Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fat Greek

After months of anticipation, the Fat Greek had finally opened and I was excited to try it out! From the outside it looked like it was going to be really good because it provided a nice outdoor seating option that resembles something out of Greece. After fighting for parking on two occasions, I finally had a chance to check it out; but to my disappointment, it was not all that I hyped it up to be. Nothing bad about it, perhaps I just hyped it up too much for myself. It could have improved since opening, however, because the owner stopped by our table and mentioned something about still experimenting with recipes.

The Babaganoush ($5) was a mixture of roasted eggplant, olive oil, and garlic, served with warm pita bread.

The greek salad ($7) included cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, and red onions. The dressing was a nice vinaigrette.

Garlic fries were just fries topped off with garlic.

According to my boyfriend, the gyro ($7) was just "okay." Leo's Taverna (downtown) is better.

The bakalava ($3) was very disappointing. It was soaked in a heavy almond syrup that was too strong for my to enjoy it.

The Fat Greek
3040 Waialae Ave.
Kaimuki, HI 96816

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Contemporary Cafe

My mom wanted to have a mother-daughter lunch before my sister went back to San Francisco for college and The Contemporary Cafe turned out to be the perfect place! After our attempt to have a girly lunch at The Wedding Cafe (which happened to be having a private party that day) I remembered hearing about the cafe at the Contemporary Museum. So my mom, sister, and I got dressed up all girly, and headed up to Makiki heights to enjoy a lunch together!

The museum is located in a very serene location surrounded by trees and flora. The cafe itself is rather small, with options for sitting both inside and outside. Inside, the room is decorated with paintings that change often. This time, it was colorful paintings of flowers. Each table has its own personality, with different salt and pepper shakers on each table. Our table had a set that resembled light bulbs! Service at the cafe was rather slow (there was only two waitresses for the place); however it allowed time for us girls to sit and talk.

We started off with the pita and hummus appetizer ($6). It included warm pita bread, hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and kalamata olives. The hummus had a strong garlic flavor, that was a little over powering on its own; however, when eaten with the assorted vegetables and cheeses, it wasn't so bad.

For lunch, my sister had the Turkey Namasu Sandwich ($10.50), which was unique combination of turkey, namasu (japanese pickled vegetables), cilantro, and tomato, all served on the house made focaccia bread. I thought that it was a neat twist on having sauerkraut in a sandwich. The sandwich turned out to be delicious, and my sister enjoyed it.

My mom ordered the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich ($10.50), which was a combination of grilled eggplant, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms served with sundried tomatoes, pesto and melted provolone cheese. This sandwich was also served on the house made foccacia bread. This sandwich was also delicious!

I decided to have the Soba Noodle Salad ($10.25). This salad included a beautiful arrangement of cold soba noodles, tofu, watercress, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The salad was topped off with a garlic-shoyu dressing, which I thought was way to overpowering, with a very strong, salty shoyu flavor. The dressing was a bit too strong for the delicate ingredients of the salad.

And how could we end a "girls-day-out" lunch without dessert? We ordered the dessert of the day, which was a BiShau, a chocolate chip cake with whipped cream.

All in all, the peaceful surroundings and beautiful art provided a laid-back atmosphere for a perfect mother-daughter lunch. Be sure to make reservations if you want to go, because seating fills up fast!

The Contemporary Cafe
(At the Contemporary Museum)
2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Honolulu, HI 96822

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tokyo Tokyo

The Kahala Hotel has a reputation for pure luxury, with oceanfront views, spas, and of course, fine dining. My family and I have had the pleasure of dining at Hoku's on several occasions and each time we were thoroughly pleased. Because I have such a great appreciation for Japanese food, I always made it a point to take a look at Tokyo Tokyo. I admired it from afar, thinking that it was too expensive, and far out of my reach. This dream soon became reality when my boyfriend decided to take me there to celebrate our anniversary! I was so excited!

The ambience of the restaurant was harmonious, with cool, open air seating and warm wood accents. The lighting was dim and romantic, but bright enough so that I could appreciate the beauty of the food. With the exception of the occasional headlights shining in from the valet parking right outside, the setting provided a perfect backdrop for a romantic evening. It was peaceful, yet we could still bask in the excitement of the evening.

The theme of the menu is "where tradition meets modern." At Tokyo Tokyo the chef is sure to use the highest quality ingredients flown in from all over the world. They use "Koshihikari" rice from Uonuma, Japan, natural salt from Oshima, organic shoyu from Izu Oshima, organic produce from Oahu and fish flown in from Tsukiji, Fukuoka, and Boston.

To start off with, we ordered the sashimi appetizer ($25), which included the chef's selection of the freshest fish of the day. That evening we had salmon, hamachi, and ahi. The salmon was creamy and delicious. Hamachi is usually one of my favorites; however this one was a bit fishy for my liking.

