Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Where to eat in Hawaii?

When I zeroed in on Hawaii as my next vacation destination, the first thing I did was not to look up ‘places to see’ or ‘things to do’, but researched on ‘MUST EATS’. I did the usual routine of watching the No Reservation and Bizarre Foods episode on Hawaii – two of my favorite shows at that time. I’d made a comprehensive list of places where I wanted to dine and taste some of the most exotic foods of Hawaii. I think I did a decent justice to my list but not to the entire gamut of cuisine that the island state has to offer. The local cuisine along with its heavy foreign influence, Asian in particular is quite amazing. Here is the list of places that I ventured out during my very short 10 day trip to the islands.

Breakfast at Arancino

Arancino, located just outside the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is a great place to start your lazy day. Beautiful breakfast served at the lanai while you are watching the morning crowd and the waves. The format is pretty simple - you got the buffet to dig into and then you have the 'cook to order' items, but the food - amazing! The buffet by itself is a big spread to fill you up - greens (I'm not a big salad person in the morning....actually I'm not a big salad person period), fresh pastries, spinach & mushroom frittatas, wild rice, variety of cheeses and meats, fresh juice bar and of course the Kona blend coffee! The highlight of the menu is the crepes that this old man dishes outside @ his crepe station - simple, lip-smacking avocado and blueberry crepe full of flavor! For $17 per person, they fit right into your Hawaii budget!

Wild rice and Spinach frittata
Old man and the crepe station
Rolling those beauties
Blueberry and Avocado

Malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery
After reading a lot of reviews on the Malasadas - Portuguese inspired doughnuts, I wanted to try them out. Leonard’s' Bakery on Kapahulu Ave is probably your best bet and you can't go wrong. They are simple deep fried yeast dough confectioneries but the bakers at Leonard’s' add their local touch to it. I got a sampler and it included the 'original' and the stuffed ones - cinnamon, haupia (coconut), chocolate, pineapple and custard. I suggest you eat them or share them right after you buy them, ‘cos the stuffed ones are likely to melt and get soggy within a few hours! You can’t microwave them; it will just lose its natural fluffiness and will taste rather ordinary! And yes, have it with your coffee!

Malasadas by the dozen

Irifune Japanese Restaurant
Oh, we struck gold here! Walking along Kapahulu Ave in search for a nice meal, we pretty much struck gold - a quirky, BYOB, Japanese restaurant that filled the cravings of both the meat eaters and the vegetarians of our group! This is like one of those restaurants that someone living in Honolulu will recommend to you; so to trip and fall into this culinary gold mine was sheer luck! I have to start with what they are known for, what they do real good every day again and again - their Garlic Ahi - amazingly rich, dripping in garlic and butter, prolly the moist of all Ahi's you've had! Need more garlic?? No can get some extra garlic sauce on the side for dipping! When you end up with all that butter and garlic on your hands, you know you are having good food! The sushi was also fresh and my fav was the spicy tuna; the freshness is btw common in most of the island Jap restos. The other item that is a must try is the breaded tofu. Long slices of tender tofu breaded and deep fried served either as an appetizer or along with your entree. We got it with the Japanese Veg curry served with rice. Try the California roll here - it tasted better here even though it’s just rice, cucumber and avocado! And do not forget to buy some Kirin Ichiban or Sapporo from the gas station right next door! Enjoy!

California Rolls and breaded tofu
Breaded tofu with Jap veg curry....I know the photo quality sucks!

