Archive for the ‘Around Hawaii Columns’ Category

Kaka`ako Kool – Keepin’ Kool in Kaka`ako

July 1, 2013

Now that we’re in the midst of summer, we’ve gotsta find ways of cooling off from that hot Hawaiian sun. One way, of course, is to slurp down a local fave known as “shave ice” – or “ice shave” if you’re from the Big Island πŸ˜‰ (See my article about other shave ice places here). The place I love to go to get my shave ice fix whenever I’m in town is Kaka`ako Kool on Queen Street, next to Fresh Cafe.

Outside Kaka`ako Kool
Outside Kaka`ako Kool

Opened in June 2010 by antique and collectible fan Keith Tanaka, Kaka`ako Kool is chock full of, well, antiques and collectibles. They sit right alongside the many other offerings Kaka`ako Kool serves like cold drinks, ice cream, chips, crack seed, and much more. It’s like a cool, urban mini mart that happens to sell ono shave ice.

Some of the snack offerings at Kaka`ako Kool
Some of the snack offerings at Kaka`ako Kool

Tanaka goes to the swap meet at least once a week and displays his finds throughout the store. People actually come to the store regularly specifically to see what new toys Tanaka has brought in.

The Thing is quite excited to be here at Kaka`ako Kool
The Thing is quite excited to be here at Kaka`ako Kool

For their shave ice offerings, there are about 25 different flavors to choose from with strawberry being the most popular. Store Manager Jana Park says that the tropical flavors like Pineapple, Mango, and Lychee also do quite well.

Just a few of the many flavors Kaka`ako Kool offers
Just a few of the many flavors Kaka`ako Kool offers

In addition, you can order locally made, premium haupia or vanilla ice cream, azuki beans, mochi balls, condensed milk, snowcap (condensed milk & evaporate milk), or lihing powder to go along with your shave ice.

Shave Ice from Kaka`ako Kool [Photo Credit: Marc Orbito of Hungry Eye Photography]
Shave Ice from Kaka`ako Kool [Photo Credit: Marc Orbito of Hungry Eye Photography]

So the next time you’re in need of a shave ice fix to beat that summer heat, stop by and say hi to Jana folks at Kaka`ako Kool. There’s lots of parking with 2 stalls right in front and about 15 or so in the garage to the left of the store.

For further info, here’s a profile video the Skinny Hawaiians did on Kaka`ako Kool.

 

 

Kaka`ako Kool
831 Queen Street
Honolulu, HI. 96813 (Street View)
808-589-2488
Mon-Fri: 8am-4:30pm
Sat: 11am-4pm

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Chad Owens – A Born Fighter

June 1, 2013

Chad Owens is no stranger to competition. He came into this world fighting… Fighting for his life.

Weighing just 3 pounds, Owens (aka “Mighty Mouse”) was born a month and a half premature. It was the determination of his mother to never give up on him that became the driving force behind who he is today and how he approaches life’s daily challenges.

It is that same drive and determination – genetically ingrained within his DNA – that fueled Owens to find success in his life’s calling: sports. He lettered in 4 sports (football, basketball, baseball & track) at his Alma Mater: Roosevelt High, thrived under June Jones’ Run & Shoot offense during his time with the University of Hawaii Warrior football team, and has recently been named the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Player while breaking records and becoming a world champion along the way (his Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-22 in the CFL championship game to take home the home the 100th Grey Cup).

Not bad for a guy who has always been told he’d never make it.

Chad Owens
Chad Owens

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to chat with this local boy about his family, career, MMA debut, and more…

 


Chad Owens Interview

[Edward Sugimoto]: First off, congratulations on a HUUUUGE 2012 season! Let me see if I can list your accomplishments:

  • You broke the all-time, single season all-purpose yards record (previously held by “Pinball” Clemons) with 3,863 yards!
  • You became the first player in professional football history to record back to back to BACK seasons with 3,000+ combined all-purpose yards.
  • You won the league’s Most Outstanding Player award!
  • And on top of all that, your Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders (35-22) in the CFL championship game to take home the home the 100th Grey Cup… (All with a broken thumb!!!)

[Chad Owens]: Yes sir! (smiles)

[Edward Sugimoto]: Safe to say, you had a decent year? πŸ˜›

[Chad Owens]: Yeah. It was a successful one, both individually and of course as a team we won the championship. But no, I had a lot of fun this year, and looking forward to doing it all over again this upcoming season.

[Edward Sugimoto]: What was your life like in the early days and how did you first get into athletics?

[Chad Owens]: Whoo, in the early days. How far back would that be? I’ve been playing sports my whole life, as far back as I can remember. I started off playing soccer, but I was always in sports. I think I needed sports. I was always a little active, scrappy, feisty little kid. I guess a rascal. That’s what my mom them would say, I was a little rascal. But sports kinda gave me a way to utilize that energy, and I’m thankful that my mom them put me in sports and allowed me to become who I am today.

[Edward Sugimoto]: During your time here at Roosevelt, you lettered and succeeded in three sports: Football, Basketball, & Track.

[Chad Owens]: And baseball, a couple years. My freshman year and my senior year.

[Edward Sugimoto]: Which did you enjoy the most and why?

[Chad Owens]: Obviously I love football, but basketball season was always you know, to me it was a lot of fun. I love playing basketball. But I just enjoy sports. It didn’t matter what I was doing, I just enjoyed the competition, and I enjoyed coming out here and competing and trying to be the best.

[Edward Sugimoto]: You also played for (what was known as the University of Hawaii) “Warriors” at the time… At what point did you know that the next level was a possibility?

[Chad Owens]: As far as being a professional? I think it probably struck me after my senior year. During my senior season because up until that point, I just wanted to be the best college player that I could be. Being at the Division I level was already a dream come true for me, so I just wanted to continue to be the best that I could be there and enjoy those years and that’s what I did. But it wasn’t until my senior year started coming to an end and I knew I was having a pretty good season and I started to think like man maybe this NFL thing or “professional” thing is really there for me you know? And again, I’m thankful that I had that opportunity.

[Edward Sugimoto]: You mentioned the NFL. You had a brief stint there but it seems you’ve really found your home in Canada in the CFL. Describe what your life is like there as a football star and what your family likes to do for fun.

[Chad Owens]: Life in Canada has been great. The CFL has given me the opportunity to be me and go out there and play ball and play the way I know I can play. The family enjoys it, we’ve made a lot of great friends up there and Toronto is really a nice city. It’s a great area, it’s got great people, and it is our home away from home. So it has definitely been an interesting transition you know, my career, but I do believe that I’m at the place where I belong now and I will 99% finish my career there, I’m pretty sure of that. I’m just taking it for what it is. I’m very fortunate and thankful that I was blessed with these opportunities and my family and I are just enjoying the moment.

[Edward Sugimoto]: You mentioned your family. You have a beautiful wife Rena and three beautiful kids (Chad Jr, Areana, & Sierra-Lynn). How are they adjusting to life outside of Hawaii?

