January 22, 2011

The HI Life: Part I

After my law school graduation and before the Bar prep course, Mr. Tall and I decided to take a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. Neither of us had been to Hawaii, so it was an easy choice for a fun and food-filled vacation. Approximately five and a half hour later on a non-stop flight on Hawaiian Airlines from SAN to HNL, we were there!

Our first stop as soon as we arrived in Oahu was Helena's Hawaiian Food, which is located in a residential neighborhood in Honolulu. The founding chef of Helena's Helen Chock received a James Beard Award in 2000, so needless to say Mr. Tall and I were very excited to try this place. 

We ordered Menu D, which included Pipikaula Short Ribs, Kalua Pork, Lomi Salmon, Poi, and Luau Squid (that green bowl that looks like cream spinach). Of course, it came with a side of Maui onion to eat with chili water and Alaea salt, and Haupia (coconut dessert) to finish off the meal. The first and definitely the best Hawaiian meal of the trip! 

For dinner during our first day in Waikiki, Mr. Tall found a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Waikiki called Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin doesn't just specialize in Tonkatsu, they specialize in Tonkatsu made with Kurobuta, or the Kobe beef of pork. 

First, you grind up toasted sesame seeds, as coarsely or as finely as you'd prefer, to add to their house Tonkatsu sauce. 

The Kurobuta Tonkatsu was tender and well cooked--almost as good as Maisen in Japan! Day 2 in Oahu took us to the top of Nu'uanu Pali and the beautiful beach of Lanikai. For a late lunch, Mr. Tall and I went to Young's Fish Market, which is such a great Hawaiian plate lunch/takeout spot.

I tried my first Lau Lau, which is a traditional Hawaiian dish of pork and butterfish wrapped inside taro leaves, and was hooked! The dish sounds a bit strange and doesn't exactly look appealing, but the saltiness of the butterfish with the mild yet slightly bitter taste of the taro leaves made the dish so delicious and comforting.

Mr. Tall got the Kalua Pork, which like other lunch plates at Young's, came with 2 scoops of rice and a side of purple sweet potato, which he really enjoyed. Although Mr. Tall thought the Kalua pork was relatively good, it was his least favorite of the trip. After a quick lunch at Young's, we made our way over to the Shimazu Store for some shave ice!

Mr. Tall got the Rainbow Combo with (blue) vanilla, strawberry, and banana syrup, and vanilla ice cream on the bottom. 

I ordered mine with lilikoi (passion fruit), lychee, and green tea syrup, topped with sweetened condensed milk, all on top of Azuki red bean! It was the perfect afternoon treat after the day at the beach. The Shimazu Store is a small, family-owned operation, which is totally different from the empire of Matsumoto Shave Ice. Even though Mr. Tall and I didn't make it to Matsumoto, we prefer our experience at the Shimazu Store because of its personable service and handmade quality of each order of Shave Ice.

On Day 3, Mr. Tall and I visited the USS Arizona Memorial in the morning, and hiked up Diamond Head in the afternoon. The USS Arizona Memorial site was a great place to visit and reflect on the sacrifice the men and women in service have made and continue to make. For lunch, we stuffed our faces with some more Hawaiian food at the Rainbow Drive-In. We were so hungry that I forgot to take any photos!

Not too far from the Rainbow Drive-In is Leonard's Bakery, the home of their famous Malasadas. Malasadas are Portuguese donut confection that are super popular in Hawaii.

The Malasadas are simply fried dough rolled in granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar. We got half a dozen of them to enjoy after the hike up Diamond Head, and for dessert after dinner that night. Mr. Tall and I headed to the Ala Moana shopping complex to walk around and do a little shopping (taxes are much lower in HI than in CA!). We didn't have any dinner plans, so Mr. Tall did a little Yelping while we were shopping and found that Alan Wong's Pineapple Room is conveniently located inside the Macy's. We started with a Chinese Roast Duck Quesadilla, which was probably the best thing of the night (and that isn't saying too much). 

Mr. Tall ordered a mango and Macademia nut-crusted, apple curry glazed Kurobota pork chop served with Kabocha pumpkin and Mascarpone cheese puree, and he thought it was good. He sure ate a lot of Kurobota pork that week!

We had been eating a lot of heavy dishes, so I thought I would order something light like the seared peppered Ahi with Asian slaw. Although the Ahi was fresh, the whole dish was a big letdown. The prices at the Pineapple Room were high for what I thought was mediocre food--or maybe we just ordered the wrong dishes. The place left me disappointed especially considering the fact that Alan Wong put his name on it! 

That's it for Part I; Part II will be here tomorrow! 



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