Posts Tagged ‘surf clam’

Vegas Kine Grindz – Part II

March 1, 2012
Part I |  Part II 

The last time I wrote an article devoted to the ono grindz of our 9th island of “Lost Wages”, Crash won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and George W Bush was our President. It was actually my very first foray into food articles here on AroundHawaii (way back in April of ’06) and was aptly titled “Vegas Kine Grindz“. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane shmall kine and continue the series with part II, an almost 6 years later!

Since we literally just completed a 5-part series on Hawaii’s best ramen, and my brain can’t function any other way yet πŸ˜› , let’s start off this trip with one of Las Vegas’ best ramens…

 

Monta Japanese Noodle House

Located conveniently on Spring Mountain Road, this popular noodle house regularly receives rave reviews from tourists and locals alike.

Outside Monta Japanese Noodle House. Expect to wait in a line.
Outside Monta Japanese Noodle House. Expect to wait in a line.

Before we left, my friend Dave’s friend recommended Monta, as did my friend and co-worker Shane. On this occasion, we were taken by Jeff, an old high school classmate turned Las Vegas resident. He says he goes there at least once a week and is practically an expert when ordering his bowl.

Shoyu Ramen ($6.95) with extra Chashu Pork ($2.50) and two Nitamago (soft boiled egg) ($1.50 each) [Photo Credit: Jeff Hee]
Shoyu Ramen ($6.95) with extra Chashu Pork ($2.50) and two Nitamago (soft boiled egg) ($1.50 each) [Photo Credit: Jeff Hee]

If you’ve been following my ramen series for the last 5 months, you’ll know that I’m a tonkotsu fiend, so there really was no other option for me.

Tonkotsu Ramen ($6.95) with Nitamago ($1.50), Nori ($0.75) and Shredded Green Onion ($0.75)
Tonkotsu Ramen ($6.95) with Nitamago ($1.50), Nori ($0.75) and Shredded Green Onion ($0.75)

If you’re a big eater, portions are relatively small here. I would recommend saving some soup at the end and going for the Kaedama (extra order of noodles) for an additional $1.50.

Your other options here for ramen are Tonkotsu-Shoyu ($6.95) and Miso ($7.25), and for Toppings, Takana Mustard Leaf ($1.50), Kimchi ($1), Corn ($0.50) and Butter ($0.50).

Here’s their complete menu: http://www.montaramen.com/menu.php

I would rate this as one of the top 3 ramens I’ve ever had in the U.S. Yes, it’s THAT good. The tonkotsu broth is legit, and the Chashu pork melts in and “brokes” your mout’ at the same time! πŸ˜‰ This is a MUST visit on every Vegas trip.

Monta Japanese Noodle House
5030 Spring Mountain Road Suite 6
Las Vegas, Nevada 89146 (Street View)
(702) 367-4600
Daily: 11:30am-11pm

 

Secret Pizza (No Name Pizza Kitchen)

When a place has no signage to speak of and goes by the name of “Secret Pizza”, you know you’re onto something good. In fact, the only way people know about this place is by word of mouth. Heck, they even answer the phone with a plain & simple “Pizzeria”! I was super excited to eat there, primarily because of the mysteriousness of it all.

The entrance doesn’t look like much of anything and is pretty much just a dark hallway. You would probably walk right past it if you weren’t paying attention.

Dark, inconspicuous entrance to Secret Pizza with no signage to speak of
Dark, inconspicuous entrance to Secret Pizza with no signage to speak of

Also known as the “No Name Pizza Kitchen” (NNPK), you’ll be sure to find the makings of a traditional pizza kitchen at the end of the hall, in addition to a long line of “in-the-know” patrons.

The line inside Secret Pizza
The line inside Secret Pizza

I’m not really a big pizza eater, but these pie slices literally had me panting for more. The first night I had their sausage and jalapeno slice, and the next night (yes, we went twice! πŸ˜‰ ), I picked up a mushroom pepperoni slice.

My mushroom, pepperoni slice ($4.50)
My mushroom, pepperoni slice ($4.50)

You can customize any slice of pizza for $0.50 additional per topping. Also popular is their “White” pizzas which have ricotta cheese and no red sauce. They go for $5 a slice.

Rumor has it that all of the ingredients for the pizza are actually homemade right here in the kitchen and restaurants from other hotels & casinos actually buy their ingredients from them. Another rumor is that they only use Evian water when mixing their dough. Not too sure how true these rumors are, but the pizza was really dang good!

Secret Pizza, aka No Name Pizza Kitchen, aka NNPK
At the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Street View)
(702) 698-7000
Fri-Mon: 11am-5am
Tue-Thu: 11am-4am

 

Sushi Mon

All-you-can-eats in Las Vegas is like saying beaches in Hawaii. You’ll find them everywhere, some better than others. Sushi Mon is one of those popular all-you-can-eats off the strip that is still reasonable and maintains good quality.

Outside Sushi Mon
Outside Sushi Mon

There were 7 of us there that night for the $26.95 All You Can Eat Dinner special, so I’m sure they were a bit afraid of the damage we were about to cause. They churned out order after order like champs though (and fast!) so mad props to them. Here’s some of what we ordered that night as well as from a previous visit there.

2 orders of Ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of Masago (smelt egg)
2 orders of Ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of Masago (smelt egg)

2 orders of Hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of Hamachi (yellowtail tuna)
2 orders of Hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of Hamachi (yellowtail tuna)

Their popular Cajun Albacore sushi
Their popular Cajun Albacore sushi

Snow Crab Meat Sushi (you're only allowed one order per person)
Snow Crab Meat Sushi (you’re only allowed one order per person)

Ed’s Tip: Be aware that you only have a 60 minute time limit here, but as mentioned above, the chefs here churned out our orders pretty quickly so it was never an issue for us.

Sushi Mon
8320 W Sahara Ave, Suite 180
Las Vegas, NV 89117 (Street View)
(702) 304-0044
Daily: 11:30am-2am
@SushiMonVegas

 

Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

In the mood for sushi again, 5 of us headed to a placed called Hikari, based on a tip we got.

Outside Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Outside Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

You can actually get all you can eat steak here too, but you have to choose one or the other. We opted for the $26.95 sushi route.

All you can eat sushi menu from Hikari
All you can eat sushi menu from Hikari

Although they were out of a few items (as was Sushi Mon), the choices here seem to be a little deeper. Here are some highlights of the choices we went with.

