Posts Tagged ‘dry aku’

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part V

May 1, 2010
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Local band Island Rhythms pretty much summed it up in their classic hit, “Is This the End?

Is this the end?
Are you my friend?
It seems to me
We are to be free…

Over the last 4 months, we’ve been poke-ing it up across our great state. We’ve visited some great institutions like Yama’s Fish Market, Tanioka’s, the Honolulu Fish Auction, Haili’s, and Tamashiro Market, and have met with some interesting folks in the industry like Sam Choy, Mel and Justin Tanioka, Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi, Alan Wong, Jed Inouye, Brooks Takenaka, Rachel Haili, Guy Tamashiro, and Hilo’s Uncle Solomon.

And though we’ve still got a loooooong way to go, we’re going to (temporarily) wrap things up this month in the 5th part in the Poke Paradise series with Kahuku Superette, JJ’s Seafood, Off the Wall, Paina Café, Ono’s Seafood, and poke’s new kid on the block Reno Henriques and his shop Fresh Catch.

Reno Henriques – Fresh Catch

Chef/Owner Reno Henriques grew up next to Kaneohe Bay and spent much of his childhood fishing, diving, and trolling in the ocean. After graduating from St. Louis School, he attended Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, where he honed his culinary skills. Reno returned to Hawaii to help with his family’s businesses (brother Dominic Henriques owns RRR Recycling Services and parents Linda and Robert Henriques own Rolloffs Hawaii), until an opportunity presented itself to open his own place. Fresh Catch was born.

Fresh Catch on Waialae Ave
Fresh Catch on Waialae Ave

Customer response has been tremendous thus far, bringing in tourists and locals alike, even eliciting a visit from UFC Fighter, and Hilo native, BJ Penn.

http://static.ning.com/socialnetworkmain/widgets/video/flvplayer/flvplayer.swf?v=201004131104
BJ Penn Visits Fresh Catch

Wanna learn more about Fresh Catch? Here’s a recent interview I did with owner, Bruddah Reno Henriques.


Reno Henriques Interview

[Edward Sugimoto] Give us a little history about yourself.

[Reno Henriques] I was born and raised in Kaneohe, fished my whole life, went to high school, St. Louis High School, and then after I graduated St. Louis, I went to Western Culinary Institute in Portland Oregon and did a lot of culinary up there. And then, when I came back, my parents own Rolloffs Hawaii, a rubbish company, and my brother does Triple R, I was working for them for about maybe 10 years. Then, my brother started a recycle thing in Kaimuki, so he asked me… ’cause the place was available and it’s too big for him… if I would like to do poke with him. I mean do a poke thing, and then he do his recycling in the parking lot. At first I was like ah, might as well. I didn’t cook for about maybe 10-15 years, but I figured, ah, I’ll give it a shot, I always cook at home. So I came in, prior to that, about a year, I was helping somebody else in Kaneohe, used to be called Slow Poke, it was a fish market. I was just helping him after work, you know, mix poke. One day he got real busy, he was like, “Reno go back there and make your own poke.” So I started mixing and next thing you know, people was telling me, “Oh I wanna try that one, try that one.” So I started making for him, and then, next thing you know, he was like, “You know what. Come over, help me, and you can work off your bill.” *laughs* Free poke and beer. And then he just helped me work couple hours a day, during the rush hour. So that’s how I kinda got into it, and then he taught me a lot of things, and then he retired about 8 months ago and I took over that business also. So now I have two stores, the Kaimuki store and then the Kaneohe store.

[Edward Sugimoto] How many different types of poke do you have and what are some of your more popular ones?

[Reno Henriques] Huuu. Probably got maybe over, I’d say about, between 30-35 different types of poke.

Fresh Catch's wide poke selection [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fresh Catch’s wide poke selection [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] The most popular one is up to you. I don’t know everybody has their flavor.

Close-up of one of my favorites: the Smoked Tako Poke
Close-up of one of my favorites: the Smoked Tako Poke

[Reno Henriques] You know, shoyu’s a good one. Everybody likes shoyu poke.

Shoyu Poke from Fresh Catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Shoyu Poke from Fresh Catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] I started a new one, it’s called the Spicy Hawaiian. It’s kinda like an Ahi Limu Poke with spicy sauce inside. Different, but the thing is good, plus with the crunch with the limu.

Spicy Hawaiian Poke from Fresh Catch
Spicy Hawaiian Poke from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] And the salmon poke is one of my popular ones. Teri Furikake Salmon Poke, da buggah’s ono.

Furikake Salmon Poke from Fresh Catch
Furikake Salmon Poke from Fresh Catch

[Edward Sugimoto] How about some of your personal favorites?