[Chad Owens]: You know they’ve grown up around it. They’ve been to Jacksonville, they’ve been to Colorado, they’ve been to Montreal, you know, so they’ve traveled with me throughout my whole career and I think it’s the norm for them now, so they’re not afraid of change, they’re not afraid to travel so for them, they’re getting experiences that not much get to have and I think it’s gonna benefit them because when they get older, like I said, they’re not gonna be afraid of change. They’re not going to be afraid to go out and venture. Go to the mainland and maybe look for work, I don’t know. Go to school, go away from here because they’re used to it. So to me that’s a big positive for them.

[Edward Sugimoto]: Good life lessons for them huh?

[Chad Owens]: Great life lessons for them.

[Edward Sugimoto]: So this past April, you made your professional MMA debut against Junyah Tevaga. How was that experience for you and is this something you’d like to pursue again one day?

[Chad Owens]: The experience was awesome. It was definitely something that I’ve longed to do and I wondered how I’d be and if I trained and put my heart and soul into it how I’d do and I did just that. I trained hard and I was all in, 100% into MMA and I was fortunate enough to get that fight, and it was fun. But it was definitely a different type of adrenaline rush and I enjoyed it, so yes, I would definitely love to do it again, but for right now, my focus is on football and that’s where I’m at with that right now. *smiles*

[Edward Sugimoto]: Speaking of the fight though, ho, you were a beast man when you came out it was pretty nuts.

[Chad Owens]: It’s a really fast fight. Two three minute rounds. The normal I think is three fives. Five minutes is a long time, you can’t expect to go in there and just bang for five minutes straight, so there’s always those pacing moments, the feel out moments right? But three minutes it goes by so fast and I trained at such a high pace that that’s what we wanted to push, we wanted to push the pace and it was fun.

[Edward Sugimoto]: It showed. So you’re on Instagram (@chadowens2) and your feed shows a lot of workout related photos. How important is that to you as a part of your daily life.

[Chad Owens]: It’s very important because, yeah, granted I am a professional athlete so training… I say this kinda cliche-ish, training comes easy. Not all pros enjoy training, but I enjoy training. It’s a lifestyle that my family and I enjoy. It’s something that I hope… My kids see it. You know it’s an example for them so we just want to continue to share that with everyone. This is not just a once in a while thing. We live it. We live training, we love it. I tell my wife all the time, you only get to stay young for so long so you might as well get the most out of your body and work out, train and look the best that you can look while you got it. And it’s a healthy thing. Training and working out is healthy. And we’re all cognizant about what we eat, and again, it’s a great example for our children and the people of Hawaii and all our followers. We just want to continue to be an example that way as well.

[Edward Sugimoto]: You’re also on Twitter (@chadowens2) and other social media venues. Does that help you keep in touch with your fans pretty good?

[Chad Owens]: Yeah definitely. Twitter is a crazy world. When I first got on, I was on it avidly and with the Instagram, you could get caught up in it and get lost in it for hours, and I’d rather spend my time more wisely. There are times when I tweet stuff and Instagram and do those things and to me there are times and places for that, but I have to make sure I get done what I have to get done first before I start getting into the social media, but it is a great way for me to stay in contact with my fans and to keep them up to date with what I’m doing here in Hawaii and vice versa, when I go to Toronto, you know all the fans, friends, family that’s here in Hawaii gets to see what’s going on when we’re up in Toronto so it’s just an awesome tool

[Edward Sugimoto]: And the Toronto fans can keep in touch with you too.

[Chad Owens]: Yeah, yeah *smiles*

[Edward Sugimoto]: So do you have any words for your fans out there?

[Chad Owens]: I just want to say Mahalo and thank you for all the support throughout these years. It’s been an amazing ride. It’s you guys that keep me going. It’s the fans here in Hawaii that come out and tell me, “Hey I remember that BYU game”… It’s things like that that I really appreciate so thank you guys so much and you know… Aloha!

During my entire conversation with him, it was readily apparent that Owens has an inner fire that is unmatched and it became crystal clear as to why he has been so successful in a career where many have not.

Although he’s accomplished everything a professional athlete can possibly accomplish in their given sport, I have a feeling, he’s got something else up his tattooed sleeve for this season. Be sure to watch and support our local boy as he taps into that inner determination – passed on to him by his mom – as inspiration to continue that daily fight…

Chad Owens with Arthur Betts IV
Chad Owens with Arthur Betts IV

Chad Owens with Edward Sugimoto
Chad Owens with Edward Sugimoto

Special Mahalos to Arthur Betts IV for the Production assistance and Chris Avery for the editing assistance. And of course to Chad Owens himself for his time and Aloha!

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Rinka Japanese Restaurant – Go for the Gold!

May 1, 2013

One evening, after helping us watch our daughter for the entire day, I told the parentals that we should go grab dinner, my treat. I suggested Rinka, this new Japanese restaurant I’ve been hearing about through the foodie grapevine. Much like the discovery of Marukame Udon a couple years ago, Pops had already heard about Rinka and has been wanting to eat there as well. Deal!

Rinka Japanese Restaurant sign
Rinka Japanese Restaurant sign

Located on Makaloa (between Walgreen’s and Hawaii USA FCU, on the backside of Heald College and Roger Dunn Golf), Rinka’s sliding door entrance, zen sand/rock garden (cleverly shaped as the Hawaiian Islands) in the foyer, and “Irrashaimase” greeting gave the exact authenticity I was looking for.

Nicely renovated with wood and cement accents, Rinka boasts a sushi bar, and a decent amount of western style seating…

Inside Rinka
Inside Rinka

… But if you want the full-on Nippon experience, see if you can reserve the “tatami” room like we did. Although the ground was not exactly made out of tatami, there is kotatsu style seating (low table with feet in the ground) and you have the luxury of privacy if the other table doesn’t get filled during your meal.

Inside the tatami room
Inside the “tatami” room

The menu is a quite diverse with 14 appetizers, 5 shabu shabus, 3 hot pots, 3 salads, 6 deep fried, 4 boiled, & 5 grilled choices, 11 sashimi offerings, and 8 donburi/udon options. With the exception of a couple items for the bebe (sushi egg & chicken karaage), we played it safe and ordered from the “kou-su” (set course) menu, which included many of their popular items.

Sushi Egg from the Appetizer section ($3.75)
Sushi Egg from the Appetizer section ($3.75)

Chicken Karaage from the Deep Fried section ($7.75)
Chicken Karaage from the Deep Fried section ($7.75)

First up in the kou-su was the Mozuku & Ika Marine (Cladosiphon okamuranus seaweed & squid vinegar concoction).

Ika Marine & Mozuku
Ika Marine & Mozuku

The second item was the Snapper in a Spinach Base Soup, complete with gold flakes on top (hence the “Gold” in the title of this article)! BRAH! This one was probably one of my favorites in the kou-su! Super ono!

Snapper in a Spinach Base Soup
Snapper in a Spinach Base Soup

Next was the Sashimi Tsukuri, a nicely presented offering of ahi and snapper.

Sashimi Tsukuri
Sashimi Tsukuri

The Renkon Manjyu (lotus root manjyu) was one of my other favorites and up next.

