anyway, we ordered the Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll, which was awesome (photo above right). Although I don't know why the name is so long. The arugula and wasabi gave it a bitterness that I loved. And Kea did too even though he is not much of a fan of wasabi.

We also had the Mango Crab Salad Roll. I think the photo in the middle above is supposed to be it, but ours looked different. There wasn't enough mango and there was way too much crab salad. We all really liked the Thai chili sauce that came on the plate though.

Others at our table ordered the ahi poke, which tasted pretty good and came in a pretty large portion size, but was a little salty and honestly pretty basic. I go to Sansei for the special stuff, not the standards!

The Sansei Special Roll was a little sweet for my taste and wasn't rolled well--the pieces were falling apart! I probably wouldn't order this again.

I think everything else we ordered was from the list of specials. We had the collar of some fish which was pretty moist despite being over-cooked. It had a smoky flavor, which I also liked, and came with some greens.

My parents ordered the set meal for two and felt it was a waste. I could've told them that; it really sounded like something for tourists that had no clue what to order.

For dessert, some of the group loved the tempura ice cream, although it wasn't to my taste. My sister said it tasted like malasada. I loved the creme brulee even though it was pretty basic. I don't think the brownie sundae went over to well--or maybe it was just too big. My auntie had the apple tart and loved it--so much that she "forgot" to share some with her daughter.

Other than the food, there were some other factors that influenced the experience. First, as the restaurant is now in Waikiki, parking is a mess. The lot was full and though we managed to find street parking, everyone else in our party ended up paying $12 per car for the valet. My mom's theory is that they leave the "Lot Full" sign on permanently to encourage people to get valet.

Also, our party of thirteen was split onto two tables. I think they said they could accommodate one party of our size on a single table, but there was already a birthday party there. To be fair, they had told my mom on the phone that our party would be split up. On the plus side, when she did complain, the manager was kind enough to offer every member of the party a complimentary dessert.

My sister also felt that the decor was below par for the price of the food. The chairs were pretty generic basic restaurant chairs. Also, the tablecloths were covered with plexiglass like they do at Chinese restaurants. It makes sense at Chinese restaurants so that the staff can prep the table for the next party quickly, but the turnover at Sansei doesn't seem fast enough that a new tablecloth would be a big deal. It also seemed the plexiglass was there so that flyers about happy hour and other events could be slipped underneath. Kind of ghetto, although personally, as long as the food is good, I don't know that I mind a casual atmosphere. And there were other elements of the decor that were more attractive, like wood and other organic elements.

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14 July 2008

7/13/08: Overheard at Starbucks in Borders Waikele

College-age local guy and girl. Conversation seemed only mildly awkward at first, like I'm 20 and I need to prove that I'm cool. She was saying something about how Jabbawockeez was gonna be performing or making an appearance somewhere. He didn't believe her at first and then he was like, "I gotta go to that. I wanna get a picture with all those guys. Without their masks."

Then like he was giving her a hard time about some guys she was hanging out with while he was away and her not answering when he called. It was total bullshit. Like they were both such shitty arguers, it was totally painful. He even grabbed her phone to look at her numbers and I wanted to slap him. I'm not really sure how the conversation turned but I think he was trying to get her to be more considerate of his feelings or something so he goes, "What do you do when your son gets hurt? When he scrapes his knee or burns his lip? Do you just let him cry?"

And she goes, "No. I tell him, 'Suck it up.'"

06 July 2008

Favorite Starbucks in Hawai'i: Waimalu Shopping Center

This location did not charge me for the "splash of soy" in my Americano (which I am pretty sure is the right way to do things because it's the same as adding free creamer) and they also put the right amount of soy--not too much. I'm wondering if these two things are related--like the people who put too much soy charge me because they think I want a lot.


01 July 2008

Ramen Series, Part I: I Love Instant

I love instant ramen far too much. I know it is supposed to be like college student food, poor people food. To be fair, I guess I am still a college student, but it's not about that. I seriously love instant ramen. I eat it when I have a cold or sinus infection, going with the theory that at least it's hot soup even if it's got little nutritional value. I also just like to have it for breakfast sometimes, especially if it's cold or I am in the mood for something salty. I think I generally prefer salty over sweet so breakfast options anger me sometimes.

I think my love for instant ramen is also emotional though. Even Kea doesn't understand it. He never eats the stuff. So it can't be a Hawai'i thing. I think in my home, instant ramen was a weird kind of treat. Like if we wanted it for breakfast, we could only do that if we had enough time. But the best was when my dad would make instant ramen after we got home at night--maybe after a movie or going to the carnival. We'd be driving home and my dad would propose the idea. It was very exciting, sort of like a midnight snack. He'd top the noodles with whatever we had in the fridge--slices of fishcake or leftover steak, pork chops, or barbecue chicken, leftover boiled won bok, choi sum, or mustard cabbage. And we'd sit around the folding table in the TV room, my parents commenting on how big our appetites were and how they would need to make an extra package next time.