Posts Tagged ‘hole-in-the-wall’

Sam Sato’s – Dry Mein & More!

April 1, 2012

So this review of the legendary Sam Sato’s on Maui is more than a few years delayed. My bad. I guess it’s shmall kine hahd for this Oahu boy to get around these days, especially with the little one around. But trust… It’s worth the wait! 🙂

Sam Sato’s is a pseudo hole-in-the-wall type eatery, located in Wailuku Maui, in the same “historical” lineage of the Hamura’s Saimins (Kauai), Nori’s Saimin & Snacks (Big Island) and Shiro’s Saimin Havens (Oahu) of the world.

Sam Sato's sign
Sam Sato’s sign

On any given day, there will usually always be a wait to get in. Be prepared.

The wait outside Sam Sato's
The wait outside Sam Sato’s

Don’t forget to sign in on their cute, self-waitlist system: a pen and a pad.

The waiting list system at Sam Sato's
The waiting list system at Sam Sato’s

Once you hit the lottery and your name gets called, you are seated inside, which has all the charm and nostalgia of yesteryear including palaka style window trimmings, old school paintings, and black & white photos from back in the day.

Inside Sam Sato's
Inside Sam Sato’s

You’ll even find posters/photos signed by local celebrities like Na Leo, Frank DeLima, & Maui natives Ekolu, as well as our two Hawaii-born living legends BJ Penn & Shane Victorino (also a Maui boy).

Signed photos from Shane Victorino and BJ Penn
Signed photos from Shane Victorino and BJ Penn

Sam Sato’s has a variety of popular noodle dishes like their Saimins, Won Ton Meins and Chow Funs, but none are as popular as their Dry Noodles, endearingly referred to as Dry Mein, due to their lack of a traditional soup base.

Sam Sato's Dry Noodles, aka Dry Mein
Sam Sato’s Dry Noodles, aka Dry Mein

The noodles aren’t exactly dry-dry. In fact, the consistency and flavor almost reminds you of a fried saimin/noodle type dish. The kicker here is that the dish comes with a small bowl of a chicken based stock/broth, which you are supposed to drizzle on before every bite.

Sam Sato's Dry Mein order with broth (S - $4.95, L - $5.75, Double - $7.25)
Sam Sato’s Dry Mein order with broth (S – $4.95, L – $5.75, Double – $7.25)

Like many of the other old school saimin shops, Sam Sato’s is also known for their BBQ sticks. My buddy Joel, a Maui native, ordered a couple BBQ Beef Sticks for good measure.

BBQ Beef Sticks from Sam Sato's ($1.25 each)
BBQ Beef Sticks from Sam Sato’s ($1.25 each)

Since he’s been here many times, Joel decided to forego the Dry Mein and feed his craving for Hamburger Steak, which he claims was also “Bomb.” Here’s a shot of our food.

BBQ Beef Sticks, Dry Mein and Hamburger Steak ($7) from Sam Sato's
BBQ Beef Sticks, Dry Mein and Hamburger Steak ($7) from Sam Sato’s

As if that weren’t enough, these buggahs also make some of the most ono kine manjus & turnovers evaaaar!

Partial Manju display at Sam Sato's
Partial Manju display at Sam Sato’s

Pictured here is the Azuki Bean Manju, with the Coconut, Peach and Apple Turnovers. They also had a Lima Bean Manju along with the Pineapple-Coconut, Pineapple-Peach, and Blueberry Turnovers. I’m not really a sweets person, but bruddah ova hea went to town! For omiyage of course! 😉

Manju and Turnovers from Sam Sato's
Manju and Turnovers from Sam Sato’s

My favorite part was the “key” they stamped on every take out box so you knew exactly which turnover was what.

Turnover 'key' stamped on take out box
Turnover “key” stamped on take out box

Sam Sato’s is one of those “must-visits” whenever you are in Maui. Personally, I’m already trying to figure out when my next visit there will be. Likely not soon enough.

Sam Sato’s
1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, HI 96793 (map)
(808) 244-7124
Mon-Sat: 7am-2pm (meals), 7am-4pm (manju pick-up)

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Ethel’s Grill – Kalihi’s Best Kept Secret

September 1, 2011

Whenever I mention Ethel’s Grill to anyone, the reaction goes one of two ways: sheer excitement, or sheer confusion. Most people either really adore the old school Kalihi eatery or have no idea what I’m talking ’bout (Willis).