Sashimi combo
Sashimi combo

Raw fish without the rice is always a good thing during all-you-can-eat dining! 8)

Soft Shell Crab
Soft Shell Crab

Amaebi sushi
Amaebi sushi

Screem Inor Gazim
Screem Inor Gazim

Hikari
4175 S Buffalo Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89147 (Street View)
(702) 889-6660
Daily: 5pm-2am

 

And finally, we’ll close things out with a sweet sandwich find for this sandwich obsessed lover.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

Capriotti’s is a franchise sandwich shop with 75 locations across the U.S. (32 in Nevada alone). My friend’s wife swears by their Capastrami subs (Hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and cole slaw), so we had to go and check it out.

Capriotti's sandwich making station
Capriotti’s sandwich making station

We visited the Paradise Road location right near our hotel at the Hard Rock. In addition to the Capastrami, the New Jersey sounding guy taking our order (whom I assumed to be the owner), suggested the Bobbie (The nationally acclaimed best-seller! Hand-pulled, slow roasted, homemade Turkey, fresh cranberry sauce, homemade stuffing and mayo).

Special sign for the Bobbie
Special sign for the Bobbie

Here’s a cross sectional look at the sandwich.

The Bobbie from Capriotti's
The Bobbie from Capriotti’s

Buggah was grindz! I gotta go back and try some of their other subs!

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
4480 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169 (Street View)
(702) 736-6166
Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm
Sat-Sun: 11am-5pm
@capriottis

 

The primary reason for this trip was to celebrate the engagement of my brother-in-law Lee, bachelor party style. Congratulations bro!!!

Da boyz celebrating Lee's final days as a single bachelor
Da boyz celebrating Lee’s final days as a single bachelor

Now… If we can ever find a bride for my friend Todd (center), we can work on Vegas Kine Grindz – Part III. I wouldn’t hold your breath though. That may take more than 6 years… πŸ˜‰

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

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

Following Part I of this Poke Paradise series, I received an invitation from a Mr. Jed Inouye to come and spend the day with him. In my article, I had mentioned that I was planning on covering the poke from Sam’s Club in a future article and Jed wanted to make sure that I got the inside scoops. You see, Jed is the president of Seafood Hawaii, Inc., a 100% local company who, for all intents and purposes, supplies and runs the seafood departments at both Sam’s Club locations in Hawaii.

The problem with Jed is that he is painfully humble. Shy even. He refused to be filmed at all during the day and wanted the focus to instead be on the process and educating me on the ins and outs of it. He constantly wanted to divert the attention away from himself and towards his partner and employees, repeating his mantra for the day, “It’s not a me thing, but a we thing.”

This is normally where I’d embed my Youtube interview, but this was an unconventional interview with an unconventional guy. So instead, here’s a pictorial glimpse of our “day in the life” activities, starting from the shores of the United Fishing Agency fish auction at Pier 38, to the display case at Sam’s Club.

As described by Jed, the action all starts at the boat.

Boat unloading their catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Boat unloading their catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“This fish hole [image above] is well insulated yeah, so it’s all packed in ice. Time and temperature is really important. The fishermen come in and unload their catch into carts.”

Loading their fish into the cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Loading their fish into the cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“Nobody’s throwing anything around. Everything is handled with care. Taking care of the fish is real important. Not to bounce it around… It all starts from the fishing. If it starts right on boat, it ends right on plate.”

Every day is different. You have your slow days and you have days like this day when the bounty was quite plentiful. 85,000 pounds from 6 boats to be exact.

Ahi loaded up in cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi loaded up in cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Once the cart is loaded up, the fish is taken to the receiving area where they are scaled, weighed and tagged, before hitting the auction floor.

Auction floor at the United Fishing Agency fish auction [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Auction floor at the United Fishing Agency fish auction [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The facility is HACCP managed by the federal government,” says Inouye. “Food safety is of the upmost importance. Core temperature must be below 40 degrees. The longer the fish is out of ice, you get temperature fluctuations, especially when it’s over 40 degrees, it’s no good. You don’t want that to happen. You want to be below 40 degrees all the time. If you noticed, it’s all ice. Ice is 32 degrees.”

Fish is kept under ice to ensure that its core temperature is always below 40 degrees
Fish is kept under ice to ensure that its core temperature is always below 40 degrees

“That’s what’s good about buying the fish here in Hawaii vs. other places. You know, you don’t know where the fish has been, if it’s been out of temp. We try to simulate the bin of the boat because that’s how the fish is best kept: in the hole of the boat. In here, we put it in bins and we ice it again.”

We were then allowed to go into a room at the far end of the auction where boatloads (literally) of swordfish were being stored until they were ready to be shipped away.

Lineup of swordfish, ready to be shipped away [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Lineup of swordfish, ready to be shipped away [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“I used to send a lot of fish away, but I decided I just wanna take care of the local people. The difference is that there’s no middle man for us. We go right from boat to the troat (throat). Taking care of the customer is essential. By doing this, there’s a lot of value, so we can offer it at a cheaper price so everyone can afford it.”

After the fish is auctioned off…

In the middle of an auction
In the middle of an auction

… it heads straight outside to be loaded into the various refrigerated delivery trucks.

Refrigerated delivery trucks receive the fish that was just purchased [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Refrigerated delivery trucks receive the fish that was just purchased [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“This is a really good way of taking care of the fish,” says Inouye. “Again, they go ahead and, after they buy it, they put it in bins, and re-ice it. Because it simulates the hole again, because you have ice right around the fish. The temperatures don’t change. You’re keeping the temperature constant.”

Fish kept under ice in delivery bins [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fish kept under ice in delivery bins [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Like a scene out of “A Night at the Roxbury”, Jed then said it was time to head to “the club.” So we loaded up Jed’s truck with the fish he just purchased from the auction and headed to the Honolulu Sam’s Club location. On the ride down, he opened up.

“You gotta be real passionate about this job or you’re not gonna be able to last. Over the years, 7 days a week. So every day I pretty much do the same thing. My routine yeah. Nothing fancy. I like driving the truck [even though he’s the president of the company] because I’ve always been with the fish so I know it’s fresh. I enjoy this. I really enjoy this. The fish part, the work part, I really enjoy this.”

Then I asked him about his thoughts on poke.

“Poke is something for the imagination. People in Hawaii, they do a good job with poke. It’s just your preference. For us, we have to make sure that the product you start off with is a good product. Once you start off with that… and if you buy the fish in Hawaii, ahhh, can’t get bettah than that. Look, we going to the market now already. I mean fish came off the boat, 5:30 they selling um, it’s 8:30… three hours! How you goin’ beat that?”

“From here, we go to the club. When you hit the club, I mean there’s not much time change. So quality wise, you know. You saw the fish from the boat, it was purchased, went into the bin, all ice, BANG, right to the club. From there, we cut it.”

