Posts Tagged ‘Kalihi’

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: / Twitter / Facebook
To RSVP: Facebook Event / Twtvite

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

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

Last month’s visit to Brooks Takenaka at the United Fishing Agency Honolulu Fish Auction brought about the name “Rachel Haili”. As part of this ultimate poke quest we’re currently on, Brooks suggested I talk to Rachel to get her perspective on the history of poke in Hawaii. When the boss of the Honolulu Fish Auction speaks, I listen.

Rachel Haili – Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

I visited Haili’s back when they were at the old Farmer’s market, but had not yet made my way out to either of their new locations. Twitterville has been active talking about them too. Ah, better late than never right? Here are some photos of my visit to their Kapahulu location and my interview with Rachel Haili to follow.

Haili's Hawaiian Foods sign
Haili’s Hawaiian Foods sign

Conveniently located on Palani Ave, right off of Kapahulu, the interior at Haili’s is very clean and welcoming.

Interior of Haili's Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Interior of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Though they have a nice selection of poke…

Limu Ahi Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Limu Ahi Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Ahi Shoyu Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi Shoyu Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

… their bread and butter is still their traditional Hawaiian fare.

My "custom" plate with Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice, which included Limu Poke, Haupia and two scoops rice!
My “custom” plate with Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice, which included Limu Poke, Haupia and two scoops rice!

Rachel Haili of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

[Edward Sugimoto] Your mom “Rachel Sr.”, if you will, started Haili’s back in 1950. What made her want to do a restaurant?

[Rachel Haili] Well actually we started out in the bar business after the war. They had like a cafe where they served food and liquor, and then, as our family grew, my mother decided that she didn’t want her family to be in the liquor business, so she branched out on her own and started her own Hawaiian food store and fish market. And my parents worked by themselves to build up that business. And it was more of a market type thing, not so much a cafe or restaurant, and that’s where she learned (cause my mother was pure Chinese) she learned to do more of the Hawaiian foods.

[Edward Sugimoto] You began at the old Farmer’s Market. What were those days like?

[Rachel Haili] Yeah, originally, that’s where my parents started, so they were like one of the oldest tenants there. And back then, it was all little stalls of fish markets, meat markets, vegetable skins… and then now it’s more modern of course.

[Edward Sugimoto] And poke, was that pretty big back then?

[Rachel Haili] Back then, I remember when we were kids, there wasn’t poke per se, like how we’re selling it by the pound, pre-made. What you did was you bought the whole fish, and then you asked them to prepare like how you wanted. Back then you bought an aku for like 50 cents, then you tell them, “OK, I want half of it, steak it for me to fry, and then the other half, cut it for me to poke.” So when you sold the fish, you actually had to prepare it for them then. It wasn’t pre-made. And then, it started developing like into a bigger demand for poke, and people were more in a hurry, so, then my parents started pre-cutting the poke. I remember because back then, I had to learn how to clean fish because you know we were so busy. Soon, we had to learn how to cut poke and make the different types of poke. Although when the people bought the fish, you know, then they’d say, “I want to buy a cup of limu and add that into my poke, and put chili pepper (water) for me.” You know, so they kind of dictated what they wanted in their poke. Then, as the demand for poke got bigger, and you pre-made the poke, you had to like make maybe a batch of plain poke, aku or limu aku, and then, at that time, shoyu aku evolved. It wasn’t something like automatic. I remember shoyu aku became popular when I was like in my teens. It wasn’t like, now you go to the supermarket and you see a whole array of pre-made poke. You had to buy the whole fish and then they made it for you. Just like the different types of poke, although we do more traditional poke, where we do awa, and we do like palu, you know, lomi oio, that kind of thing, nowadays it’s evolved into more a modern kind of thing. Where fish now has become similar to chicken or pork, so you do different varieties of it.