Back in the day, when I used to go golfing with my dad and my buddy Reid, we would hit up Ethel’s as our 19th hole. The old school charm and literal "hole-in-the-wall" vibe it gave off was fun and tear-jerkingly nostalgic.

Outside Ethel's Grill in Kalihi
Outside Ethel’s Grill in Kalihi

The food was grindz fo sho, but I never really had that "sheer excitement" sensation that many do… until a recent trip there brought me back to those 19th hole days.

The menu inside Ethel's
The menu inside Ethel’s

A business meeting with a friend Jon, who is ironically, my golfing buddy Reid’s first cousin, brought me back to Ethel’s for the first time in years. I wanted to chat with Jon about some possible synergies between his company and Oceanic Mobile and since Ethel’s is somewhat near his workplace, he suggested we go there. Loves it!

Oceanic Mobile Works at Ethel's Grill
Oceanic Mobile Works at Ethel’s Grill

Jon is a regular there. He knew Ryoko "Ethel" Ishii (owner) and all da oddah uncles and aunties working that day so we were hooked up with all kine stuffs, including a bag of andagi and a complimentary order of their famous tataki sashimi.

Ethel's Famous Tataki Sashimi - fresh tuna lightly seared served on a bed of bean sprouts and drizzled with sesame oil and Ethel's Garlic-Shoyu Sauce ($5)
Ethel’s Famous Tataki Sashimi – fresh tuna lightly seared served on a bed of bean sprouts and drizzled with sesame oil and Ethel’s Garlic-Shoyu Sauce ($5)

Jon ordered the Mochiko Chicken and I ordered the Japanese Hamburger Steak, which are both very popular dishes here.

Mochiko Chicken - Crispy Mochiko fried chicken served with Ethel's Ginger-Ponzu dipping sauce ($7)
Mochiko Chicken – Crispy Mochiko fried chicken served with Ethel’s Ginger-Ponzu dipping sauce ($7)

Japanese Hamburger Steak - Home-style hamburger patty topped with grated daikon, daikon sprouts, and tangy Ponzu sauce ($7.50)
Japanese Hamburger Steak – Home-style hamburger patty topped with grated daikon, daikon sprouts, and tangy Ponzu sauce ($7.50)

Each lunch order includes rice, miso soup, green salad and a choice of punch or iced tea (with one free refill).

Green salad and miso soup
Green salad and miso soup

Here’s a panning video of the salad, miso soup, Tataki Sashimi and my Japanese Hamburger Steak.


Food from Ethel’s Grill

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s my friend Rick. He had never been to or even heard about Ethel’s. So when I suggested we go there after helping him out with his Lanakila Meals on Wheels route one day, it was safe to say that he fell under the "sheer confusion" group I mentioned earlier.

Needless to say, we went and he enjoyed himself. So much so that when I tried to take a picture of him, he wouldn’t sit still as he was too busy stuffing his face.

Rick enjoying his meals at Ethel's
Rick enjoying his meals at Ethel’s

So whether you’re a Jon or a Rick, Ethel’s Grill is a great place to grab some super ono, local, Japanese style eats. Just be prepared for limited parking (small apartment building lot in a busy industrial area) and a long wait (only 20-ish seats max).

Ethel’s Grill
232 Kalihi St
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 847-6467
Mon-Sat: 5:30am-2pm

Don’t forget… THIS month…

===========================================
Rice Fest
The 2nd Annual Hawaii Rice Festival
Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park
Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ 10am-6pm
For more info: Ricefest.com / Twitter / Facebook
To RSVP: Facebook Event / Twtvite
===========================================

Tokkuri Tei – Revisited

January 1, 2011
Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For | Tokkuri Tei – Revisited

Whenever anybody asks me where my favorite restaurant is, I always say “Tokkuri Tei” without any hesitation. Some will nod in approval because they’ve been, while others are curious because they haven’t. For the latter, I usually like to send them a link to an article I wrote about them several years ago: Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For because it contains the food “pr0n” that everybody gets excited over.