Renkon Manjyu
Renkon Manjyu

I’m not a fan of onions and tomatoes, so I had to do some maneuvering when eating the next dish: Crab Tomato Salad.

Crab Tomato Salad
Crab Tomato Salad

Next was the Abalone Croquette, one of the most popular items on their menu. To me, it was just ok.

Abalone Croquette
Abalone Croquette

And then came the “ingrediments” for the Buta (pork) Shabu Shabu.

Buta (pork) strips for the Buta Shabu Shabu
Buta (pork) strips for the Buta Shabu Shabu

Veggies for the Buta Shabu Shabu
Veggies for the Buta Shabu Shabu

Buta Shabu Shabu simmering
Buta Shabu Shabu simmering

Pops showing his shabu shabu skills
Pops showing his shabu shabu skills

As with other shabu shabu or hot pot restaurants, you get the option of making the most of your remaining soup base by ordering noodle or rice options to finish things off. We went with one of each: rice, ramen noodles, and udon!

Rice simmering
Rice simmering

Ramen noodles simmering
Ramen noodles simmering

Udon dekiagari (pau!)
Udon dekiagari (pau!)

The “kou-su” finishes with a few dessert options. We went with the Mochi Ice Cream and Sakura Cheesecake options.

Mochi Ice Cream
Mochi Ice Cream

Sakura Cheesecake (more golllld!)
Sakura Cheesecake (more golllld!)

The “kou-su” is normally $60, but we got it for their special, grand opening $45 rate. We ordered 3 sets, which was more than enough for 4 of us adults.

Kudos to Executive Chef Kazufumi Sonoda for delivering a medley of memorable dishes. Rinka is a definitely try, with or without gold sprinkles. πŸ˜‰

Rinka Japanese Restaurant
1500 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
(808) 941-5159
Hours: Tue-Sun 5:30pm-12am
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DASH Gastropub – Gastrolicious!

April 1, 2013

Wikipedia defines the term “gastropub” as “a portmanteau of gastronomy and pub” and refers to a bar or restaurant that serves high-end beer and food. While gastronomy is the study of food and culture, with a particular focus on gourmet cuisine, a pub is not usually known for more than just beer and “bar food.” So when you put the two together, it is quite the oxymoron that deserves further investigation.

Enter DASH Gastropub, the relatively new (they just celebrated their 1 year anniversary on Feb 10th), 5,000 square-foot hotspot located in the old American Savings Bank location on the corner of Young and McCully. As the first locale in Hawaii to use the term Gastropub in their name, it has come with a fair amount of self-appointed pressure. It is a powerful word with great responsibility, but they’ve definitely got all the right pieces in place to make it happen.

DASH Gastropub partners Hyuk Kim, Alysha Tanabe & Shane Tsubaki (Photo Courtesy: Shane Tsubaki)
DASH Gastropub partners Hyuk Kim, Alysha Tanabe & Shane Tsubaki (Photo Courtesy: Shane Tsubaki)

DASH is actually an acronym made up of the four partners’ first names. Along with a silent partner who wishes to remain anonymous, Alysha (Tanabe), Shane (Tsubaki) and Executive Chef Hyuk (Kim) have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the bar and food service industry with stints at places like Remedy Sports Lounge, Maile’s Place, and the once uber popular Osake Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge. Well known food guru and local celebrity Grant Kawasaki (Hawaiian Grown TV & Hawaiian Grown Kitchen) also acts as a consultant here, so you know their food is always going to be on point.

As a lover of both food and beer, this concept of “gastropub-ery” is a dream come true. Here’s a look at what we pounded

Home made Fresh Kettle Chips (Seasoned fresh cut potatoes fried golden brown and crispy served with strawberry guava ketchup - $7)
Home made Fresh Kettle Chips (Seasoned fresh cut potatoes fried golden brown and crispy served with strawberry guava ketchup – $7)

Rainbow Sashimi Special - $16
Rainbow Sashimi Special – $16

Oysters on the 1/2 Shell (Half dozen Gulf oysters served on shaved ice with citrus oroshi, tobikko, jalapeno masago, & spicy ponzu sauce - $12)
Oysters on the 1/2 Shell (Half dozen Gulf oysters served on shaved ice with citrus oroshi, tobikko, jalapeno masago, & spicy ponzu sauce – $12)

Ahi Tataki (Fresh Hawaiian Big-Eye Ahi with sunomono, yuzu, tobikko, soy vinaigrette and a dash of white truffle oil - $18)
Ahi Tataki (Fresh Hawaiian Big-Eye Ahi with sunomono, yuzu, tobikko, soy vinaigrette and a dash of white truffle oil – $18)

Beef Sashimi (Seared USDA Choice filet mignon with minced garlic and soy vinaigrette - $16)
Beef Sashimi (Seared USDA Choice filet mignon with minced garlic and soy vinaigrette – $16)


“DASH” Rib Eye (1 lb seared USDA Choice Rib-Eye cubed pupu style with sautéed Hamakua Alii oyster mushrooms and onions – $21)

As if that wasn’t enough, DASH is also chock-full of wines, sakes, beers (crafts & imports) and specialty cocktails. So far, it looks like they are well on their way to living up to that self-appointed pressure. Pub? Yes. Gastropub? Definitely. But here’s a portmanteau I’d like to propose to help sum up my experiences there:

Gastronomical!

(Previously published in Lawai`a Magazine)

DASH Gastropub
1018 McCully Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
(808) 943-1025
Tue-Sat: 6pm-12am
Mon-Fri: 4pm-2am
Sat & Sun: 6pm-2am

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Mamaya Japanese Foods – Mamma Mia!

March 1, 2013

Yeah, I know “Mamma Mia!” is an Italian phrase and this place I’m about to cover is not, but “Mamaya” is not exactly the easiest word to rhyme or come up with something clever for. It was either that or something to do with Papayas. πŸ˜›

We have a tradition in the Sugimoto household where we pack up our mat, drinks and selves, head to a favorite eatery to pick up lunch, and then head to Moanalua Gardens for a family picnic. One morning, the wife excitedly exclaimed that she wanted to pick up from this new place called Mamaya that recently (December, 2012) opened up in Pearl Kai Shopping Center. She heard about it from her mom and was particularly excited because it was the same bento company that serves up her favorites at Shirokiya’s Yataimura.

As a fan of new eateries and not having to drive very far, I was intrigued. So off we went, with drinks and selves in tow.

Mamaya Japanese Foods sign
Mamaya Japanese Foods sign

It’s located on the east end of the shopping center (to the left of Sprint, Kuru Kuru Sushi and Subway), where I believe BBQ Hut used to be.

When you first walk in, you’ll notice a delicatessen style lineup on the right.

Delicatessen style options at Mamaya
Delicatessen style options at Mamaya

Keeping things simple, everything from the “deli” – hot or cold – is Mix and Match style for $7.75 per pound. Here are the options we found that day.