Display case at  Haili's Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Display case at Haili’s Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

And then, I think a lot of the sushi bars, because raw fish is so popular, they’ve come up with all kinds of new creations that are pretty to the eye. You know you have fruit in it or masago, all different kind of things. It’s just like how if you order pasta, you have all different things that you put in it. So now, what’s popular is the poke bowls, where you get the poke and you get any kind of topping that you want, sorta like the frozen yogurt. Start out with the basic and then you put whatever, you concoct whatever you want onto it. So you know, that’s what it’s become. But, originally, you bought the whole fish and then they prepared it for you, or you took it home and prepared it yourself.

[Edward Sugimoto] Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, your lease expired and you decided to open up a lunch wagon called Haili’s Backyard Luau. What was the story behind that?

[Rachel Haili] Um, let’s see. Well, you know we’ve been there (at the Farmer’s Market) for 60 years, in fact, this is our 60th year that we’ve been in business. Marukai wanted to expand and they wanted the whole building, so Ward Center decided to convert that whole area into Marukai’s market so we had to move out. One of the options that we came up with in order to keep in contact with our customer base who was primarily in that area, was a lunch wagon. Although we can’t offer everything that we had there, it was a way that we could still keep in contact with them until we found something that was more suitable for us, you know in food offerings that we had. Then we finally came across this area in Kapahulu, and so far, it’s turning into something nice. It’s a little different, in terms of, we shifted from a market to a more deli and restaurant atmosphere. We actually didn’t intend to be a restaurant. You know, it was more of a counter service and you come and sit down, so that’s what we’re hoping to create over here. But you can buy either lunches, and you can take it out or eat it here, or you still can buy our Hawaiian foods by the pint, or the pound as we sold it in the market before.

[Edward Sugimoto] And business is booming. We’re here today and it’s pretty packed.

[Rachel Haili] *modest smile* Well, we always can use more business. We’ve only been open for about 90 days now and, it’s evolving. Customers are learning about us. The location is nice because it’s close to Waikiki. We get more tourists coming in too. Before we used to service primarily local people so now we’re getting a different mixture of people.

[Edward Sugimoto] You folks are big on using social media to market and stay in touch with the community. How did that come about and how are you enjoying it so far?

[Rachel Haili] That was something new for us too. When we did the lunch wagon, our friend suggested that we start using that more. So we’re still learning to use the social media but it’s amazing how fast you can spread the word, or you get more information out by using that. It’s fun, but you gotta keep up with it because once you put information out, you get a lot of feedback right away, so you gotta be on top of it all the time. I hope we’re doing good. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, you are! You have two poke items on your menu: Shoyu Ahi and Limu Ahi, and you mentioned that you had more in your display case…

Haili's Menu
Haili’s Menu

[Rachel Haili] Yeah, unfortunately our menu board could only hold like primary items, but our showcase over here also carries our larger selection of poke, which is you know like the poke awa, the aku palu, lomi oio. We specialize more in traditional poke so that’s why we have like the raw crabs and the aku palu.

Aku Palu [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Aku Palu [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Later we’ll be doing our poke bowls also. But it’s just that because we’re busy getting adjusted in here, we’re like slowly introducing or building up items. Poke bowls seem to be popular because it’s fast and people can pick it up and go right away. And then they get to personalize it too.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are some of your personal favorites types of poke?

[Rachel Haili] My personal favorite type of poke is, well, we’re gonna be creating this, um, sorta like a poke mountain. You know, where it’s like with rice on the bottom, some sliced ahi with avocado, tomato and masago. It’s really nice looking. When we were in Waikiki for a while, we sold those. However, we can’t do everything all at once, so, but we’re going to expand our poke bar and also our food menus. You know, we do catering too, so hopefully we’ll be expanding our catering service.

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

[Rachel Haili] Well I hope all of you have a chance to come in and visit us because we really try to create a spirit of Aloha here, where you’re welcome to come in. We can mix and match whatever you want here and even if you don’t see what you want, you can either pre-order or ask us if we’re able to make it for you because that’s how we started so that’s how we still want to be. Also we make a really good dried aku, and that’s hard to find in town, so come down and check our aku out.

[Edward Sugimoto] OK, thank you very much!