[Reno Henriques] My personal favorites is, you know the old school Hawaiian stuff like ake (liver), lomi oio…

Lomi Oio  [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Lomi Oio [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] … Dry aku, a real popular one too is our taegu dry aku. It’s like dry aku, we cut it up, and then, got my grandma’s special taegu sauce. Everybody’s trying to get that one outta me, but cannot part with that one. *laughs*

Reno mixing up a batch of Taegu Dry Aku Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Reno mixing up a batch of Taegu Dry Aku Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] And you don’t just have poke. You have plate lunches, marinated meats (party platters, and Red Velvet Cupcakes from Divine Desserts, etc.)…

[Reno Henriques] Yeah, we have all the different plate lunches. Our most popular plate lunch is the Teri Furikake Baked Salmon. That thing is deadly. Moist, juicy…

Teri Furikake Baked Salmon from Fresh Catch
Teri Furikake Baked Salmon from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] Then we got like local favorites like a Deep Fried Ahi Belly with a butter garlic heavy cream sauce.

Deep Fried Ahi Belly from Fresh Catch
Deep Fried Ahi Belly from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] We got grandma’s fatty beef stew. Plenny gravy. And then we got pateles, lau lau, we make smoked meat, chopped steak, just all kine local styles. We also sell marinated meats for the barbeque grill, you know tailgate time?

Marinated Meats from Fresh Catch
Marinated Meats from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] And then we have some cold beverages. My wife and my cousins make red velvet cupcakes. It’s the best on the island I’m tellin’ you. *smiles* It’s the cream cheese frosting with chocolate chips. Mmm.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Divine Desserts (at Fresh Catch)
Red Velvet Cupcake from Divine Desserts (at Fresh Catch)

[Edward Sugimoto] So it’s a whole family affair over here.

[Reno Henriques] Oh yeah, everybody’s involved. Free labor ah? *laughs* Payback time!

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Fresh Catch?

[Reno Henriques] You know like everybody else, become famous and rich. Nah! *laughs* I’m trying to bottle my sauces right now. So I’ve been going to the mainland. I went to Boston’s seafood show, got some ideas. I want to start bottling a couple of my sauces and maybe one day, you know selling it throughout the world hopefully.

[Edward Sugimoto] Anything else to add to your current or future customers?

[Reno Henriques] Thank you everybody for your awesome business and your support. Fresh Catch will be coming up with a new special very shortly. I can’t tell you guys too much but yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] Plate lunch or Poke special?

[Reno Henriques] Plate lunch.

[Edward Sugimoto] Shoots, thanks ah?

Fresh Catch
3109 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 (map)
(808) 735-7653
Tue-Fri: 10am-7:30pm
Sat: 8am-7:30pm
Sun: 8am-5pm

Note: Fresh Catch will be holding their 2nd Annual Father’s Day “Up In Smoke” Cooking Contest and “Nobody Cares” Hawaiian Style Car Show on Sunday, June 20, 2010 at the Aloha Stadium Nimitz Parking Lot. Click here for more details.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc.

Through one of my many blogs/tweets/status updates (I don’t remember which), I asked where the best poke place in town was. One of the names that came up regularly was Ono Seafood on Kapahulu.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc
Ono Seafood Products, Inc

Self-proclaimed as “The Best Poke in Honolulu,” this “Ono’s” should not be confused with the Hawaiian Food restaurant “Ono’s” with the same/similar name: Ono Hawaiian Food.

Outside Ono Hawaiian Food
Outside Ono Hawaiian Food

The Hawaiian Food “Ono’s” also resides on Kapahulu, and, to make things even more confusing, they serve poke as well.

Hawaiian Style Poke at Ono Hawaiian Food
Hawaiian Style Poke at Ono Hawaiian Food

But getting back to Ono Seafood Products, Inc… Here’s a quote from my friend Dean Shimamoto, who teaches us what and how to order:

“Every order of poke is made in front of you… You have the option to pick what you want, but I usually get ‘everything’ which means fish, onions, ogo, some kind of chili sauce thing, inamona (i think) and their special sauces. Ogo is fresh and their sauce is mean (haven’t tasted anything like it). How to order… ‘One pound Ahi with Everything’. You can also specify the spiciness, but if you don’t say anything it’s assumed to be mild. I’ve gone enough to know not to go on Tuesdays before 2pm when they get their shipment of fresh ogo.”
-Dean Shimamoto

As you may’ve noticed in the picture above, I arrived at Ono Seafood a tad early and was greeted with their delightful “Closed” sign. After killing an hour or so, I was the first, excitable patron through door. An older woman, whom I could only assume was the reverent “Judy,” took my order.

A confused Aunty Judy takes my order
A confused Aunty Judy takes my order

Though Ono’s has a reasonable variety of products beyond poke like dried goods (ahi, aku, squid jerkey, smoked tako, taegu, etc.) sashimi, party platters, boiled peanuts, and pickled products (kinilau, pickle onion, cucumber kim chee, lomi salmon, etc.), they’re primarily known for their poke and poke bowls.

Poke options at Ono Seafood
Poke options at Ono Seafood

On this occasion, I picked up a half pound of shoyu poke (ahi)…

Shoyu Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)
Shoyu Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)

… and a half pound of miso ahi.

Miso Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)
Miso Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)

As mentioned by Dean-o, my orders were made to order. And though I didn’t say anything about my spiciness preference, the Shoyu Ahi actually had some pretty good kick to it. If you no can handle (Randall), you should ask for mild regardless.