Recently, I was re-skimming the article and noticed that there were only 8 photos in it and I asked myself “Is that it!? Just 8 photos!?”

I’ve been to both of Tokkuri Tei’s locations dozens of times. Heck a single search for “Tokkuri Tei” on my computer box thing yields 296 items! Almost three hunny, and all I could muster up for that article was 8 measly photos? Must’ve been my rookie food blogging days. LOL!

Tokkuri Tei - The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For
Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For

Needless to say, an update was long overdue… So when co-owner Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi informed me that they would be moving to a new location (their 3rd in almost 22 years), I thought it would be the perfect time to update their story (and my photo count).

On Tuesday, December 21st, I answered Santa san’s call. They needed help moving the “heavy stuff” after spending the entire previous day moving the “small stuff” over (guess he knew about the “gun” show *grin*). The plan was to move the entire Tokkuri Tei operation from their 611 Kapahulu location to their new 449 Kapahulu location and be ready to launch in one week! Whaaaat? One week!? Fo real? No can! Can! Although just 0.2 miles away, moving an entire restaurant, enormous refrigerators and all, is not an easy task as I was about to find out.

I arrived that morning to this:

Dining area inside the old Tokkuri Tei
Dining area inside the old Tokkuri Tei

Kitchen and sushi bar at the old Tokkuri Tei
Kitchen and sushi bar at the old Tokkuri Tei

I gotta admit, I got a little misty. OK, not really, but there were so many memories made there!

Then, it was time to move one of the HUMONGOID refrigerators. Lucky thing this one had wheels!

Moving the refrigerator. Why am I not helping? :P
Moving the refrigerator. Why am I not helping? 😛

With the “heavy stuff” loaded up, we headed over to the new spot (the old Sam Choy’s/Sergio’s/Ranch House above Hee Hing). I’ve honestly never been here since it was Sam Choy’s Restaurant, so I was particularly interested to see what kind of space we were working with.

Partially furnished dining area inside the new Tokkuri Tei
Partially furnished dining area inside the new Tokkuri Tei

Tokkuri Tei's other owner Kazu "Kaz" Mitake checks out his kitchen with Santa
Tokkuri Tei’s other owner Kazu “Kaz” Mitake checks out his kitchen with Santa

As you can see, it’s a fairly large blank canvas for which to paint. Thankfully, some familiar izakaya trimmings were brought in to spruce up the joint.

Japanese lanterns (chochin) waiting to be put up
Japanese lanterns (chochin) waiting to be put up

Santa went right to work putting them up.

Santa putting up the lanterns
Santa putting up the lanterns

Less than a week later (Sunday, the 26th), Santa invited me to their soft-launch party. The guest list was only around 20, but we had a very important role. We were there so that the staff could get their bearings and do a dry run before going live to the public the very next day. Here are some shots from that night.

The sign is up!
The sign is up!

Tokkuri-Tei's new interior
Tokkuri-Tei’s new interior

Hilarious display. Great photo opp location!
Hilarious display. Great photo opp location!

Most of the shikishi (signed cards) are back up!
Most of the shikishi (signed cards) are back up!

The new sushi bar. So colorful!
The new sushi bar. So colorful!

And then came the food. There was no ordering involved. It was a set menu as decided upon by the kitchen.

Enoki Bata (Enoki mushrooms sautéed in butter)
Enoki Bata (Enoki mushrooms sautéed in butter)

Yaki Tori Kushi Yaki (chicken skewers), Geso Kara Age (deep fried squid legs), and the Enoki Bata
Yaki Tori Kushi Yaki (chicken skewers), Geso Kara Age (deep fried squid legs), and the Enoki Bata

Samples of the California Roll, Unagi Cali Roll, and Baked Alaska Roll
Samples of the California Roll, Unagi Cali Roll, and Baked Alaska Roll

Asupara Bata (Butter asparagus)
Asupara Bata (Butter asparagus)

Shake (salmon) sushi
Shake (salmon) sushi

Chicken Kara Age (fried chicken)
Chicken Kara Age (fried chicken)

Bintoro Tataki (flash seared albacore tuna)
Bintoro Tataki (flash seared albacore tuna)

Ebi (shrimp) sushi
Ebi (shrimp) sushi

Yaki Nasu (Eggplant)
Yaki Nasu (Eggplant)

I gotta be honest. At first, I was a little worried. With a space that much bigger, I wasn’t sure if they would be able to keep the “hole-in-the-wall” izakaya vibe/feel. I also thought that the taste might change. Well, I’m happy to report that neither has occurred. You still feel at home in their new digs and the YUM factor was still alive and well. The true test was when I went home and shmall kine kanak attacked! All pau!