Fried Ahi Belly with Teri Ginger Sauce, Mochiko Chicken, Yakisoba Noodle, Whitefish with Butter Caper Sauce
Fried Ahi Belly with Teri Ginger Sauce, Mochiko Chicken, Yakisoba Noodle, Whitefish with Butter Caper Sauce

Tofu Steak with Vegetable Sauce, Beef Broccoli, Chicken Katsu, Nishime
Tofu Steak with Vegetable Sauce, Beef Broccoli, Chicken Katsu, Nishime

Assorted Sushi, Pumpkin Tempura, Fried Pork Hash, Eggplant with Teriyaki Sauce, Potato Salad
Assorted Sushi, Pumpkin Tempura, Fried Pork Hash, Eggplant with Teriyaki Sauce, Potato Salad

Sweet Egg, Broccoli Salad, Water Crest with Sesame Seed, Kinpira Gobo, Namasu, Takuan, Aokappa, Kim Chee
Sweet Egg, Broccoli Salad, Water Crest with Sesame Seed, Kinpira Gobo, Namasu, Takuan, Aokappa, Kim Chee

Then you move along to the left and find something unique.

Poke Bowls!
Poke Bowls!

You can make a mini Poke Bowl for $5.75 or a regular sized Poke Bowl for $7.50 with your choice of rice (plain or multigrain). You can also go for the Mamaya Special Bowl for $8.25, where you can choose two kinds of Poke in addition to one side (Seaweed Salad or Won Bok Kim chee) with your rice. Looking at the per pound prices for the poke by itself ($14.50 for previously frozen ahi!), cost-wise, you’re better off going with the bowl.

Just past the register, we get to the drinks and the prepackaged stuff. The neat thing about the bentos is that if you are looking for a particular kind or combo and they don’t have it out, you can make a special request and they may be able to custom build your order (depending on supply) with a 10-20 minute waiting period. We were there just before lunch, and they were already decently wiped out. Luckily, we were able to find what we wanted. (Hint: the Misoyaki Butterfish and Mochiko Chicken are their popular items.) Here were some of the tasty looking options we found.

Mochiko Chicken Bento ($7.50)
Mochiko Chicken Bento ($7.50)

Hamachi Kama Combo Bento ($9.95)
Hamachi Kama Combo Bento ($9.95)

Salmon Dynamite Combo Bento ($8.50)
Salmon Dynamite Combo Bento ($8.50)

Grilled Salmon Combo Bento ($8.50)
Grilled Salmon Combo Bento ($8.50)

They even have donburis, musubis, handrolls, chichidango and mochi, amongst other interesting items!

Mochiko Chicken Curry Donburi ($5.75)
Mochiko Chicken Curry Donburi ($5.75)

Mochi with Peanut Butter ($2.50)
Mochi with Peanut Butter ($2.50)

Then we were off to Moanalua Gardens for our family picnic.

My Mochiko Chicken Bento at Moanalua Gardens
My Mochiko Chicken Bento at Moanalua Gardens

So if you’re a born-again westsidah like me, check out their new, closer location at Pearl Kai Shopping Center, and then come meet us at Moanalua Gardens. Just be sure to bring some fruits too. I dunno, maybe some papayas?

The fam
The fam

Mamaya
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy
Aiea, HI 96701 (Street View)
(808) 492-1863
Hours:
Mon-Sat 10am-7:30pm
Sun 10am-5pm

 

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Aloha Brisbane! – Part III: Koala Day! (#AlohaBNE)

February 1, 2013
Part I | Part II | Part III 

 

As with all good things, our time in Brisbane had come to an end. With bags packed, we, however, had one final expedition left in us before saying goodbye to the Queensland city by the river.

We started our morning by hopping into the van of the family-owned and operated Mr. Day Tours for their half day tour package. Val, the owner and tour guide for the day navigated and narrated our course for the day.

Mr Day Tours brochure
Mr Day Tours brochure

Our first stop was the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first & largest koala sanctuary.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sign
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sign

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary map
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary map

Me and da koala statue
Me and da koala statue

Directions at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Directions at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Our first koala sighting couldn’t have been any cuter. It was of this adorable little munchkin getting fed supplements. I just HAD to shoot a video of it!

 


Koala being fed supplements

 

As we continued, we saw many more, though mostly sleeping in awkward positions.

Sleeping koala
Sleeping koala

Another sleeping koala
Another sleeping koala

Hey! One's awake!
Hey! One’s awake!

We saw a bunch of other animals/creatures along the way like wombats, dingoes, reptiles and birds, but let’s be honest… they were all overshadowed by “the moment” that most of us were looking forward to the entire trip… It was time to hold some koalas baby!


“The moment”! Koala holding time!

And here are the video clips of our various experiences:

 


Me and the koala

 

 


Catherine Toth with her koala

 

 


Melissa Chang with her koala

 

 


Hawaiian Airlines’ Jeremy Althof (frightened) with his koala

 

 


Hawaiian Airlines’ Jesse Starmer with his koala

 

Eventually, with feed in hand (purchased at the gift shop), we made our way over to the kangaroo section of the sanctuary, which was equally as exhilarating.

This kangaroo smells the feed in my hand. Whatchu t'ink?
This kangaroo smells the feed in my hand. Whatchu t’ink?

Cute baby kangaroo just lounges around next to me
Cute baby kangaroo just lounges around next to me

This one let me get close and pet away
This one let me get close and pet away

Melissa feeds a baby kangaroo
Melissa feeds a baby kangaroo

This was quite an interesting scene. It appeared to be a baby kangaroo resting in his mommy's pouch
This was quite an interesting scene. It appeared to be a baby kangaroo resting in his mommy’s pouch

And here’s a video of it.

 


Baby kangaroo rests in his mommy’s pouch

 

Group of kangaroos just kickin' it. Kickin' it... get it? :P
Group of kangaroos just kickin’ it. Kickin’ it… get it? πŸ˜›

Val then drove us up to the Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-tha, which offered a panoramic view of Moreton Bay.

Panoramic view atop Mount Coot-tha (click to enlarge)
Panoramic view atop Mount Coot-tha

Brisbane Lookout's deck
Brisbane Lookout’s deck

Our group snapping away. Damn tourists!
Our group snapping away. Damn tourists!

Kaleo Lancaster (@islandtrails), me (@worldwideed), Melissa Chang (@Melissa808) and Catherine Toth (@thedailydish) at the Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-tha
Kaleo Lancaster (@islandtrails), me (@worldwideed), Melissa Chang (@Melissa808) and Catherine Toth (@thedailydish) at the Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-tha

We boarded up the van again and headed up to Kangaroo Point Lookout near the Cliffs Boardwalk.

The Cliff Boardwalk sign
The Cliff Boardwalk sign

The view from inside one of the lookout points
The view from inside one of the lookout points

A nice look at the Brisbane River
A nice look at the Brisbane River

With the grains of sand slowly vanishing from the top of the hourglass that was our tip, we had just enough time for one more stop: Lunch! The gastropub of choice? A place called The Shelter Bar, one of three restaurants at the Story Bridge Hotel, aptly named for its physical location, sheltered under the popular Story Bridge.

