Saturday, December 31, 2011

Side Street Inn

I concluded my whirlwind eating marathon in Hawaii with a trip to Side Street Inn, a restaurant with two locations on Oahu. There is the original location on Hopaka (in Honolulu, near Ala Moana) and the newest one "On Da Strip" on Kapahulu Ave. For this visit, I went to the Kapahulu location.

Menu (December 2011)

Side Street Inn was featured on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" and on Adam Richman's "Man v. Food Nation." Bourdain went to the one on Hopaka, while Richman hit up Kapahulu. Side Street is a restaurant/bar that opens in the afternoon (sometime around 2 or 3) and closes in the wee hours of the morning. I find the newer Kapahulu place as brighter, with better overall ambiance than the one on Hopaka.

The place wasn't too crowded as I walked in a bit after 5 p.m. in early December. I ordered their signature Side Street Inn fried rice ($12 + $1 takeout fee). The rice includes bacon, Portuguese sausage, char siu, green onions, peas, carrots, and other seasonings blended with white rice.

Side Street Inn's Famous Fried Rice!
I'm with Richman on this's just some of the best fried rice I've ever had. That smoky meat essence amplifies the savoriness and envelops each bite, so damn addicting. The rice takes on a dirty-rice color, adding to the appeal.

I wanted to get their famous pork chops to go, but got told that the Kapahulu location doesn't allow takeout orders on the pork chops...WTF? When I asked for an explanation, they basically said it was a manager's decision to ensure there would be enough pork chops for the dine-in patrons. my opinion, that's not a valid reason. If those pork chops -- again, a signature menu item -- are that popular, get more pork chops! If they sell (practically guaranteed), then there should be no danger of wasted food costs.

As a note, other popular menu items include the Bone-In Kalbi (market price, usually around $22) and the Pulehu Short Ribs (market price, usually around $25). Some of the menu items take a longer wait time (such as the pork chops), but they should be worth the wait!

The ladies that I talked with were very professional -- model employees. The fried rice, as stated above, was great. However, the issue with the pork chops left a stinging, bittersweet experience. While I like Side Street Inn overall, I vehemently disagree with the decision to limit pork chop orders to dine-in patrons (hopefully that will change in the future). 6.25/10

That's a wrap on 2011 food reviews, folks! 468 reviews posted in about six and a half months, and 500 reviews written overall (32 reviews have yet to be posted). Happy New Year!

Moose McGillycuddy's Pub & Cafe

Moose McGillycuddy's is a pub and cafe located on Lewers St. in Waikiki, on the island of Oahu. There are two other locations on Maui (one in Lahaina and the other in Kihei). The Waikiki branch came first (in 1980), followed by Lahaina (1983) and Kihei (2005).

From 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., breakfast is served. Moose McGillycuddy's is home to the "Moose Omelette Challenge," as featured on the Oahu episode of "Man v. Food Nation." The challenge ($23.95) consists of "12 large eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, onions, & melted cheese served with breakfast potatoes and toast." If you finish everything in one hour or less, you'll get your name on their Wall of Fame and a free souvenir T-shirt.

The challenge has likely been there since the Waikiki doors first opened over 30 years ago. I saw several plaques honoring the hundreds of winners. The first winner came in 1980. February 1984 brought one of the challenge's youngest and lightest champions (an 11-year-old boy weighing 72 pounds). Among the fastest to complete the challenge: a man eating everything in about 8.5 minutes!

The first winners of the Moose Omelette Challenge!

The most recent winners!
(photo taken in early December 2011)
If you want a normal breakfast, try their "Moose-Cakes." You can get coconut syrup or maple syrup, and even an option for bananas, macadamia nuts, or pineapple toppings. They come in single, short stack, and full stack sizes (anywhere from $3.50 to $9.95, depending on what you get). But heck, consider their "Big Stack Attack" ($9.95 to $10.95; three eggs on three pancakes, served with bacon) if you want a ton of carbs and protein.

Heck, even the "Hawaiian French Toast" ($10.45) sounds awesome: traditional French toast with three thick slices of Portuguese sweet bread, dusted with powdered sugar, served with choice of bacon, ham, or sausage.

I arrived around noon on a Monday. Since I just missed breakfast time, I opted for one of the pupus (appetizers). I got the BBQ Pork Sliders ($10.45): juicy pulled pork mixed with their house-made BBQ sauce, served on three Hawaiian sweet bread rolls. It came with a side of thinly sliced cabbage to put inside each slider.