The next day (Monday, the 27th), the Official Grand Re-Opening was set to happen, but it didn’t come without some drama. Santa and crew had to wait for the health inspector to come and deliver their health permit and that didn’t happen until around 2pm, just a few hours before opening! Yikes!

But with that outta the way, Tokkuri Tei was ready for lift off! I invited a bunch of (new and old) friends to join me. Here are some sights from that night.

Well hello again Enoki Bata! :P
Well hello again Enoki Bata! 😛

There's a Spider in Da Poke
There’s a Spider in Da Poke

(Off the menu) Sugimoto Risotto, er, Seafood Risotto 8)
(Off the menu) Sugimoto Risotto, er, Seafood Risotto 8)

Note: This is my all-time favorite dish from Tokkuri Tei, hands down (it even took First Place in the “Rice-ipe” Contest – Professional Division, at the Rice Fest this past year). Problem is, it’s not on the regular menu to order. In fact, Santa is the only one who knows how to make it! With that said, I have been petitioning (ok, begging) Santa to rename it from the mundane “Seafood Risotto” to the more catchy, and, dare I say, exciting “Sugimoto Risotto“! Ahahaha! While we’re at it, maybe we can convince him to make it a regular item on the menu. Muhahahaha! A fella can dream right? But fo’ real, I think this one would seriously sell like hotcakes! Or should I say Sugimoto Hotcakes? 😛 Guess that doesn’t have the same ring to it…

Stuffed Portobello
Stuffed Portobello

Packed house
Packed house


Here’s an artsy panoramic video Clayton Wakida shot from his iPhone

Group shot: Jason Kim (@turkeyboy808), Lee Kojima, Leanne Nakamura, Matt Duffy (@Shogunai_Tacos), Mai Sugimoto, me, Santa Miyoshi, Kelli Nakama, Rick Nakama (@RickNakama), Clayton Wakida (@jarofclay73) and Mari Taketa (@NonStopMari)
Group shot: Jason Kim (@turkeyboy808), Lee Kojima, Leanne Nakamura, Matt Duffy (@Shogunai_Tacos), Mai Sugimoto, me, Santa Miyoshi, Kelli Nakama, Rick Nakama (@RickNakama), Clayton Wakida (@jarofclay73) and Mari Taketa (@NonStopMari)

What an awesome night with great friends and ono eats…

But wait! *screeeeech* You think it’s ova don’tcha? No way Jose! I still get choke photos fo’ share! 🙂

Teriyaki Cream Tofu
Teriyaki Cream Tofu

Ama Ebi (raw shrimp) with deep fried head
Ama Ebi (raw shrimp) with deep fried head

Cajun Ahi Salad
Cajun Ahi Salad

Salmon Skin Salad
Salmon Skin Salad

Sunagimo Kara Age (Deep Fried Chicken Gizzards)
Sunagimo Kara Age (Deep Fried Chicken Gizzards)

(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke
(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke

Ika Yaki (Squid Pancake)
Ika Yaki (Squid Pancake)

Ahi Tempura Poke
Ahi Tempura Poke

Nori-chos (Nori Nachos)
Nori-chos (Nori Nachos)

Soft Shell Crab Kara Age
Soft Shell Crab Kara Age

Salmon Dynamite
Salmon Dynamite

Hideaki Santa Miyoshi invites you to visit their new location
Hideaki Santa Miyoshi invites you to visit their new location

Wow! 40 photos this time around… Take that 8 photos! 🙂

Tokkuri-Tei Restaurant
449 Kapahulu (the old Sam Choy’s/Sergio’s/Ranch House, above Hee Hing)
Honolulu, HI. 96815 (Street View)
(808) 732-6480 <— NEW Telephone Number!

P.S. Happy New Year Everyone!
P.P.S. Omedetou Santa san!

Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For | Tokkuri Tei – Revisited