Rachel (right) with her sister Lorraine [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Rachel (right) with her sister Lorraine [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

For more information on the Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, visit their web site at or follow them on Twitter at @Hailis808.

Haili’s Hawaiian Foods
760 Palani Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 735-8019
Mon-Thu: 9am-7pm
Fri-Sat: 9am-8pm
Sun: 8am-3pm

Guy Tamashiro – Tamashiro Market

Also at the Honolulu Fish Auction, I made contact with Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market. Spontaneously, we did an impromptu interview in preparation for my visit to his shop.

Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] Describe your history with fish.

[Guy Tamashiro] OK, well, I think we first started with fish, actually my dad had a feed store and all that, the first Tamashiro Market, but then he started selling a little bit of fish. I think the story was that he bartered it at that time for some opelu. Then it sold, so he said “ok, that was fun.” So he started going down to the auction across from Aala Park, then he started selling a little bit more, and it started selling well, so he just started expanding it from there. And then, in 1962, he constructed the building that it’s in now, and then from there, it just started seafood as the emphasis.

Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market
Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] And you guys started doing poke after a while?

[Guy Tamashiro] Yeah, yeah, actually, poke was just one/two pans. When I first started working it was only 1 or two pans, and then from there, we, I don’t know, maybe 30 something?

Partial selection of poke at Tamashiro Market
Partial selection of poke at Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] Out of that, which one is the most popular one?

[Guy Tamashiro] Ahi is, by far, the MOST popular. And if aku is available, that’s pretty popular too.

[Edward Sugimoto] Ahi limu or any kind of ahi?

[Guy Tamashiro] Ahi limu, ahi shoyu, ahi onion. We’re getting new flavors in too now. As we go on, we want to add to the different tastes that you can get from it, not just the plain type, but also other tastes we want to try out too.

Ahi poke, all wiped out at the end of the day!
Ahi poke, all wiped out at the end of the day!

[Edward Sugimoto] What is your personal favorite?

[Guy Tamashiro] Oh, that’s a hard one. Well, I love aku. Large aku. But for ahi, because they’re coming out with different flavors now, I don’t know. I have a poke lunch maybe 3/4 times a week, and it’s not always the same lunch. Hard to have one favorite, it’s just different flavors.

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Tamashiro Market?

[Guy Tamashiro] Well, we just hope we do a lot more sales. *laughs*

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

[Guy Tamashiro] Sure. You know where to shop. You know where we are. Come down, see us. *smiles*

Located on North King Street in the heart of Kalihi, Tamashiro Market boasts the largest selection of seafood (over 75 varieties) in the state. With their unmistakable pink building and trademark crab statue hanging above, Tamashiro’s was definitely a can’t-miss stop on this Poke in Paradise tour.

Outside Tamashiro Market
Outside Tamashiro Market

Showing their love of the sea (and perhaps an ode to the Japanese boat in the war bearing the same name), a good-sized fishing boat sits atop the center island, overlooking the store.

The Tama Maru boat in Tamashiro Market
The Tama Maru boat in Tamashiro Market

It’s always busy whenever I go, but on this occasion, I just so happen to be there right before closing, so the “getting-stuffs-for-dinner” rush was in full effect.

The evening rush at Tamashiro Market
The evening rush at Tamashiro Market

As Guy suggested, I picked up some Ahi poke. Ahi Onion and Ahi Shoyu to be exact.

Ahi Onion poke
Ahi Onion poke

Ahi Shoyu poke
Ahi Shoyu poke

Sometimes, if I’m in the area for lunch, I’ll pick up some poke from Tamashiro’s and drive over to nearby Boulevard Saimin. The cold poke and hot saimin make for a good marriage (as mentioned before). Here’s a photo at Boulevard Saimin, after I bought some Furikake poke from Tamashiro’s and took it over.

Furikake Poke
Furikake Poke

Tamashiro Market
802 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 841-8047
Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm
Sat 8am-6pm
Sun 8am-4pm

Poke to Your Taste – Hilo, HI

And finally, here’s an interesting find while visiting the east side of the Big Island.

