Sunday, February 15, 2009


Feel like taking a journey to India? I can't think of a better way to experience the culture, than through its food! I personally love Indian food because it offers several vegetarian options packed with exotic spices and flavors. This past Valentine's day, my best friend Aimee (also a vegetarian) and I decided to celebrate our wonderful friendship by feasting over Indian food! We had already tried Cafe Maharani and India Cafe in the past, so we decided try somewhere new. Well, Hawaii doesn't have many options for Indian food (Cafe Maharani, Zaffron, and India Cafe, and Bombay are the only ones that I know of) so we were left with just two choices, and Bombay was what we decided on.

Bombay opened about two years ago, and unlike the other Indian restaurants that I've visited, this place feels like a true restaurant. You won't find a crowded room of tables and chairs with tacky Indian art and mismatched plastic cups at this place. Located in the Discovery Bay Center in Waikiki, the restaurant has a tastefully decorated interior with an open kitchen, allowing you to see the chefs hard at work preparing your food. You'll find dim lighting and cloth napkins at this place. Bombay is one notch above the other Indian restaurants, in that they offer a wine list and imported Indian beers. They've also been voted one of the Best Restaurants in the last two years by Honolulu Magazine.

So what about the food? You can be sure that Bombay is authentic because owner Ashwani Ahuja was born and raised in New Delhi. I could also watch Chef Anand Bhandari and his crew prepare the food from my seat and the entire staff (including the waiters) appeared to be of Indian ethnicity. The menu is filled with familiar items like Curries, Samosas and Chicken Tiki Masala; but it also offers items that are hard to pronounce with descriptions offering names of ingredients that offer me little help. That didn't bother me though. In fact, it made me more excited--I was ready for the adventure!

To start, we had the Chat Papri ($5.95). I had no idea what to expect from this dish. The menu said that it was Crisp flour puris topped with chunks of potatoes, coated with yogurt and mint-tamarind sauce. The crisp flour puris turned out to be like little pieces of fried won-ton wrappers, light and crunchy. At first, I didn't like the strong mint flavor; but the more I ate it and mixed the sauces together, I found that the combination of flavors really fill your palate! The thick and creamy yogurt balanced out the strong mint flavor and the tamarind sauce added a hint of sweetness. The portion was small, but appropriate because the deep fried puris and thick yogurt was quite filling.

Aimee ordered the Baingan Bhartha ($14.95), which was baked and mashed eggplant cooked with onions, tomatoes, coriander, caraway, and ajwain. The flavors tasted slow cooked, with a mostly sweet flavor and a hint of spice. The mashed eggplant made the dish really hearty, almost as if there was meat in it. All entrees are served with Batsmati rice for an additional $1.

My dish was called Palak Paneer, which was a fresh spinach porridge with freshly made paneer (farmer's cheese). The spinach was creamy and tender, not mushy, and the cubes of fresh paneer added texture and richness to the dish. The delicate flavor and texture of paneer reminds me of fresh mozzarella cheese.

There are also a variety of freshly baked breads to choose from, inculding Nan, Roti, and stuffed versions. We decided upon the Roti ($2.95), thin bread made with whole wheat flour.

The menu also has several curries, meats cooked in the Tandoor oven, and Biryanis (casseroles of rice cooked with vegetables, chicken, lamb, shrimp, or fish). There are also beverages like chai and fresh mango lassi, as well as authentic Indian desserts. In my opinion, the food at Cafe Maharani had a lot more flavor and excitement; but I later learned that you can ask for raita, mango chutney and pickle condiments. Nonetheless, it was an exciting cultural experience and I'm glad to say that we have another option of Indian food (with a nice ambience) in Hawaii!

Discovery Bay Center
1778 Ala Moana Blvd

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boots and Kimo's

This past Sunday my mom was craving pancakes and I was looking for an excuse to take my new car out for a drive (yes, I bought a brand new car!) so I suggested that we take a drive out to Kailua to eat at Cinnamon's. To our disappointment, once we finally made it out there we were turned away by the hostess. They were unusually busy and decided to close a half hour early. I wasn't very happy about their customer service; but they were nice enough to suggest some other Kailua hot spots for a late breakfast. And so we discovered Boots and Kimo's...