I don’t know if I’d go as far as naming them “The Best Poke in Honolulu” but it was tasty. Made to order care using only fresh fish is tough to beat.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc.
747 Kapahulu Ave, Apt 4
Honolulu, HI 96816 (map)
(808) 732-4806
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm
Sun: 10am-3pm

Pa`ina Café

A couple years ago, I broke the story about a place opening up in Ward called The Poke Bowl. Well since that time, brothers Derek and Craig Uyehara, along with their partners, moved shop across the street to the Ward Warehouse area. With the move came a larger property and menu (PDF), as well as a name change to Pa`ina Café.

The line outside Pa`ina Café [Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa]
The line outside Pa`ina Café [Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa]

If the Poke Bowl is what you’re after, there is actually a science as to how to order. First you choose your size (small or large or extra large), rice (white or brown) and sauce (hot or mild). Then you pick your poke (Spicy Tuna, Shoyu Ahi, Hot Shoyu Ahi, or Limu Ahi), and cover it with one of 10 toppings at 50 cents a piece: Natto, Taegu, Kim Chee, Takuan, Shredded Nori, Fukujinzuke, Pickled Onions, Furikake, Green Onions, or Seaweed Salad.

Small Hot Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Furikake and Seaweed Salad on White Rice
Small Hot Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Furikake and Seaweed Salad on White Rice

Since there are so many options, you can literally go several times and never get the same thing.

One Small Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl with Shredded Nori, Seaweed Salad and Green Onion on White Rice, and one Small Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Pickled Onions and Seaweed Salad on Brown Rice
One Small Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl with Shredded Nori, Seaweed Salad and Green Onion on White Rice, and one Small Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Pickled Onions and Seaweed Salad on Brown Rice

Derek has informed me that they will actually be moving again in August to the nearby location formerly occupied by the Chowder House. Even more space and seating for their loyal and growing following.

Pa`ina Café
1200 Ala Moana Blvd #24
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 356-2829
Mon-Sat: 10am-8pm
Sun: 10am-6pm

Off the Wall

The brother in law told us about this unique, Okinawan joint sitting in the middle of Pearl Kai Shopping Center. Wifey and I checked it out one day and were pleasantly surprised with their eclectic dishes, especially their andagi options: the Shoyu Pork Andagi…

Shoyu Pork Andagi - Crispy andagi batter surrounding a shoyu pork filling. Served with a shoyu pork sauce and yuzu beurre blanc. $3 each
Shoyu Pork Andagi – Crispy andagi batter surrounding a shoyu pork filling. Served with a shoyu pork sauce and yuzu beurre blanc. $3 each

… and their house specialty: the Chocolate Filled Andagi…

Chocolate Filled Andagi $2 each
Chocolate Filled Andagi $2 each

Some notes from their menu regarding the Chocolate Filled Andagi FYI: “Absolutely made nowhere else! Warning: After eating our Andagi we are NOT responsible for any uncontrollable cravings to eat more than one! We cook our andagi to order and it does take some time to make (approx 20-30 min). Please order your andagi at the beginning of your meal.”

Off the Wall also featured many izakaya-type dishes, including a poke one called the “Naked” Spicy Ahi Poke Musubi.


“Naked” Spicy Ahi Poke Musubi – Our poke layered on a bed of furikake rice and drizzled with a spicy aioli. – $8

Off the Wall
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy, B-10
Aiea, HI 96701 (map)
(808) 486-9255
Wed, Thu, Fri: 11am-2pm (take out lunch)
Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun: 5pm-9:30pm (dinner and drinks)
Fri: 5pm-2am (dinner and drinks)
Mon, Tue: Closed

JJ Seafoods

Another name mentioned in my informal survey was a place in Kaneohe called JJ Seafoods. Since I don’t spend nearly as much time on the Windward side as I should, I wasn’t exactly familiar with this place. I did though, remember driving by their very unique looking pink building many a time.

JJ Seafoods in Kaneohe
JJ Seafoods in Kaneohe

It’s not a large place in the slightest. Very mom and pops-ish, which I love.

Inside JJ Seafoods
Inside JJ Seafoods

We were off to a party in the ‘hood so we had to pick up at least two pounds. Unfortunately, we were strolling in just as they were closing and they were all out of their Shoyu Ahi. To our delight, they were willing to mix a fresh batch just for us to go along with our Tako Poke.

Tako Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)
Tako Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)

Ahi Shoyu Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)
Ahi Shoyu Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)

Go and support small, family-run businesses like JJ Seafoods k?

JJ Seafoods
45-726 Kamehameha Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 236-4987

Kahuku Superette

Back in high school, I used to dread seeing “Kahuku” on our basketball schedule. Not only were they good and likely to wipe the floor with us, the bus ride over was a killer in itself. (There’s only so many times one can listen to Boyz II Men on the Walkman. 😛 ) Now that I live somewhat closer to the north shore of Oahu and, more importantly, have my own car, taking that drive, like Rocky says, “ain’t so bad!”

Outside Kahuku Superette
Outside Kahuku Superette

Inside you’ll find your typical superette, complete with groceries and various knickknacks, but head to the back of the store and you’ll find a setup that’s uber popular.

