Steamed Onaga Special - The Onaga is steamed Chinese-style with a sauce composed of ginger, soy sauce, truffle oil, and olive oil .The sauce was truly rich, fragrant and delicious. The onaga is a tender red snapper, and has an extremely tender, springy bite. This is served over steamed saffron rice.

Review: Duc’s Bistro – An Elegant Bistro That Fuses Vietnamese, French, and Local Hawaiian Flavors

If you think about it, finding a place like Duc’s Bistro in the heart of Honolulu Chinatown is kind of strange. If you think about it some more, perhaps it’s not so strange. Duc’s Bistro is an elegant French fine dining restaurant, run by a Vietnamese couple, using fresh local Hawaiian flavors, on a grimy street of Chinatown. If you don’t know what you were looking for, the restaurant’s store front is easy to miss, particularly because they achieve their clientele mostly through word of mouth. This restaurant concept that can only be described as local Asian fusion, which is something that is pretty characteristic of the mixing pot demographic in Hawaii. Duc’s Bistro, in particular, strives to “cultivate the idea of combining the unique dishes of Vietnamese cuisine with the lush and fresh ingredients of Hawaii.” In this case Duc’s Bistro has a menu concept that is Vietnamese French cuisine infused with Aloha.

Duc's Bistro Restaurant Front - Definitely a place that can be easily overlooked among the vendors and shops on Maunakea St. In Chinatown

Duc’s Bistro Restaurant Front – Definitely a place that can be easily overlooked among the vendors and shops on Maunakea St. In Chinatown

Once you walk into Duc Bistro, you can see that it’s a nice restaurant with a pretty classy French Bistro atmosphere.

Duc's Bistro Restaurant Inside - The general atmosphere inside looks clean and classy; characteristic of a French bistro

Duc’s Bistro Restaurant Inside – The general atmosphere inside looks clean and classy; characteristic of a French bistro

Duc's Bistro Restaurant - The bar and tables inside look nice and clean

Duc’s Bistro Restaurant Inside- The bar and tables inside look nice, clean, and seems to be able to accommodate a large crowd

Feeling a bit ambitious, I went ahead and ordered a typical salad, main, and dessert spread for myself. True to my instincts, the food is as much of a fusion as their restaurant concept. Continue reading

Kai Coffee Storefront

Review: Kai Coffee in Waikiki- Ascending As A Premium Coffee House in Oahu

Forget about the Starbucks across the street. If you are in Waikiki and looking to experience a nice cup of joe, head to Kai Coffee in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Kalakaua Ave. My favorite place for coffee used to be Beach Bum in Downtown Honolulu, but since they vanished, Kai Coffee has definitely picked up steam as the go-to place for premium coffee.

We know that Hawaii is famous for Kona coffee. Some coffee shops will have some Kona Coffee or Ka’u coffee available, but very few will have any more than those options available. Most coffee shops are pretty “normal” (I have yet to find a Starbucks in Hawaii that serves any type of local coffee, unfortunately).

Then there are places like Kai Coffee. Kai Coffee has developed nicely with a beautiful island style branding that caters to the modern coffee drinkers searching for the freshest options in beverages.

Kai Coffee Storefront - The store has a clean design and has developed a brand that encompasses the island-style feel

Kai Coffee Storefront – The store has a clean design and has developed a brand that encompasses the island-style feel

Kai Coffee serves “premium” quality coffee. However, they still are able to cater to a broad market that may like the concept of premium quality coffee, but don’t want to venture too far from the usual Starbucks-type of product offerings.

Kai Coffee Order Counter

Kai Coffee Order Counter

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Kuliouou Ridge Trail - The view from the top overlooks the West side of the island. When you look southwest, you can see Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai, and the back of Kokohead

Kuliouou Ridge Trail Hike – One of the Most Diverse and Fun Trails on The Island

Just 20 minutes drive from Waikiki is one of my favorite hiking trails on the island. The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is only about 5 miles round trip, but from bottom to top, the trail offers a range of views, plants, and terrain that makes it pretty fun. Depending on the weather conditions, it should take about 3-4 hours to complete the trail at a leisurely pace.

The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is extremely easy to find. The entrance to the trail is at the end of Kalaau Pl street. You can find parking along the street, but since it’s a residential street, please be respectful of the neighborhood.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail - From Waikiki, it should be about 20 minutes drive if H1 East is taken

Kuliouou Ridge Trail – From Waikiki, it should be about 20 minutes drive if H1 East is taken

 

Once you enter the trail, make a right when you hit a fork. To the left is the Kuliouou Valley Trail Hike, and to the right is Kuliouou Ridge Trail Hike. You want to go right.

