Add comment April 30th, 2013
Posts filed under 'Dining'
My quest for the best pineapple fried rice continues.
So far, I've tried the different versions served at Champa Thai, Siam Palace and most recently, Pae Thai. All restaurants are small eateries in the Honolulu area, minutes from Waikīkī. However, I haven't found a pineapple dish quite like our old spot in Mānoa. Sadly, it closed down several years ago.
Pae Thai's pineapple fried rice came the closest to my liking. The dish tasted very fresh and was packed with lots of color. I appreciated that the cooks didn't use canned pineapples but instead freshly-cut ingredients full of flavor. The portion itself was a bit on the small side and probably just enough for two people.
The small eatery on King Street is wonderful, though, and the service very sweet. Pae Thai is owned by a very soft-spoken couple from Bankok. Their hard work showed throughout the night, as they rushed from table to table, refilling water cups and taking orders. The restaurant was pretty packed for a Thursday night, which says something about its popularity among Thai food lovers.
Apparently, Pae Thai has a lot of national recognition. A New York Times columnist wrote about the tiny eatery, as well as a few travel publications. Among the highest honors was a comment about this being one of the only places in the nation where you can find "real" Thai food. The columnist wrote that you could never get a bad meal here, and I (and my stomach) agree.
PAE THAI / 1246 King St., Honolulu, HI 96814 (Map) / 808-596-8106 / Limited parking in back lot or metered parking on street that is free after 6pm
1 comment April 22nd, 2013
Breakfast at night may sound strange, but at Wailana Coffee House, it's a meal that fits right into the 24-hour eatery. Mac nut pancakes doused in coconut syrup, French toast stuffed with guava, eggs Benedict…are you convinced yet? All perfect dishes to satisfy those late-night cravings.
The diner has been a mainstay in Waikīkī since the 1960s. It's got an old-fashioned feel about it that's apparent in the retro decor and the fluffy homemade pancakes, just like mama used to make! And in those cute old waiters and waitresses that really work endlessly to keep the place running. What do they say is the most popular dish? The Jamboree Breakfast, which includes all-you-can-eat pancakes, two strips of bacon and two eggs.
If you're not into breakfast, then Wailana also serves lunch and dinner foods, like fresh sandwiches and salads or steak and fried rice. My parents swear by their broasted chicken dinners, which takes a bit longer to cook but definitely worth the wait. No matter how full they may be at the end of the meal, my dad always orders a hot fudge sundae to share with the rest of us. A family tradition of sorts.
As with most old-school diners, the food is usually pretty cheap, so Wailana is a very nice respite from the over-priced meals you might find in touristy Waikīkī. Plus, the food at Wailana is as local as they come. Like I said, they remind me of the home-cooked meals of my childhood. Delicious!
If you happen to swing by during actual breakfast hours, be prepared to wait. Sometimes, the line will be spilling onto the sidewalk. I'd suggest coming after the rush, or come late at night. You're growling tummy will thank you for the swift and savory meal.
WAILANA COFFEE HOUSE / 1860 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96815 (Map) / Opens daily, 24-hours; closed 10pm-6am Tues-Wed / 808-955-1764 / Paid parking in municipal garage or on street
1 comment April 20th, 2013
Panya Bistro puts an extra-fancy touch on comfort food. The trendy eatery at Ala Moana Shopping Center infuses the taste of Southeast Asia and Europe into the pastas, soups and sandwiches it serves. Although most meals can be taken to go, there's an elegance about it that in no way compares to what you get at a fast food restaurant.
Panya has been a part the island cuisine scene for more than 15 years. Its super-sleek-and-simple P A N Y A facade can be spotted at Ala Moana, in urban Honolulu and at Waikīkī's Royal Hawaiian Center. Panya's elegant cuisine manages to stretch across the appetite spectrum and includes breakfast, brunch, lunch, linner and dinner.
The self-serve pastries and breads are the perfect snack for shoppers wanting something quick to eat. The chocolate cream horn and Portuguese sausage croissants are sinfully-delicious, to say the very least, and not too expensive either. The average pastry costs about $2, but if you choose to order a meal, then it'll be a different story.