Outside the Shelter Bar
Outside the Shelter Bar

Melissa's Prime Rib Fillet Burger with bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, ranch dressing and beer battered fries ($18)
Melissa’s Prime Rib Fillet Burger with bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, ranch dressing and beer battered fries ($18)

Cat's Braised Short Rib Parpadelle with baby peas, rich Napoli sauce and shaved parmesan ($22)
Cat’s Braised Short Rib Parpadelle with baby peas, rich Napoli sauce and shaved parmesan ($22)

And my personal favorite (if I do say so myself! πŸ˜› )…


My “Aussie Pizza” with double smoked ham, bacon, free range eggs and bbq sauce ($17.50)

With our tummies full, it was time to head to the airport for our 8-ish hour flight home. The Brisbane Airport is very clean and well kept, and Hawaiian Airlines‘ entrance into the market looks to have played a key part in all of it. Here are some sights from the airport.

Hawaiian Airlines flight number 444 (HA444) to Hawaii, although just two days old at the time, was already bustling!
Hawaiian Airlines flight number 444 (HA444) to Hawaii, although just two days old at the time, was already bustling!

The fancy entrance to the departure area downstairs
The fancy entrance to the departure area downstairs

Hawaiian Airlines signage at Brisbane Airport
Hawaiian Airlines signage at Brisbane Airport

Directions at Brisbane Airport
Directions at Brisbane Airport

Lounge areas (with FREE public WiFi! - which is hard to come by in Brisbane) outside the gates.
Lounge areas (with FREE public WiFi! – which is hard to come by in Brisbane) outside the gates.

Neat sand sculpture with our Hawaiian Airlines plane in the background
Neat sand sculpture with our Hawaiian Airlines plane in the background

Although it was a whirlwind 3 day, 2 night visit, we were able to get a lot squeezed into our tight timelines. If the adventures from any part in this series of articles interested you (part I, part II, & this part III), be sure to Fly Hawaiian when booking your flight: http://www.hawaiianairlines.com/Brisbane .

A HUGE Mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines (President and CEO Mark Dunkerley, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Ann Botticelli, Director of Advertising and Promotions Kevin Yim, Ross Saito from Product Development, and the social media team: Asiana Ponciano, Jeremy Althof, and Jesse Starmer, etc.) for the unbelievable opportunity to cover such an event. Mahalos also to my fellow social medialites Kaleo Lancaster, Catherine Toth and Melissa Chang, who made the trip super rad! Yeah, I just said rad. πŸ˜‰

And with that, we say Aloha and goodbye to Brisbane. Until we meet again!

To view all of my photos from Brisbane Australia, click here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/114302480978989244855/AlohaBrisbaneAlohaBNE

Melissa Chang’s #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/?s=brisbane&searchsubmit=Go

Catherine Toth’s #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.thecatdish.com/?s=brisbane

Kaleo Lancaster’s #AlohaBNE blog:
http://kaleolancaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/brisbane-australia-hawaiian-airlines.html

My #AlohaBNE blogs/posts:
http://www.world-wide-ed.com/?s=brisbane

Instagram search results for #AlohaBNE:
http://web.stagram.com/tag/alohabne/

Twitter search results for #AlohaBNE:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23AlohaBNE&src=typd

 

Part I | Part II | Part III 

 

 

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Aloha Brisbane! – Part II: Exploring the City (#AlohaBNE)

January 1, 2013

 

Part I |  Part II  | Part III

 

After a 10 hour flight and a long night of heavy and indulgent eating and drinking, a serious siesta in the plush, cloud-like hotel bed was just what the doctor ordered. With the exception of that psychopath Catherine Toth (who decided to wake up early to work out!), the rest of us bloggers headed up to the 30th floor at a reasonable hour the next morning for the Special Club breakfast (served from 6:30am-10am) at Club Sofitel, Australia's largest executive club lounge.

My (2nd helping) breakfast plate with Melissa Chang & Kaleo Lancaster doing their thang
My (2nd helping) breakfast plate with Melissa Chang & Kaleo Lancaster doing their thang

On my plate, you'll notice a little container of Vegemite, a popular spread in Australia made from yeast extract (yes, I got brave). On paper, as a beer lover, I was supposed to enjoy it, but it was definitely something one needed to get used to. Here's Melissa and Cat's take on the Australian specialty:

 


Melissa Chang and Catherine Toth try Vegemite (via thedailydish's YouTube channel)

 

Refueled and ready, us four blogsketeers embarked on our journey to see Brisbane on the best mode of transportation on earth: foot. The stroll afforded us the opportunity to take in the scenery that Brisbane had to offer.

Going southwest through Queen Street Mall
Going southwest through Queen Street Mall

Treasury Casino & Hotel
Treasury Casino & Hotel

Art on Queen Street
Art on Queen Street

Brisbane Square Library
Brisbane Square Library

Chanukah display at Brisbane Square
Chanukah display at Brisbane Square

Crossing Victoria Bridge
Crossing Victoria Bridge

Outside the Queensland Art Gallery
Outside the Queensland Art Gallery

Queensland Museum & ScienceCentre
Queensland Museum & ScienceCentre

Cat navigating while Melissa and I document
Cat navigating while Melissa and I document

We made it to the Queen Elizabeth II Park/Parklands area on the banks of the Brisbane River
We made it to the Queen Elizabeth II Park/Parklands area on the banks of the Brisbane River

Nice look back at the metropolitan city we just walked from
Nice look back at the metropolitan city we just walked from

Cat, me and Melissa posing along the Brisbane River
Cat, me and Melissa posing along the Brisbane River

As we made our way along the river on Clem Jones Promenade, we noticed that there were a fair amount of joggers and bicyclists getting their exercise on. Here's a site you don't often see in America (at least one that's not destroyed or vandalized): a Community Bike Station, complete with tools, a place to mount your bike for repairs, and even a tire pump!

Community Bike Repair Station along the Clem Jones Promenade
Community Bike Repair Station along the Clem Jones Promenade

Along Clem Jones Promenade
Along Clem Jones Promenade

Panoramic shot of the Brisbane River
Panoramic shot of the Brisbane River (click to enlarge)

And then we got to the South Bank Parklands area where we found nice picnic areas, pools, and even a manmade beach called Streets Beach.

Pool at the South Bank Parkland
Pool at the South Bank Parkland

Manmade beach called Streets Beach
Manmade beach called Streets Beach

The sights were good enough to get Kaleo, Melissa and Cat a snappin'
The sights were good enough to get Kaleo, Melissa and Cat a snappin'

On the way back, we headed to the Queen Street Mall main stage to attend the Hawaiian Airlines Consumer Event. The locals got a total kick out of our folks from Hawaii spreading their Aloha with song and dance.

 


Hawaiian Airlines Consumer Event at the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane Australia

 

Shortly after returning to our hotel, some of Hawaiian Airlines' execs invited us to join them for an informal lunch in Fortitude Valley's Chinatown district, which was a short 15 minute stroll from our hotel. Twelve hungry Americans pounding "Hawaiian style"? Ouuuuraaaaiiii!

The sights along the way to Chinatown
The sights along the way to Chinatown

The first signs of Chinatown
The first signs of Chinatown

We landed at King of Kings (Chinese) Seafood Restaurant, which was a hit with a few of them on a previous visit.

