Oahu Good Eats

Even though we had three amazing and delicious sit-down dinners, I feel like some of the best eats we had were from little stops all over the island of Oahu. Often times, it is these little stops along the way that makes the trips more fun and exciting. It’s also these little stops that offer the most authentic, Hawaiian island feel.

Our first full day on Oahu took us away from city and along the coast line up to the North Shore. We made our first top at the Dole Plantation, where we stopped for some light souvenir shopping (Dole’s pineapple macadamia nut cookies are by far, the best) and Dole Whip! Every single time we’ve been on the island, we’ve had Dole Whip. It is just that good! I’ve had the Dole Whip at Disney and my cousin has had the Dole Whip at Leonard’s but none of them compare to the one at the Dole Plantation. The whip is creamy and sweet – not overly tart at all. Most people write off the Dole Plantation as a tourist trap but we will always make a stop for the Dole Whip.

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Along the way back from visiting the North Shore, we hit up the famous shrimp trucks. I’ve had Fumi’s and my cousin has had Romy’s – we both agree that Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is the best. The shrimp is de-veined and headless – perfect for eating. All the shrimps are pretty much the same size and you get a heaping portion of rice with garlic sauce with each order. The garlic is definitely the strongest here – you’ll smell it in your car for days! Be sure to get a side of their mac salad, it’s pretty darn good to go with the delicious Shrimp Scampi.

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Dinner that same night was a hurried stop at Pa’ina’s Café for some delicious poke. They close at 6pm on weekends so we had to rush back from the North Shore to pick up some poke bowls. We ran in at 5:45pm and managed to order their Ahi Tuna Crunch Poke Bowl (XL). The portion sizes are unreal – the amount of ahi tuna inside my poke bowl was so generous that two of us couldn’t even finish it. The ahi was super fresh and tasted oh-so-good. Be warned though – the crunchies can get soft if you don’t eat the poke bowl right away.

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Another hidden gem that I absolutely love is Nisshodo Mochiya, which my cousin introduced us to the first time we visited Oahu. It’s located inside a warehouse and you literally cannot find it unless you have a GPS or someone to show you. Nisshodo sells homemade mochi products, but my favorite is their Chi Chi Dango, small pieces of plain mochi that are squishy, soft, and just a little sweet. They’re super affordable and very easy to just gobble down an entire pound.

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I don’t have a picture of this – because I keep gobbling them down before I take a picture, but the Poi Doughnuts at Kamehameha Bakery are literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It doesn’t taste like taro at all – it just tastes like sweet, pillowy heaven. The doughnuts are so soft – even after a 10 hour plane ride back to NYC.

Jump into your car and venture off into the tiny pit stops along the road – they have the best eats and the most authentic Oahu feel. While I love a sit-down meal with waiter service – I also really love discovering delicious, cheap eats.

Seamore’s

When I first heard about Seamore’s, I knew I had to eat there! Fresh seafood is one of my favorite things in life so it really was a no-brainer for me. I bookmarked them the day they opened but it wasn’t until about two weeks later that I got to try them out. After a much needed spa day (facials and a manicure) in Chinatown, I offered to treat my mom to dinner at Seamore’s. We rolled in at 6:30 and were quoted an hour wait time. So we put our names down and went in search for a coffee shop still open at that time. No more than 25 minutes later, I got a text saying a table was ready.
We were seated in their huge and airy dining room – they had opened up all the windows to let the breeze in. Our waitress greeted us right away and explained the menu to us. Seamore’s sources locally so their fish comes from anywhere between New York and Maine. They have about three to four fish options every day. These options are never kept for longer than 24 hours at a time so they’re super fresh. Each day they have a little wood board that tells you the options for the day.
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We opted to start off with the Poke ($13.00) with ponzu, peanut, and avocado. The fish of the day for the Poke was Tuna, which is pretty standard. If I’m in Hawaii, I actually prefer the Salmon Poke, but I like tuna as well since it’s the more traditional fish. The poke was fresh and tasty – it’s definitely not the standard shoyu poke from Hawaii but it’s a very good interpretation.
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We decided to split two different dishes as entrées so we could try something new. First we had the Seared Seasonal Fish Tacos ($15.00), which comes with two huge corn tortillas topped with black bean sauce, lettuce, pico, avocado, and crema. The fish of the day for the Seared Tacos was a yellowtail flounder, which was amazing. The flounder was so tender and soft – it practically melted in our mouths. The combination of fish juice, pico and crema made the dish a bit sloppy to eat but I highly recommend it – the flavor is amazing.
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We also split the Reel Deal ($21.00), which is their signature entrée. You choose a fish of the day and a sauce. The dish comes served in a bowl with three of their daily sides. On the day we visited, we had warm quinoa salad, roasted summer squash and collard greens. We opted to go with the Monkfish with Miso Brown Butter Sauce. The Monkfish was very tender and fresh – also very filling. The miso brown butter was very tasty – there was a hint of miso and lots of buttery goodness. I would definitely dip my lobster in this!
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Even though we were quite full from our entrées, we always have room for dessert! Seamore’s makes it simple by only offering one dessert option – Kaffir Lime Soft Serve from OddFellows. The only options you have are (1) Coconut Granola Topping and (2) cone or cup. We opted for the coconut topping and cones. The soft service was very tasty – just a bit tart and very refreshing after a savory meal.
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Service was great throughout the meal – our waitress was very attentive and really helped make our first time at Seamore’s effortless. The tables are closely packed together and the music is also quite loud in the high-ceiling dining room so I wouldn’t recommend them for a first date. Their tables are very group friendly, however, so grab some friends and check them out!