Poke to Your Taste building
Poke to Your Taste building

Hidden in an inconspicuous building (with no visible signage to speak of) on Leilani Street near the airport, Poke to Your Taste caters to those who prefer to concoct their own batches of poke. “Mix ’em how you like ’em!” is their motto, which I, along with their logo/signage, was finally able to find under an awning on one of their smaller side windows.

Poke to Your Taste sign
Poke to Your Taste sign

The inside of Poke to Your Taste is just as curious as the outside. Most of the usable space is empty or scattered with random items, while a small display case with just 4 items (Hawaiian Poke, Shoyu Poke, Kim Chee Tako Poke, and Imitation Crab Poke) sits to one side.

Display case at Poke to Your Taste
Display case at Poke to Your Taste

Solomon, or Uncle Sol as many call him, stands behind the counter and scoops out your preferred order. On this occasion my choices were to only be one of their two fish options: “Hawaiian Poke” or “Shoyu Poke”.

Starting with your basic poke (Hawaiian or Shoyu style) as your base
Starting with your basic poke (Hawaiian or Shoyu style) as your base

I went Haaaaawaiian because I wanted there to be as little flavor on there as possible to start. From there, Uncle Sol scooped it into my container…

Uncle Sol serving up my poke
Uncle Sol serving up my poke

… and it was just my creativity between me and poke bliss.

You can add a variety of “spices” like Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes…

Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes
Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes

… and, for lack of a better word, “toppings” like ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce.

Ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce
Ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce

No fo-get da sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili peppah watah! 😉

Sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili pepper water
Sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili pepper water

I went with the super combo of furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water. She go!

My batch of poke had furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water - $6
My batch of poke had furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water – $6

Definitely poke to MY taste.

Poke to Your Taste
790 Leilani St.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 989-9962
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm

So there it is. Part IV is in the books. Honestly speaking though, this Poke Paradise is not even close to being complete. I’m seriously considering making this a 12 part series and carrying it through the entire year. Wanna help? Email me or comment below where you’d like to see me hit up next. I’ve still got many on my hit list (Ruger Market, Fresh Catch, Tamura’s, Masa & Joyce, Da Pokeman, Young’s Fish Market, Alicia’s, etc.), but send me your tips k?

A special mahalo this month to Rachel Haili and the Haili’s Hawaiian Foods `ohana, Guy Tamashiro and the Tamashiro Market `ohana, Uncle Sol at Poke to Your Taste, and Dave Oi for actually finding the hard to find Poke to Your Taste! LOL! See y’all next month gang!

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

Oahu… A Day In the Life

June 1, 2007

Todd is your typical local boy. Born and raised on big plate lunches, beaches and BBQs, this pseudo-expat will get all emotional on you if he stays away from these for too long. So when he made plans to return to Oahu for a few days from his current/temporary abode on the Big Island (with previous stints in Las Vegas, Maryland and Virginia), I made it a point to take the day off and tag along with this tourist to wherever he wanted to go. Turns out HE showed ME a thing or two about Oahu and its many hidden treasures…

The day started with a scheduled 7:30am arrival time from Kona International Airport at Keahole to Honolulu. As we all know, that means 7:40am by the time they get out of the plane and are ready to be picked up (7:50am if they need to go to baggage claim). So guess who calls me at 7:20am with an excitable voice traceable only by the high-pitched shriekiness? Yep, Tourist Todd. I was already on the way, but still rubbing the sleepiness from my eyes. He felt so guilty for his early morning arrival that breakfast would be on him at our first stop at Toshi’s Delicatessen in Kalihi.

Toshi's Delicatessen Sign
Toshi’s Delicatessen Sign

This tiny, hole-in-the-wall okazu-ya sits inconspicuously on the mauka side of North King Street, just a few blocks from downtown Honolulu. (! – There is a small strip of parking right up front, but be careful if you’re coming from the Wes’side… the turn is dangerous and possibly illegal).

At 7:49AM on a workday Friday, there was already a line of hungry locals forming.

Line at Toshi's Delicatessen
Line at Toshi’s Delicatessen

After tasting their Japanese-style breakfast/lunch lineup, it’s not hard to understand why.

