Archive for the ‘Eating and Drinking’ Category

Local Avocado + Shoyu = Deliciousness!

Posted: July 3, 2013 by Nathan Kam in Eating and Drinking
Tags: ,


Few things in life are more satisfying than a creamy local avocado with a splash of shoyu. A savory way to start the day!




As I was preparing to write about local baker Christopher Sy’s incredible Breadshop sourdough breads (country loaf pictured above), it dawned on me that was a foolish idea. Why? Because my post would have said pretty much what HONOLULU Dining Editor Martha Cheng wrote in her detailed Biting Commentary column last year titled “The best country bread you’ve never heard of: Chris Sy’s levain.” I’m joking. There was no way I was going to be able to make the chef and his bread sound that good with my own words, so I encourage you to click the link above and enjoy her piece. I have mad respect for Martha’s work and it’s a great read.

On a slightly more serious note, here’s my take. If you enjoy sinking your teeth into a good piece of bread like I do, you need to give Chris’ country and city loaves a try. Some may argue that it’s ridiculous to pay $7.50 for a loaf, but those people just don’t get it.

This bread has a quality and character well worth the price and enjoyment. The texture (crunchy outside, chewy soft on the inside) and flavor (distinctly sourdough with a smoky finish from being baked in a kiawe wood fired oven) is like nothing I’ve had in Hawaii before. You can see and taste, passion, and pride Chris puts into his craft with every bite.

But don’t take my word for it, the fact that my kids – Ensen (5) and Avery (2) – prefer it over the regular sandwich bread you find in the grocery store is proof positive to me this stuff rocks. The delicious country loaf has become a staple in our kitchen  and I have a feeling it will be in yours too after you try it.

So  what does it look like and where can I buy this you ask?


Each loaf is carefully wrapped and date stamped for freshness.


Proof that good things come in white packages. The dark crust is not only beautiful, but packs a ton of flavor.


Cutting into a city loaf. As you can see, the texture of the bread is light and airy. Absolutely delicious with or without butter or olive oil.

Breads by Breadshop are made in limited quantities, so follow Chris on Twitter to find out when and where he’s delivering during the week.

Stay in touch on Twitter and Instragram
Breads available at The Whole Ox Butcher and Deli and The Pig & The Lady (various farmer’s markets)



My simple advice to you is get a bag (or two) of this delicious Brownie Brittle the next time you’re at Costco or Don Quijote. Why? Well, if you typically reach for the crunchy corner pieces in the brownie pan like I do, you’ll absolutely love these crisp and decadent snacks. As the package reads, “No more fighting for the Corner Pieces.”

Apparently, these brownie treats have been on the shelves for some time now, but I only recently discovered them when my mother-in-law sent us home with a bag the other night. I’m glad…and mad…she did. This has instantly become a family favorite and will surely satisfy your craving for declines chocolate brownies anytime of the day.

Have you tried this yet? Love? Hate?

My apologies in advance if you get hooked like we are.


As the package


Let me just get this out of the way and say I’m not a huge fan of tripe. I didn’t grow up on it, but occasionally enjoy it in stew and pho. However, after eating this Tripe alla Parmigiana dish at Cafe Julia at YWCA recently, I have a whole new respect for the intestine.

Executive Chef Lance Kosaka, formerly of Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room, carefully cleans and cooks the tripe in a magical way that takes out most of the funk. The result is a tender, delicious, and “broke da mout” dish that I can only imagine would have been even better with a cold beer. Tripe in a rich tomato sauce and topped with cheese and a runny egg kept me going in for more. This day at lunch there were two other non-tripe eaters at the table, yet after trying this, we all agreed that it rocked. I would order it again in an instant.

Since opening in the YWCA late last year, and following the closure of the beloved Downtown @ the HiSAM, Cafe Julia has become a hot spot for lunch, pau hana, and weekend brunch. Chef Lance is doing the kind of food reminiscent of childhood days, but on an elevated level. Not to mention, the historic building in which the open-air restaurant is located offers a casual elegance to the ambiance.


If any of the pot pies happen to be on special, get it. I’m told its a rare site on the menu, so I couldn’t pass up devouring one a couple weeks ago. This was a Mexican-inspired interpretation with beef, beans and a whole lot of goodness in a crisp pastry. So good.


You can also find some great sandwiches here, like the Korean-Inspired Grilled Pork which was quite tasty.


Finally, if you have room for dessert, Chef Lance’s version of an ice cream sandwich is worth the calories. He’s making cookies just like his mom made them for him growing up. What’s not to love about that?!