Hawaii Edition Pt. 3 – Alan Wong’s Restaurant

Since we opted out of a luau (we’re been to two already) and probably saved around $300, we decided to splurge a little bit and enjoy a fancy dinner out instead. After a lot of research, I settled on Alan Wong’s Restaurant, Gold winner of Honolulu Magazine’s Hale ‘Aina Award for Best Oahu Restaurant. I tried to make reservations on OpenTable about three weeks in advance but was only able to snag a 7:45pm reservation. A bit late for our standards since we were running on East Coast time, but it’ll have to do.

The location of the restaurant is a bit weird and out of place – it’s on the 3rdfloor of an office building in a not-so-nice part of town. It’s definitely not in the Waikiki tourist area. We arrived about 15 minutes early but they seated us right away. The drink menu was provided on an iPad and the food menu was provided in the traditional paper version. I liked this because I could tap around on the iPad to read drink descriptions.

We all decided to do the “A Tasting of the Classics” tasting menu at $85.00 a person.  A bit pricey, but you definitely get a lot of food with the tasting menu. I don’t think we would’ve gotten to try as many items if we ordered a la carte.

Our two appetizer courses arrived together on one plate. On the left is the Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack, served on top of crispy won ton flakes with spicy aioli and wasabi soy sauce. On the right is the “Soup and Sandwich”. The Chilled Vine Ripened Tomato Soup is served in a martini glass, designed to be sipped with each bite of the Grilled Cheese, which is made out of Hawai’I Island Goat Diary Mozzarella Cheese, Foie Gras, and Kalua Pig. I thoroughly enjoyed both appetizers but I think the grilled cheese was my favorite. The sandwich was savory and so scrumptious.

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Our first entrée course was the Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobster served on top of Keahole Abalone, Eryngii Mushrooms, and Green Onion Oil. The lobster was poached to perfection and the abalone was very tasty. As a Chinese person, I can attest to how much we love our abalone! My favorite, though, was the green onion oil. It was very fragrant and flavorful without overpowering the lobster.

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Our second entrée course was the Ginger Crusted Onaga, or Long-Tail Red Snapper. The snapper was served on top of a Miso Sesame Vinaigrette, Mushrooms, and Corn. I really enjoyed the miso sesame vinaigrette along with the corn. I didn’t care much for the ginger, which I thought was a bit strong, but I enjoyed the dish. I think I like Orchids Red Snapper dish better, but this one was quite good as well.

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Our third and last entrée course was an uphill battle. By now, we were all pretty full. It doesn’t sound like a lot of food since most of the courses are smaller versions, but it gets very filling, very fast. The Twice Cooked Short Ribs, Braised in Soy and Grilled “Kalbi” Style was a very impressive dish. It is served with a dash of kochujang sauce on the side and with a gingered shrimp. The shrimp was sweet and the short ribs were savory. It was a nice contrast. The short ribs were very tender and barely required any chewing on our parts. I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t so full!