Choices at Toshi's Delicatessen
Choices at Toshi’s Delicatessen

On this occasion, Todd ordered up a hamburger patty, corned beef patty, SPAM, eggs and rice, while I had the hamburger patty, corned beef patty, eggs, tofu and chow fun.

Todd's order of hamburger patty, corned beef patty, SPAM, eggs, rice and a snuck in peace sign
Todd’s order of hamburger patty, corned beef patty, SPAM, eggs, rice and a snuck in peace sign

My hamburger patty, corned beef patty, eggs, tofu and chow fun order
My hamburger patty, corned beef patty, eggs, tofu and chow fun order

Toshi’s Delicatessen
1226 N. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817 (map)
(808) 841-6634

With food in our bellies, we headed just up the road to Chi-town, aka Chinatown. We were having a local-style barbeque that evening and wanted to pick up some goodies ahead of time. We ended up getting just three items: charsiu, roast pork and Okinawan sweet potatoes, but the photos I captured throughout provide for some interesting sights if I do say so myself. 🙂

Vegetable stand in Chinatown
Vegetable stand in Chinatown

Crab selection in Chinatown
Crab selection in Chinatown

More veggies in Chinatown
More veggies in Chinatown

Crossing the street in Chinatown
Crossing the street in Chinatown

Roast duck hanging in Chinatown
Roast duck hanging in Chinatown

Frozen Ox Tails
Frozen Ox Tails

Veggies in Chinatown
Veggies in Chinatown

Fruits and veggies in Chinatown
Fruits and veggies in Chinatown

Seafood and poultry selection in Chinatown
Seafood and poultry selection in Chinatown

Okinawa Sweet Potato
Okinawa Sweet Potato

Shrimp selection at the Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown
Shrimp selection at the Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown

Poor piggy who went to the market
Poor piggy who went to the market

Following Chi-town, we went to another “C-town” (Costco town) to pick up the rest of our eats for the BBQ: Tri-tips, shrimp, bacon & scallops, and other miscellaneous goods. We then headed for the crib to prep and drop off the food for that night. Our other friend Kelvin picked us up from here and we headed to the beach.

Didn’t take too many beach shots (or at least ones they would let me show you), so below is just one taken after our day in the sun, walking back to the car. Side note: When I told Todd I was writing a “day in the life” piece of his time here and asked him what he wanted to include in it, rather than mentioning anything about food, Hawaii or otherwise, he wanted to mention that he’s single and available. Kelvin is as well FYI, so for all y’all single ladies out there, feast your eyes on this! *grin*

Kelvin and Todd, Hawaii's most eligible bachelors
Kelvin and Todd, Hawaii’s most eligible bachelors

Nothing tastes better than a plate lunch after the beach, so the three of us stooges headed to local favorite Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu.

Rainbow Drive-In
Rainbow Drive-In

Kelvin and Todd – both monster eaters – ordered the Mixed Plate, which consists of teri steak, grilled mahi, and chicken. Todd was so much in heaven that he wouldn’t even move his hand to let me take a picture!

Rainbow Drive-In's Mixed Plate (teri steak, grilled mahi, and chicken)
Rainbow Drive-In’s Mixed Plate (teri steak, grilled mahi, and chicken)

As for me, I took the practical approach and got just a burger and fries to save my appetite for the eats to come that night.

Rainbow Drive-In's Hamburger and fries
Rainbow Drive-In’s Hamburger and fries

Kelvin made a joke that Rainbows was so fast that as soon as you placed your order and walked over to the next window, your food would be ready! He wasn’t too far from the truth! For future reference, Rainbows is fast kine!

Rainbow Drive-In
3308 Kanaina Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 737-0177

With more than 12 hours past since that girly voice greeted me on the phone this morning, it was time for the barbeque! Let me put on my bbq hat and attempt to recipe this buggah out:

First up on the grill was the beef tri-tips.