Preparing the fish for display
Preparing the fish for display

“When you take a look at the way we do things, you’re gonna understand where the ‘we’ comes from. Our people do a lot of work. They do a good job. They spend a lot of time, they wake up early in the morning. It’s a whole team. A lot of our workers make it what it is. I got my brother (Gerald aka ‘Lucky’), my partner (Arick Yanagihara), my employees. That’s why, keep the video off of me because we get plenny good, really good people. It’s a ‘we’ thing, not a ‘me’ thing. Everybody works hard, so they’re the stars, not me.”

Mike is a professional sashimi cutter with 20+ years of experience [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Mike is a professional sashimi cutter with 20+ years of experience [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Theresa, an employee of 14 years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Theresa, an employee of 14 years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Julie, an employee of 20 combined years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Julie, an employee of 20 combined years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The product that you put out should represent the people behind it. If you put out a good product the sales should be reflective. But again, food safety and value. Those two things are KEY.”

Imitation Crab Meat Masago ($4.37/lb), White Crab previously frozen ($6.87/lb), and 50/60 shrimp [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Imitation Crab Meat Masago ($4.37/lb), White Crab previously frozen ($6.87/lb), and 50/60 shrimp [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The main message is the fish. If the fish is of good quality, that’s what makes everything. It’s the fish.”

Fresh ahi poke - all under $9/lb [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fresh ahi poke – all under $9/lb [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The customer is your boss. No matter what, the customer is your boss. What they say goes. That’s the one that you have to take care of all the time. You have to please your customer, no matter what. As long as they keep coming back, you know you’re doing something right.”

I asked him how he keeps his prices so low.

“For the average person, when the price of the fish gets too high, they cannot afford it. There are times when we do lose money. The main thing is that we want to make sure that the consumer knows that we’re consistent and that we’ll take care of them. I guess that’s the message that really we try to push: We wanna take care of the local people. For our company anyway, we wanna take care of the local people.”

Jed Inouye, employees Julie and Theresa, and general partner Arick Yanagihara [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Jed Inouye, employees Julie and Theresa, and general partner Arick Yanagihara [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Wow. If that didn’t make you shed a tear, I don’t know what will. πŸ˜‰ At the very least, it should make you want to join Sam’s Club and visit/support them. Jed Inouye and his Seafood Hawaii, Inc. family exemplifies the true meaning of what a giving, local company should be. And although he will humbly deny it to no end, this truck driving President truly is the star.

Sam’s Club – Honolulu
750 Keeaumoku St,
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 945-9841
Mon-Fri: 10am-8:30pm, Sat: 9am-8:30pm, Sun: 10am-6pm

Sam’s Club – Pearl Highlands
1000 Kamehameha Hwy 100,
Pearl City, HI 96782 (map)
(808) 456-7788
Mon-Fri: 10am-8:30pm, Sat: 9am-8:30pm, Sun: 10am-6pm

During my tour of the fish auction with Jed, I was introduced to Brooks Takenaka, the manager of the United Fishing Agency, the company behind the auction. I sat down with Brooks to get more info on his company and the history behind the fish auction.

Brooks Takenaka – United Fishing Agency

An Interview with Brooks Takenaka – Part I

[Edward Sugimoto] Describe a little bit about your history with fish in the islands. You know, hana battah kid time?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well basically I was born and raised in a fisherman’s family. So my grandfather was a longline fisherman. My father and my uncles were fishermen as well. And until we were born, my father basically stayed on the boat, they stayed fishing. So I come from a fishing family, commercial longline fishing family, and, as a kid, I was always interested in fish, and I could tell you the scientific names of fish, the common names and all that. I used to raise some fish. They didn’t want me to go into fishing. So I had done all the trolling and diving, all kinds of different forms of fishing and all of that, and they didn’t want me to go into fishing, so I pursued a career in Marine Biology. I studied Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii. Then I did some research with the Oceanic Institute. Well, Coconut Island, worked out of Coconut Island, in the university system. And then I worked out at Oceanic Institute, and then I worked for the Sea Grant Program for a bout 3 and a half years and that’s when I came to appreciate education and outreach. So I was working for those guys and then the industry was going through some changes and they made me an offer and so I came back into the industry and have been here ever since. I’ve been here for about 30 years now with the United Fishing Agency.

[Edward Sugimoto] To those who don’t know, explain who exactly the United Fishing Agency is and its role is in the fish auction?

United Fishing Agency sign
United Fishing Agency sign

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, the United Fishing Agency is the fish auction, and basically, it’s a company that was put together many many many years ago, decades ago actually [incorporated in 1952]. And the whole idea, which is really a beautiful one, was put together by the senior Otani [Matsujiro Otani], and then basically it was a matter of bringing together wholesalers and fishermen to form an organization that basically put together a program that brought together the daily fish demand with the fish supply. And so back then, it was a far more expansive reality in terms of the type of species because you had reef fish, deep sea bottom fish, as well as open ocean pelagic fish. Maybe not in these kinds of numbers that you have today, but back then, when I was a kid, I remember going to the auction and there was a lot of reef fish. Trapping, netting, diving… all kinds of reef fish, and then there was a few bottom fish, and longline. Certainly the situation now is different in that the reef fish is pretty much sold as a different entity. They have their own market, and we don’t get involved with the reef fish anymore. But we do sell the deep sea bottom fish and the longline stuff, the um, pelagic stuff. So how the auction works basically is that when these fishermen provision up to go out fishing, the purveyors they buy their products from – the food, the fuel, the water… those purveyors would send their billing here to United Fishing Agency. These fishermen go out fishing, they come back, first up on the dock, first up on the floor. And every day, six days a week, the list of boats is listed on the board there. There is a phone service that people can call in to find out you know what we’ve got, how much they’ve got. So then we basically put up their fish, we unload their fish and put up their fish. All of every boat’s fish is color coded, and we sell one boat’s fish at a time. So we start off with the bigeye tuna, which is the target species of this fleet, and then with the yellowfin, and then the different tuna species, like your albacore or tombo, and then your skipjack or aku, and sometimes some kawa kawa. But longline not so much kawa kawa. Then um, your marlins, then your mahimahi, ono, other species like that: monchong, walu, opah. One of the good things about the Hawaii fleet is that historically, they’ve always brought back all the species they catch, with the exception of the blue fish, the blue shark, they bring back everything. And the nice thing about the Hawaii situation is that there’s a fond appreciation for all the species, so we don’t waste any of these species at all. And with the cultural diversity that we have, there’s so many different ways of preparing these fish, that you know people have a good appreciation for all these species. So that’s basically how it works. In terms of how we get paid, we take 10% off the gross sales for our payment. Basically that’s how it works.