Next we had the Tokyo Tokyo signature sushi ($14 one piece), which was seared Japanese Wagyu sushi finished with ponzu sauce. Imported from Kagoshima prefecture, this beef was the highest quality (A-5) that Japan has to offer. Because it was exclusive to Tokyo Tokyo, we took the opportunity to try it. The meat was marbled with fat and melted in my mouth when it hit my tongue. It was quite lavish, and a neat experience, but I wouldn't pay another $14 to have it again. I think my boyfriend, the beef lover, appreciated it more than I did.

We also had the Spicy Tuna Roll, which was noting out of the ordinary.

For my entree I had the Butterfish Miso Yaki ($27). This was the most elegant presentation of butterfish that I have ever seen. The butterfish sat on top of a heated magnolia leaf over an open flame. Surrounding the butterfish was deep fried zucchini and shimeji mushrooms. The fish was delicate and the vegetables complimented the meal very nicely.

My boyfriend had the King Salmon Hoba Yaki ($26), which was salmon in hob miso sauce accompanied by the same vegetables that my entree included. Both of these dishes were good, but nothing spectacular.

We also had a bowl of miso soup, which included bits of enoki mushroom, crab, and green onions. This was a nice addition to the meal.

For dessert we had a kona coffee dessert which was layers of fluffy crepes and a delicate kona coffee mousse. I usually don't like the flavor of coffee, but this dessert had the most subtle coffee flavor that blended well with the light layers of crepe. It was a nice way to finish off the meal.

We also shared a frozen strawberry puree dessert that was served in a martini glass. This one wasn't as memorable.

I was so happy that I finally had the opportunity to experience Tokyo Tokyo for myself. I can't honestly say, however, that the quality of the food matched the price. I wouldn't go there again unless we had another special deal. I did, however feel quite pampered, and this was due to the ambience, elegant presentation of food, and exceptional service. There were several people waiting on us to take our order, pour wine, fill our water, and clear our plates. It was a nice way to have a memorable experience for a special evening.

Tokyo Tokyo
The Kahala Hotel
5000 Kahala Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Japanese New Years Food

New Years is my most favorite holiday to eat! My grandma was born and raised in Japan, so she always takes great pride and effort to plan our New Years feast. Many of the dishes are prepared with precise techniques and require patience and a delicate hand. The time and effort invested into the preparations make each of the dishes all the more special. Each of the dishes are part of the traditional Japanese New Years celebration, with the significance of good luck for the new year. Grandma begins planning before Christmas, and preparations begin the day after Christmas. This year she made the traditional mochi ozoni (mochi soup), maki sushi, kuromame (black beans), kazunoko (fish roe), araimo (taro), tamagoyaki (grilled sweet egg), koyadofu (dried-frozen tofu in broth), boiled ebi (shrimp), and kanten (gelatin dessert).

The kuromame are sweet black beans that are simmered in a sauce made of sugar, shoyu, and salt. These beans are simmered for over four hours using a special technique. In order to remove the bitterness from the beans, and to keep the broth clear (rather than cloudy), the starchy scum that forms at the surface needs to be scraped off during several intervals of the cooking process. While the beans cook, an "otoshi buta" or wooden cover is placed on top in order to ensure that the beans remain submerged in the liquid. Additionally, in order to make the beans shiny, a bag sealed with special types of nails (tetsu no kugi) are placed in the liquid. It is said that you need to eat one bean for each year depending on how old you are in order to have good luck in the new year. I always have way more than I need to just because its so delicious! I only get to eat these beans once a year because of the meticulous process involved in the preparation.

The kazunoko is also prepared days in advanced. Because the fish eggs are so salty when you first get them, they are soaked several days prior to new years, alternating between fresh water and salt water. Once they are at the right level of saltiness they are soaked in a broth made of shoyu, sake, dashi (soup stock) and sugar. These crunchy fish eggs have an acquired taste and texture. I just love it and I look forward to eating this each year!!

Tamagoyaki is a rolled omelet made from a sweet egg mixture. The egg mixture includes eggs, sugar, dashi (soup stock), sake, and salt. A thin layer of egg is poured onto a square "tamagoyaki pan" and once the egg is cooked, it is rolled from one end of the pan to the other. Another layer of egg is poured onto the pan and once again the egg is rolled back to the other side of pan. This process is repeated until all the egg mixture is used. I never appreciated the art and skill that went into making tamagoyaki until I tried making it for myself!

The traditional Japanese food for the New Year is quite an art form both in preparation and in presentation. When you take part in the preparations, you gain an even greater appreciation for the food itself. I am so thankful for all the hard work that my grandma puts into preparing this one meal. I look forward to this meal all year long! I have learned only a few of the methods that she uses and look forward to learning even more!