BBQ Pork Sliders
(Moose McGillycuddy's Pub & Cafe)

I loved the extremely juicy pork, which also possessed a smoky flavor (kalua pig, anyone?). The tangy BBQ sauce complemented the pork -- and I'm glad it wasn't totally caked in BBQ sauce so I could still appreciate the meat. The sweet rolls were a unique touch that you won't find much (if at all) on the mainland. Light, very fluffy, and even toasted a bit on the inside.

Since it's in Waikiki, parking is hellish if you come at the wrong time. But if you're one of the lucky ones who can just walk here (or get dropped off), I'd try this place out.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Moose McGillycuddy's has "Early Happy Hour" with $3 Moose Mai Tais. Their Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m. has various drinks for $3 or $4. Furthermore, each night has special offers, only from 4 p.m. onward.

Mondays: Free wings with any two entrees, burgers, or sandwiches
Tuesdays: "Tacolicious Tuesdays" (kalua pig, chicken, mahimahi, calamari steak, or shrimp)
Wednesdays: Burger and fries for $6.95
Thursdays: "Pasta Night" (any two pasta dishes for $18.95)
Fridays: All-you-can-eat Fish and Chips ($13.95)
Saturdays: Steak Night (8 oz. steak, fries, and slaw for $13.95)
Sundays: "Fajita Fiesta Amore" (steak/chicken fajitas for two for $19.95)

Moose McGillycuddy's had friendly service as I waited for my order. Check this place out and try the food (and drinks) for yourself! 7.5/10

Chicago Eatz

(UPDATE: Chicago Eatz is now located on Kauai!)

Chicago Eatz, located on Ward Avenue just across from the Neal S. Blaisdell arena, serves Chicago-influenced food -- out of a bus. Joe, the owner and cook, is originally from Chicago, so I was pretty excited to try this place out.

Kuru Kuru Sushi

Kuru Kuru Sushi is a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, with two locations on Oahu (at the time of this post): one in Kahala Mall in Honolulu, and the other in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center in Aiea (near Pearlridge). I went to the Aiea location this time.

Basically, if you've never been to one of these before, plates of sushi and other food items are placed on the conveyor belt; price depends on the color of the plate. You can also flag a server down and ask for something if you don't see it.

My friend and I got to Kuru Kuru a bit before 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. Yup, that means it's waiting list time. Luckily, we only waited 15 minutes and then went to town on some food.

First, an ahi poke bowl ($5.95). A hefty scoop (or two) of rice with a heaping pile of ahi poke. That sesame oil lifted the fresh, cubed ahi real well here. Nice presentation (and extra flavor) with the green onions. Big fan of this dish!

Ahi Poke Bowl (Kuru Kuru Sushi)
Next, a little snack. A plate of Jin Deui ($2.10): sesame seed balls with sweet black bean paste in them. Nice and soft when biting into them, yet firm enough to hold all the good stuff inside. Properly made and delicious.

Jin Deui (Kuru Kuru Sushi)
Inside the Jin Deui
Oh...what was that I saw? Butterfish? A small, whole butterfish waiting for me to devour? Yes, please! A sweet-savory taste to this...buttery fish (duh), perhaps miso was used? Not much meat on this guy, but heck man, it looked cool just to take the plate off the conveyor belt, eat the fish, then take a picture of the bones.

Butterfish (Kuru Kuru Sushi)
Nuked that fish....
By the time we finished (over half an hour later), the wait list was longer than when we first arrived; people were waiting outside because there were no more seats inside. Sounds normal to me. Basically, go to Kuru Kuru, but avoid the usual lunch or dinner times if you want to get in and get out fast (or just place a takeout order). 7.5/10

Kahai Street Kitchen

Kahai Street Kitchen is a dive restaurant located on Kalihi St. in Honolulu, Hawaii (across from Ethel's Grill). Owners Bruce Watanabe and Nao Iwata opened Kahai in summer 2006, starting out as a catering-only kitchen -- and they've catered for roughly 1,000 to 1,200 people in the past. The current executive chef is David Yamamoto.

