Wednesday, April 27, 2005

JJ French Pastry

Great minds do think alike! Coincidentally Reid over at ‘Ono Kine Grindz posted about his visit to JJ French Pastry today and I had it in queue to be posted right after my Toraji post.

Before my recent visit, the last time I visited JJs was when they were located back at Pearl Kai shopping center. That was a looong time ago.

The reason for my recent visit was that they recently started serving a lunch and dinner menu. With menu items such as Baked Tuna Wellington and Fisherman Pot Pie I had to go.

The day I went I brought a friend along and this is what we ordered:

Baked Tuna Wellington,

Pate Chaude,

Lao Pizza,

And we each had a Tiny Pyramid.

Everything was very good. The Wellington and the Chaude were good but a bit on the cold side. If they were served fresh out of the oven then they would have been perfect. The pizza was delicious, highlighted by its crispy crust. I ordered the tiny pyramid because it is so rich that, that amount is all I need to satisfy myself, although I might be lying there. I think I could eat a regular sized one. At any rate I did order a regular sized Chocolate Pyramid and a Frou Frou au Chocolate to take home for my sister at her request. But surprise surprise she didn’t eat it so I got to have it all mwahaha. The chocolate pyramid is to die for and the frou frou is very good also. The frou frou is a white chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries encased by dark chocolate.

I recommend everyone who likes sweets/pastries to try here at least once and now that they have a lunch/dinner menu there are even more reasons to visit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Yakiniku Toraji Diamondhead

A few weeks ago I read about Toraji on anytimegrinds’ forums and coincidentally, later that day, I read about it in the Honolulu Advertiser. That same night I was to go out with my sister to dinner so we decided to go to Toraji. Another coincidence occurred while looking for parking, we ran into three of my friends and thus we decided to have dinner together. We arrived at about 8 PM and we were able to get a table for 5 right away even though we had no reservations. Not bad considering the place recently opened up.

One of the first things that struck us as odd about this place was when my friend asked for tea. They brought her out a tea pot and one of those generic Chinese restaurant clear plastic cups. It’s kind of hard to drink hot tea while your hand is burning?!

After ordering some drinks we ordered the following:

The assorted vegetables were a “service” item.

Niku Sashi (肉刺し; Raw Beef Sashimi with Wasabi Sauce). Although the menu states that it comes with wasabi sauce it actually came with a balsamic sauce, garlic ponzu sauce and the wasabi shoyu sauce. The beef that they served us was very tough and not the grade that should be served as sashimi.

Tan 3 Kyoudai (タン3兄弟 (タン, タンスジ, 上タン); Tongue, Mini Tongue, Special Tongue for 2 People). This was good. We ordered it one more time that night, but then again I have never had bad tongue.

Ebi Shio (エビ塩; Big Shrimp with Salt). Cooked shrimp…MEH. Fyi I am not a big cooked shrimp fan. I love shrimp but I rather have it raw, unless you’re talking about shrimp tempura or breaded shrimp, etc.

Harami Tare (ハラミタレ; Beef Outside Skirt Meat with Original Sauce). This was very good. We also ordered this again that night.

Tri Tip Sirloin Shio (トライチップサーロイン塩; Beef Tri Tip Sirloin with Salt). This was also meh.

Chicken Tare (チキンタレ; Chicken with Original Sauce). My friend ordered this as she doesn’t eat much beef. I didn’t have any of this.

Hotate Shio (ホタテ塩; Scallop with Salt). My sister liked this but I thought it was just large frozen scallops. I have had fresh jumbo scallops from Hokkaido before so I guess I am spoiled. It was ordered again that night, but the funny thing is that the second time around they didn't want to give us the red pepper. Aww made it sooo purty.

Honeyama Tare (ホネヤマタレ; Beef Rib Finger with Original Sauce). This was also pretty good. Their original sauce went well with these juicy cubes of meat.