Boots and Kimo's is a very local homestyle kitchen serving breakfast all day as well as a number of plate lunch items. According to the menu, its "Maui Homestyle Cooking." How Maui cooking differs from "Oahu" cooking, I'm not sure, but that's what they call it. This place was voted "Hawaii's Best" place for pancakes by the readers of the Honolulu Advertiser as they're famous for their Macadamia Nut Pancake Sauce.

The restaurant is quite small, with diner style seating and walls lined with football memorabilia and Wheaties cereal boxes. It wasn't quite the ambience for quality mother-daughter time (the cozy, country feel of Cinnamon's would have been nicer), but the menu offerings were enough to draw us in. Now if a father and son wanted to have some male bonding time over a hot plate of hamburger steak and garlic chicken, this place might be perfect! Nonetheless, Mom and I shared a couple of dishes that were good enough to satisfy my mom's craving for breakfast food.

We had to order pancakes with the famous macadamia sauce, so we chose the short stack of Banana Pancakes ($6.99). The sauce is usually smothered over the top, but it looked a bit too sweet for my tastes, so we ordered it on the side. The pancakes were lightly sweet and filled with gooey ripe banana chunks. After tasting the sauce I think I made the right choice to order it on the side because its really rich and sweet.--its more of a frosting than a sauce. I found that the sauce was perfect for a light dip, because as the warm pancake hit the sauce, it melted and gave it a nice buttery coating. Other pancakes include regular pancakes, guava jelly pancake crepes, and strawberry pancake crepes. They also offer french toast and waffles.

Aside from their famous pancakes, Boots and Kimo's are also known for their omelettes. Our omelette was called the "Maui Wowie Omelette" which included charcoal roasted jalepeno peppers, fresh mushrooms, Kula onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and melted swiss cheese.

The egg was cooked slightly runny, making a nice consistency for the warm, melty cheese. I especially liked the smoky flavor of the jalepenos. There are eleven other omelettes to choose from, with fillings like fresh crab with butter and mushrooms, or fresh herbs and vegetables with honey cured ham, or corned beef with onions and cheese, or chili and beans. Choose from sides of toast, hash browns, or steamed rice.

If you're not in the mood for breakfast, Boots and Kimo's also has a number of plate lunch items like grilled pork chops, teri chicken, and korean chicken. Overall, the food was nothing spectacular, it was more about the experience, really. Mom and I had a nice drive over the scenic H-3 and got to explore a side of the island that we hardly visit. It appeared to be a popular spot because people kept trying to get a seat even after they stopped seating people for the day. If local style food is your thing, its worth a try. I might prefer to check out the new crepe shop next door the next time I visit Kailua.

Boots and Kimo's
131 Hekili Street
Kailua HI 96734

Monday, January 26, 2009

d.k Steak House "Wine Review"

Although I love wine and can appreciate a nice glass, I have not yet developed the skill of distinguishing the subtle flavors and describing its unique characteristics. The wine definitely enhanced the experience at d.k.'s and my friend Dan has been nice enough to offer his expertise so that you can have a clearer picture of the d.k.'s Steak House experience!

Chablis Premier Cru, Long Depaquit "Vaillons" 2002- $48
To start a night of dining I always like a light and easy drinking wine that will pair well with light appetizers. We enjoyed the crabcakes, escargot, seared ahi and monster shrimp cocktail. There was a reasonably priced chablis that caught my eye. The bottle came refreshingly chilled and did not disappoint. The Long Depaquit "Vaillons" was a straight forward, good quality chablis but nothing to stand up and run out of the room to write home about. Initial tastes were very light fruit with mineral and butterscotch. The flavors lingered on the tongue for a short while with a clean finish. I found that it complimented the crab cakes best. 88 pts

Gamay Noir, Paul Matthew “Knights Valley” 2007 - $7.95 a glass
I first met the Gamy Noir "knights valley" at Vino. The varietal is more associated with France and the Beaujolais region, but this one from California and is definately worth a try. Do not let the "noir" label lead you to believe that this will be a light and fruity wine. Although it is mostly fruit forwad as you would expect from an "Americanized" Napa wine, there is more to it than that. After the floral and fruity nose there are layers of earth, smoke, and oak. Unlike most reds, there are little to no tannis with this wine. The sensation associated with tannis is replaced with a tart, lip puckering hint of cherry, strawberry and raspberry. I did not taste this wine with any food but it can definately be enjoyed by itself. 88 pts