Inside Kahuku Superette
Inside Kahuku Superette

In addition to poke, Kahuku Superette also sells boiled peanuts, seafood salad, and various meats (like kalbi, teriyaki pork chop, chicken bbq and Korean cooked beef), by the pound. You can purchase your poke by the pound, on its own ($9.99/lb), or in a bowl ($9.99/lb + $1, $1.50, or $1.75 for the small, medium or large sizes).

Small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)
Small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)

(Ed’s Tip: If you can help it, I would recommend eating right away if you get the bowl version. Reason being, the rice is mega hot, so it actually cooks the cold poke on top just a tad.)

Here’s a cross section of the poke bowl.

Side view of the small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)
Side view of the small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)

Wifey was particularly impressed with the meticulousness of their system. They actually took the weight of the container itself (before anything was in it), and subtracted that from the weight of the entire dish. Although, miniscule, I commend them for being that honest and fair about their pricing.

We also got half a pound of their Ahi Limu Poke.

Ahi Limu Poke ($9.99/lb)
Ahi Limu Poke ($9.99/lb)

Oddly enough, ther Ahi Limu Poke tasted pre-frozen, though their Ahi Shoyu (on the rice) did not. Not sure if it was just a time of day situation or if their Ahi Limu is always pre-frozen (or they serve fresh fish in the bowls only?), but just a head’s up.

Kahuku Superette
56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731 (map)
(808) 293-9878

And that’s it! Five amazing months of meeting and eating everything and everyone poke. When we return, I’m hoping to hit up other popular places like Alicia’s, Ruger Market, Tamura’s, Marujyu Market, Monarch Seafoods, Inc., Masa & Joyce, Young’s Fish Market, and Da Pokeman, among others, but until then, kick back, relax and poke it up brah! Hope you enjoyed the series up until this point! Wow, I think I might get a little emotional here. Queue Island Rhythms…

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
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Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part II

February 1, 2010
Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Wow! What an unbelievable month! I guess y’all really love your poke eh?

Last month, we struck gold when I introduced a topic that was near and dear to my heart. She went by the name of Poke. 8) Your feedback and comments were amazing and, as a result, I was able to make contact with some of the “giants” of the industry.

This month, we’ve got a very special treat for you with a star-studded lineup of exclusive interviews from the likes of Sam Choy (Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch, Crab & Big Island Brewery), Mel and Justin Tanioka (Tanioka’s Seafoods & Catering), Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi (Tokkuri-Tei) and Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s Restaurants)! Normally, an interview with these living legends, would each merit its own column, but this is Poke Paradise and this is how we roll, 😉 so strap on your seatbelts and get ready to go go go!

Sam Choy

What’s a special on poke without some words of wisdom from Hawaii’s poke authority Sam Choy? Yep, my thoughts exactly. That’s why it was imperative that I get a few soundbites from bruddah Sam.

Hawaii's Poke Authority: Sam Choy
Hawaii’s Poke Authority: Sam Choy

[Edward Sugimoto] You are often looked to as THE preeminent expert/authority in poke. It’s even been said that the popularity of poke in Hawaii can be traced back to you. How does that make you feel?

[Sam Choy] It is an honor for people to trace the popularity back to me. My love for poke has made me want to make poke recognized as much as sashimi and sushi.


Buy This Book from Amazon.com

[Edward Sugimoto] Your poke contests/festivals are legend. Are you still doing them and if/so, when can we expect the next one?

[Sam Choy] We are working with Turtle Bay to have our Poke Contest there again later this year.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your top 3 favorite pokes and where are they from?

[Sam Choy] My top three pokes are traditional ahi poke with Hawaiian salt, limu kohu and inamona, kole or opelu poke and oio poke which I make at home.

[Edward Sugimoto] Where is your “go to” poke place (besides your own kitchen)? 😉

[Sam Choy] Besides my own kitchen, Tanioka’s is my “go to” poke place. How can you go wrong with poke and one of Mel’s famous cone sushis? Try the alae poke! Have you ever tried the mochiko chicken? I was there doing a book signing with Mel in December and got to have it right out of the fryer… broke da mouth!!

[Edward Sugimoto] I’ve read somewhere that you even have a recipe that includes peanut butter? Is that true and how/why did you come up with that?

[Sam Choy] I actually got the peanut butter poke recipe from my dad who got it from his dad.

[Edward Sugimoto] What is one unique ingredient that surprised you (in a good way)?

[Sam Choy] The texture and the flavor of uni has surprised me. It is truly like taking a bite of the ocean!

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Mr. Sam Choy?

[Sam Choy] I am in the process of opening a new restaurant in Kona and looking forward to possibly expanding to the mainland (once) we’re up and running. The sky’s the limit!

Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch, Crab & Big Aloha Brewery
580 N. Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817 (map)
Tel: (808) 545-7979
Breakfast Hours: Mon-Fri: 7am-10:30am, Sat & Sun: 7am-11:30am, Breakfast Buffet: Sat & Sun: 9am-12noon.
Lunch Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10:30am-3pm, Fri: 10:30am-4pm, Sat & Sun: 11:30am-4pm
Dinner Hours: Sun-Thurs: 5pm-9:30pm, Fri & Sat: 5pm-10pm

Tanioka’s

Sam Choy’s self proclaimed “go to” place for poke is Tanioka’s. What say we head over to Waipahu and have a chat with father-son super combo Mel and Justin Tanioka to talk poke?