Toku Kalbi (特カルビ; Premium “Kobe” Kalbi ½ Pound). Ok now this was very disappointing. For $24.75 this was an utter insult. The meat wasn’t marbleized and it was very tough. Not “Kobe” at all. I have had real Kobe, Matsuzaka, Hayama, etc. in Japan so no fooling me here.

Kuro Miso Harami (黒味噌ハラミ; Japanese Dark Miso with Beef Outside Skirt Meat). This was very good. I liked this even more than the harami tare. I guess you can’t go wrong with harami.

Overall this place was so so. I didn’t care for the atmosphere of the main room. Our table was overlooking the beautiful cars driving by on Kapahulu Ave. Also it seemed a bit cramped, although the booths in the back seemed a bit roomier. Also their menu is a bit confusing, not so well organized. I don’t think I can wholeheartedly recommend this place, contrary to Helen Wu’s review of the place. I would say if you want to try Japanese style Korean yakiniku in Hawaii visit Gyu Kaku.

Friday, April 15, 2005

New Combo Menu @ Taishoken

About a month ago Taishoken started offering a bunch of new combo dishes. For $6.95 you get your choice of: chicken katsu, pork katsu, croquette, gyoza or fried chicken which comes with a small bowl of rice, tsukemono (漬物; Pickled vegetables) and small shoyu ramen (miso+50¢).

This is a pretty good deal considering the other two combos they have are nearly two dollars more for either. So I tried the tonkatsu (豚カツ; Pork cutlet) combo twice and have decided that I will never order it again. The reason being is that the ramen, compared to the tsukemen, is served way hotter and I can't eat it right away. By the time I am able to eat it, the noodles are soft, which I can't stand. Also the miso broth isn't the same as the tsukemen miso broth. I could taste the difference each time I had it. I asked our waiter and he confirmed that they were indeed different. He said that they add a bit of vinegar to the tsukemen miso broth and what a difference it makes. I had the miso tsukemen last time and it was good to be back. So much so that after I finished my regular size noodles I upgraded it to a large order which is twice the amount of noodles as the regular order.

Now if they offered these combos with tsukemen as an option I would get a tonkatsu miso tsukemen combo every time but until then I will be ordering my favorite miso tsukemen.

Here are some pictures of the croquette and tonkatsu combos just to give you an idea of the portions. The meal as a whole is pretty filling considering the “choice” is pretty small.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Shokudo Japanese

For a while now I have been waiting patiently for Shokudo to open its doors. What got my curiosity piqued about the place was initially its logo. There’s something about a well designed logo that shows that they care about details. Judging from outside and inside they paid attention to the atmosphere of the place very well. We'll have to see about the food.

I went on a Friday night with about 7 friends and considering that it just opened and it was fairly crowded we only had to wait for about 10 minutes before we got seated.

We started our night with an order of the Dekitate Tofu (できたて豆腐; Freshly Made Tofu). This was good. It was very soft and creamy. It was served with a memmi (soy-bonito-mirin based) style sauce, nori (海苔; Dried seaweed), negi (葱; Green onion) and shio (塩; Salt).

And some chilled Hakkaizan Sake (八海山の酒).

Then we had the Mochi Cheese Gratin. Cheese and mochi…what a great combo. The chewy mochi goes great with the melted gooey cheese.

Tori Tsukune (鶏つくね; Baked Minced Chicken) was our next dish. This was probably a serving for about 4 people but we somehow stretched it between the 8 of us. It was very tasty.

Next up was Kushi Katsu (串かつ; Skewered Pork Cutlet). They offer this with Miso or Tonkatsu sauce, but I asked for both on the side and they happily obliged. I love katsu stuff and I enjoyed this dish with the two sauces. The batter was light and crisp and not too oily. The pork, cooked just right, was juicy and tender.