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Our dessert was their signature, The Coconut. It features coconut sorbet in a chocolate shell served with tropical fruits and lilikoi, or passionfruit, sauce. Even though I was filled to the brim, I somehow managed to devour this dessert. That’s how good it was! It also attests to how light and refreshing this dessert is because I still have no idea how I finished all the sorbet and fruit.

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Service was impeccable. Our waiter was always checking up on us after every course was presented (most of the time someone else brought our dishes over). He also made sure to ask us if we had any dietary restrictions or allergies before we started our meal. The supporting wait staff was also very on point – our dishes were always cleared quickly after we finished and utensils were replaced in a timely manner.  Besides the slightly out-of-the-way location, I can’t fault my dinner at Alan Wong’s at all.

Hawaii Edition Pt. 2: Orchids at the Halekulani

Since we were so busy in May – with my sister taking finals and gearing up for graduation and some family affairs, I asked my mom if she would be okay with postponing our annual Mother’s Day dinner until our week on Oahu. I had found the perfect restaurant for me to treat her to – Orchids at the Halekulani Hotel. She was, of course, okay with it and I quickly made reservations on OpenTable.

Fast forward to our first night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – after a day spent at the beach and pool, we showered and dressed for our nighttime stroll over to Halekulani Hotel. We used the Beachwalk, which stretches from the HHV to the Outrigger Reef, right next to the Halekulani. We were actually early for our reservation at Orchids but they were able to seat us anyways. My request on OpenTable for a patio table was fulfilled and we were seated just in time to catch the sunset.IMG_7867

Our waiter was super nice and helped us take loads of pictures against the backdrop of Diamond Head. It was such an amazing view – Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach on one end and the sunset on the other. There was a light breeze from being so close to the ocean – everything just seemed perfect.

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We started with a lovely amuse bouche of potato chowder, followed by a breadbasket with three spread options: pomegranate with olive oil, butter with Hawaiian pink salt and butter with Hawaiian black salt. All were quite tasty – I particularly liked the butter with Hawaiian pink salt.

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We decided on appetizers to share so we ordered three. They arrived all at the same time but I’ll talk about them separately. First is the Shrimp and Avocado ($18.00) with spiced macadamia nuts and orange dressing. This was, by far, the best appetizer of the night. The avocado was fresh and the shrimp was super sweet. The orange added a sweet and tart element to the dish. I highly recommend this appetizer!

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Next is the Tuna and Foie Gras Croquette ($20.00) served with a tomatillo salsa and green apple-frisee salad. The tomatillo salsa was a bit odd but I loved the croquettes. It tasted like smooth tuna salad!

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Our last appetizer was their Orchids Salad ($14.00), which features Hirabara greens with seasonal fruit and pomegranate vinaigrette. The pomegranate vinaigrette was sweet and tart – matching the flavor of our first appetizer. The watermelon was also very sweet – you could tell it was in season there. This was a very light and refreshing appetizer to begin our meal.

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Both my sister and I went with their Steamed Onaga Orchids Style ($38.00). Onaga, or Long Tail Red Snapper, is steamed with shitake mushrooms. The sauce is made with green onions sizzled in sesame oil and soy sauce. The result was a soft, buttery snapper that practically melted in your mouth. The green onions, sesame oil and soy sauce combination really appealed to my Asian palate. I loved this dish! I can definitely see why it’s considered their signature dish.

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My mom went with their Lobster & Beef Cheeks ($54.00) with butter poached lobster and braised beef cheeks. The dish is served with a side of potato-wasabi puree, which I thought was divine. There was a hint of heat in the potato puree but not so much that it was overwhelming. I could eat a bowl of the puree!

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For dessert, we all split the Halekulani’s Signature Coconut Cake ($11.00). You can’t go to any of the Halekulani’s restaurants and not order this cake! The chiffon cake was as light as a cloud! The coconut-amaretto cream and whipped cream was not too sweet – just enough to be considered dessert. I’m a huge fan of coconut so this was a special treat for me.

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Service was impeccable and I really loved the way our waiter interacted with our table. Both our waiter and busboy were very attentive and we felt like we were treated with the utmost service. I highly recommend Orchids – whether it’s for a celebratory meal or just a night out. The ambiance and view cannot be beat.