It's no surprise that fancy food comes with a fancy price. A bowl of soup costs about $6, while a sandwich can be more than $12. In Panya's defense, the eatery does pack each dish with fresh and quality ingredients, so it's worth the price, if you're willing.
Look around, and you'll also see people slurping up Panya's famous Laska. It's a Singapore-Malaysian-style noodle dish that blends together exotic curry sauces and broths. Perfect for those rainy days in Hawai‘i.
What's perfect for shoppers is the full bar just beyond the elegant display of pastries at the front of the eatery. Panya serves exotic martinis and fashionable cocktails to help customers wind down from a day of splurging. Make sure to come for the twice-daily happy hours (3-6pm and 9pm-Closing), and you'll leave the mall feeling less guilty about all the money you spent!
PANYA BISTRO / Ala Moana Shopping Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96814 (Map) / 808-946-6388 / www.panyagroup.com
Add comment April 7th, 2013
Da Spot found a new spot on O‘ahu, and it's just a quick drive from Waikīkī. The eatery is a spicy concoction of Mediterranean and Egyptian cuisine. It took over an old golf shop, transforming it into a full-fledged restaurant with a Middle Eastern feel.
Its previous location was a tiny storefront with barely enough tables to match the high demand of customers. Now, Da Spot Health Food & Juices has twice the space and wall paint as welcoming as the morning sun. In fact, most customers are surprised to find such warmth nestled in a busy urban Honolulu district.
Outside, Da Spot seems to blend in with the surrounding industrial shops. It has two large garage-door-like entrances and a faded concrete facade, like its auto repair and bike shop neighbors. Step inside, however, and it's like you've teleported to a different era. The quaint set up welcomes all walks of life to enjoy its global cuisine.
That's definitely what keeps me coming back to Da Spot. The food is always packed with flavor, serving a menu of rich curries to tender Moroccan chicken to homemade sorbets. They're also stocked with fresh hummus, cheeses, olives and mikhalil (pickled Egyptian eggplant).
Although the restaurant may look fancy, it's food is still grab-and-go style. Customers order at the counter and take their food in plate lunches. Most stay to eat at one of the tables, while others hit the road. However, the food tastes good no matter where you decide to eat. Just don't leave without ordering an Orange Sunset smooth, made of orange juice, strawberries, bananas and a lilikoi sorbet.
Over the years, Da Spot has been diligently leaving its marks on Hawai‘i's food scene. You may see their kiosk at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus and at both the Kapi‘olani Community College and Kailua farmers markets.
DA SPOT HEALTH FOOD & JUICES / 2469 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96826 (Map) / Opens Mon 9am-930pm, Tue-Sat 1030am-930pm / 808-941-1313 / Metered street parking
Photo Credit: Noa Myers
Add comment March 28th, 2013
The Counter at Kahala Mall is a build-your-own burger joint that used to have Hawaii Five-0's Daniel Dae Kim as part-owner. Although he's since sold his share in the company, The Counter continues to be the buzz in the burger biz.
By "build-your-own," customers customize their burger via a simple checklist. From choosing the type of burger (beef, chicken, turkey and vegan veggie) to choosing your own cheese and bun, there are a wide variety of choices to pick. Don't forget about their gluten-free options. There's a special menu for that.
Customers could also turn their burger into a salad, which I do. Usually, I get the vegan veggie salad with grilled pineapples, dried cranberries and apricot sauce. Despite not having my burger paired with a bun, I never hesitate to get a side of sweet potato fries. They're served crispy and piping hot.
Sweet potato fries are a hit with burger lovers.
Be careful not to get too carried away with checking off items. The burgers start at $10.50, so it's easy to walk away with a $20 bill. Yes, $20 for a burger. That's why I don't come here as often, but if I want a healthy salad or am craving a juicy eat, I bite the bullet before the burger.