Once you start the trail it gets pretty fun. A bulk of the course is a series of switchback trails, where you climb the mountain by hiking back and forth against the mountain at a steady incline. However, this lets you take a bunch of “short cuts” for a steeper climb straight up the mountain. There should be obvious trails that others have taken to cut through the switchbacks, however, it’s important to be careful of certain “short cuts” that might get you lost.

Below is a series of photos that document a typical hike through the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. This was taken on a trip where the weather was, unfortunately, mucky and slightly raining.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail - The hike starts out pretty easy with dirt and root trails at a easy incline

Kuliouou Ridge Trail – The hike starts out pretty easy with dirt and root trails at a easy incline

Kuliouou Ridge Trail - If you look around you could see some interesting things like this small cave I spotted. There's a trail leading right up to it

Kuliouou Ridge Trail – If you look around you could see some interesting things like this small cave I spotted. There’s a trail leading right up to it

This wasn't here during my first time hiking. Follow the sign right to climb some rocks and continue the trail. I went straight before and took on a harder trail that eventually got me lost

Kuliouou Ridge Trail – The sign wasn’t here during my first time hiking the trail. Follow the sign to go right and climb up some rocks to continue the trail. I went straight before and took on a harder trail that eventually got me lost such that I had to trail blaze to find the correct hiking trail again

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Doraku Tuna Tataki

Review: Doraku Sushi Happy Hour (4pm – 6pm Everyday) – One of the Best Waikiki Happy Hour Deals

Doraku in Waikiki, located on the third floor of the Royal Hawaian Center,  is one of the very few Westernized Japanese restaurants that I actually go to for pretty good sushi on Waikiki. The restaurant have traditional fresh sushi, Japanese stables, as well as a range of Japanese Fusion creations. The decor is modern and very Japanese-Hawaiian with stained wood tables and chairs. They also have a large slab of wood designated as a first-come first-serve community table in the middle of the dining room. Fun fact: Doraku was created by Kevin Aoki, son of Rocky Aoki – the founder of Benihana.

While their menu is solid, the regular price is suitably (or ridiculously?)  high for the tourist-centric Waikiki strip. That’s what make their happy hour menu so special and more people need to know about it.

The short summary on Happy Hour:

  • $3 Well drinks
  • $4 Kirin Draft
  • $5 large Kirin Ichiban Sake, house chardonnay and merlot
  • $2.50-$7 appetizers (California rolls, chicken kara’age, ahi poke, steak/chicken/tuna tataki, yakitori)

Below are some of the dishes I tried for a single person at the bar. I was happily stuffed by the end of it the meal–

Doraku California Roll

California Roll ($4) – Solid California Roll filler with a good proportion of mayonnaise artificial crab meat wrapped around sushi rice. Not amazing, but a good start

Doraku Kirin Ichiban Sake

Kirin Ichiban Sake ($5) – Nothing goes better with Japanese food than sake. Above is the nigori style house sake, which is unfiltered rice wine with a smooth, creamy, and semi-sweet taste

Doraku Tuna Tataki

Tuna Tataki ($6) – Clean slices of raw tuna served with julienne daikon radish, sweet onions, seasoned wakame, kaiware, ponzu sauce, crispy bits of fired garlic chips, and garlic aioli

Doraku Steak Shishito Pepper Yakitori

Steak Shishito Pepper Yakitori ($6) – Generous chunks of steak on a stick seasoned with savory peppers and green onion. Served with a side of salad covered in a sweet/creamy dressing

Doraku Dyano Don

Dyano Don ($6) – On top of a bed of sushi rice is a mix of the day’s seafood scraps from the chef, light battered and fried. The mix is covered in tobiko roes and tossed with a creamy garlic aioli

Overall, I’m pretty happy about the Doraku Happy Hour. The food is quality Japanese fusion, and the happy hour prices make it reasonable. The only problem is that the 4-6 PM time limit is a bit restricting for most people that have working day jobs…

 

Yelp Link: http://www.yelp.com/biz/doraku-sushi-honolulu

Smoked Tako, Combination Poke Bowl with Hawaiian Style Ahi and Spicy Ahi Over Whole Grain Rice

Review: Ono Seafood – Is it Really That Ono?!