King of Kings Seafood Restaurant in Brisbane Australia
King of Kings Seafood Restaurant in Brisbane Australia

It wasn't long before we found out why.

When in Chinatown...
When in Chinatown…

King of Kings Roast Duck
King of Kings Roast Duck

Just getting started...
Just getting started…

Custard Tarts off the Yum Cha menu
Custard Tarts off the Yum Cha menu

One of the highlights of the afternoon was watching Kaleo Lancaster go from blogger to "Dragon Slayer" as he took down the legendary "Dragon Drink", a series of three, increasingly potent drinks that King of Kings is known for. Here's a video I took of the momentous, yet painful looking event.

 

Kaleo Lancaster takes on the Dragon Drink from King of Kings Seafood Restaurant in Brisbane Australia

 

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to unwind before getting ready for another walk through South Bank and meal in Fortitude Valley. Part of the unwinding process naturally included Happy Hour at another visit to Club Sofitel.

Pre-gaming at Club Sofitel with some bubbly
Pre-gaming at Club Sofitel with some bubbly

And then, it was off – on foot again! – to South Bank, this time guided by Hawaiian Airlines staffers Jeremy Althof and Jesse Starmer. The sights and sounds of Brisbane at night give a totally different perspective to the scenic city. Highly recommended!

Remember the Treasury Casino & Hotel earlier today? Here's what it looked like at night.
Remember the Treasury Casino & Hotel earlier today? Here's what it looked like at night.

Walking through Brisbane Square, we saw some filming going on, which appeared to be a TV news segment.
Walking through Brisbane Square, we saw some filming going on, which appeared to be a TV news segment.

Getting reminiscent of Hawaii: here's a gecko sighting. I wonder if it has an Australian accent too? 8)
Getting reminiscent of Hawaii: here's a gecko sighting. I wonder if it has an Australian accent too? 8)

Here's a close-up of the famous Wheel of Brisbane.
Here's a close-up of the famous Wheel of Brisbane.

And here's us in front of it (l to r: Kaleo Lancaster, Melissa Chang, me, Catherine Toth)
And here's us in front of it (l to r: Kaleo Lancaster, Melissa Chang, me, Catherine Toth)

Moonlit Brisbane skyline from South Bank
Moonlit Brisbane skyline from South Bank

With our restaurant reservation coming up, we jetted off via taxi to our dinner destination: Alfred & Constance, an eclectic collection of random, mini restaurants (sorta), serving food, drinks and desserts. Here's a description of each of them:

  • The Vanguard Beer Garden & Restaurant: Booze, Beer and sharable feasts
  • White Lightning Tiki Bar: Tropical drinks and a party that never stops
  • Alfred's Café: Workday bites, salads, coffee and sweets
  • Late-Night Dessert Café: Featuring alcoholic juice & boozy smoothy stations

Since Jeremy and Jesse knew the owner there, we had a table waiting for us at the Vanguard Beer Garden. Perfs!

Here's one of two Cocktail Jugs we ordered: Watermelon & Ginger Swizzle, which consisted of Gin & watermelon liqueur shaken with homemade rhubarb syrup & topped with soda. The other one we got was the Pimms & Lemonade jug: Pimms No. 1 & Fresh house made lemon syrup, swizzled down with fresh mint & topped with soda.

Watermelon & Ginger Swizzle (Gin & watermelon liqueur shaken with homemade rhubarb syrup & topped with soda).
Watermelon & Ginger Swizzle (Gin & watermelon liqueur shaken with homemade rhubarb syrup & topped with soda).

Salt & Pepper Squid with Lemon & Sweet Paprika Mayo ($14.90)
Salt & Pepper Squid with Lemon & Sweet Paprika Mayo ($14.90)

Here, they are known for their free-range meats which are cooked whole in wood and charcoal ovens. We went with their popular roast pork with crackling.

250g of Roast Pork carved from the whole pig w/crackling ($29)
250g of Roast Pork carved from the whole pig w/crackling ($29)

Oysters Kirkpatrick (6 for $24). Raw oysters, barbeque sauce and bacon. 'Nuff said.
Oysters Kirkpatrick (6 for $24). Raw oysters, barbeque sauce and bacon. 'Nuff said.

Cat and Melissa opted for dessert from Alfred's Café. Melissa got the Baklava Muffin, while Cat got the Classic Crème Brulee.

Cat's Crème Brulee ($12)
Cat's Crème Brulee ($12)

And there's day 2 in the books. We've got just half a day left in Brisbane, but lots to see & do. Come back next month to witness koala and kangaroo petting, majestic views of Mount Coot-tha and grindz at The Shelter Bar.

To view more photos from the trip and get a sneak preview of what's to come:
https://picasaweb.google.com/114302480978989244855/AlohaBrisbaneAlohaBNE

Melissa Chang's #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/?s=brisbane&searchsubmit=Go

Catherine Toth's #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.thecatdish.com/?s=brisbane

Kaleo Lancaster's #AlohaBNE blog:
http://kaleolancaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/brisbane-australia-hawaiian-airlines.html

My #AlohaBNE blogs/posts:
http://www.world-wide-ed.com/?s=brisbane

Instagram search results for #AlohaBNE:
http://web.stagram.com/tag/alohabne/

Twitter search results for #AlohaBNE:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23AlohaBNE&src=typd

 

Part I |  Part II  | Part III

 

 

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Aloha Brisbane! – Part I: Hawaiian Airlines Launches Their Newest Route to Australia (#AlohaBNE)

December 5, 2012

 

 Part I  | Part II | Part III

 

Traveling to Australia has always been a dream of mine. I mean, let's face it, they've got so many interesting and unique things going for them…

  • Their seasons are completely opposite from ours.
  • They've got koalas and kangaroos to ogle over.
  • They have cute sayings like "G'day Mate!", "Barbie" (BBQ), and "Oi (Oi Oi)!" (LOL!)
  • Their toilet seats (supposedly) flush in the opposite direction.
  • Regional Beers like Hahn, Tooheys and XXXX.
  • And, uh, Vegemite… I guess.

So when the opportunity arose for me to join Hawaiian Airlines' inaugural flight to Brisbane, I could not say "Yer, mate" fast enough!

On Tuesday, November 27th, of 2012, Hawaiian Airlines launched its newest direct route to Australia's third most populous city: Brisbane. Like some of Hawaiian's previous inaugural flights (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Seoul, New York City and Sapporo), they invited members of the (new) media to help document the journey, every step of the way. The recruits this time around were Melissa Chang (@Melissa808) of NonstopHonolulu.com, Catherine Toth (@thedailydish) of TheCatDish.com, Kaleo Lancaster (@islandtrails) of Island Trails, and myself (@worldwideed) of World-Wide-Ed.com.

 


Hawaiian Airlines Flies to Brisbane, Australia! (via HawaiianAirlines' YouTube channel)

 

It was a whirlwind 3 day, 2-night tour, but we definitely got to experience Brisbane the only way Hawaiian Airlines knows how: with Aloha. Here are some of the sights and sounds that we were fortunate enough to experience.