[Edward Sugimoto] I read somewhere that this market is based off of the Tsukiji market (in Japan) in a little sense. Is that the true?

[Brooks Takenaka] Not in a little sense. Very very much so. We’re actually a very junior version of Tsukiji. It’s based after the traditional Japanese method of auction selling fish.

[Edward Sugimoto] You were kinda briefly walking us through the process. Can you in a little more detail (explain the process), how it comes off the boat, you do the scaling, you do the weighing and all of that?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah. How it all works is basically, when they come home, we unload the boats. If you go outside and take a look at some of the carts, the carts were built… Actually, prior to coming, moving to this facility, we were over in Kewalo, and what we used to do is we used to send trucks out to go pick up the fish at the various piers. Since moving here, the accommodations are great because we unload the boats right here. So it’s much more timely and the freshness and quality are significantly better. So it’s a far better facility. And basically how it works is these boats come home and we have an answering service, so first in, first up, and the answering service lets us know who’s first, second, third and all this. So, in order for us to start the auction at 5:30 (AM), my guys come in at 1 o’clock. They call the answering service, they figure out who’s first, then they just start unloading the boats. Those carts that we have now to unload the boats basically represent the same size of the truck bed that we used to go pick up fish with. And one of the reasons why we did that was because we have a good idea of about how many pounds are in each truckload. So that way, it’s another form of checks and balance(s). So that, we built the carts to be the same size, and about the same amount of fish, so we know there’s about 3,000 pounds of fish in that cart. Around there, yeah, depending on the species and sizes. So then, the boat unloads the fish into the carts. Those carts then are moved over to the facility, and then you see the weighing area where we stage it all out, and then the fish gets weighed and then tagged. And then you have a weight tag as well as a bar code and on the bar code, you have the information of the boat, the date, all this kind, what kind of species, how many pieces, that sort of thing. Then those fish are lined up, like I said, bigeye, big to small, yellowfins big to small, and then the others by catch species. And, that’s basically how we started. At 5:30, the bell rings, and off they go. What we do with the tunas however, is that you’ll notice that we do a tail cut, wedge cut, and then we’ll do an anterior coring. So basically, that’s all on each fish, each tuna in particular. And so the buyer has a good profile of what that fish is in terms of quality. And that facilitates and expedites their bidding on the fish. So that’s how it works.

The tail cut, wedge cut, and anterior coring shows buyer the quality of the fish [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
The tail cut, wedge cut, and anterior coring shows buyer the quality of the fish [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] What do they kind of look for: bloodline?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, what they’re looking for is freshness and quality, also relative to their client base. OK, so in other words, they have a good feel for their client base and then they’re bidding on fish that basically services their clientele. And so you have companies in there that play the whole gamut in terms of quality and range and prices, and you have those that are more of a niche market type of situation. And so, what’s interesting is that you have a whole different approach by different people in terms of how they’re buying, what they’re buying, how much they’re willing to spend, depending on what kind of client base they have. So some of these companies do send fish to the mainland. They work with people on the mainland, they’ll send fish to the mainland. Others will send… they’re even marketing in Vancouver. On occasion, you’ll hear comments about some of these fish maybe going to Japan. Not as much as before because what’s happened is that the world has come to appreciate sashimi and sushi and raw fish a bit more than it has in the past, and so what’s happening is there… and people are beginning to appreciate the value, and so, there are more people that are buying tuna today as compared to before. So not as much ends up in the Japanese market. A lot of it does go to the mainland United States. Canada. Vancouver’s a very strong market. So the rest of the world has figured out what’s happening with fish and that’s part of the reason why we’re talking this sustainability today. So that’s why we talk about those kind of issues today.

An Interview with Brooks Takenaka – Part II

[Edward Sugimoto] What kind of famous chefs/people come through here that you rub elbows with?

[Brooks Takenaka] Oh jeez. You name um, we’ve had um. Aw cheez, we’ve had Nobu (Matsuhisa), we’ve had Iron Chef (Masaharu Morimoto), we’ve had Paul Prudhomme, Ming Tsai, Chan Can (Martin Yan?). We’ve had a number. Of course and then there’s people like Chef Mavro (George Mavrothalassitis) and Alan Wong and Roy (Yamaguchi) and D.K.’s (David “D.K.” Kodama), you know, those people. And we also have a fair amount of visiting chefs from around the world and the country. So, far more than I can name. In fact we’ve also done tours for a lot of associations like nutritionists and people like that. I teach the coast guard… actually I also teach culinary classes, marine biology, oceanography classes, and I teach the coast guard.

[Edward Sugimoto] So your (Marine Biology) education comes in handy then?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yes, very much so. That was the purpose of it all. We have an incredible industry, but I think the industry was remiss for a long time because they pretty much did their own thing and kept to themselves. And then, in the meantime, what’s happened is that of course there’s interest that has just generated with respect to issues like sustainability and all this. And so we felt that it was important for us as an industry to get this message out, get some information out. And that’s the reason why we started the program that we have. So the program that we have now is called the Hawaii Seafood Council. It’s a non-profit organization, and we’ve set that up to develop the educational programs and materials to assist the industry.

[Edward Sugimoto] In terms of poke, what’s your favorite type?

[Brooks Takenaka] It all depends on what kind of fish there is and what kind of ingredients there are and what I’m jonesin’ for. I love aku poke and I happen to also love a lot of limus like waiwaihole and limu kohu, and lipoa, as well as the ogo. Actually the ogo to me doesn’t have that much taste. Lipoa, which is a really stinky one, is to me a real good limu to use for poke, but most people cannot eat that because of the strength. It’s kinda strong. So in terms of poke again, there’s so many different ways of preparing it, and in reality you can use all kinds of fish to do this. So it really becomes a matter of how you want to prepare it, what you want to prepare. But for me, I like aku poke. I like ahi poke, marlin poke (either nairagi, kajiki), and then, there’s also, you know again, like I said, poke is really a matter of imagination. You can do all kinds of things with that. Lobster poke is ono, you know, opihi poke is ono, so it depends. Crab, you can make crab poke, you know raw crab, stuff like that.

[Edward Sugimoto] It must be pretty hard to please you though since you’re so used to the freshness here?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well yeah, I’m a stickler for quality. And so, if you know of like say Take’s Fish Market in Moiliili, that’s the kind of place my wife will buy sashimi. I mean you know it could cost us $60-$80 for a pound and a half or two pounds you know, but it’s worth it. So here, again, it depends on what you’re used to. And since I was born and raised with fish, I’ve eaten parts of fish that most people don’t even consider. So again, my appreciation with fish is far greater or different than most. Like I said today, when I was a kid, I remember eating parts of fish that nobody else would eat. That was poor man’s food. Today, because of health, people are looking into other parts of the fish too, so we’re finally getting to… it’s gone 180. I mean now people are beginning to appreciate some of the other parts of the fish too. So I would venture to guess that anybody learning how to eat fish from people in Hawaii, they really learn how to eat fish. Hawaii people know how to eat fish.