Caymus 2006 - $125
I ordered the 2006 Caymus because I had a 2004 and was utterly floored by it. 2004 was a very good year for California cabs in general, but I feel that Caymus is able to come through year after year. After the Caymus '06 cab was poured into the decanter, the fullness of the wine was evident. It is very big on the nose, initially dark fruit but with hints of oak, smoke, and tobacco. You can smell the quality of the wine. First taste after 5 min reveals a quality California cab. It is fruit forward with licorice, oak and smoke but then as the Caymus began to decant, the velvety tannis, chocolate and mineral began to appear and they linger on the palette. I actually found that the tannis were one of the best features of the wine. The longer the wine decanted it became less fruit forward and more tobacco, chocolate and mineral appeared. I ordered the Caymus to match the excessively marbled Kobe filet but having such a rich steak along with this big, full bodied wine was too much. The filet was very lightly seasoned to focus all the attention to the richness of the steak itself. The Caymus may have complimented a saltier steak rather than a rich, buttery kobe. I think a Burgundy would have worked more harmoniously with the richness of the heavily marbled Kobe filet. By itself, the Caymus 2006 cab was excellent. Although it is a 2006, it did not taste like a young wine. I can only imagine what it will become in 3-4 more years. 92 pts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

d.k. Steak House

When our company Christmas party got cancelled, my co-workers decided to have a party of our own at d.k's Steak House. I thought about how a "pescatarian" (vegetarian who eats seafood) would be able to write about a steakhouse. Should I encourage people to eat meat??? I decided that despite my choices for not eating meat, I still have a great appreciation for fine food, and I wanted to offer my readers a variety of restaurants, so here it is... Besides, if you're going to eat meat, at least do it right!

Hawaii was first introduced to chef D.K. Kodama back in 1995 when he opened Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, serving fusion seafood and innovative contemporary sushi. Since then, he's paired up with different experts in his field, adding to Hawaii's repertoire of fine restaurants. Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar is a result of the partnership between Kodama and Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya. Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas is a collaboration between Kodama, Chef Hiroshi Fukui and Chuck Furuya. Lastly, Kodama's vision of "cutting into a juicy dry aged steak and taking in the view of one of the world's most famous beaches" came to reality when he created d.k Steakhouse.

d.k.'s is the only restaurant in Hawaii that offers in-house dry aged steaks. Dry aging beef involves hanging beef in a controlled temperature for an extended period of time. Moisture from the beef is slowly lost, and enzymes break down the tissue, resulting in improved tenderness of the beef. The result is a concentrated sweet and nutty flavor with superb texture. The signature bone-in rib eye is aged for 30 days. Throw in some classic steak house side dishes and a wine list carefully selected by Chuck Furuya, and you have one awesome steak house!

Wine lovers can order wine by the glass or the bottle. The wine list offers wines from a variety of locations in a wide price range. Choose to go affordable, or splurge! Either way, you're more than likely to find something you like. I had a glass of Gamay Noir ($7.95 glass), and had a taste of French Chablis ($48 bottle), and Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon ($125 bottle).

The menu offers a variety of appetizers, including steakhouse crab cakes, monster shrimp cocktail, classic escargot, and blue crab dip. Entrees include the dry aged steaks, surf and turf combinations, and a small variety of seafood choices (thank goodness for me!). The "steak connoisseur" would appreciate the 22 oz. Dry-Aged Bone-In Rib Eye, which is considered to be the "premier steak;" super juicy and served with house made jus. Side orders include Asparagus Milanese (farm fresh egg, truffle oil, and herbs), truffled potato croquettes, steamed vegetables, garlic mushrooms, and much more.

I ordered the Fresh Catch of the Day ($24.95) prepared chinese style, which was Mahi Mahi topped off with shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots, topped off with a soy-ginger sauce and finished with hot peanut oil. It was good, but everyone else around me appeared to be enjoying their steaks a whole lot more!