In Honolulu, there’s a lot of hype around the best place for poke, and Ono Seafood seems the be one of the local favorites. Since Ahi tuna is a daily catch around the island, most stores and restaurants will have access to the freshest ahi tuna to make poke, sliced blocks of raw ahi tuna. It’s not hard to find fresh poke on the island, however, poke is more than just that. The Hawaiian poke is a cold salad-type appetizer mixed with several other ingredients.

In comes Ono Seafood. A small shack restaurants with 2 bench tables and 2 small parking spots in a lot.

Ono Seafood Store Front -- The Best Poke in Honolulu!

Ono Seafood Store Front — The Best Poke in Honolulu!

“Ono” in Hawaiian means “delicious, the best”; I don’t know what the best poke is, but Ono Seafood’s poke is certainly one of the best I’ve had.

Ono Seafood Order Counter

Ono Seafood Ordering Counter – Select a combination of mixed ahi poke over brown/white rice for a cheap, ono meal

Once you walk into the store, there is a counter with the menu hanging above so that you can order one of the many mixes of poke they have. You can find the same mixes in the fridge on the side of the wall to simply pick up a half pound of pre-mixed poke for a few bucks. In addition to Ahi tuna, they also have mixes of sliced tako, or octopus.

Here’s the menu:

  • Shoyu Ahi – Ahi Poke with Savory Secret Shoyu, Freen & White Onion, Limu, Kukui, Chili Pepper, Sesame Oil
  • Shoyu Tako – Octopus Poke with Savory Secret Shoyu, Freen & White Onion, Limu, Kukui, Chili Pepper, Sesame Oil
  • Miso Ahi – Ahi Poke with Miso, Ginger, Green & White Onion
  • Miso Tako – Octopus Poke with Miso, Ginger, Green & White Onion
  • Hawaiian Style Ahi – Ahi Poke with Sea Salt, Green & White Onion, Limu, Kukui Nut, Chili Pepper
  • Hawaiian Style Tako – Ahi Poke with Sea Salt, Green & White Onion, Limu, Kukui Nut, Chili Pepper
  • Spicy Ahi – Creamy Mayo Sauce, Tobiko, Ginger, Green & White Onion
  • Wasabi Ahi – Ahi Poke with Wasabi Oil, Kukui, Green & White Onion

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Restaurant and Bar Ko - Nabemono

Review: Restaurant and Bar KO in Kaimuki Honolulu

Located in the neighborhood of Kaimuki and from the outside, looking like any other residential building or church on the block, Restaurant and Bar Ko is a local Japanese restaurant that I find highly under-rated. Among the Japanese restaurants I’ve visited in Oahu, this place definitely offer the best value for the quality of food you get.

Restaurant and Bar Ko is best at preparing their Kaiseki meals – a style of Japanese set menu featuring several small portioned courses. While I’ve never had their Early Bird Kaiseki meal, it amazes me that you can get a pretty good quality Japanese Kaiseki meal for as low as $20!

Restaurant and Bar K change their menus regularly. Below is one of the Kaiseki meals that I was able to try out.

Kaiseki Menu KO Course ($40):

Restaurant and Bar Ko - Kaiseki Appetzer

Kaiseki Appetizer – Chilled Shooter with Uni, Salmon Roe, and Steamed Egg. A wonderful mix of flavor and texture. 

Kaiseki Lotus Root Manju

Kaiseki Lotus Root Manju – Fried Lotus Root Doused in a Rich Crab and Dashi Soup Sauce

Restaurant and Bar Ko - Kaiseki Sashimi

Kaiseki Sashimi –  Tuna, Salmon, Snapper, Hamachi

Kaiseki Grilled Abolone

Kaiseki Grilled Abalone. Incredibly tender and flavorful with the best part being the liver hidden underneath.

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DK Steakhouse's Dry-Aged Bone-In Rib-eye Steak- Definitely one of the best dry-aged rib-eye steaks I've ever had. Cooked medium rare with very simple seasoning, this bone-in rib-eye really melts in your mouth with each bite. It is so tender, and so full of concentrated, rich beef flavor, a small bite of this can easily poison a vegetarian.

DK Steakhouse – The Dry-Aged Rib Eye Is Not Just Any Other Steak

DK Steakhouse in Waikiki serves a 15-day and a 30-day dry-aged rib eye steak that are definitely the best steaks that I’ve ever had. The rich, concentrated flavor in each bite of the tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak definitely puts me in paradise. Not all dry-aged steaks are created equal. Some restaurants may disappoint you, but I’ve never been disappointed by DK Steak House’s 15-day and, if I’m feeling glutinous, 30-day dry-aged bone-in rib-eye steak.