[Edward Sugimoto] Speaking of kinda “stranger” pieces of the fish, the abura mi, the fatty parts, that’s of more value as opposed to the (aka mi)…

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah well, you know, as the chefs say, the fat is where the flavor is. And so, in this case, one of the things that we teach the culinary kids of course is that the difference between the aka mi, or red meat, and the abura, or fatty fish vs. non-fatty fish, that doesn’t mean that the non-fatty fish is no good. In fact, some of these non-fatty fish can be nice enough that it can go 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 dollars a pound. But, if that same fish had some fat in it, it can probably go dollar, two dollars more a pound. And there is a significant difference even from species to species, there’s difference in terms of. So recently, I shared some fatty yellowfin and some fatty bigeye with Chef Mavro and Alan Wong, and they noticed the difference, the significant difference between the two species. Different kind of flavor, different kind of intensity in terms of the fat. So there’s a lot of things we can do, to share with the public in terms of understanding about quality and appreciation for quality.

Ahi, freshly cut on the auction floor [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi, freshly cut on the auction floor [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for the United Fishing Agency?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, I hope that we can work our way through some of the issues that we have to deal with in terms of the sustainability issues, and protecting species like turtles and birds and things like that. We certainly, you know the United Fishing Agency has been around since 1952, and I certainly hope that in history, we continue to succeed and can move forward you know, for the next generation. And I hope that we can continue to be innovative and stay ahead of the curve in terms of doing things the right way for the right reasons, and being able to continue to supply fish for our people because I think it’s a very significant part of our culture as well as lifestyle. And seafood of course, fresh seafood is, I think very very healthful. And so from that perspective alone, I certainly would like to continue to be able to provide good, healthy fish for the public. And, if you think about it, like I ask people think about this: what is the only form of food today that has no chemical additives in it? Wild fish, right? And you have concerns like bird flu, swine flu, all this other kind of stuff, but, you ever heard of fish flu? No. So the demand for fish, the concern for protecting the resource is important and we need to continue to do things to protect that resource. But, the thing is, I think people can also realize… learn and realize that some efforts are in fact being done the right way for the right reasons and I think the Hawaii effort is indeed one of those exemplary efforts. So I think if the rest of the world were to in fact conduct their fishing like we do here, then we may not have the kind of concerns that we have for the resources and stuff, so it would be better for the resources.

[Edward Sugimoto] And your auction is open to the public. Is there anything else you want to mention?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah, it’s open to the public, but we gotta be careful about how many people we get over here. That’s one of the things that again, we do these kinds of interviews, and I’ve got a few others to do within the next couple of weeks, but again, I do this with a grain of salt because the thing is, on one hand, we want people to know about our industry, but I also have a business to run and I gotta be careful about my time. But I mean people are welcome to come. It is open to the public.

[Edward Sugimoto] OK, thank you very much!

[Brooks Takenaka] You’re very welcome.

For more information on the Hawaii Seafood Council and what Brooks folks are doing for the seafood community, please visit: http://www.hawaii-seafood.org.

Since we’ve already covered Sam’s Club, let’s turn this one into a “supermarket kine poke” piece and take a virtual stroll through some of the others doing poke here in the islands shall we?

Costco Poke

One of my favorites from Costco is their Japan Clam Poke, which, according to the label, contains: Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil.

Japan Clam Poke - Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil ($11.99/lb)
Japan Clam Poke – Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil ($11.99/lb)

I haven’t seen it in some time though, but I’m hoping and praying that it’s a “seasonal” thing as opposed to a “discontinued” thing. :

Other good ones include their Fresh Ahi Limu Poke,

Fresh Ahi Limu Poke - ($12.99/lb)
Fresh Ahi Limu Poke – ($12.99/lb)

their Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke,

Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke - ($11.99/lb)
Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke – ($11.99/lb)

and their Garlic Shrimp Poke.

Garlic Shrimp Poke - ($9.99/lb)
Garlic Shrimp Poke – ($9.99/lb)

Costco
(Many locations)

Safeway Poke

I have a soft spot in my heart for Safeway ’cause they be my peeps. They were the ones to give me my first part-time gig during high school daze, where I eventually moved up to the “Fish Cutter” position in the seafood department. This is where I experienced my first taste (literally) of the art of poke making.

Back then, there was no such thing as “spicy tuna” (as it’s known today), and some of the other “fancy” kine styles like wasabi, furikake, avocado, etc. My bread and butter was the ahi limu poke. A batch I recently picked up, though previously frozen, tasted eerily similar to the one I used to make.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)

If it’s available, and you can at all help it (and can afford it), my recommendation is to always go for the “fresh” version. There’s a HUGE difference in taste, texture and quality. Not to mention that a lot of times, places will treat/preserve their fish with carbon monoxide in order to “promote color retention” (keeps their fish looking red or from turning brown). Any time you can eat poke naturally (or any food for that matter) and avoid the chemicals, I advise it. Unfortunately, on this occasion, Safeway (and some of those below) didn’t have many fresh options.

Next to the Ahi Limu Poke, wifey particularly enjoyed the Ahi Poke Furikake from Safeway.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Poke Furikake ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Poke Furikake ($7.99/lb)

The current Fish Cutter toldΒ us that these next two batches were new, so we gave them a whirl. The Hot Ahi Poke (made with Sriracha sauce)…

(Previously Frozen) Hot Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Hot Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

… and the Ahi Wasabi Poke.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Wasabi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Wasabi Poke ($7.99/lb)

In the mood for some octopus, we rounded out our visit to Safeway with their popular Kim Chee Tako Poke.

Kim Chee Tako Poke
Kim Chee Tako Poke

Safeway
(Many locations)

Foodland Poke

I have to be perfectly honest. I’ve never been a fan of Foodland’s poke, though I do strangely enjoy some of Sack N Save’s versions on the neighbor islands. It could’ve been the taste/flavoring, the fish itself, the fact that I worked at Safeway (Ha!), or perhaps that I’ve just been unlucky whenever I ordered from there. To be fair, I picked up 4 types of their previously frozen styles: their Spicy Ahi…

(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

… their Ahi Limu…

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)

… their Ahi Shoyu…

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Shoyu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Shoyu Poke ($7.99/lb)

… and their new Ahi & Avocado Poke.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi & Avocado Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi & Avocado Poke ($7.99/lb)

They also had signage speaking of the carbon monoxide preservation methods, but interestingly enough, they also mentioned this: “From Philippines.” Not quite sure why, but perhaps because it is not local to Hawaii?