I took a (tiny) bite of the Kobe Style filet Mignon ($79.95), which is a hybrid of Japanese Wagyu and American Black Angus. The marbling was so rich that the meat had a silky, buttery quality to it and the meat was so tender that you could almost cut it with your fork! Even as a non-meat eater, I could appreciate this one!

Cajun Steak Fries

Potato Au Gratin

The dessert menu is filled with tempting choices, making it difficult to choose just one. I had to go with my first instinct though, and ordered the Chocolate-Chocolate Decadence Cake! It was a rich flourless chocolate-chocolate cake served with warm fudge and chocolate ice cream. Did somebody say chocolate???

Despite my reasons for not eating meat, I can appreciate the fact that D.K. Kodama has created a wonderful dining experience, offering something that is unique to Hawaii. Plan to go early to get parking in the structure or on the street because if you valet, you'll be paying a good 12 bucks.

d.k Steak House
2552 Kalakaua Ave (Waikiki Beach Marriott Hotel)
Honolulu, HI

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Imanas Tei

If you haven't figured it out by now, I have a thing for Japanese restaurants, and an even bigger thing for Japanese Izakayas. Thanks to my friends Amanda and Brandon, I've been introduced to another great find! Imanas Tei is located on King Street, past Pucks Alley, slightly hidden behind the 7-11. Take a little peak the next time you drive by, and you can't miss the bright orange sign.

Imanas Tei has been recognized by several notable local publications for having quality sashimi selections and excellent authentic Japanese food. Word spreads when the food is good, and as a result, you should be prepared to wait for a table if you don't make a reservation. We waited for about an hour... but it was well worth it!

We went to Imanas Tei specifically to eat the Chanko Nabe; but I wasn't about to leave this restaurant without trying at least one other dish! So, we shared an order of sushi; 8 pieces of nigiri and 6 pieces of tekka maki. The nigiri selection included unagi, maguro (ahi), hamachi, sake (salmon), ebi (shrimp), ikura (fish eggs), and uni (sea urchin). I don't usually like uni; however I chose to be the daring one this time and ate it. It was actually delicious, which was a sign of its freshness! Based on that, you can guess how good the others were!

So highlight of our dinner was Chanko Nabe. During the winter time in Japan, families come together to enjoy a big "nabe" (or pot) filled with assorted meats and vegetables.

A nabe was brought to our table and filled with dashi (flavored broth), and then the server came and filled it with crab legs, scallop, shrimp, salmon, tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, mochi, green onions, mussels, beef, tsukune (meat balls)...and probably more things that I can't remember.

After everything simmered down and cooked, we took turns fishing out our favorites and slurping up the broth.

Once everything was eaten and the broth was left over, we were given to option of adding udon noodles or rice and egg. We chose the rice and egg, so the server returned and filled our pot with rice and drizzled in some egg.

He served it to us in little bowls and topped it off with nori. One slurp of this steaming hot broth took me back to my childhood days when my grandma would pick me up from preschool and make me a snack. She scooped out steaming hot rice and topped it off with a raw egg and a drizzle of shoyu. As she mixed it up with her chopsticks, the steam of the rice cooked the eggs, and the chopsticks hit the sides of the bowl, making the sound "ka-cha, ka-cha, ka-cha." And so the name "ka-cha ka-cha rice" came to be... my favorite after school snack. Its so wonderful when eating something takes you back to a fond memory. Its like that scene in Ratatouille when Antono Ego was forever changed after taking a bite of Remy's famous Ratatouille!

Needless to say, we were all happily stuffed at the end of our meal. It was a nice way to celebrate the holidays together, and a super bargain as well! We ordered two orders of the Chanko Nabe and the sushi, and between the 4 of us, we paid only about $13 for dinner! I want to go back and try the other izakaya dishes, but I don't know if I can resist not ordering the chanko nabe again!!

Imanas Tei
2626 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Slanted Door

I've been to San Francisco four times now, and each time with a list of places that I hope to visit. I've been lucky in stumbling over great finds; however it doesn't hurt to do some research prior to the trip. The Slanted Door has been on my list from the first time that I visited, and it was only on this last visit that I was finally able to experience it! My mom was slightly hesitant about going to this restaurant, as she said, "I don't like Vietnamese food;" however, after her first bite of food at the Slanted Door, I can proudly say that I expanded her horizons in the food realm!

