Categories
dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai Oahu reviews shave ice

Shave Ice Showdown!

It’s hot in Hawaii year round, and shave ice is a great way to cool off. Most people know the Big 3 in Oahu, but there’s one in Kauai that’s giving them a run for their money. Here my list in order of preference.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice

Waiola is the king of shave ice on Oahu with its finely shaved, snow-like ice and the killer selection of toppings. Plus it’s near Waikiki, especially Waiola II on Kapahulu Avenue (below), so you don’t have to drive an hour and half outside of town to get some. It’s really no contest.

Waiola Shave Ice

On our last trip back, I discovered the power of Calpico at the Kapahulu store. Calpico is a Japanese drink with a tart yogurt flavor that is popular in Asia and other fine Asian delicacies, such as Yakult, yogurt soju, and Pinkberry.

Melona and Calpico Shave IceWaiola’s Melona and Calpico shave ice

When you combine Calpico with Melona on shave ice, it’s the best of both worlds. The sweetness of the Melona works perfectly with the sour Calpico, and with vanilla ice cream on the bottom, you create a wonderful sweet-and-tart-and-creamy shave ice.

INFORMATION
Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
Waiola
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96805 map
808.949.2269

Kapahulu
525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 map
808.735.8886

Hawaiian Blizzard

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Kauai’s Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Waiola and Aoki’s, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.

shave ice

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30–5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. On our trip to Kauai in January, we landed in Lihue at around 3pm on a Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu. The detour was definitely worth the trip.

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

INFORMATION
Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Aoki’s Shave Ice

Aoki’s a couple hundred feet from their more famous competitor Matsumoto Shave Ice. The lines are much shorter, which means you generally don’t have to wait 20 minutes to get your shave ice, which is a big deal when it’s hot.

I like Aoki’s more than Matsumoto for one simple reason…the ice is shaved a lot finer, so it’s smooth and melts instantly once it hits your tongue. It’s actually very similar to Waiola, and my wife and I favor Waiola to Matsumoto anyway. Aoki’s is also where I discovered that Melona is my favorite shave ice flavor.

Aoki's Lychee and Melona Shave IceAoki’s Lychee and Melona Shave Ice.

If it’s your first time to visit Haleiwa, then go to Matsumoto’s just because it’s the “famous” one. But if you’re in Haleiwa for a repeat visit to Matsumoto’s, stop by Aoki’s and do a taste test and see which one you really like.

INFORMATION
Aoki’s Shave Ice
66-117 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96715 map
808.637.7017
Web site

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Matsumoto was my first shave ice experience and it set an excellent baseline for every other shave ice I’ve ever had. But with Aoki’s just a few hundred feet away, and the fact that my wife’s family is walking distance from Waiola, there’s really no need for us to go to Matsumoto anymore.

Nowadays, I only go into Matsumoto if we’re with a shave ice newbie or to buy souvenirs because they’ve got some of the best T-shirts on the island. The selection is great and they have sizes for everyone from newborns to adults.

Melona and Ling Hing Mui Shave IcePicture by Soozums at flickr.

There will likely be a line when you get to Matsumoto’s because it’s so popular, but you’re on vacation…relax and check out the souvenirs and study the menu while you’re in line. But Matsumoto’s fame is probably best reserved for the souvenirs.

INFORMATION
Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map
808.637.4827
Web site

A shout out to House of Annie for inspiring this post.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain entertainment Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu SPAM TV

Bourdain Latest in Long Line of SPAM Converts

This week’s episode of No Reservations brought Anthony Bourdain to Hawaii, and it was fun watching him enjoy some of the great food and drink Hawaii has to offer. I’ve been waiting for this show to air because I was curious about his impressions of local culture and cuisine, and I figured he’d be brutally honest about his experience.

Overall, the show did a pretty good job covering Hawaii in a short amount of time, but the most satisfying part of the show was when Bourdain professed his love for everyone’s favorite mystery meat…SPAM!

At the New Uptown Fountain in Kalihi, Bourdain settled into a meal with Honolulu Advertiser food columnist David Choo that can best be described as a local “tasting menu” that featured several local favorites, including different presentations of SPAM. (Choo chronicles his entire Bourdain experience on his blog, appropriately called Choo On This.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157604039920060″]

First up was SPAM Musubi (a.k.a. SPAM sushi), but this version had a fried rice filling instead of the traditional steamed rice.

