Bourdain’ing My Way through Hawai’i
R ight before Thanksgiving, I slipped over to Honolulu for a few days to visit a friend from college. While many people hit up the islands for the beaches and sunshine, I found myself enjoying a very different attraction: THE FOOD! Being that this friend of mine and I share a strong affinity for all things delicious, our time was spent shuttling from eatery to snack to restaurant to refrigerator to market and back again. I didn’t get much of a suntan, but I surrrrrre got my fill of some the best seafood I’ve ever had my entire life. This US State was filled with the flavors of Korea, Japan and China alongside it’s indigenous food traditions. Hope you’re ready for some food porn ’cause here’s rundown of my Hawaiian Eat-cation!
Nobu : Bluefin Tuna Tartare
Our first stop for a special birthday dinner on Wakiki’s main drag. I loved this preparation of Tartare: reconstituted and served up in a flat puck shape in a delicious sauce and topped with caviar. We also enjoyed the Butterfish Misoyaki, Onaga Sashimi, Ahi Tataki Salad. Eat your heart out…cause I certainly did.
Seoul Garden : Spicy Steamed Butterfish with Daikon
This was one of the best fish dishes I’ve had in my life. This flavorfully steamed fish was served up with with an army of traditional kimchi flanking its massive dish–enough to share for 2 or 3! The restaurant is 24-hours and we stopped thru at about 10am. Talk about a breakfast of champions!
Marukai : DIY Sushi
When you have access to some of the freshest and highest quality fish, you might as well take a chance at making your own Sashimi! At Marukai, an awesome Japanese grocery, Kawika picked up a couple cuts of fish including FARMED salmon and Hamachi . He sliced it up and served it with white rice, seaweed squares and one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my LIFE: Spicy Takuwan (Preserved Daikon). Mmm! Mmm! Mmm!
Ono Seafood : Ahi Tuna Poke
How gorgeous is this ruby red morsel of tuna? It was one of the most photogenic subjects I’ve shot. This one-stop-shop was another winner in the fresh fish department! Like sashimi, Poke is raw fish, but in this preparation it’s mixed with seaweed, ginger, soy, roe and other ingredients. We grabbed a couple pints of the Shoyu Poke and the Spicy Ahi Poke with flying fish roe and set out for a picnic, packing chopstics, that delish Spicy Takuwan I was talking about, and rice to complete the meal.
Home Bar & Grill : Tater Tot Nachos
I’d like to interrupt all the seafood with a little insertion of good ol’ bar food. I mean, really there is nothing like it. I’ve never had Tater Tot Nachos before and really it’s just a different way of serving up crispy potatoes with a grip of saucy toppings! What’s not to love? This place also has garlic edamame served up in all it’s buttery goodness and an awesome cocktail list.
Giovanni’s Food Truck : Food Carts!
Hop in your car and head over to the North Shore of O’ahu. After enjoying gorgeous beach and mountain vistas as you wind your way around the island, you’ll hit an oasis of food trucks serving up Hawaiian treats. I’m used to corn being in season in the summer, but Hawaiian corn is at it’s peak in November. We tried our cobs roasted with parmesean and garlic. But the goodness didn’t stop there, I also got a fresh coconut, banana lumpia, and Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie from Ted’s Bakery.
Yunchan : Cold Noodle
Okay this dish was amazing. Your server brings over a bowl of what is best described as a Beef Stock Slushie (yes, like the kind you get at a 7-11…but beef! yes, it’s delicious). Then you add noodles and other pickled vegetables and eat it all with chopsticks. It was absolutely divine and such an interesting preparation!
Fort Ruger Market : Traditional Hawaiian Eats!
I saved traditional Hawaiian food for last and enjoyed this delectable lunch of Pork Laulau, Kalua pig, Lomi Salmon (tomato/onion salad with salmon), Haupia (coconut jello) and Pipikaula. The flavors are rich and the textures are unique!
North Shore Grinds: A local favorite for “Plate Lunch”. Try the Hamburger Steak, Chicken Long Rice, Lau Lau or the Chicken Katsu
BLT Steak: If you’re over on Waikiki and looking for some good stick-to-your-bones American cooking, try the Chicken pate appetizer and make sure you try the Guyere Cheese Popovers. Actually those popovers are unavoidable, but try to eat just one so you don’t fill up!
Rainbow Drive-in: Another great stop for Plate Lunch. Here we tried Boneless Fried Chicken Cutlet with Brown Gravy and Shoyu Chicken.
Sunrise Restaurant: For authentic Okinawan food, try this intimate family-owned restaurant. We tried the Oxtail Soup, Salmon and Mushroom Dynamite, Pork Kakuni (fatty pork cubes in teriyaki) and Hamachi Kama (yellowtail gill plate). Bonus: the owner comes out and plays his instrument. Extra bonus: your friend might dance for everybody. Extra extra bonus: this place is BYOB and even if you don’t bring your own drinkables, they usually have some extra in the back if you want to enjoy!
Kawika’s Dad’s House: So you might not get the invite to this one, but Kawika’s dad served us up an amazing meal on their Sunday Night Family Dinner. We dined on Marinated Korean Short ribs, Spicy cold leaf tripe appetizer, cold mushrooms with sesame oil and peppers, cold Miso Gobo (burdock root), Taegu (dried kimchi codfish), zuchinni jun (fritters), spicy tuna poke, spicy tako poke (octopus). My favorite was the Raw Kimchi white crab, which were just little raw crabs that you popped in your mouth (shell and all!) to suck the meat out. A little intimidating, but worth the effort!
Aside from the food, the rumors are true: Hawaii stunningly beautiful! I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Kawika for being a supremely excellent host and for sharing his home city with me in such an amazing way. Make sure you try out these eats as they’re not only local recommended, but also Cassidy approved!
Yes, beyond the food Hawaii is a stunningly beautiful place. Here’s a few more pictures of the trip to share with you!