Hula dancers giving us a nice sendoff
Hula dancers giving us a nice sendoff

HA443 departs Honolulu at 10:20am every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and arrives in Brisbane (BNE) at 4pm the following day.

Blessing by Kahu Richard Kamanu
Blessing by Kahu Richard Kamanu

The awesome Hawaiian Airlines crew for our HA443 flight to Brisbane
The awesome Hawaiian Airlines crew for our HA443 flight to Brisbane

 


On the flight to Brisbane (via AlohaMelissa808's YouTube channel)

 


On the flight to Brisbane (via thedailydish's YouTube channel)

 

After about 10 hours in the air, we finally get to the beautiful city of Brisbane
After about 10 hours in the air, we finally get to the beautiful city of Brisbane

These two (Melissa Chang and Catherine Toth) are happy to be on the ground
These two (Melissa Chang and Catherine Toth) are happy to be on the ground

Our hale for the next few days was the French based luxury hotel chain called Sofitel Brisbane Central Hotel. Conveniently located in the middle of the city, it was in walking distance to quite a few key points during our trip, including ANZAC Square, which was literally across the street. Here's the view from my hotel room window!

Looking down at ANZAC Square from the Sofitel Brisbane Central Hotel
Looking down at ANZAC Square from the Sofitel Brisbane Central Hotel

It wasn't long before we had to get dolled up (I wore a tie!) and head down to the Ballroom Le Grand for the official Welcome Gala.

Hawaiian Airlines Welcome Gala
Hawaiian Airlines Welcome Gala

It was a packed house filled with members of the local (Brisbane) media, tour industry professionals, airline executives, and local entertainers Sean Na`auao and Lehua Kalima (formerly of Na Leo), among others.

 


Lehua Kalima Sings "Waikiki" at the Hawaiian Airlines Welcome Gala

Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Mark Dunkerley addresses the crowd
Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Mark Dunkerley addresses the crowd

And of course, we can't forget about the food p0rn shots! πŸ˜‰

Bomboocha wok of fried rice!
Bomboocha wok of fried rice!

My serving of fried rice
My serving of fried rice

Poke samplers
Poke samplers

Chef Chai's popular Fried Kataifi Prawns
Chef Chai's popular Fried Kataifi Prawns

Following the gala, we decided to take a stroll around our neighborhood.

The Shrine of Remembrance at ANZAC Square
The Shrine of Remembrance at ANZAC Square

Possibly the best named street in all the land: Edward Street. 8)
Possibly the best named street in all the land: Edward Street. 8)

Brisbane's cool CityCycle bike hire program
Brisbane's cool CityCycle bike hire program

We decided to check out a popular local pub called the Pig 'N' Whistle on Queen Street.

Partial beer selection on tap
Partial beer selection on tap

Since we weren't that hungry, we just got a side of "chips" (fries in the U.S.) to share.

Chunky Chips with Garlic Aioli ($8.90)
Chunky Chips with Garlic Aioli ($8.90)

After all that eating and drinking, combined with our jetlag, it was time to call it a night. From the expressions on the ladies' faces, I think they agreed.

Cat and Melissa are either extremely drunk or jetlagged. You decide.
Cat and Melissa are either extremely drunk or jetlagged. You decide.

And that's it for our first night in Brisbane. I'll be back again soon to post more about our adventures including South Bank, King of Kings Seafood Yum Cha Restaurant in Chinatown, Alfred & Constance, koala and kangaroo sightings at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, The Shelter Bar, and our departure.

To view more photos from the trip and get a sneak preview of what's to come:
https://picasaweb.google.com/114302480978989244855/AlohaBrisbaneAlohaBNE

Melissa Chang's #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/?s=brisbane&searchsubmit=Go

Catherine Toth's #AlohaBNE blogs:
http://www.thecatdish.com/?s=brisbane

Kaleo Lancaster's #AlohaBNE blog:
http://kaleolancaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/brisbane-australia-hawaiian-airlines.html

My #AlohaBNE blogs/posts:
http://www.world-wide-ed.com/?s=brisbane

Instagram search results for #AlohaBNE:
http://web.stagram.com/tag/alohabne/

Twitter search results for #AlohaBNE:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23AlohaBNE&src=typd

 

 Part I  | Part II | Part III

 

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Saimin Adventures – The Search for Hawaii’s Best Saimin – Part I

November 1, 2012

It wasn’t long after wrapping up the final part in my 5 part series on Hawaii’s best ramen, that people started harassing me. “You need to cover saimin now!” “What about Hawaii’s best saimin places!?”

As good as their suggestions were, prior to my interview with Sun Noodle president Hidehito Uki, I was a full-on ramen snob. I would normally only “stoop” to eating saimin out of desperation. At Zippy’s, in a drunken state, during the wee hours of night during our clubbin’ days. When driving to a ramen place in town was too far. Or when your whole group agrees on a saimin place and it’s too late to renege on your previous “up to you” comment.

I’m of course exaggerating (I love anything with noodles!), but Mr. Uki seriously slapped some saimin sense in me with his life changing, epiphanic quote:

“Each area in Japan has their own, unique style of ramen. Kyushu has Hakata style (tonkotsu), Hokkaido has Sapporo style (miso)… Saimin is Hawaii’s style of ramen.”

Sun Noodle's Hidehito Uki during our Hawaii Ramen Quest - Part V interview back in February
Sun Noodle’s Hidehito Uki during our “Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V” interview back in February

Hellooooo!? The world now made perfect sense to me. And with that, I was no longer a ramen snob, ready to tackle the next noodle adventure around the state. “Saimin Adventures”, here we come!

We start with my favorite saimin place in the state: Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa.

Shige's Saimin Stand sign
Shige’s Saimin Stand sign

Living and working in the often chilly Central Oahu, it’s easy to pay this place a visit at least once a week to warm the ol’ soul. But it’s not because of convenience that Shige’s tops my list for local style saimin, it’s taste.

Large Wunton Mein
Large Wunton Mein

Although their menu boasts a fair amount of alternatives like Hamburger Steak, Loco Moco, Fried Saimin, Roast Beef Sandwiches, and udon, I *always* order their Wunton Mein. I just can’t bring myself to go to Shige’s and NOT order saimin. The soup base is “clean” & subtle, and not overbearing, while the homemade, signature, flat noodles is always soft and never clumpy (my pet peeve). The balance of noodles to Wunwon/garnishes (another pet peeve of mine) is also jussssst riiiight.

If I’m hungry (or I have someone to share it with), I like to order their BBQ Cheeseburger on the side to round out my meal. She go!

Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger
Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger

I did notice a sudden increase in their prices lately, but I think it’s only because I’ve been spoiled to their 80s style pricing up until now.

Shige’s Saimin Stand
70 Kukui Street
Wahiawa, HI 96786 (Street View)
(808) 621-3621
Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm
Fri & Sat: 10am-midnight
Closed Sundays

The next place has been somewhere I’ve been trying to get to for a long time: Nakai Saimin. There is a family association between Shige’s and Nakai (the noodles are based on the same recipe), and since Shige’s is up there on my list, I wanted to see how Nakai compared. So I enlisted the help of Twitter friends and Nakai regulars Russ Sumida (@ParkRat), Brandon Suyeoka (@WeHeartHawaii) and Rick Nakama (@RickNakama).

Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin
Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin

The first thing you notice is the soup base. It’s clearer with a tad less flavor. And I’m hoping I caught them on a bad day, but remember how I said that my pet peeve was clumpy noodles? There were some elements of clumpiness going on there. It seemed that the noodles and the won ton may’ve been of the previously frozen variety.

Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)
Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)

For good measure, I thought I’d give their popular BBQ Stick a try.

BBQ Stick ($2.75)
BBQ Stick ($2.75)

Although it wasn’t as hard/crisp as what I’m used to with BBQ sticks (which may actually be a good thing), this one had good flavor throughout.

I’m willing to go back again for sure, but if I had to pick a winner between Shige’s and Nakai (based on this visit), I would have to give it to Shige’s. The boys didn’t agree with me.

 


Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama give their review of Nakai Saimin

Nakai is expanding both their hours (see below) and their footprint. Rumor has it that another Nakai Saimin recently opened up in Haleiwa, the town where it actually all started (their original location was in Haleiwa back in the ’50s).

Nakai Saimin
1329 Nuuanu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96813 (Street View)
(808) 531-9000
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 6am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Fri: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sat: 7am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Sat: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sun: 7am-3:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Wed: Closed

Lastly, let’s pay a visit to everyone’s favorite late night eatery: Zippy’s! Like Shige’s, it’s difficult for me to go there and NOT get the saimin. In this case, it’s Zippy’s signature favorite: the Zip Min.

Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.
Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.

In a recent visit there, the wun tun had a noticeably different (and stronger/”garlic-y”) taste. Over the years, the portions – as with many of the other menu items here – seem to be shrinking while the cost continues to rise. A sign of the economic times I suppose.

Zippy’s
Locations: Varied
Hours: Varied
808-973‑0880

Look for more during our “Saimin Adventures” where we explore the famous noodles from places like Hamura’s on Kauai, Sam Sato’s on Maui and Shiro’s right here on Oahu. If you have any other suggestions for places I should visit (yes, Palace is on my list! πŸ™‚ ), leave a comment for me below.

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Kona Kai Sushi – The Izakaya for Locals

October 1, 2012

Call me Jiro because I always dream of sushi. And in those dreams, I typically envision a small, dark, packed-to-the-brim hole-in-the-wall with a certain “je ne sais quoi” aura. Behind the sushi bar stands a stoic, elder sushi master who earned that title of “master” by working his way up the sushi making ranks for decades. With an air of arrogance, he’ll take his time with your order, giving off the impression that he’s doing you a favor by serving his food.

Local sushi chef James Matsukawa takes that visual and completely flips it on its head. Barely 30, he is the energetic owner of Kona Kai Sushi, a somewhat undiscovered sushi restaurant on Coyne Street, that just celebrated its 1 year anniversary in July. And although Kona Kai does give off that appealing, hole-in-the-wall vibe, Matsukawa is anything but old and stoic.

A look inside Kona Kai Sushi
A look inside Kona Kai Sushi

Matsukawa grew up in Kealakekua on the Big Island where his love for fishing began early when, at the ripe old age of 10, he started hanging out with the old timers, regularly fishing for menpachi, akule and papio.

Years after moving to Oahu, he worked as a line cook at Kabuki Restaurant before moving behind the sushi bar under master chef Yoshio Kazama. He continued his practice at countless other Japanese restaurants like Kohnotori, Jimbo’s, 808 Kapahulu, Shigezo, and Sushi Izakaya Shinn until a stint at Sushi Sasabune changed his life forever.

“It was like sushi boot camp.” describes Matsukawa. “I think it was the hardest place to work, both mentally and physically. Long hours at a frantic pace. I basically lived there, but it has been the most influential experience to this day by far.”

Under master chef Seiji Kumagawa’s careful tutelage, Matsukawa was taught to be extremely disciplined and to respect the fish. It was not about how to do things, but why.

He then moved on to the popular izakaya Tokkuri Tei, which influenced him in an entirely different way.

“Tokkuri Tei showed me a more casual way of doing sushi. The clientele atmosphere had a lively, easy going energy typical of an izakaya (in Japan).”

After Tokkuri Tei, he felt that he was ready to open his own restaurant in the form of Umi no Sachi on 11th Ave in Kaimuki. Unfortunately, due to inexperience and poor business relationships, it closed after only three months. Matsukawa then took an 8 month hiatus, regrouped and was ready to sushi again.

James Matsukawa
James Matsukawa

Enter Kona Kai. Named after his roots (Kona) and his love for the ocean (Kai), Kona Kai brings the best of Matsukawa’s experiences and serves it to his highly targeted clientele.

“We don’t advertise and we really don’t want to. Sasabune taught me that word of mouth (advertising) is the most important.”

On a recent trip with the boys from Lawai`a (the Fishing magazine I write for), we went omakase style and here is what we were served:

Seared Canadian Tombo (albacore tuna) with ponzu
Seared Canadian Tombo (albacore tuna) with ponzu

Baby Calamari stuffed with Blue Crab
Baby Calamari stuffed with Blue Crab

2 types of Washington Oysters: 1 baked & 1 fresh with Alaskan King Salmon Caviar
2 types of Washington Oysters: 1 baked & 1 fresh with Alaskan King Salmon Caviar

Spanish Bluefin Sushi
Spanish Bluefin Sushi

Red Snapper from Southern Japan (Kyushu) with Canadian Rainbow Trout Caviar with reduced shoyu
Red Snapper from Southern Japan (Kyushu) with Canadian Rainbow Trout Caviar with reduced shoyu

Shimaaji from Shikoku (background) & Golden Eye Snapper with Shiokara on top (foreground)
Shimaaji from Shikoku (background) & Golden Eye Snapper with Shiokara on top (foreground)

Hokkaido Tako, simmered with shoyu, massaged by hand with daikon for 45 minutes (background) & Aji (Japanese Akule) with ginger and green onions (foreground)
Hokkaido Tako, simmered with shoyu, massaged by hand with daikon for 45 minutes (background) & Aji (Japanese Akule) with ginger and green onions (foreground)

Russian King Crab with Kani Miso (background) & Prawn from New Caledonia with black Flying Fish Caviar (foreground)
Russian King Crab with Kani Miso (background) & Prawn from New Caledonia with black Flying Fish Caviar (foreground)

South African Rock Lobster tail from the Tristan da Cunha islands
South African Rock Lobster tail from the Tristan da Cunha islands

Matsukawa wants to create an atmosphere where his clients become his friends. His main goal is to continually top his customers’ last visit.

Many of the dishes from our night were brok’ da mout’ amazing. Creative, yet fundamentally sound. If he is planning on topping that the next time around, sign me up!

(Previously published in Lawai`a Magazine)

Kona Kai Sushi
2535 Coyne Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tue-Sat: 6pm-12am
Sun: 5pm-10pm
(808) 594-7687

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