Hawaii Edition Pt. 1: Monkeypod

When it came time to decide where to go for our annual vacation, I immediately knew I wanted to go to Hawaii again. I loved our first two times there and couldn’t wait to go back to tackle my To-Do list. My cousin also had just brought a house so we wanted to visit her as well. It seemed like the perfect decision! Although I had planned dinner for the days we’d be staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, I left the days we’d be spending with my cousin and her husband to her. She’s been there for about five years now so she definitely knew best on all the good places to eat.

The day we landed in Honolulu, she had made Happy Hour reservations for Monkeypod, located in Ko Olina. Monkeypod, which specializes in serving dishes made from local, organic and sustainable ingredients, runs their Happy Hour every day from 3:00-5:00 and then again at 9:00 – 11:00. All appetizers are 50% off, all pizzas are $9 and draft beers are discounted. Definitely make reservations if you’re interested in dining during Happy Hour because it was packed when we arrived.

We decided on appetizers to share and then entrees. We sampled the Lobster Deviled Eggs ($14.95 regular price), which feature Big Island lobster and Mikilua Farms organic, free-range eggs. The deviled eggs are okay – I didn’t think they were quite vinegary enough! It also came in an awkward amount for the table – we had five people but the dish only came with four.

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The Pumpkin Patch Ravioli ($13.95, regular price) was the highlight of the night, in my opinion. The ravioli is made with a Kiawe-roasted squash and goat cheese filling and topped with organic spinach, toasted, walnut sage, and pesto. The filling was so smooth and flavorful – I think next time I’ll order this appetizer as my entrée. We also split the Hamakua Wild Mushroom & Truffle Pizza ($18.95, regular price), which is a white sauce pizza topped with wild mushroom, truffle, parmesan and fresh thyme. The pizza was a really good size to share – we all ended up with one slice to try. It’s also a very good size for an individual pizza if a pizza is all you want. The truffle was super fragrant and meshed well with the wild mushroom and white sauce.

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Our last appetizer was the Garlic Truffle Fries ($9.95, regular price), which feature fresh French fries topped with parmesan cheese and served with whole grain mustard aioli and homemade ketchup. The fries were very tasty and piping hot. I really liked the mustard aioli because it had a bit of a kick without being spicy.

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For my entrée, I had the Kale and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi ($21.95). The dish features homemade gnocchi topped with Ma’o Farm organic kale, Hamakua Wild Mushrooms, tomato coulis and goat cheese. This was one of the best gnocchi dishes I have ever had – the gnocchi was light and pillowy. It practically melted in my mouth and tasted so good with the kale and goat cheese mixture. I highly recommend this dish.

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We were all so full after all the appetizers and entrees and that we couldn’t fit dessert. Next time, I’ll save a little room to try out their dessert menu. Service was quick and efficient – definitely on point considering it was Happy Hour. I must return for those pumpkin raviolis!

Smorgasburg

The Boyfriend and I have been going to Smorgasburg for a few years now – we often make our annual trek to Williamsburg in June. This year, we opted to go early in May to try to beat the heat – and the crowd! We arrived around 12pm and the fair was still relatively empty. All the stands were already open so we strolled around and stopped when we found something that caught our eye.

The first stand that caught our attention was Rise & Swine, which serves breakfast bacon sandwiches. Rise & Swine cures, smokes and cooks bacon made exclusively from Heritage breed Pigs. We picked their Bacon, Egg and Cheese ($8.00) sandwich served on an English muffin. The sandwich comes with a fried egg, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and jerk bacon. The bacon was really tasty (when is bacon not tasty??) and the onions and cheese really added a lot of flavor. But beware! The fried egg has a very gooey yoke that bursts the moment you bite into the sandwich!

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Our second stop was Big Mozz, which serves up freshly made mozzarella that’s craft on site! You can even stand by and watch as they stretch and roll the mozzarella balls! We opted for the Mozzarella Bomb ($7.00), a ball of mozzarella cheese injected with pesto and served over greens. This was one of my favorites of the day – the pesto was very flavorful and tasted amazing when mixed with the super fresh mozzarella and greens. I highly recommend a stop at Big Mozz!

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Our third stop was at an old favorite, the Lumpia Shack. We had their signature pork lumpias, which were crunchy and crispy. They’re a more refined version of the traditional Filipino lumpia, which is crunchier and probably 10x oilier! We’re not partial to either – a good lumpia is a good lumpia!