Tanioka's Seafoods and Catering Sign
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering Sign

An Interview with Mel and Justin Tanioka of Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering

[Edward Sugimoto] You first opened your doors in 1978 in a thousand square foot space with just four employees. What were those first years like?

[Justin Tanioka] I don’t know. *laughs* I was one years old.

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah I heard you were like a kid sleeping on the cooler or something like that right?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah, I was actually born one month before we opened.

[Edward Sugimoto] Oh wow, OK. So no memories of that huh?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah. The first four years, I don’t know… *looks to dad*

[Mel Tanioka] It was simple. We had less items. So basically we were more like a fish market, selling just fish. No sushi, no chicken, you know, anything like that. It was just you know, mostly filets, poke. The trend of poke was just starting then.

[Edward Sugimoto] Oh so you didn’t have poke from the very beginning?

[Mel Tanioka] Oh we did.

[Edward Sugimoto] You now have a very successful catering business (like you said) to add to your seafood side. How or why did that come about?

[Mel Tanioka] Well, in the 1990s, we looked at the fish availability, and I felt that… If it started to get depleted, which we look at in the 90s and we thought if it starts to get depleted, what else, what kind of income is going to subsidize our market. So we decided to start our catering business, which has grown to equalize our fish. Before it was just a small percentage, but now it’s becoming a larger percentage of our business. So in the future, we’re going to hopefully gear towards more catering as the fish start depleting, unless you go into frozen fish. But for 30 years we’ve been dealing with fresh fish, so we’re trying to avoid that, but eventually it’s gonna come yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your top sellers in terms of poke?

[Justin Tanioka] Probably our Limu Poke. That’s our top seller.

Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)
Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Justin Tanioka] Onion with Limu Poke is right there with it.

Onion Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)
Onion Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Edward Sugimoto] It’s just onions on top of that (the limu poke)?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah kind of. A little different mix. A little bit stronger flavor on the onion poke side (with limu yeah). But the limu poke has been our item.

[Mel Tanioka] For parties, Spicy Ahi has been one of the best sellers because it stretches. You know the rice and spicy. For parties of two to three hundred, if you put like 20 pounds of poke, they’re gonna eat it up in a few minutes. So we thought that at least Spicy Ahi would stretch it out so everyone would have a share.

[Edward Sugimoto] What about not in terms of customers, but your guys’ personal favorite? Do you guys have any from here?

[Justin Tanioka] Mine would probably be the Onion with Limu. His is probably the Alae.

[Mel Tanioka] (*in unison*) Alae. *laughs* He knows yeah?

Alae Poke ($12.95/pound)
Alae Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Mel Tanioka] I love the Alae Poke. Chili pepper water oooh, that’s my favorite. With some poi and dry aku.

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, you guys have dry aku poke too right?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah yeah yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah, we have dried poke. That one, it’s like a salty candy. When you eat it, it’s good, you know, just to pick on.

[Mel Tanioka] I always brag that we were one of the first guys to do that. Eventually, I don’t know who else does it yeah? *looks to Justin*

[Justin Tanioka] I’m not too sure. The only hard part about that is the price yeah? It’s priced kind of high, but, you know, after you dry it, you lose over 50% of your product just off the bat, and that’s not including the time and all of that.

[Mel Tanioka] So if you can picture a $10 pound of poke, when you dry it, it becomes $20 yeah? But the drying process is again, the labor process, the equipment used to dry, and all of that. For me it’s worth the price, but when you look at it at $19.95 (per pound) you’re like “woah”, but when you eat it, it’s worth it. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] You guys have, like, I heard over 40 different types of poke, or almost there?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah, probably.

[Justin Tanioka] Close to that. Yeah, maybe 30 something. We never really took a count.

The Different Types of Poke from Tanioka's
The Different Types of Poke from Tanioka’s

[Edward Sugimoto] Are you guys continuing to think of new ones here and there?

[Mel Tanioka] We try to.

[Justin Tanioka] We try to. It’s hard to step away from the… Even when we make a new one, people kind of like it, but, like if they had to choose between a pound of the old Limu Poke or the new Garlic Poke, the Limu Poke is going to always come first.

[Edward Sugimoto] When making poke for yourself maybe like at home, what’s your one, go-to ingredient?

[Justin Tanioka] Aloha Shoyu. *laughs*

[Mel Tanioka] Our famous friends is Aloha Shoyu. We’ve been with them for 31 years.

[Justin Tanioka] Tell Sam (Choy) I said that.

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah, we’ve been using Aloha Shoyu for 31 years.

[Edward Sugimoto] You were mentioning earlier that Justin and your daughter Jasmine’s gonna be taking over. What else is in the future of Tanioka’s?