Cafe Julia can get busy at lunch, so I strongly suggest making reservations, especially for larger parties. Check it out next time you find yourself hungry in downtown.

Cafe Julia at YWCA
1040 Richards Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone : 808-533-3334
Breakfast: Sunday only, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Pau Hana: Wednesday – Friday, 4-9 p.m.
Parking: One hour validated parking for Alii Palace for diners. It is the closest and cheapest garage located off Alakea Street. Metered street parking is also available along Richards and King streets.
Follow the restaurant on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. If you love ramen, then check out the Shirokiya Yataimura Quality Food Court the next time you’re at Ala Moana Center. Order the Shiroton Charsiu Sibori ramen (pictured above) from the place with the huge “Ramen Noodle” sign and enjoy. I’m addicted!

The delicious and cloudy pork broth is my favorite part of the experience, although the noodles are quite enjoyable too. There are a variety of different options to dress up your bowl of ramen depending on your mood that day. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I’ll admit I’m not a ramen expert by any means, but I know when I’ve discovered something that’s “broke da mout” and worthy of returning time and again to satisfy my noodle craving.

Bon appetit!


Yataimura Quality Food Court at Shirokiya
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, #2250
Honolulu, HI 96841
Phone: 808-973-9111
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

IMG_2027Inside the Vintage Cave dining room which was built with more than 170,000 bricks from Pennsylvania and features original artwork by Picasso and many other artists worth millions.

I have to say 2012 was a hell of year filled with great eating! From Hawaii to Memphis and New York City, those who follow me on Foodspotting, Twitter, and Instagram know very well there was an abundance of deliciousness enjoyed at restaurants off all varieties. I’m sure the last 12 months were equally palate pleasing for you.


But for me, there was one meal that stood out from the rest and that was a 19 course gastronomic experience at the Vintage Cave Honolulu. Let me briefly explain why.


I first met Vintage Cave Executive Chef Chris Kajioka (pictured above with Pastry Chef Rachel Murai) a little more than two years ago when he was cooking at Roy’s Waikiki. Many friends spoke highly of his culinary talents and passion for his craft having worked at many fine restaurants across the U.S., including the three-star Michelin Per Se in New York City and one-star Michelin Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. I never had a chance to taste Kajioka’s food before he left Roy’s to return to San Francisco to cook at Aziza, but did have the opportunity to get to know the chef better on a trip to Chicago in 2010 to promote Hawaii. It was on that trip we dined at one of the best restaurants in the world, Alinea, and from there stayed in touch.

In future trips to the Bay Area, we made Aziza a regular stop to see how Kajioka was doing enjoying many great meals there. About a year later, I learned that he was returning to the Ritz-Carlton to team up once again with Ron Siegel at Parallel 37. After a short stint there, Kajioka made the decision to return home after getting married with no firm job in place.

That got many Hawaii foodies excited with anticipation at what Kajioka might have in store. In the end, he landed the Executive Chef position at The Vintage Cave and has assembled a team that’s doing some amazing things in the kitchen and using some of the best ingredients from Hawaii and around the world.

The result, in my opinion, is a dining experience that rivals any Michelin-starred restaurant in the country in terms of culinary creativity, service, and ambiance. Those who ask me what eating there is like, I can only describe it as “theater on a plate” featuring skillful, modern cooking techniques and delicious flavors honoring Asia, Europe, and beyond. It’s the kind of place where it’s quality over quantity, but after 19 courses that range from one to three bites, you leave satisfied and transformed at how delicious food can be.

That seems like enough of my raving in this post. Let me let the pictures speak for themselves. I was fortunate to be hosted to two tastings prior to the restaurant’s opening in December. The following photos (and this video by Mari Taketa of Nonstop Honolulu) are of a special media dinner served on November 30 featuring a total of 30 delicious bites.

IMG_2362For $295/person (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and wine pairings), the tasting menu is a creative and dazzling feast for the senses.

IMG_2035OYSTER hibiscus shiso ginger

IMG_2042sweet smoked PAIN AU LAIT

IMG_2036fish skin CRACKER black bean clam lime

IMG_2039MERINGUE tomato basil

IMG_2356vanilla bean macaroon CAVIAR

IMG_2358cold smoked TORO red onion jicama
KONA KAMPACHI lemon radish shiso
UNI ham film black truffle
AMA EBI fennel
AJI smoked onion pear


IMG_2361HAKUREI TURNIP asian pear yogurt sumac

IMG_2046golden osetra CAVIAR smoked tuna gel

IMG_2053HOKKAIDO IKURA potato green apple cress

IMG_2055charred CABBAGE leaves miso konbu dill anchovy
(One of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2059jidori EGG YOLK celery root truffle ham parmesan
(Another of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2061FOIE GRAS maple syrup corn blueberries celery

IMG_2058japan AMADAI kabocha pickled garlic escabeche

IMG_2366PORK BELLY & NECK berbere jus kale chips

IMG_2367bread from CHRIS SY white soy wakame
(We’ve become big fans of Chris’ Breadshop artisan breads.)