Seasoned Beef Tri-Tip
Garlic Salt (to taste)
Seasoned Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Olive Oil (to taste)

Season the beef with garlic salt, seasoned salt and pepper just before cooking (will dry out meat if done too far in advance). Pour enough olive oil over each piece to moisten. Cook over grill, rotating regularly, to desired wellness.

Beef Tri-tip on the grill
Beef Tri-tip on the grill

Next was the Italian-style shrimp:

Italian-style Shrimp
2 pound bag of frozen 21-25 shrimp (shell off, tail-on and de-veined)
1 bottle of Italian Dressing (your choice)

Defrost the shrimp and lightly salt and pepper them (shrimp is naturally salty and will also get ample flavoring from the dressing). Throw shrimp in a Ziploc bag, empty dressing into the bag and zip up. Do your best impression of “Shake Yo’ Money Maker” or “The Twist” (depending on what generation you’re from) and shake the bag until your shrimp is well coated. Place in fridge and let sit/marinate for at least a couple of hours.

When they’re ready, throw ’em on the grill and cook to taste, rotating regularly. (Note: Shrimps cook very fast so keep them off of the hot part of the grill and keep an eye on them or they will burn/char.).

Italian-Style Shrimp joins the party
Italian-Style Shrimp joins the party

Lastly, the Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
1 bag frozen scallops
1 pack bacon
Skewers or thick toothpicks

Defrost frozen scallops and remove hard connective tissue (optional). Wrap bacon around scallop and secure in place with skewer. No flavoring necessary as the oil and saltiness from the bacon will be sufficient. Grill, rotating regularly, to taste and serve.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops round out the bunch
Bacon-Wrapped Scallops round out the bunch

Big plate lunches, beaches and BBQs… All in a day’s work. But let’s not forgot to mention one of the most important Bs that makes living in the islands so unique: bonding with your buddies. You can’t put a price tag on that.
Good food, with great friends… Lucky we live Hawaii.

Finger Garlickin’ Good! – Sugoi Bento & Catering

April 1, 2007

Doesn’t allium sativum sound like some potent ingredient listed on the label of some dangerous cleaning ingredient? Well, it’s potent alright, but believe you-me, it’s far from dangerous. In fact, it’s wondrously edible and delectable at that, and there are three “just gotta” reasons to ingest this here allium sativum: 1) for its medicinal value(s), 2) the notion that it wards off evil and 3) Sugoi’s!

OK, ‘scuse the ambiguous opening paragraph. If you know exactly what I’m talking about, then you’re either a plant expert or a psychic. Either way, I should probably take a few steps back and attempt to clarify some thangs.

Allium Sativum is a species in the onion family, more commonly known by its recognized name of garlic. This tiny, but powerful bulb is used to prevent heart disease and improve the human immune system, and may even aid in cancer prevention. In addition, there is a superstition that says that if you wear garlic or hang it from notable locations (e.g. windows, doors, etc.), it will protect you from evil, vampires in particular.

The vague “Sugoi” reference in the paragraph (which, translates to “wow” or “great” or “awesome” in Japanese) actually eluded to Sugoi Bento & Catering, a popular plate lunch joint, whose specialty is… you got it, their garlic chicken.

[pause for gears in brain to start clicking]

Ahhh, all making sense now eh? Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s profile “Sugoi” and their famous eats now shall we?

Sugoi sign
Sugoi sign

Located in the City Square Building in Kalihi, this local hotspot has been serving up lip-smackin’ chow to satisfied customers for nearly 7 years. Their #1 seller, by far, is their garlic chicken, which has won numerous awards, including the “Best Plate Lunch” in the annual Top 100 Restaurants on Oahu publication (Honolulu Advertiser) for 4 years in a row, “Best Chicken Plate Lunch” on the island by Lyle Galdeira’s “Cheap Eats” on KHNL News, 3rd Place for “Best Bento” in the 2006 Best of the Best awards (Honolulu Advertiser).

Sugoi's Awards Display
Sugoi’s Awards Display

They also won “Best Mochiko Chicken” honors by Chef Sam Choy and gained national notoriety when featured on two shows on the Food Network: “Secret Life Of… Luau” and “Surf and Turf.”