[Justin Tanioka] So far, everything’s up in the air yeah?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] It depends on the economy. You know how everybody bounces back. I think some of it is fate you know? You gotta look, if you see something, maybe something might pop up (like) “Eh, you wanna be a part of this” or whatever, that’s how we would…

[Mel Tanioka] We did create a franchise. We went through the manual. But we’re not sure right now yeah ’cause it’s hard to… I tried, we had three stores at once, but it’s hard to keep the quality. You can expand a lot, but sometimes you lose the quality. So it’s trying to keep that quality vs. trying to expand… I guess people expand because they want to make more money right? But the end result is… You gotta expand with the intentions of keeping the quality.

A look inside Tanioka's during a rare down time
A look inside Tanioka’s during a rare down time

[Justin Tanioka] And with it being harder and harder to get fresh ahi.

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah. That’s the part.

[Justin Tanioka] You know, each store is going to have to get their own fish and if we’re having trouble getting fish sometimes, like I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.

[Mel Tanioka] There’s a lot of factors. The Fresh Limu Factory is another one to consider. On a daily basis, it’s easy to get, but when it gets to the holiday time, I mean everybody is scrambling to get it, because you know, the volume goes higher. So that’s another thing that we’re looking at. But I think the franchise stores will probably go into like a different type of program. Not maybe 40 different types of poke, maybe they’ll have like 5 of just the basic sellers. Spicy Ahi, Shoyu Poke, Limu Poke.

[Justin Tanioka] And then of course the cooked food side. You know like the okazu-ya, just grab and go. Fried Chicken, Fish Patties, Shrimp Tempura, you know, stuff that’s consistent every day, tastes good. You know, it’s basic things that you would eat every day too yeah?

Family Bento with Fried Noodles ($5.50)
Family Bento with Fried Noodles ($5.50)

[Justin Tanioka] But as for me, I think my future is here at the market. Just keep it going. Keep this place going.

[Edward Sugimoto] Carry on the name ah?

[Justin Tanioka] Yup. Make my father proud. Make my parents proud.

The Tanioka `Ohana: Mel, Lynn and Justin (not pictured: daughter Jasmine Tanioka Lum)
The Tanioka `Ohana: Mel, Lynn and Justin (not pictured: daughter Jasmine Tanioka Lum)

[Edward Sugimoto] You guys have anything to add to your loyal customers or future customers?

[Justin Tanioka] Well, I would like to thank our customers. Thank you for standing in line. Some days are so busy. We try to get them (in and) out of here as fast as we can. I think we have a pretty good system right now.

[Mel Tanioka] And they’re so pleasant. Our customers are like, “Oh sorry, sorry you gotta wait in line,” (and they’re like) “No, no, no, it’s worth the wait.” They’re so positive and we’re just, we appreciate that yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] A lot. We appreciate it a lot.

[Mel Tanioka] And first of all we always trust in the Lord to guide us.

[Justin Tanioka] And our employees too. Our employees are what makes us. You know, without our employees, we wouldn’t be Tanioka’s you know. But our employees work hard, they work, you know they work fast… *looks at dad* Anything else?

[Mel Tanioka] *smiles*

It was great to see a truly genuine family doing good here in Hawaii. Justin was super cool and mellow, like he could’ve been your high school buddy growing up, while Mel Tanioka was very generous in packing, and I mean PACKING 3 shopping bags full of okazu items – like maki sushi, cone sushi, and even a bento to go along with their popular Limu Poke – for us to take back to the office. And though I didn’t get to meet daughter Jasmine, mom Lynn was just as warm and bubbly and always smiling.

Not only is their poke winnahz, they, as a family, are as well. Go and support the Taniokas k?

Tanioka’s Seafood and Catering
94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797 (map)
Tel: (808) 671-3779
Email: Onopoke@taniokas.com
Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 9am-3pm

Tokkuri-Tei

No stranger to the world of poke, Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi of the Izakaya style Japanese restaurant Tokkuri-Tei, is the winner of many cooking competitions, including Sam Choy’s Poke Contest, and has been delighting clientele to his unique poke stylings since the ’90s. Celebrating his 21st anniversary this year (the restaurant’s, not his 😉 ), Santa continues to push the culinary envelope for creative eats in Hawaii.

Hideaki "Santa" Miyoshi inside his restaurant Tokkuri-Tei
Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi inside his restaurant Tokkuri-Tei

Here’s a quick interview with the man simply known as “Santa”:

An Interview with Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi of Tokkuri-Tei

[Edward Sugimoto] Hi Santa, did you have poke on your menu from the beginning and if not, when did you start carrying it (and why)?

[Santa Miyoshi] Why? We didn’t have before, but after the poke contest (1997), we start carrying some poke.

[Edward Sugimoto] Was it a good seller in the beginning?

[Santa Miyoshi] Uh yeah, kind of.

[Edward Sugimoto] You won numerous awards at, like you said, the poke contests. What made you first want to enter the contests?

[Santa Miyoshi] Ah, well, it was Aloha Shoyu Cooking Contest I entered (in 1996), and I won a prize so I tried looking into other cooking contests, and there was one poke contest come up so I just entered. *laughs* There was no particular reason.

[Edward Sugimoto] And you had a story about wearing sweat pants and the security guard stopped you or something like that?