What is a Dry-Aged Steak? 

Dry aged steak has become a good marketing tactic in recent years to charge an extra premium on choice steak at steakhouses. The increase in price is partly due to the extra processing it takes to dry age the steak, and also the fact that a steak loin will, on average, lose 20% of its volume during the process. During this process, the steak becomes more tender and its flavor becomes more rich. The dry-aged version of a choice steak is often be marked up an extra 15-25% compared to the non-dry aged version.

The Dry-Aged Process

First, let’s go into the dry-aging process and why it makes the steak so much more amazing.

Below is the a run-down of the typical dry-age process:

  • A large loin of choice beef is cleaned, dried, and wrapped
  • The loin is air-hanged in a dry fridge that’s temperature controlled between 30-35 degree Fahrenheit
  • The fridge is often kept dry with some sort of humidifier or drying agent
  • Keeping the humidity and temperature in control is important to prevent bacteria or spoilage
  • As the beef hangs, the outer layer begins to dry up, moisture is lost, and enzymes break down the connective muscle tissues in the steak, thus increasing tenderness
  • After the desired aging period, the beef loin is taken out of the fridge, the outer hard crust and any mold is removed, and then cut into steaks

So what are the results of the process?

If done right, all the flavors and moisture gets concentrated towards the inside of the loin during the dry-aging process, ensuring that the resulting steak will be rich in sweet, meaty flavor. The muscles are broken down, allowing plenty of delicious buttery, marble fat to permeate through the steak. In each bite, the steak is so tender that it will melt in your mouth.

DK Steakhouse’s Dry-Aged Bone-in Rib Eye (15 days/30 days)

DK steakhouse’s dry-aged bone-in rib eye is definitely one of the best dry-aged rib-eye steaks I’ve ever had. Cooked medium rare with very simple seasoning, this bone-in rib-eye really melts in your mouth with each bite. It is so tender, and so full of concentrated, rich beef flavor that each bite of this can easily put a vegetarian in a coma or a meat lover in heaven. It’s so pure that I normally don’t even order sides with the steak (it’s also a 22 oz steak). As you start to cut closer and closer to the bone, you get even more concentrated sweet, nutty flavor.

DK Steakhouse's Dry-Aged Bone-In Rib-eye Steak- Definitely one of the best dry-aged rib-eye steaks I've ever had. Cooked medium rare with very simple seasoning, this bone-in rib-eye really melts in your mouth with each bite. It is so tender, and so full of concentrated, rich beef flavor, a small bite of this can easily poison a vegetarian.

DK Steakhouse’s Dry-Aged Bone-In Rib-eye Steak- Definitely one of the best dry-aged rib-eye steaks I’ve ever had. Cooked medium rare with very simple seasoning, this bone-in rib-eye really melts in your mouth with each bite. It is so tender, and so full of concentrated, rich beef flavor that each small bite of this can easily put a vegetarian in a coma or a meat lover in paradise

In terms of value, the normal bone-in rib eye is $47, 15-day dry-aged is $53, and 30-day dry-aged is $58. For just $6-11 more, you can go from a steak that provides a good experience, to a phenomenal experience. The 22 oz steak is also quite hearty and can easily filly one or two people up!

DK Steakhouse is on the top floor of the Waikiki Marriott hotel. The steakhouse shares a dining floor with their sister restaurant, Sansei Seafood Restaurant. Here is their website: http://www.dksteakhouse.com/. They definitely serve good things other than steak, but to be honest, the dry-aged steak is what makes them stand out to me.

 

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Oshinogi (“3rd course”) - Kinmedai Red Snapper, Monk Fish Liver, Soy Sauce, Shiso Leaf, Sushi Rice, Green Onion

Nanzan Jiro Jiro – Genius Contemporary Japanese-French Fusion Kaiseki (Feb 2015 Set Menu)

Nanzan Jiro Jiro is by far one of the best restaurants in Honolulu that I’d recommend for contemporary Japanese food. Located in the middle of nowhere, the restaurant uses a chef table style  of service where customers sit at a bar-style counter wrapped around the kitchen. With this set up, you get to see in real-time how the kitchen staff cook and plate your dishes as well as a chance to interact with the chef. There is only one large dining table available intended for bigger parties.