The restaurant opened in 2009 under the ownership of D.K. Kodama of Sansei and D.K. Steak House, Daniel Dae Kim of Lost at the time and Chuck Furuya as the wine consultant. There's a sleek bar in the burger joint that specializes in milkshake cocktails, but customers may choose to sit at tables as well.
Be prepared to wait when you go. As I mentioned earlier, The Counter is always packed with people. This means longer waits to be seated and to get your food. Once, we ordered a beef burger, veggie patty salad and a half order of sweet potato fries. The fries came out pretty quickly, but our burgers took about 45 minutes. Needless to say, our fries were long gone by then, so we had to order more when the burgers came.
To avoid the wait and crowds, I'd recommend going for an early lunch or get it to go.
Photo Courtesy (first): @CounterBurger
THE COUNTER CUSTOM BUILT BURGERS / Kahala Mall, 4211 Wai‘alae Ave., Honolulu, HI 96816 (Map) / Opens Mon-Th, Sun 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm / 808-739-5100 / www.thecounterburger.com
Posted by Alyssa S. Navares Follow me on Twitter @Uamalie87
Add comment March 25th, 2013
Olive Garden may soon wash ashore Hawai‘i's dining scene. The national restaurant chain has been "seriously" eyeing out the islands as its next location, according to Pacific Business News. More specifically, it is looking at West O‘ahu and Honolulu.
This may not be a huge deal for everyone. I've heard mixed reviews by friends who live on the mainland, claiming it's a so-so eatery, while others, like me, love the bottomless bread baskets and salads they offer. It's become somewhat of a novelty to eat at Olive Garden when we're on the mainland, as we always manage to work it into our trip's itinerary and – therefore – our stomachs.
According to the PBN article, Olive Garden plans to open both Hawai‘i locations at the same time, as opposed to just one at a time. I'm assuming the reported "West O‘ahu" site would be in Kapolei, as that's become a major hot spot for national chains, like Target. But no firm details just yet. The Honolulu site would be much closer for visitors staying in Waikīkī.
I could see Olive Garden doing really well in Hawai‘i. If it's anything like The Cheesecake Factory in Waikīkī, they'll be booming with business during all hours of the day. The Cheesecake Factory had once been a non-Hawai‘i business that us, Hawai‘i people, salivated over. That's until it opened up a location in Waikīkī several years ago. Today, it seems the hype for their food and specialty cheesecakes has not yet rubbed off, as it's always packed with hungry Hawai‘i customers.
Until we hear more about Olive Garden's plans, I'll continue to drool over the thought of buttery bread baskets and tasty homestyle Italian dishes…
Photo Courtesy: Olive Garden Facebook Fanpage
3 comments March 19th, 2013
Auntie Pasto's has been a fixture on Beretania Street for as long as I can remember. The Italian restaurant's faded red roof and green trimming show signs of its age. But beyond the dull colors, Auntie Pasto's has been making an attempt to break out of its "hole-in-the-wall" shell and into an eatery of choice on O‘ahu.
It took me long enough, but I finally got a chance to try out Auntie Pasto's recently. My friends and I decided to celebrate belated birthdays over Italian cuisine…(and $3 glasses of chardonnay.)
I liked what I saw as soon as we walked in through the roadside entrance. Quaint tables dimly-lit by candles filled the tiny restaurant, which didn't seem as tiny since the glass window walls gave it some pseudo size. A light orange glow from the surrounding cross-streets poured in through those windows; the sounds of motorists passing by muted.
But it was the delicious aroma of an olive oil/garlic mixture and fresh bread baking that really drew me in. It was coming from the kitchen, which was at the center of the restaurant and blocked off by four-foot-high wooden panels. The cooks and servers moved about quickly, while a cloud of steam rose to the ceiling.
If I could base my review solely on the wonderfully welcoming ambiance and spot-on service, Auntie Pasto's would get five stars. Instead, I'd give it three stars because the food turned out to be a little disappointing. The creamy pesto pasta was nothing close to pesto. It was spaghetti noodles drowned in a bowl of olive oil. The mozzarella sticks seemed to be lacking in the main ingredient, since it was mostly fried batter and barely any cheese.