“That’s great,” Bourdain said. “I’m thinking stoned at two o’clock in the morning, watching TV…I want this really badly.”

Categories
Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 2: New Discoveries

The old favorites are always nice, but we did get to try some new stuff in Oahu. Here’s some places you might not have read about in the tourist guides.

Hapa Grill

Hapa Grill is known for their teri beef, a family recipe that was a mainstay of the Sassy Kassy Lunch Wagon back in the day, and there are those who say it’s the best teri beef in Oahu. I think I’m inclined to agree, especially because it’s not overly sweet.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157603838050108″]

My wife had the fried noodles and teri beef and it was great. A huge plate of fried noodles with spam, eggs, fish cake with a side of the famous teri beef. The noodles were really good and it was (amazingly enough) the first bit of spam I’d had on this trip. I stole a piece of teri beef from my wife’s plate and immediately ordered myself a side order to complement my beef stew. The stew is the Wed. special and it was really good on this cool evening, esp. when it was mixed up with the rice. For dessert, we had an awesome chocolate mac nut brownie

It’s long drive out to Kapolei from town, but if you’re in the neighborhood or want a nice place to eat after shopping in Waikele, Hapa Grill’s not too far (about seven miles down H1 from Waikele) and definitely worth the drive.

INFORMATION
Hapa Grill
91590 Farrington Hwy
Kapolei, HI 96707 map
808.674.8400
Web site

Grass Skirt Grill

I really needed a break from eating meat, so when we were in Haleiwa on the North Shore visiting my sister-in-law, we ended up at Grass Skirt Grill for lunch (even though Kua Aina Burger smelled amazing when we walked by).


Grilled Hebi Salad

I ordered the excellent Grilled Hebi Salad because it featured locally grown vegetables and fresh, perfectly grilled fish (Hebi is a short-billed spearfish native to Hawaii). My wife and sister-in-law split a teri chicken sandwich that they both liked. We also got an order of onion rings and fries, but they were unremarkable.

Stick with the grilled fish and fresh veggies, especially if you’ve OD’ed on meat eating around the island, and you’ll have a light, satisfying lunch.

INFORMATION
Grass Skirt Grill
66-214 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map
808.637.4852

Categories
Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 1: Local Favorites

Trips to Oahu are annual since we’ve got to visit the family, and this also means good and CHEAP eats. If you’re planning on going to visit Oahu, here’s some places where you can eat like a local.

Ono Hawaiian Foods

If Kapahulu Avenue was a baseball team comprised of restaurants and their lineup included Leonard’s Bakery, Waiola Shave Ice, and Rainbow Drive-In batting in the 1,2, and 3 spots, Ono Hawaiian Foods would be the clean up hitter waiting to drive them all in. There’s a reason Ono is an all the tourist books, and you know the place is good because the locals will put up with all the tourists to eat there.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157603739900281″]

Ono is THE place to get authentic Hawaiian food in Oahu. They’re known for their kalua pig and their enormous, almost plate-sized lau laus. And it’s not all taro leaves either…it’s a generous amount of pork, enough for two or three people to split. The pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky) is also excellent and something I’ll be ordering from now on. The ahi poke is fresh and wonderful and the butterfish luau was also really good.

INFORMATION
Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 map
808.737.2275

Gina’s Bar-B-Q

Gina’s serves local-style Korean food, and it is one of my favorite places to eat in Hawaii because I love meat jun, which is almost impossible to find in this form on the mainland. Meat Jun is basically a really thin steak that’s dipped in egg batter and then fried. It’s kind of like a thin egg pancake with a sliver of steak in the middle. They serve it with a sweet dipping sauce that takes this humble dish to a whole other level.

On this trip, I paired my meat jun with some spicy fried chicken wings that were excellent. The crunchy, slightly spicy skin really hit the spot.


Meat Jun and Spicy Fried Chicken Combo

In addition to rice, you get your choice of four sides, which include basic Korean banchan offerings such as taegu, kim chee and pickled daikon, as well as local favorites like mac salad.

It’s small inside, so most of their business is take out, which is what we did. Best of all, Gina’s is cheap and the portions are extremely generous, so you get a lot of food for the money.