[Santa Miyoshi] Oh yeah yeah, because I just wear like T-shirt and start running around the display area and they told me not to, you know, stick around there because only for the chefs. Um, I have a badge saying I can enter. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] On your menu, you have quite a few poke dishes (Ahi Poke, Spicy Ahi Poke, Ahi Tempura Poke, There’s a Spider in Da Poke, and Ahi Tar-tare Poke). Which is the most popular and which is your personal favorite?

[Santa Miyoshi] I think the Ahi Tar-tare Poke is the most popular one. And then Spider Poke is very popular too.

Ahi Tar-Tare Poke - 1997 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner ($15)
Ahi Tar-Tare Poke – 1997 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner ($15)

There's a Spider in Da Poke - 2000 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner ($16)
There’s a Spider in Da Poke – 2000 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner ($16)

Also on the menu: Ahi Tempura Poke - Tempura Fresh Ahi with Shrimp Tempura ($16)
Also on the menu: Ahi Tempura Poke – Tempura Fresh Ahi with Shrimp Tempura ($16)

[Edward Sugimoto] How about your personal favorite?

[Santa Miyoshi] My favorite is maybe Amaebi poke which we don’t serve here.

[Edward Sugimoto] You also have some that are not on the menu (Ericka’s Poke, New Age Amaebi Nigiri Poke, Lilipuna Poke, Redefined Lomi Salmon Poke, Poke-ing Emi, and Poke Pasta Italian). Which is your favorite from these and why don’t you include them in your menu? Can customers order (them)?

[Santa Miyoshi] Some of the stuff is very hard to prep and we don’t have it (the ingredients) all the time so it’s really hard to make all the time.

(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke - named after the street that some of Santa's regulars live on.
(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke – named after the street that some of Santa’s regulars live on.

(Off the menu) Seafood Risotto - not necessarily listed as a "poke" dish, but I just had to mention it 'cause it's literally to die for!
(Off the menu) Seafood Risotto – not necessarily listed as a “poke” dish, but I just had to mention it ’cause it’s literally to die for!

[Edward Sugimoto] Are you working on any new poke dishes?

[Santa Miyoshi] Not necessarily but any kind of new item I’m always thinking (of).

Santa served this (hamachi, truffle, & shiso roll) to us recently, jokingly referring to it as the Sugimoto Roll! Could it be??? Santa san, douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu! If not, maybe you can rename the Seafood Risotto to Sugimoto Risotto (or Risotto Sugimoto?)?
Santa served this (hamachi, truffle, & shiso roll) to us recently, jokingly referring to it as the Sugimoto Roll! Could it be??? Santa san, douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu! If not, maybe you can rename the Seafood Risotto to Sugimoto Risotto (or Risotto Sugimoto?)? 🙂

[Edward Sugimoto] And how about some of your favorite poke not from here?

[Santa Miyoshi] I like the one (jalapeño ahi) from Tamura’s. They make pretty good poke.

[Edward Sugimoto] Your new book Izakaya Hawai (Tokkuri-Tei Cooking), tell me a little bit about that.

[Santa Miyoshi] It’s just a history of this restaurant plus whatever I’ve been working on to make new dishes. It just consolidates all of the stuff we did (for) over 20 years.

Buy Izakaya Hawaii - Tokkuri-Tei Cooking from Amazon.com
Buy “Izakaya Hawaii – Tokkuri-Tei Cooking” from Amazon.com

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you have anything else to add to your loyal customers or future customers?

[Santa Miyoshi] Thank you for coming. *waves at camera and laughs*

Tokkuri Tei
611 Kapahulu Ave, Suite 102
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 739-2800
Mon-Fri 10:30am-2pm
Mon-Fri 5:30pm-12am

Alan Wong

Last but definitely not least, we feature the god of Hawaii chefs: Alan Wong. Alan graciously took some time out of his insanely busy schedule to sit down with me to talk about poke, his use of it in his restaurants, and the importance of buying local.

An Interview with Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s Restaurants

[Edward Sugimoto] As a local boy, what are your fondest memories of poke?

[Alan Wong] You know when you’re raised in Hawaii, you grow up with that. It’s at every potluck, it’s at every gathering. I mean, you know, when you think of the holidays, New Year’s, Christmas, Thanksgiving, you’re always going to have red sashimi. Think of all the tailgating and all the hibachis. When you go tailgating at the football games, what does everybody have in their cooler? Poke, great pupus. You just grow up with it.

[Edward Sugimoto] Why was it important for you “the Master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine” to add poke dishes to both of your Hawaii locations?

[Alan Wong] I think what’s important is for people to taste Hawaii when they come to the restaurant. We want people to taste Hawaii so how do you taste Hawaii? We feature things grown/raised here in Hawaii, we also feature dishes that local people like to eat, whether it’s an ingredient, or whether it’s a concept like Loco Moco. So how do you take the Loco Moco and put it into this kind of a setting? Poke is a natural because it’s a big part of our culture. And so, every household eats that, so how do you take the poke, just like the Loco Moco, and put it in the setting?

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s the story behind Poki-Pines and how did you come up with it?