Because I didn't really eat my meal, I not surprisingly had room for dessert. We tried the tiramisu, and I'm glad we did because that made up for the disappointing food. If you know me, I'm obsessed with tiramisu. This one was a tiramisu cheesecake and definitely among the top three I've ever had. It didn't have an overwhelming liqueur taste, like some do, nor was it too sweet – thanks to the subtle blend of cheesecake.
I would go back just for the tiramisu and possibly give the menu another try. Just nothing to do with pesto or olive oil. Next time, I'll play it safe and get spaghetti with meatballs.
AUNTIE PASTO'S / 1099 S. Beretania St., Honolulu, HI 96814 (Map) / Opens Mon-Thurs 11am-1030pm, Fri 11am-11pm, Sat 4pm-11pm, Sun 4pm-1030pm / www.auntiepastosberetania.com / Metered street parking
Add comment March 17th, 2013
The Cheesecake Factory is one of the busiest restaurants on O‘ahu, so when a kitchen fire forced it to a close, Waikīkī just wasn't the same. The business is usually bustling with hungry customers, who pour out onto the sidewalk as they wait for a table. But for almost a month, there's been very little going on in that giant mustard-colored building.
Until Monday, that is, when the restaurant reopens for business. Located in The Royal Hawaiian Center, The Cheesecake Factory's known for its wide selection of cheesecakes, as well as its pastas, pizzas and sandwiches. It's a chain business, so it can be found all over the nation. This Waikīkī eatery, however, is the only one for Hawai‘i.
Of course, a fire or unexpected cause for closure is bad for any business. It's especially detrimental for a restaurant, like The Cheesecake Factory, which normally closes only one day of the year – traditionally on Thanksgiving. The other 364 days are packed with busy days and even busier nights.
It seems the buzz of a Cheesecake Factory in the islands never did wear off since its opening several years ago. Every time we go, the wait is at least 45-minutes (not including the wait time for our meals). I presume it's because the restaurant doesn't accept reservations. Sometimes I'll brave the crowd just to get my fix of Thai pasta and cookie dough cheesecake; but that's only for special occasions.
If you're cruising around the Waikīkī area, but don't want to wait, then you can always get your order to go. Most tourists I've seen will pick up a slice of cheesecake to scarf down on the beach. Not a bad idea, huh? I just may have to try that next time I'm in Waikīkī.
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY WAIKIKI / 2301 Kalākaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815 (Map) / 808-924-5001 / www.thecheesecakefactory.com
1 comment February 24th, 2013
Siam Palace is probably the most eclectic restaurant I've ever been to. It's not so much what's on the menu but what's on the walls that left me riddled with confusion. From Valentine's hearts strung across the faded yellow walls to stuffed scarecrows ready to burst at the seams – it became clear that this Kaimuki eatery was in desperate need of a makeover.
Their menu, on the other hand, was not. It was pleasant to see that nothing cost more than $13, and the variety of foods included curries, noodles, rice and stir-fried dishes. Continuing my quest for the best pineapple fried rice, I ordered just that with a side of panang curry. But instead of fresh pineapples, the fried rice was topped with canned chunks. A little disappointing, but the curry made up for it.
Siam Palace is owned by an older couple, who do almost everything themselves – from running the register to taking orders. They're very hardworking and make customer satisfaction their priority. They must have checked on us three or four times that night, as well as refilled our waters. Excellent service.
The Kaimuki area has a variety of Thai places to choose from, including Champa Thai just up the road from Siam. I'd say both have equally tasty food, but if I had to choose one, it'd be Champa. Their pad thai noodles are the best on the island!
SIAM PALACE / 3404 Wai‘alae Ave., Honolulu, HI 96816 (Map) / Opens Mon-Sun 4pm-930pm, Tue-Sat 1130am-10pm / 808-732-7433 / Metered street parking
Add comment February 24th, 2013