If anyone from Foodland wants to fill us in, complete the feedback form on the right and I’ll put your statement in here for ya.

Foodland
(Many locations)

Poke from TKS in Honokaa, Hawaii

To make sure I cover those doing poke well on the neighbor islands, I flew over to Hilo to visit my friend Dave. We found time to hit up KTA and Sack N Save, as well as the T Kaneshiro Store or TKS in “nearby” Honokaa.

T Kaneshiro Store (TKS) in Honokaa, Hawaii
T Kaneshiro Store (TKS) in Honokaa, Hawaii

As with many mom and pop type groceries like this, they didn’t have a dedicated seafood department, but they did provide a handful of poke options in their refrigerated section, including Ahi Poke – Korean Style, Ahi Poke with Sesame Oil, and Ahi Shoyu Poke.

Ahi Shoyu Poke
Ahi Shoyu Poke

T Kaneshiro Store
45-5002 Lehua Street
Honokaa, HI 96727
(808) 775-0631

Poke from KTA Super Stores – Hilo

There are two KTA locations in Hilo: on Keawe street and Puainako Stree, but we made sure to hit up the significantly larger Puainako locale.

KTA Punainako
KTA Punainako

Woah. In order to match the sheer size of their store (I’m guessing), the size of their seafood department is equally enormous!

Bruddah Dave checking out the wide range of goodies
Bruddah Dave checking out the wide range of goodies

Their selection included such items as Tako Miso, Tako Hawaiian, Tako Kim Chee with Cucumber, Tako Shoyu, Tako Sesame, Spicy Tako, Marlin (Au) Korean, Marlin Nori, Marlin Low Salt Shoyu, Marlin Shoyu, Ahi Korean, Ahi Nori, Spicy Ahi, Ahi Hawaiian, Ahi Shoyu, Kim Chee Soybeans, Crab Poke, Shoyu Clams, Nori Tofu, Mussel Poke, Shoyu Hokkigai (Surf Clam), Pipi Kaula, Kim Chee Shrimp, etc.

Numerous poke choices at KTA
Numerous poke choices at KTA

I know it’s hard to tell (based on the amateur panoramic photo attempt above), but take my word for it, they had CHOKE options. πŸ™‚

We sampled the Ahi Shoyu and Ahi Korean options (BTW, they weren’t labeled, but they tasted of the pre-frozen variety).

Ahi Korean Poke (left/top) and Ahi Shoyu Poke (right/bottom) and from KTA ($7.99/lb each)
Ahi Korean Poke (left/top) and Ahi Shoyu Poke (right/bottom) and from KTA ($7.99/lb each)

KTA Super Stores
(Many locations)

Sack N Save Poke

And finally, we hit up the Kinoole Street Sack N Save location in Hilo.

Kinoole Street Sack N Save in Hilo
Kinoole Street Sack N Save in Hilo

They had a pretty reasonably sized selection that included Ahi Hawaiian Style, Ahi Shoyu, Ahi Sesame, Ahi Furikake, Spicy Ahi, Ahi Oyster Sauce, Ahi Limu, Ahi Garlic, Avocado Ahi, Korean Ahi, Ahi Wasabi and Fresh Ahi Poke, as well as Soybeans, Tako Kim Chee Poke, Tako Furikake Poke, Cooked Madako Tako Poke, and Smoked Tako Poke.

Sack N Save's Poke Selection
Sack N Save’s Poke Selection

The Avocado Ahi was a big seller, so we picked up the rest of that tray along with some Spicy Ahi.

(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

(Previously Frozen) Avocado Ahi Poke ($8.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Avocado Ahi Poke ($8.99/lb)

As with their sister/mothership Foodland, they had their previously frozen trays clearly marked with the “carbon monoxide” and “from Philippines” warning labels.

Comparing the poke from Hilo’s Sack N Save to the Oahu equivalents from Foodland, I really enjoyed the Hilo versions more, especially the Avocado Ahi one FBI (From Big Island)! Good job B.I.!

Sack N Save
(Many locations)

Home Made Poke

And finally, as if I didn’t bombard you enough with photos already πŸ˜› , here’s a step-by-step look at a home made batch I recently put together for a family gathering. Enjoy!

Cubed up Aku
Cubed up Aku

I started by cubing up some aku that my mom had purchased from downtown. Aku has a stronger/fishier taste than Ahi, but to me, is a LOT better for making poke.

Below are some of the “ingrediments”Β I used including shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper watah (water), green onions, tobiko, and a generous serving of sesame seed oil (I have a preference for Kadoya brand sesame seed oil).

Ingredients for my poke - Shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper water, green onions, tobiko, and Kadoya sesame seed oil
Ingredients for my poke – Shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper water, green onions, tobiko, and Kadoya sesame seed oil

Don’t forget the limu/ogo!

Mixing the ingredients together as the limu/ogo awaits
Mixing the ingredients together as the limu/ogo awaits

We add all the ingredients to the bowl (I like to save the sesame seed oil for last) and it looks a little sumthin’ like this…

Poke mixture before mixing
Poke mixture before mixing

Here it is up close.

Poke mixture up close
Poke mixture up close

I then added some furikake and the sesame seed oil and we got something that looked like this.

Ed's Aku Poke
Ed’s Aku Poke

Yeah, the color turned a little dark because of the shoyu, but it was yummy nonetheless… If I do say so myself. πŸ˜›

Ed’s Fish Hut
1 Ono Way
Honolulu, HI.
(808) 999-NEVAH-MINE!

A-ight, that’s it for Part III of this Poke Paradise series. Stay tuned for next month, when I interview Rachel Haili of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro’s Fish Market, and visit a few other island favorite poke spots.

A big mahalo to Jed Inouye, Arick Yanagihara, Steve Rudolph,Β and the entire Seafood Hawaii, Inc. team, Brooks Takenaka and everyone at the United Fishing Agency fish auction at Pier 38, Dave Oi for the FBI Hilo hospitality and Grant Lau for assistance with the air accommodations. See y’all next month!

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

UFC 94 Weekend In Vegas

February 1, 2009

Every so often, there comes a time in a man’s life when the stars just align. The perfect storm of pleasure if you will. The weekend of January 30th was one such time.