Tori no Karaage Shichimi Tartar Sauce (鶏の唐揚げ七味タルタルソース; Deep Fried Chicken with Spicy Tartar Sauce) was a must order according to my friend. My friend said this was good and this was good. It is really hard to mess up fried foods. Fried chicken plus the mayo based tartar sauce equals a very tasty treat.

We then ordered the Seafood Dynamite. This was your typical scallops, shrimp and other assorted seafood in a mayo based sauce then baked till the top is caramelized. I was never a big fan of this type of dish. This dish was ok.

My friend ordered the Ishiyaki Kajiki Maguro Ninniku Fuumi (石焼かじきマグロにんにく風味; Garlic Marlin Seared on Hot Plate). I was never a big fan of Marlin. But this dish wasn’t bad. The key was not to cook the fish too long since they sliced it pretty thin.

The same friend that recommended the karaage said to order the Ebi-Mayo Roll (エビマヨロール; Deep Fried Shrimp Sushi Roll). Ok those that know me know that I am a big sushi snob. I am very against non traditional sushi. So of course eating this I was going to be biased against it. It wasn’t bad. Your typical “whatever roll” sushi if you are a fan of that stuff.

Next came the Daikon to Tamago to Butakakuni (大根と玉子と豚角煮; Stewed Pork, White Radish and Egg). Now this was the one I was excited about. To me this seems like what Rafute would be like but I have never had it. I was going to try it at Hatsune-ya but being that it closed down I don’t know where else I can try it in Hawaii. This was very tasty. The fatty pork and the refreshing daikon went excellent together. Too bad I had to share it with my friends!

Followed by the Teppan Saikoro Steak (鉄板サイコロステーキ; Diced Beef Steak on Hot Plate). The steak was ok. The few pieces I had were tough. I don’t think I would order this again.

And lastly was the Teppan Gyoza (鉄板餃子; Gyoza on Hot Plate). This was ok also. I have had better gyoza, such as Taishoken’s. Unless you are a gyoza lover I would recommend ordering something else from the menu.

We had Honey Toast for dessert. I first saw this style of “toast” on Kit-N-Kitchen’s menu. Theirs, if I remember correctly, is prepared as garlic butter toast rather than a dessert. It looked good although I have yet to go and eat at Kit-N-Kitchen. Then when I went to Japan this year I had it in Odaiba. This one was even better than the one I had in Japan since it had the ice cream on it. This was a very good way to end the meal.

The overall night was great. Friends, good food, and drinks in a nice spot… you can’t go wrong. Pricing wasn’t bad either. It came out to about $35 per with tips and drinks. Although the food didn't overly excite me I wouldn't mind going back to Shokudo. There are many things on the menu that we didn't get to try and the place is very nice. Anyone want to go?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Reid's Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

I think I have issues. Reid over at 'Ono Kine Grindz posted his recipe for his Triple Chocolate Cupcakes to participate in last month's IMBB theme. You can check out all the entries here. And since he did I have been thinking about them since. I even dreamt about them this past weekend and I haven't even had them yet! So I suppose I need to make/have them soon. If anyone is reading this and loves to bake and wants to suprise me feel free to do so!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Yohei Sushi

I <3 (heart; love; not a double scoop of ice cream) sushi. My friend's girl-friend was here in town and loves sushi so we decided to go to one of my top five favorite sushi places on the island. I have been going to Yohei Sushi for over 10 years now. My uncle used to take my sister and I there and I have been going there ever since.

Typically when I make reservations I get seated in front of Ryuji. Here is a picture of him working hard along with Kazuto on the right of him.

We started off our night with some locally caught Mebachi Maguro (目撥鮪; BigEye Tuna). The pieces we were served were chu-toro. Looks can be deceiving, although the pieces doesn't look that fatty they were quite creamy and rich. Nothing compared to oo-toro of course but it was good.

Also from the same Mebachi Maguro, we were served with some of the meat skewered and grilled. I think it was the kama (鎌; Collar) meat.