The restaurant offers Vietnamese food, with a San Francisco flair. The modern twist of Vietnamese cooking is accented with a plethora of locally grown produce and ecologically farmed meant, game and poultry.

There is a relaxed and open atmosphere with large glass windows overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

Although it was a foggy day, we could see the San Francisco Bay Bridge peaking out from the haze from where we were sitting.

We were overwhelmed by the extensive menu offerings (everything sounded so delicious!), so we made our choices based off of the recommendations from the waitress. The Crispy Imperial Rolls included shrimp, pork, glass noodles and peanuts, served with fresh lettuce leaves to wrap and a light dipping sauce. Absolutely delicious!

The Green Papaya Salad was very original, and included tofu, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) and roasted peanuts. The dressing was unlike any other papaya salad I've eaten. It was fresh and vibrant without the overpowering fish sauce and chili pepper that I'm accustomed to.

My favorite was the Caramelized Tiger Prawns. They were smothered in a sticky sauce of garlic, onions, and chilis. There was a slight sweetness from the caramelization, with a kick of heat at the end. Finger licking good!

My mom and sister ordered the Chicken Claypot, which was chicken thigh pieces with a caramel sauce, chilies and fresh ginger. This one wasn't the greatest, a little on the salty side.

The Slanted Door lived up to my expectations and changed my mom's perspective on Vietnamese food. The San Francisco twist on Vietnamese food worked perfectly, in my opinion, and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to those in the Bay Area!

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pizzeria Delfina

Pizzeria Delfina was another accidental discovery that my mom, sister and I stumbled upon while walking through the Castro and Mission districts in San Francisco. It was a cold and rainy day, and we were on a quest to re-visit Tartine. To our disappointment, it seemed as though everyone else decided that Tartine was the perfect cozy escape for such a rainy day. The crowd was not our idea of relaxation after the long, cold walk, so we backtracked our steps to a pizzeria that we spotted along the way.

Owners Craig and Anne Stoll have a menu inspired by their memories of New York pizzerias and Craig's childhood in Naples. They offer classic pizzas as well as daily special pizzas using seasonal ingredients. Their menu has portions that are both printed and handwritten, as selections change daily. There's also an array of antipasti beautifully displayed along the counter as well as daily soup and salad selections. Desserts are also tempting... if you leave room for them, that is! To round it all out, they offer a nice selection of wine Southern Italy.

The restaurant is set up almost like a diner, with both tables and counter seating. The kitchen is wide open, and customers can watch as the pizzas are being prepared. Upon being seated, you are served with breadsticks, a plate of cheese, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and a glass bottle of water. So simple, yet artistic.

We started off with an antipasti of Satsuma and Walnuts served with fennel and arugula. It was a wonderful pairing of seasonal ingredients. The licorice flavor of the fennel and the peppery arugula were balanced out with the sweetness of the satsumas. All the flavors were brightened up with a light vinaigrette dressing and the walnuts added nice texture.

It was tough to decide upon just one pizza, but we decided to try the classic Margherita. This one was tomato, basil, and Bubalis Mozzarella di Bufala and finished off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil just before serving. The thin Neapolitan inspired crust was crispy on the outside with a thin, chewy center. When I took my first bite of this pizza, my face explained it all! Eyes wide open, a huge grin on my face, and all I could say was "mmmmmmm...." The texture and flavor of the Buffalo Mozzarella is incomparable to plain mozzarella and its definitely worth it to pay a little extra for this one! Combine it with a glass of Italian wine and you have heaven!

If I had any more room in my stomach I would have tried the Clam Pie, which includes cherrystone clams, tomato, oregano, pecorino, and hot peppers, or the Broccoli Raab, which is topped with broccoli raab, mozzarella di bufala, parmigiano, olives, and hot peppers. They also offer a Salsiccia with housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions, and mozzarella. Looks like I'll have to go back for more next time I visit my sister!

Pizzeria Delfina
3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110