Posts Tagged ‘mochiko chicken’

Pioneer Saloon – Fixins Worth a Look-See, Y’all!

March 1, 2014

When you hear the words Pioneer Saloon, the first thing you probably think of is an old, rowdy bar in the wild, wild west. With tumbleweeds rolling by, you picture a clean-cut sheriff greeting people with "howdy pardner" as he enters swinging batwing doors looking for the bearded bag guy.

Well, this place in Diamond Head off Monsarrat, is not quite that place.

Outside Pioneer Saloon
Outside Pioneer Saloon

Although some of the exterior and interior trimmings give it that rustic, cowboy-ish vibe…

Inside Pioneer Saloon
Inside Pioneer Saloon

… this Pioneer Saloon is actually a very popular, Japanese style plate lunch eatery, just minutes away from the iconic Diamond Head.

On our first visit, we were the first in line (we got there a little too early, prior to their 11am opening), but within minutes, there was a line out the door.

The line at Pioneer Saloon just after opening
The line at Pioneer Saloon just after opening

While waiting for our food, we had the chance to peruse their other merchandise, which included apparel and cute little trinkets and tchotchkes.

Apparel and goods at Pioneer Saloon
Apparel and goods at Pioneer Saloon

Because owner Chef Nori Sakamoto is from Japan, his eatery has received a good amount of coverage from the Japanese media. As a result, much of his clientele are tourists from Japan. More and more these days though, you'll see your local and mainland folk grinding his concoctions from the kitchen, which range from Ahi Katsu to Mochiko Chicken to Thai Style Green Curry.

Here's a peek at some of the dishes we tried that day.

Grilled Halibut Wasabi with Ponzu - $11
Grilled Halibut Wasabi with Ponzu – $11

Grilled Shio Salmon - $9
Grilled Shio Salmon – $9

Mochiko Chicken - $8
Mochiko Chicken – $8

All together with a little VH07V/ALOHA :)
All together with a little VH07V/ALOHA 🙂

The Halibut was dope! Halibut is probably one of my favorite cooked fishes, so it wasn't easy to impress me, but the Wasabi Ponzu was something I've never tried before on that fish. On point! The wife, who split the Shio Salmon and Mochiko Chicken with her mom and our daughter, liked hers as well.

The portions are not hu-MANG-ous like we're used to at your typical kanak attack inducing "plate lunch" kine place, but it was still enough to fill us up. The neat thing about Pioneer Saloon is that you can choose from 4 very different rice options: White, Brown, Mixed Grains & Beans, and Shiso Wakame. The Mixed Grains & Beans and Shiso Wakame options are $0.50 extra but very worth it if you're looking for something different. You'll see the Mixed Grains & Beans option with the Mochiko Chicken above and the Shiso Wakame option in the other two plates above. I'm not a big fan of Shiso, but totally love this one.

With satisfied tummies, we were already eager to figure out when our next trip to town would be so we could have an excuse to visit again. That day came a few weeks later during a busy lunch hour when every single table inside was taken… more the norm. Good thing we were getting our grindz to go!

Typical crowd at Pioneer Saloon
Typical crowd at Pioneer Saloon

Here's a look at some of the other options we picked up this time.

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon - $9
Grilled Teriyaki Salmon – $9

Hamburger Steak w/ Ponzu Sauce - $9
Hamburger Steak w/ Ponzu Sauce – $9

Wasabi Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl - $11.50
Wasabi Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl – $11.50

Wife enjoyed her Salmon again, while we shared the Hamburger Steak with each other and my mom. It looks hard and dry in the photo, but braaaaah! She go! Was super moist and juicy. It reminded me of the ハンバーガステーキ (hanbaa-gah sutee-ki) I used to pound at this small hole in the wall in Kyoto Japan.

The ahi poke bowl to me was a slight disappointment. I don't really like avocado in my poke and this one had it in bunches. It also had shiso (see shiso reference above). Also, the tuna salad, though super delish, was VERY sparse. I think they were just running low on the visit though because it wasn't like that the last time.

Overall, love and highly recommend Pioneer Saloon. It's not really a new discovery (they took over the space vacated by the old Mi Casa Taqueria restaurant back in 2009), but it seems like it is still not widely known by us locals. Hopefully, this encourages some of you to check them out… pardner.

Pioneer Saloon
3046 Monsarrat Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-4001

Mamaya Japanese Foods – Mamma Mia!

March 1, 2013

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

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

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

Mamaya Japanese Foods sign
Mamaya Japanese Foods sign

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

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

Delicatessen style options at Mamaya
Delicatessen style options at Mamaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poke Bowls!
Poke Bowls!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fam
The fam

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

 

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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
===========================================

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

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…

Awwww…

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: www.sugoihawaii.com (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