INFORMATION
Gina’s Bar-B-Q
2919 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826 map
808.735.7964

Categories
Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai noodles reviews shave ice

Eating Kauai

We were in Kauai for a wedding last weekend and didn’t have much time to explore the island and all its beauty, but we did our best to eat well. Here’s a rundown of our brief stay on the Garden Isle.

Hawaiian Blizzard

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30-5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. We landed in Lihue at around 3pm Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu, and it was definitely worth the trip.

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Aoki’s and Waiola, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.


shave ice

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

INFORMATION
Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Hamura’s Saimin

Hamura’s Saimin is what’s great about eating like a local in Hawaii. It’s cheap, the service is friendly and fast, and even though the place looks like a hole in the wall, the food makes you forget your surroundings and focus solely on the amazing meal that’s sitting in front of you. Also, if you see tons of locals eating there alongside the tourists, you know the place has to be good.

My wife and I aren’t the biggest saimin fans, but if we lived in Kauai, we’d definitely be regulars. My main problem with saimin is the broth. A bowl of L&L saimin I had a while back reminded me of dirty socks. Hamura’s broth was delicious and erased that crappy bowl of saimin from my memory. We both ordered the Special Saimin and feasted on the roast pork, thin slices of ham, wontons, kamaboko, vegetables and hard-boiled egg that topped the perfectly cooked noodles.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157603761913355″]

We also ordered a couple of meat sticks (beef and chicken) and a perfect piece of tempura shrimp. We finished off the meal with a slice of their lilikoi (passion fruit) chiffon pie, which was light and airy…perfect after all the other food we had just polished off.

If you’re in Kauai, Hamura’s Saimin is probably the one place that you MUST visit. Otherwise your trip just isn’t complete.

INFORMATION
Hamura’s Saimin
2956 Kress Street
Lihue, HI 96766 map
808.245.3271

Categories
Best of Inuyaki Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu reviews

Alan Wong’s Restaurant

Towards the end of our last trip back to Hawaii, I was craving something fancy, and the other “upscale” restaurants in town (Sam Choy’s, Roy’s) got mixed reviews from everyone I had talked to. Only Alan Wong’s Restaurant got universal praise, and it’s hard to argue with a place that’s garnered so many accolades, including the prestigious James Beard award.

We thought about ordering the 5-course prix fixe chef’s tasting menu ($75), but decided to eschew its rigidity in favor of ordering directly from the menu. This actually saved us money, and we got to eat exactly what we wanted.



We started off with the Nori-wrapped Seared Tempura Ahi, garnished with soy mustard and tomato ginger relish. It was beautifully presented and a great way to start the meal. Next were the hoisin BBQ ribs, which were a little sweet but completely decadent. The succulent rib meat was easily to separated from the bones using either chopsticks or a fork.

The entrees were the main attraction, and they were all so pretty when they arrived at the table. My sister-in-law had the Twice Cooked Short Ribs, Soy Braised and Grilled “Kalbi” Style with Gingered Shrimp, Ko Choo Jang Sauce. This was just about perfect. My wife had the Ginger-Crusted Onaga, a long-tailed red snapper served with a Miso-Sesame Vinaigrette, which she really loved. I had the Macadamia Nut-Coconut Crusted Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Asian Ratatouille. I wasn’t too into the Ratatouille, but the lamb chops were delicious, probably the best I’ve ever had and the sauce was great with the mashed potatoes.

After dinner, we were given a coffee menu with a selection as diverse as any wine list. I opted for the chef’s current favorite, an Organic Lafayette Coffee from south Kona, which was delicious, although some grounds got into my cup through the French press.

For dessert, we ordered the Taste of Hawaii Cheesecakes, which was pretty good, but only two of the four flavors really stood out, the Kona Coffee and the purple Okinawan Sweet Potato with Haupia sorbet. We also ordered the Chocolate Crunch Bars, which were like gourmet Kit Kats. This was the perfect way to finish the meal.

Overall, the Alan Wong experience was excellent. Service was attentive and the plating of the food was so satisfied our food porn desires. The location is a little odd, and it doesn’t have the greatest view, but the food is the star here. So if you’ve got some cash to blow on your trip to Hawaii, I’d give it to Alan Wong before Sam Choy or Roy Yamaguchi.

INFORMATION
Alan Wong’s Restaurant
1857 S. King Street, Third Floor
Honolulu, HI 96826
808-949-2526
Web site