IMG_2064HIRABARA FARMS pineapple vinegar

IMG_2069BEEF from sylvia prizant spinach sunchoke charred scallion sancho pepper
(Quite possibly the best beef I’ve ever tasted!)

IMG_2369onion rice PORRIDGE samoan crab white truffle
(This dish reminded me of grandma’s jook on steroids. Delicious!)

IMG_2072SHIO KOJI ice cream
(This was my first time having a savory ice cream. Oishi!)

IMG_2371blackberry sorbet PEPPERED BEET AIR mascapone sponge
(As one who loves beets, this was an amazing dessert!)

IMG_2077CHOCOLATE GANACHE charred pineapple aged balsamic sesame

IMG_2078CANELE rum glace
(I’m told the only place in Hawaii doing canales.)

IMG_2374BLACK TRUFFLE macaroons

IMG_2373My apologies for forgetting what this one was called, but delicious!

IMG_2375RASPBERRY meringue

IMG_2376GRAPE and finger lime
(An explosion of deliciousness in your mouth!)

Having eaten at the Cave three times now, the question everyones asks me is “Is it worth the money?” My quick answer is “It depends.” While pricey at $295/person, if you’re they type that will travel to the world for a great meal, this is certainly a must experience. And think about it, you don’t have to factor in the air, hotel and ground transportation into the equation. It’s definitely a meal worth saving up for that special occasion.

If you’re idea of a great meal is quantity versus quality and you’re not into art and theater on the plate, I’d take you’re money elsewhere. Buy that iPad instead or go enjoy your favorite restaurant a bunch of times. Just being honest here as you’ll probably think it’s overpriced and not worth the experience.

If Kajioka and his team continue to do what they are doing, I can see this restaurant becoming a destination for many across the globe. Will it become one of the best restaurants in the country never to earn a Michelin star (since Hawaii doesn’t get rated)? Only time will tell. But knowing Kajioka, he’s going to continue pushing himself (only 29 years old) and his young team and that’s a good thing for Hawaii.

In the culinary world of highly coveted Michelin stars, “Three stars reward exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.” Vintage Cave certainly has the philosophy and the resources to continue striving for this kind of distinction. It has definitely been a treat eating there and I hope I have the chance to do so again in 2013.

Happy New Year to you all and here’s to many more delicious meals with family and friends.


Vintage Cave Honolulu
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, #2250
Honolulu, HI 96814
(located in the basement of Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center)
Phone: 808-441-1744
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.; Closed Sundays
Note: Vintage Cave gives priority seating in its bar lounge and dining room to members before the general public. Reservations are required and limited.


With only six more days until Christmas, if you’re still trying to figure out what to get for that special someone, hard to shop for family member or friend, let me offer you this recommendation: Chicken Fried Mix from Y. Hata & Co. Value Store on Sand Island Access Road.

I’m dead serious.

A family member introduced us to this wonder flour several years ago. I’m not sure what’s in it, but it makes homemade fried chicken crisp, flavorful and delicious. But don’t let the name on the label fool you. We’ve tried this magical seasoned flour on pan fried pork chops, sauteed fish, and use it as a substitute for all-purpose flour when trying to get fancy with vegetables at home. The results are ono pork chops (almost like Side Street Inn in terms of flavor), a nice crisp coating on fish, and enhanced flavor all around.

I’m curious to find out what’s in the mix since it’s so delicious. The label doesn’t disclose the ingredients, but the display in the store says it’s from McCormick’s. There doesn’t seem to be MSG in it, because I don’t get tired or swell up after eating it. If you happen to be reading this and know, please leave a comment.

Long story short, if you want to get a versatile and delicious gift for that person who’s impossible to shop for, consider this awesome Chicken Fried Mix seasoned flour from Y. Hata & Co.

Every home kitchen should have this in the pantry. In the immortal words of Aunty Marialani, “Go check ’em now, go check ’em now, go check ’em now, go!”

Happy Holidays!

Y. Hata & Co. Value Store
285 Sand Island Access Road
Honolulu, HI 96819