You see, The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – the most popular Mixed Martial Arts promotion – was having their biggest, most highly anticipated fight card in history: UFC 94. The main event featured Hilo’s own BJ Penn against Canada’s Georges St. Pierre, arguably the two best pound for pound fighters in the sport. Superbowl XLIII (43) festivities, which featured the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Arizona Cardinals, was also going on that weekend. Did I mention that this was all going down in Vegas? ‘Nuff said!

It all started with a confirmation of UFC 94 fight tickets, just a couple weeks before the event (Mahalos to Bruddah DJ and the rest of the UFC posse). From there, it was pure pandemonium as I worked some flight, room and car reservation magic for less than $580 per. Not bad, given the current flight prices.

Wifey unfortunately couldn’t take off of work so my friend Dave “took one for the team” and forced himself to come with me on this once in a lifetime, sport-filled weekend.

We caught the red-eye on Thursday the 29th, and enjoyed breakfast at Ruby’s Dinette on our LAX layover.

Outside Ruby's Dinette
Outside Ruby’s Dinette

I’ve been by this place numerous times before, but never had the chance or the time to eat there. With our hunger, and a couple of hours to spare, Dave and I checked it out. It’s a good thing we did because it was surprisingly good.

Ruby's Breakfast Burrito: "A flour tortilla filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, salsa and shredded cheese. Topped with sour cream, black olives and chopped green onions. Served with black beans. It's our "South of the Border" specialty!"
Ruby’s Breakfast Burrito: “A flour tortilla filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, salsa and shredded cheese. Topped with sour cream, black olives and chopped green onions. Served with black beans. It’s our “South of the Border” specialty!”

Skillet Potatoes
Skillet Potatoes

Ruby’s Dinette – LAX
201 World Way – Terminal 6
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(310) 646-2480

We arrived in Sin City at about 10AM on Friday, the 30th, but by the time we got our luggage, stood in line to pick up our rental car, and took my mobile phone in for service (it stopped working for some reason), it was almost time for the first two events of the trip: the exclusive Q&A session with (fighter) Rashad Evans and the official UFC 94 weigh-ins.

UFC 94 Schedule of Events poster
UFC 94 Schedule of Events poster

Thanks to Bruddah DJ, we were able to get early access into the event and sit decently close.

Nate Diaz flexes at 156 as announcer Joe Rogan, brother Nick Diaz, ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste, his opponent's brother Jason Guida, UFC President Dana White, and ring announcer Bruce Buffer look on.
Nate Diaz flexes at 156 as announcer Joe Rogan, brother Nick Diaz, ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste, his opponent’s brother Jason Guida, UFC President Dana White, and ring announcer Bruce Buffer look on.

Lyoto Machida comes in at 206 as ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste, and UFC President Dana White look on.
Lyoto Machida comes in at 206 as ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste, and UFC President Dana White look on.

BJ Penn does his King Kamehameha pose while coming in at 168, as ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste look on.
BJ Penn does his King Kamehameha pose while coming in at 168, as ring girls Logan Stanton and Arianny Celeste look on.

The much anticipated BJ Penn-Georges St Pierre stare down, as St.-Pierre's head trainer Firas Zahabi, an unknown male, UFC President Dana White, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, Penn's head trainer Rudy Valentino and fight matchmaker Joe Silva look on.
The much anticipated BJ PennGeorges St Pierre stare down, as St.-Pierre’s head trainer Firas Zahabi, an unknown male, UFC President Dana White, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, Penn’s head trainer Rudy Valentino and fight matchmaker Joe Silva look on.

Following the weigh-ins, I decided to check my voicemail from my friend’s phone and was surprised to hear that my Las Vegas (Hawaii transplant) friend Jen left a couple of messages. She wanted us to meet up for dinner with her and her boyfriend Brandon at an all you can eat sushi spot called Sushi-Mon. Since Dave and I were practically starving, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Sushi-Mon sign
Sushi-Mon sign

For $26.95 ($21.95 for lunch), you can pick from a large array of sushi/nigiri, rolls, and side dishes, and go to town on them for one hour. And go to town I did!

2 orders of ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of masago (smelt egg) (one order already eaten... couldn't wait! *grin*)
2 orders of ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of masago (smelt egg) (one order already eaten… couldn’t wait! *grin*)

2 orders of hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of hamachi (yellowtail tuna)
2 orders of hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of hamachi (yellowtail tuna)

Dave's Moon Roll order (Freshwater eel, yum yum scallop & avocado served on a bed of tempura crumbs topped with eel sauce).
Dave’s Moon Roll order (Freshwater eel, yum yum scallop & avocado served on a bed of tempura crumbs topped with eel sauce).

Jen's recommended Cajun Albacore sushi
Jen’s recommended Cajun Albacore sushi

Snow crab meat sushi (you're only allowed one order)
Snow crab meat sushi (you’re only allowed one order)

Baked Scallop Shell side dish
Baked Scallop Shell side dish

Ika (squid) sushi
Ika (squid) sushi

Sushi-Mon (on Sahara)
8320 W Sahara Ave #180,
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 304-0044
Open 7 Days a week, 11:30AM-2:00AM

And den, it was fight day! After fueling up on the $7.99 Garden Court Buffet Lunch at the Main Street Station Hotel in downtown…

My $7.99 buffet lunch (breakfast actually) at the Main Street Station Hotel in downtown (heart don't fail me now!)
My $7.99 buffet lunch (breakfast actually) at the Main Street Station Hotel in downtown (heart don’t fail me now!)

… we headed towards the Mirage to place some fight bets, as, according to my friend Kippy who messaged me on Facebook, they had Penn at +180, some of the best lines in town! By the time we got there though, the line had moved to +135, but that was still good enough for me to back our local hero. While there, I also dropped a bit on the Super Bowl for good measure (‘Zona with the 7 point spread). What the heck right?

Following that, we went back to our hotel to get a quick R&R before the big day ahead. Then it was time! We started by roaming the MGM casino area an hour before the gates were to open. We saw a cool photo opp set up for fight fans, and, after asking a girl to take our photo there, her friends thought it was a good idea to tell her to jump in the photo with us! Um, yeah, thanks!

Dave and I posing with some random girl.
Dave and I posing with some random girl.

At 4:15PM we started to slowly make our way to the gates. The heart started a racin’ and the adrenaline started a pumpin’! I couldn’t believe we were actually there son!

Shuffling in before showtime
Shuffling in before showtime

Here are the results with some personal observations sprinkled in between.

Dan Cramer defeats Matt Arroyo by Split Decision
– I thought Matt Arroyo, The Ultimate Fighter 7 alum, would take this one, but was surprised with Cramer’s perseverance.