In other words, making up your mind on what to order there is, well, so easy a caveman can do it (sorry GEICO).

However, if you’ve got a hot date with a vampire tonight or garlic just ain’t your cup of tea, they’ve got a bevy of items to choose from off their sizeable menu.

Sugoi's Menu
Sugoi’s Menu

(! – If you’re not in the mood for garlic, but still want to get a feel for their delish chicken stylings, try one of their other prepared poultry options: spicy, mochiko or sesame. They are made the same way as the garlic chicken, without the need for a breath mint. My personal favorite is the sesame chicken in the bento.).

Sugoi's Sesame Chicken Bento - $7.45
Sugoi’s Sesame Chicken Bento – $7.45

Local boy Zachary Lee is the owner of this great/awesome/wow place, and his kind-hearted, appreciative, good nature is very refreshing. He’s probably going to kill me for publishing this part of our email conversation, but, I wanted to give you an idea of what kind of guy he is:

“That’s really nice of you to showcase Sugoi, I can’t thank you enough. I really like what I do, and it’s nice to see so many customers come to my restaurant, and leave with a happy experience. I try to create a positive environment with my staff, I really feel that is where it starts.”

Keep in mind that this wasn’t part of the interview. It was just informal chit-chat before the real deal. Makes you wanna give him a great big bearhug now don’t it? 🙂

OK, all together now…


Zack Lee (far right) and his staff at Sugoi's
Zack Lee (far right) and his staff at Sugoi’s

Before you get all mushy on me/us, let’s continue with our interview.

We’re both baseball boys (he at McKinley and I at Kaiser) so he knew a lot of guys from my former team. You know, those who actually played. *grin* And, as I was writing this, a co-worker of mine randomly walked into my “office” and said “Eh, Zack! You know him too!? Cool guy yeah?” The point I’m trying to make is that this “cool” guy (who enjoys golfing, lifting weights, and collecting comics in his spare time) is well regarded and adorned by many.

On interview morning, Zack gave me a chance to try some items from his breakfast menu. I ordered the Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash. The corn beef hash was prepared in a way I’ve never seen. Panko-crusted and deep fried. Sugoi!

Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash - $5.50
Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash – $5.50

Customer favorites also include the Hamburger Steak plate ($6.75), Short Ribs ($7.50) and Yakisoba plates (from $5.95). Zack also tells me that their original bottled sauces (launched in 2005) are doing well:

“These 16-ounce bottles are sealed air-tight, contain absolutely no MSG, and will stay fresh for 6 months! Sugoi sauces go great with anything you love to eat; steak, roasts and ribs, to chicken, duck, turkey and ham, or drizzled over oodles of noodles… even as a salad dressing.”

Sugoi's Bottled Sauce Display
Sugoi’s Bottled Sauce Display

You can find these bottled gems at Marukai, Chili in Hawaii, Star Market, Wholesale Unlimited, Pat’s Island Delights, Menehune Mac Factory, Chit Chat, Foodland, Times, and Sugoi’s as well as their web site: (they ship to the mainland US every week). Speaking of their web site, you can also use it to preorder food (must be made at least 2 days in advance), check out their menu and catering prices, and even contact them electronically.

Sugoi’s future, according to Zack, is to expand the menu and bottled sauces, and improve on their current location. Zack would also like to thank all of Sugoi’s great customers for the support and thank the great employees that make up the team.

One more time now: Awwww!

So if you’ve never been to Sugoi Bento & Catering, why not give them a whirl? If you have, give them a return whirl. If this is one of your favorites, become a Whirling Dervish and give them many, repeat whirls. OK, that was lame, but you get the point. Go check um out a-ight?

If you need any more convincing, I’ve got three “just gotta” reasons for you my friends… 1) Wow, 2) Great and 3) Awesome!

Sugoi Bento & Catering
City Square Building
1286 Kalani St. #B-106
Honolulu, HI 96817 (map)
(808) 841-7984
Monday-Saturday 8AM-7PM
Sunday: Catering Only