The mainland United States might only now be figuring out what the heck poke is. Hawaii, though, has had a love affair with this simple dish for some time now.
Kapolei is hardly the first place that pops to my mind when it comes to contemporary, modern dining. That said, Oahu’s “Second City” has been stepping up her game. The latest addition worth mentioning is Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s contribution to the westside, Eating House 1849. Located next to the Regal Kapolei Commons 12 Theater Complex, this is the second of three Eating House 1849 restaurants to pop up in the state. If you’re a fan of Roy’s, then you’ll likely want to make the drive out.
We’ve shared a lot on Exploration: Hawaii, especially our favorite hikes and places to dine. That said, this is one restaurant that I’m not particularly ready to give away just yet. It’s a sushi bar that is more of a hole-in-the-wall. Actually, it kind of is, literally, a hole in the wall of a larger restaurant. It’s frequented by locals who like to eat good, talk loud, and drink a lot. Did I mention that this sushi bar is BYOB. Yup, and many regulars drag along their own coolers filled with ice and their favorite alcoholic beverage of choice. Their 11-piece omakase is a great value at just $30. Now do you get why I’m keeping this one to myself?
It’s been a while since I last dined at the trendy Stage Restaurant. When they first opened in 2007 at the Honolulu Design Center, Jon Matsubara was executive chef and George W. Bush was president of the United States. Seven years later, Chef Matsubara is now the man at Japengo and George W. Bush is painting somewhere in a barn in Texas. Former executive sous chef, Ron de Guzman, moved into the executive chef position and revamped the menu. The restaurant decor also received a facelift. Artwork of fanciful genetilia no longer dominate the walls. Now they’ve got Louis Vuitton lips.
My quest for great sushi continued with a recent trip to Sushi ii, an unassuming little restaurant in the Samsung Plaza on Keeaumoku Street. Honolulu Magazine recently listed it as the best modern sushi bar in Hawaii. The restaurant even has a fancy 4.5 star rating on Yelp. Unfortunately, my experience at Sushi ii (pronounced “ee,” meaning “good” in Japanese) did not match the aforementioned glowing reviews. I was a bit, disappointed.
I tend to plan trips around places to eat. I try to eat good when I travel by becoming immersed in the food culture of whatever city I’m in. Through the years, I’ve learned that it’s best to forego fast and easy as an excuse to eat when wandering through an unfamiliar city. Knowing how something tastes and what to expect from each bite should not be a pre-requisite for any meal that you eat when traveling. Instead, eat good by finding what the locals eat and then seeking it out. Eat good by trying something new and exciting, and maybe a little scary. Eat good by devouring something that your taste buds have never tasted. Eat good by finding adventure in the food that you eat.
Last month, we celebrated Joel’s birthday by dining at my favorite sushi restaurant on the island, Sushi Sasabune. As per our birthday celebration tradition, the birthday boy got to choose, and he chose well. Of course, we did the omakase, there’s no better way to do Sasabune other than to sit at the sushi bar and wait in anticipation for whatever it is that the sushi chef will present next.
While having a pretty laid back morning this past Wednesday (which happened to be a Hawaiian holiday, Prince Kuhio Day), I suddenly had a craving for beef cheeks. Yes, beef cheeks. To think, I never had that dish before, but it was due to Coty raving about it for months that I’ve had it on my list of foods to try. Before I told him of my lunch plans, I had already made reservations on OpenTable.