Jake O’Brien defeats Christian Wellisch by Split Decision
– Another surprise as I picked Wellisch to come out on top for this one. As you can tell by now, my fantasy UFC picking is pretty horrible. Good to see O’Brien back from his injury and looking strong though.

John Howard defeats Chris Wilson by Split Decision
– This was too close to call, but both men gave it their all.

Thiago Tavares defeats Manny Gamburyan by Unanimous Decision
– Tavares was too big and too strong (and too quick) for Gamburyan, as expected.

Jon Fitch defeats Akihiro Gono by Unanimous Decision
– Gono impressed me by taking Fitch the distance. His entrance performance (where he dressed up in drag with two of his cornermen) had me in stitches!

Akihiro Gono's hilarious drag queen entrance
Akihiro Gono’s hilarious drag queen entrance

Clay Guida defeats Nate Diaz by Split Decision
– Not a huge fan of Diaz, but knew Guida couldn’t finish him. Picked Guida, just based on his energy and spirit. Gotta love someone who is passionate about what they do. Got hooked to his entrance song (Foo Fighter’s “My Hero“).

Karo Parisyan defeats Dong Hyun Kim by Split Decision
– From my vantage point, I thought Kim got robbed on this one. He impressed me. Looking forward to more from him.

Jon Jones defeats Stephan Bonnar by Unanimous Decision
– Woah! Where’d this guy come from? Jones was very unorthodox, but impressive at the same time. Bonnar must’ve been confused with the strikes coming from all ova tha place!

Lyoto Machida defeats Thiago Silva by Knock Out at 4:49 in the 1st round

Lyoto Machida and Thiago Silva stare down each other as they get instructions from referee Yves Lavigne
Lyoto Machida and Thiago Silva stare down each other as they get instructions from referee Yves Lavigne

– ALAS!!! A finish!!! Machida must’ve heard all of our groans from a card filled with decisions. And he made sure to bring it. Silva was completely out for a good minute or so. It was the first time I jumped out of my seat (other that to use the potty! *grin*). Mahalos Lyoto!

Silva still on the ground after a vicious Machida punch
Silva still on the ground after a vicious Machida punch

Georges St-Pierre defeats BJ Penn by TKO Stoppage at 5:00 in the 4th round


BJ’s Entrance Video

Animation of opening sequence
Animation of opening sequence

– D’oh! What a disappointment. But soooo worth being there in person. I was there when they first met at UFC 58 in March of ’06 so it was inevitable that I be there at this one. Unfortunately, the results didn’t reflect my (and probably most of Hawaii’s) wishes. That’s ok, BJ is still the man in my eyes! He showed great courage by not giving up.

On a side note, was it just me or did BJ not look all there from the very beginning? Even from where I was sitting, I could tell that something was just not right. He didn’t come out with the tenacity and that fire in his eye like he usually does. Something was just off. When I watched it back on my DVR at home, I noticed that his eyes were glassy and puffy and he had a look of stress/worry. Was it mental? Was it physical? Only BJ knows I guess, but the results from the fight seemed to confirm my spidey senses.

Following the fight, the rumors started to fly. My Google Reader started blowin’ up! I heard everything from BJ having a fever, to a stomach flu, to a nervous breakdown. I can’t imagine the pressure of having an entire state (and country) on your shoulders. And I know that BJ has that mental toughness a fighter needs to succeed, but something just wasn’t right.

And then there was the Vaseline(-gate) incident, but we won’t go there.

For you Canadian/GSP fans/readers out there, I’m not making any excuses. GSP followed a perfect game plan and fought a flawless fight, and truly was the better man that night. However, if, indeed, the Vaseline and stomach flu rumors were true, and BJ was able to fight at full strength (mentally and physically) against a fair, Vaseline-less body, I’m absolutely positive that the fight would’ve been A LOT closer than it was. If it turns out that those rumors were false, GSP is undeniably the better man at Welterweight.

Leaving the arena took a ridiculously long time as there was just one exit for all 14,885 of us fans in the Grand Garden Arena (I really hope the folks at MGM do something about this potentially dangerous situation). It did give us some time however, to observe some interesting things like the proud/happy Canadians singing their national anthem aloud and the local mokes trying to call them out fo’ beef. I really wish that that fight broke out to give us some entertainment. Not that I was upset at the Canadians. Heck, they deserved to be proud. I think it was more that my thirst for excitement was not quite quenched, with just two stoppages the whole night.

I got some consolation when I saw Pride fighting legend Takanori Gomi waiting in line for his car outside, and took a picture with him. He seemed intense, but gave me a proper, Japanese bow as I bowed and thanked him with “Arigatou gozaimasu.”

Takanori Gomi and I
Takanori Gomi and I

Wifey also called me later to tell me that my goal of getting on the historic DVD with my cheesy fluorescent green shirt had been fulfilled, albeit the back of our heads. LOL! So it was not all a disappointing night yo. πŸ˜›

Dave and I forever a part of UFC 94 history. LOL!
Dave and I forever a part of UFC 94 history. LOL!

We thought about going to the Official UFC afterparty at LAX (http://www.laxthenightclub.com/ ) at the Luxor, but decided to grab a bite instead. We called my high school buddy Jeff (another Hawaii transplant) to see if he and his wife Yvonne wanted to join us, but he instead, invited us over to his house to eat leftovers from their UFC 94 party. ‘Twas nice to see them and just chill after a long night.

The next day was Superbowl Sunday, but with our bets already placed, we said “Superbowl Shmuperbowl” and hit the slopes at the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort for a lil’ boardin’.

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort Sign
Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort Sign

It was a gorgeous day with decent conditions (mostly smooth with some powder and icey patches), but the best part was that the Blackjack, High Roller, and Keno paths (blue square) and Jacks, Slot Alley and Grandma’s (black diamond) were relatively empty (see trail PDF here). I pretty much had half the mountain to myself! Awwwww yeah!

Empty path... Loves it!
Empty path… Loves it!

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort
End of Highway 1506 in Lee Canyon
(702) 385-2754
Lift Hours: 9am to 4pm
Lodge Hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm

After a mandatory Trader Joe’s omiyage run following our boarding sesh, and a quick bite to eat at Panda Express (yes, we had the urge!), we got back to our hotel just in time to catch the most exciting 4th quarter in Super Bowl history.

Kurt Warner's look of disgust as his Cardinals allow Pittsburgh to move the ball closer and close to the end zone
Kurt Warner’s look of disgust as his Cardinals allow Pittsburgh to move the ball closer and close to the end zone

All in all, it was a quickie, but exciting 3 days of 3 breathtaking sporting events: MMA, football and snowboarding. The perfect storm of pleasure.