[Alan Wong] You know, Poki-Pines is, first of all a play on words. You know the animal the porcupine. *smiles* And so, cooking ahi or frying the ahi is one way to eat poke. You know, especially after it’s marinated. You marinate the poke and sometimes when you add shoyu to the poke it gets kind of dark, it doesn’t look very attractive, but you know, you can still eat it. Then you fry it and it tastes good. So we just wanted to encase that in the won ton strips, and it came all like you know, all this, like a porcupine. So it’s a play on words, and when you think about the crispy texture that you have on the outside, with the cooked poke, and then you marry that with wasabi sauce but with avocados, you know, that makes a good marriage.

Ahi Poki-Pines - Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls On Avocado with Wasabi Sauce ($15)
Ahi Poki-Pines – Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls On Avocado with Wasabi Sauce ($15)

Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa describes the Poki-Pines dish

[Edward Sugimoto] In your book New Wave Luau, you mention several different types of poke (Ahi Poke, Ahi Poke Gyozas with Soy-Vinegar Chile Dipping Sauce, Ahi Poke Nigiri, Nairagi and Kajiki Carpaccio with Swordfish Poke, Nori-wrapped Akule Stuffed with Poke, Seared Ahi Poke Cakes on Crostini, as well as the Poki-Pines). Are there any plans of making any of these available on your menu in the future?

Buy New Wave Luau from Amazon.com
Buy “Alan Wong’s New Wave Luau: Recipes from Honolulu’s Award-Winning Chef” from Amazon.com

[Alan Wong] They come in and out. We’ve served things in the book, in the various restaurants, but, you know, it’s like you gotta keep moving forward and try new things and different things and as you learn more, as you travel more as you taste more things, see more things, you’re cooking style evolves. So I think we will have more. Let’s say instead of poke dishes, more raw preparations yeah? It’s something that we love to do so we’ll always see those evolutions happening in our restaurants.

Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack - Stacked Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy ($19.50)
Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack – Stacked Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy ($19.50)

Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa describes the Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack dish

[Edward Sugimoto] So even you’re still evolving as a chef?

[Alan Wong] Oh, you know, the local people love to eat raw fish. We are an island state, we’re surrounded by the ocean so, we like to serve the fishes from our waters, we are a culture that eats a lot of raw fish, and so it’s only natural that if you want people to taste Hawaii, and taste the culture, that you serve a lot of these preparations, whether they’re in poke form, or tartare form, a carpaccio form, or a kind of seviche or sashimi form, it’s all kind of one big category.

Alan Wong (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts)
Alan Wong (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts)

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you eat poke outside of the restaurant…

[Alan Wong] Of course. *smiles*

[Edward Sugimoto] … and if so, where do you like to go?

[Alan Wong] Well, you know, I don’t go out too often, but every once in a while, the poke at side street, my buddy Colin (Nishida), you know. I don’t go out too often.

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for you personally, and what’s also in store for your restaurants?

[Alan Wong] Well, I think, you know, you put the economy aside, you still have to do your thing. I think I’m ready to cook up another concept or two, and I hope that we can grow as a company, I think we can grow as individuals within our company, so that I think, you know, we want to move forward, but sensibly in this time.

Alan Wong's Restaurant Sign
Alan Wong’s Restaurant Sign

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you have any words for your customers out there or future customers?

[Alan Wong] *laughs* Well, besides come taste Hawaii, um, this past Christmas I said, imagine if every dollar you spend buying Christmas presents for your friends and family, you bought everything that was made or raised in Hawaii, or produced in Hawaii. With the economy the way it is, what better way to fuel our own economy. So I think I speak on behalf of all the restaurants, all the mom and pop stores and restaurants that dot the community and become the community, we need to support our local restaurants. That’s what it is. It’s like the farmers. If we don’t buy local, we don’t support the local farmers, well, we’re not going to have farmers. Well you know, it’s the same with the restaurant industry. It’s time to come out and support your local restaurants, and *looks at camera* I hope to see you.

Alan Wong’s Honolulu
1857 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
Tel: (808) 949-1939
Reservations: (808) 949-2526
Hours: 5-10pm daily

The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
Tel: (808) 945-5529
Reservations: (808) 945-6573
Breakfast Hours: Sat: 8-11am, Sun: 9-11am
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am-4pm, Sun: 11am-3pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Sat: 4-8:30pm

I’d like to send a big Mahalo to all of the folks who made this possible: Sam Choy and his Executive Assistant Sally Watanabe; Mel Tanioka, Justin Tanioka, Lynn Tanioka; Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi; and Alan Wong, his Project Coordinator Nicole Ng, his Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa, and his entire kitchen staff!

Stay tuned for Part III, when we spend a day in the life of Seafood Hawaii, Inc.’s President Jed Inouye. From the fish market on the pier, to the kitchen, to the market at Sam’s Club, we get a history lesson from one of Hawaii’s experts. We’ll also pay a visit to some of the other supermarkets’ poke offerings from the likes of Safeway, Costco, Foodland, and more.

As always, if you know of anyone in the industry, send them my way and I’ll include them in this series. Shoots!

Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV | Part V