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Our fourth stop was Carnal – we had not planned to stop but the smell got to us. We walked a few feet within the stand and could already smell the delicious grill! Today, Carnal was serving up Beef Short Ribs ($13.00) topped with bone marrow, spring onion and black pepper. The price tag is a bit steep but the ribs are divine! They’re very moist and tender – basically falling off the bone with each bite. The bone marrow and spring onion topping is so flavorful and buttery. It’s a messy dish but it’s a damn good one.

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Our fifth stop was Rai Rai Ken, who was serving just one dish that day – cold Unagi Mazemen ($9.00) with barbeque eel, cucumber, shredded omelet, onion and Sichuan pepper. They use a tiny blow torch to heat the barbeque eel on site so it’s really cool to watch. The mazemen is really refreshing on a hot day and super tasty. The ramen noodles were cooked to a perfect al dente and each bite had a nice bounce to it. There’s an option to add a scoop of guacamole for $2 – we weren’t adventurous enough for this but we heard good things from the others that ordered it.

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Our last official stop was Home Frite, who was selling Belgian fries – Pomme Frites style. The line was longer than the Ramen Burger line and we were seeing numerous people walking around the lot with them so we had to try it. There’s only one size so it’s definitely something to share between 2-4 people. We opted for the Truffle Fries ($8.00) with the Truffleist Truffle Oil, parmesan cheese, and lemon garlic aioli for dipping. The fries were good and the dipping sauce was even better! The fries come out pretty quickly so the line does go by fast.

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We didn’t really get dessert at the fair but we did have a lot of beverages. Standouts included the oldie-but-goodie Kelvin Natural Slush (Arnold Palmer base with cherry flavor is surprisingly good!), POG (passo-orange-guava juice) from East Coast Poke, and the iced teas from Bellocq Tea Atelier. Their teas are always super refreshing and very light on the palate! There were quite a few vendors that I would’ve loved to try out – if I had more stomach space. I think I’ll make a repeat trip this year – stay tuned!

Egg Shop

We were meeting up with some college friends for drinks and dinner but I was completely stumped on where to eat. A friend suggested Egg Shop, located in Nolita, just a few blocks shy of both Soho and Chinatown. A quick look at the menu showed promising options so we decided on it. We arrived around 7:30 on a Monday night and was seated right away.

We decided to split appetizers to start since none of us could figure out what to get for our entrees! The entire menu looked so good! We started off with their Golden Bucket ($16.00), which is fried chicken with hot honey, fresh herbs and sea salt. I really, really liked the chicken! The outside was crunchy while the meat was juicy. I also liked the hot honey because it was sweet and had a kick at the same time. IMG_7430

We also split two orders of the Maple Sausage Sliders ($11.00) since each order only came with two. The Maple Sausage Slider featured a housemade sausage patty with Vermont maple syrup with a fried quail egg on top. They had me at the fried quail egg! The sausage was a bit messy to eat because of the runny quail egg yoke but it was pretty flavorful – with a bit of a kick as well.

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For my entree, I went with the Eggshop B.E.C. ($10.00), which features a broke yoke, Shelburne Cheddar Cheese, black forest bacon, and tomato jam on a panini roll. The first thing that caught my eye was the leaky yoke – I absolutely love a broken egg yoke. I love it when it leaks into the bun of the bread and softens it up. This sandwich was really good – the bacon was thick and flavorful and the tomato jam was a more refined version of your standard ketchup. I wish I could eat this for breakfast everyday!

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We also split a side of fries ($5.00), which comes with Sohha yogurt and sweet chili sauce for dipping. We barely touched the sweet chili sauce cause the Sohha yogurt was the better of the two. For those of you unfamiliar with Sohha, it’s a Mediterranean, savory yogurt that’s located in Chelsea Market. It’s literally the best dipping sauce ever because it’s creamy and savory, which compliments the salty fries.

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For dessert, a friend and I split the French Toast ($9.00), which features french toast soaked in Vermont maple syrup and Ronny Brook Chocolate Cream. It’s topped with fresh fruit – in our case, it was blueberries and apple slices. The french toast was good but the best part was the sweet chocolate cream – it tasted so good!

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Service was attentive throughout and our waitress was very nice. I would definitely recommend either coming really early or really late because around 8:00 – 9:00PM, the restaurant was packed! By the time we left around 10:00, it was only half full. And yes – they let us sit there for almost 3 hours!