Nanzan Giro Giro in Honolulu is headed by Chef Yoshie, a Japanese native, but with culinary training in Paris. He and his partner opened up Nanzan Giro Giro in Honolulu as a kaiseki set menu restaurant with a monthly changing menu using the freshest of local Hawaiian ingredients that fuses both traditional Japanese and French-style cooking. The style of cuisine is called “Kuzushi Kaiseki”, which describes a contemporary version of traditional Japanese cooking with creative flair. Fittingly, the original restaurant is in Kyoto, Japan and they also have a branch in Paris, France.

Random fact: a lot of the plates, cups, bowls, and pottery used and displayed around the restaurant is made by one of the owners.

These guys are impressive. Everyone in the kitchen staff are attentive and knowledgeable about each dish on th menu (as well as with their diverse sake selection). The kitchen is incredibly organized, clean, and there’s no unnecessary movements or noises among the friendly staff.

This place is great for a fine-dining experience in a casual environment. The seven-course kaiseki dinner is $50 ($8 extra charge for dessert).

Below is the service from the February 2015 Kaiseki Menu:

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Menu

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Menu

They have an incredible line-up of dishes with a lot of ingredients in each dish. Nanzan Giro Giro’s flavor theme can be described as fresh, rich, and balanced. There are very few overpowering ingredients, which allows for a very complex, subtle flavor profile that works together very well!

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Starter

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Starter – Uni Sea Urchin, Salmon, Cucumber, Tatsoi, Yuba, Shiso leaf, Vinegar Jelly, Ginger, Soy Sauce

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Soup - Wagyu Beef, Taro, Mizuna, Grated Radish Anakake soup, Eggplant, Wasabi, Micro Rice Cracker

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Soup – Wagyu Beef, Taro, Mizuna, Grated Radish Anakake soup, Eggplant, Wasabi, Micro Rice Cracker

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Oshinogi (“3rd course”) - Kinmedai Red Snapper, Monk Fish Liver, Soy Sauce, Shiso Leaf, Sushi Rice, Green Onion

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Oshinogi (“3rd course”) – Kinmedai Red Snapper, Monk Fish Liver, Soy Sauce, Shiso Leaf, Sushi Rice, Green Onion

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Grill - Duck, Radish pickles, Purple sweet potato puree, Ume, Salt, Wasabi

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Grill – Duck, Radish pickles, Purple sweet potato puree, Ume, Salt, Wasabi

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Main 1 - Oyster Tempura, Steamed Crab Meat & Egg Tofu, Crab & Clam Miso, Yuzukosyu Pepper, Pea Sprout, Lotus Roots, Micro Amaranth

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Main 1 – Oyster Tempura, Steamed Crab Meat & Egg Tofu, Crab & Clam Miso, Yuzukosyu Pepper, Pea Sprout, Lotus Roots, Micro Amaranth

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Main 2 - Black Cod Roe tempura, Gobou Burdock Fish Cake, Kinmedai Snapper Broth, Mitsuba, Black Shichimi Pepper

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Main 2 – Black Cod Roe Tempura, Gobou Burdock Fish Cake, Kinmedai Snapper Broth, Mitsuba, Black Shichimi Pepper

Nanzan Giro Giro - Feb 2015 Dessert - Apple Mint Macaroon, Sweet Potato and Cacao Ice Cream with Peanuts and Pine Nuts Mascarpone, Yuzu Chiffon Cake with Honey Whip Cream

Nanzan Giro Giro – Feb 2015 Dessert – Apple Mint Macaroon, Sweet Potato and Cacao Ice Cream with Peanuts and Pine Nuts Mascarpone, Yuzu Chiffon Cake with Honey Whip Cream

The end of the meal dessert also comes with a freshly made cup of Kyoto Matcha Green Tea – a perfect way to end and amazing meal. I would definitely recommend Nanzan Giro Giro to anyone visiting Honolulu, and even for those that live in Honolulu since the menu changes monthly. If you pay attention, everything about this place – the food, the people, the atmosphere, the decor, the restroom (the entrance to the restroom is hidden behind a rotating secret trick wall) – will offer a fresh experience that can’t easily be found in any other restaurant. The key thing is that the price point also makes this experience incredibly accessible. Do make sure to make a reservation before you go as not only are they heavily booked, they also usually prepare their food and ingredients to just be enough for the number of guests they expect.

 

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/nanzan-girogiro-honolulu