Ramen at International Market Place
Among the "must-eats" in Hawaii, I had the Ramen on my list - the noodle soup that is omnipresent in Hawaii thanks to the Japs. While strolling through the International Market Place shopping for some Tiki-God carvings we wandered into the food court. I'm not a big fan of food courts with it's never ending list of chains dishing out micro-waved frozen food. Though this was not your typical mall-styled food court, I was not too enthused about trying out the Ramen here. My options were limited and I was getting hungry, so finally succumbed to trying out the Ramen. I ordered the Teriyaki Chicken Ramen and a shrimp fritter. What’s better to have with your Ramen - some bubble tea! You got to love those tapioca balls! The fact that the one-man-cook-manager-cashier-waiter at this tiny joint took about 10 mins to prep the Ramen made it appear a bit more authentic. Or did he put the 2-min ‘Top-Ramen’ inside the microwave...hmmm I'll never know. The Ramen was not bad actually - came in a midsized bowl all inclusive - chicken strips, dried seaweed, kamaboko (cured fish) rich in miso flavor. I was trying it out for first time so couldn’t really compare or rate it. I liked it! The shrimp fritter was okay - nothing great about the batter. But the Ramen is definitely a "must-eat" in Hawaii; unless you have a trip planned to Kyoto sooner!

Fully loaded Teriyaki Ramen

Eggs 'n' Things
This 35 year old breakfast joint could be the sole reason why you need to take the 8 hour flight across the Pacific to the Islands. Guess what I did the first thing on the first morning at Honolulu? Yes, walked along the Waikiki at 6.00 AM with my dad and dined at Eggs 'n' Things! Why did I go so early? Well two reasons - one I knew and was warned by my fellow food addicts is that this place gets so crowded by 7.00 AM that you end up waiting for almost 90 mins, it's crazy; the long line of people waiting to get in resembles a downtown club at 12.00 AM on Saturday night! Reason #2 - the walk along the Waikiki at sun rise is out of the world! Anyway, coming back to the real deal - the menu here boast traditional breakfast fare - eggs, pancakes, crepes and waffles - their pineapple, blueberry, macadamia nut variations are the crowd favs. I had the much talked about vegetarian omelette and wanted to see what options they had for a side - rice, potatoes and pancakes...wait a min, did you say pancakes as a side? Yes, imagine getting 3 fluffy blueberry macadamia nut pancakes topped with a mountain of whip cream as a side to an omelette?? Next time you are at Denny's try telling them that! The pictures pretty much tell you the rest of the story!
This was the side to your omellete!
My breakfast order - omellete and side of bb pancake

Doing the necessary justice!

Shave ice
Another island tradition is the Shave ice, yet another simple treat - shaved ice topped with different syrups. When the sun is beating down and you are out of beer (which will never happen in reality) you go for the shave ice. I didn’t try it at the legendary Waiola Bakery, but mine was the 'rainbow' flavored and came with a bunch of syrups. If you should try - then go for the one at Waiola Bakery and sample some exotic flavors like lillikoi, green tea, guava, pineapple, strawberry, bubble gum, pina colada, calpico and coke! You could also try the azuki beans and mochi balls toppings!

My niece trying to polish off her shave ice after trekking down the diamond head!

Kona Brewery Co
Every region has its own variation of beers and Hawaii is no different, after all beer is the third most popular drink in the world after water and tea according to Wikipedia! The island of Kona is the home of the "Kona Brewery" and they have 4 different kind of beers each distinct in taste, hops content and aroma as they call it! Unable to tour the brewery for lack of time we were at the end of our holiday sitting at the airport passing time. My dad and I decided to get a drink at the airport bar and guess what - Kona Brewing Co runs the airport bar! Straight away I decided to order the sampler, while my dad settled for his usual. The sampler consisted of the Island Lager, the Pale Ale, Golden Ale and Pipeline Porter. Each one had its typical island first name viz. 'long board', 'big wave' and 'fire rock'! The 1st three were your typical stuff - nice beers that you would drink every day. The last one, Pipeline Porter was the ugly cousin - it is a dark beer where the malt is infused with coffee! Yes, coffee! It did not taste anything like beer and the Kona coffee did not do any justice either! The coffee over powered the malt way too much imho. I was glad my sampler was just around 5 oz. But hey, I've checked one more item from my bucket list - coffee flavored beer!
The pipeline porter on the far left - not like anything you've tasted before!
So the next time you plan to visit Hawaii do not miss these must-eat places!

1 comment:

  1. getting hungry reading this da...what about the breakfast place near the big island airport - totally deserves mention.