Kahai Street Kitchen is very popular. they may only be open roughly 3-4 hours (just for lunch) just four days a week (Tue-Fri), but they can sell upwards of 150+ plates, with many people choosing to call in their orders 60-90 minutes BEFORE Kahai even opens. Oh, and did I mention that the Neelys (from Food Network) apparently ate here?

This place is literally on the corner of Kahai and Kalihi St. It's rather dark inside; it could use a bit more lighting. The interior is also small and feels dated (right down to those old-school menu boards from Coca-Cola where you have to snap in the letters one at a time).

Even the Neelys (from Food Network) came here!

Regular menu (December 2011)
Specials of the day!
They check off how many special plates they have left
Kahai Street Kitchen has a regular menu of about 10-12 items. Consider the Teriyaki Boneless Short Ribs ($8.95); the Loco Moco ($8); Pork Chops ($8.95); or the Hamburger Steak ($8.95).

But the owners guess that 90 percent of their customers order the daily specials. Roughly 8-12 dishes are featured, with about 15 portions each. In other words, you may want to consider arriving early or calling in your order so you can get the item you want!

Parking can be a hassle, but the owners pointed out that regulars just park right along the street (even illegally), and there is a small garage on Kahai Street, just after the restaurant, that could fit about 2-3 cars (one obviously being for the owners).

I came in on a Tuesday around 10:45 a.m. Only one person was dining one else in line. The owner said it's been a slow day -- as he packaged four or five phone-in orders, amounting to over a dozen plates. They had only been open for 15 minutes...dang, better order!

Surveying the more gourmet-sounding daily specials, I ordered the Opakapaka Escabeche ($9.50): pan-fried crispy opakapaka (Hawaiian red snapper) with a sauce containing oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, and sauteed onions. Plates come with a choice of white or brown rice (I got brown) and potato-macaroni salad or tossed salad (I chose the potato-mac).

Opakapaka Escabeche
(Kahai Street Kitchen)

The opakapaka is a firm fish that was cooked well here. I easily tore pieces of fish off with my fork...who the heck needs a knife here? Exceptional pan-frying, but the advertised crispy exterior was non-existent because the aforementioned orange-red sauce considerably covered this fish.

The sauce became the star also from a flavor standpoint. Perhaps this sweet, tangy sauce got a bit too assertive, as the garlic lingered on my tongue for at least an hour after I finished my meal. No wonder I couldn't find a date after that one.

Props on the potato-mac salad. The flavors were spot-on, complete with a peppery bite. My one concern was the salad's warm temperature; this is best served cold, in my book. The brown rice is the real brown rice, complete with that fibrous texture.

And by the way, at least for right now, they don't have mini plates. The portion wasn't intimidating anyway, but just an FYI.

Kahai Street Kitchen is a great place to go for gourmet plate lunches. And because Bruce, Nao, and David run so many specials, it may be a while before you get through the entire menu (if it's even possible to pull off). Check these guys out! 7.5/10

Tamura's Market

Tamura's Market has several locations in Hawaii, but for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the Wahiawa branch. Inside the building, one can go to Tamura's Kitchen to get some breakfast bentos and plate lunches.

Tamura's Market in Wahiawa
Their Poke Bowl options
Other stuff on their menu

I went with the Poke Bowl #4 ($6.99): a bed of rice, furikake, spicy tuna, and a sweet-savory glaze drizzled on top. The meal was constructed to order.

Poke Bowl #4 (Tamura's Market)
A satisfying, delicious poke bowl featuring fresh fish. The spicy tuna was not overly creamy ( a good thing), but, like with many other locations, I found the spice hard to detect. Less mayo should do the trick, probably. The sweet-savory dark glaze contrasted well and made this dish stand out from other spicy tuna bowls I've had.

I also sampled Tamura's fish patty ($1.25) and spam musubi ($1.59). The patty was juicy and seasoned well. In the end, it's really just a ground tuna patty cooked all the way through. Simple, yet tasty.

Fish patty and spam musubi (Tamura's Market)
That's a pretty thick spam musubi...
Tamura's has a spam musubi with thick layers of rice, making the darned thing look like it got hit by gamma rays. I liked that bit of sweetness (some form of teriyaki sauce?) in the middle of the musubi, contrasting nicely with the salty spam.

Pretty good stuff for a reasonable price. That poke bowl was killer good, and I'd come back just for that. But there are at least five other poke bowl choices as well...decisions, decisions. 8/10