Next up was Tai (鯛; Snapper) and Shabu (しゃぶ; Parboiled Tuna collar; a Yohei specialty). Both were served with ponzu (ポン酢; Citrus-soy based sauce), negi (葱; Green Onion) and Momiji Oroshi (紅葉下ろし; Grated Radish with crushed Red Pepper).

Next we had Hamachi Zuke (鰤ヅケ; Yellowtail marinated in Shoyu).

In between making us our next sushi we got to munch on some hone senbei (骨せんべい; Fried fish bone – called senbei to refer to its crunchy “senbei” like characteristics). This is really good and I recommend you to try it at least once. Goes great with beer.

Next up was the true Yohei Shabu (しゃぶ; Parboiled Tuna collar; a Yohei specialty). This one was served with their miso-mayo sauce and negi (葱; Green Onion). This is how they usually serve it. This is probably one of my favorite things to order at Yohei. It is just so...OMG when you eat it.

The following picture came out really junk but it is of Ama Ebi with Shiso, Uni and Ikura (甘海老と紫蘇と海胆とイクラ; Sweet Shrimp with Perilla Leaf, Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe). The sweet of the shrimp mixed with the rich and sweet of the uni, salty and creamy of the ikura is just awesome. They also brought out the obligatory deep fried shrimp heads. My friend didn’t want his so I got to have two. :o)

Next on our plate was Sawara Aburi (鰆炙り; Seared/Broiled Spanish Mackerel). I learned that the Hawaiian name for Sawara is Ono.

We then had another Aburi, Toro Aburi (トロ炙り; Seared/Broiled Fatty Tuna). If you ever go to a sushi bar that has anything prepared Aburi style, order it. It really brings out the richness of the fatty fishes. My lucky friend got an extra piece stacked on his nigiri.

Saba Battera (鯖; Box Pressed Mackerel Sushi) was next up. Battera is where the sushi rice is placed in a wooden box and is then pressed down with the Saba on top. I prefer fresh Saba Nigiri but this was still good.

This next one caught me by surprise. Up to now I have tried everything that we were served. Ryuji made us Ika with Mentaiko and Uzura Yolk (墨魚と明太子と鶉卵黄; Squid with Spicy Cod Roe and Quail Egg Yolk). I really don’t care for Ika. It’s not that I can’t stand it, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. I can eat it but I never crave it. But this was good. The Uzura Yolk made it really rich. The Mentaiko added a lot of flavor and there was a lingering after taste that was really complex. I have to order this again.

The next one we had I liked and I didn’t. We had Engawa and Hamachi Tataki (縁側と鰤の叩き; Minced Halibut Skirt and Yellowtail). I liked it because it was very good especially with the Negi (葱; Green Onion) and Shiso (紫蘇; Perilla Leaf) but I didn’t like it because I found out that they used the last of the Engawa to make it. You see, I love Engawa and it is probably my number 1 neta (ねた; Sushi topping). I found this out when I tried to order it later in the night.

The next one we had I call Ryuji’s Sake (鮭; Salmon) Nigiri. He uses the Harami (腹身; Belly meat) of the salmon and then adds Goma (胡麻; Sesame Seed), Ikura (イクラ; Salmon Roe), Kaiwari (貝割; Radish sprout), Katsuobushi (鰹節; Dried Bonito Flakes), Shiso (紫蘇; Perilla Leaf), Yamaimo (山芋; Mountain Yam) and a thin pickled thing that I can’t think of the name at this moment. It’s a refreshing change from always eating just plain Sake.

Our second to last order was Sayori (針魚; Halfbeak). Sayori is a really light and refreshing fish. When I order this at Yohei they always give me the skin wrapped around a skewer which is then grilled.

Lastly we had Ikura (イクラ; Salmon Roe) and Uni (海胆; Sea Urchin). Before I really didn’t care for Ikura or Uni but now I love them both. If you don’t care for either/or you might want to try it at a place that has quality fresh Ikura and/or Uni. The taste disparity between cheap Ikura/Uni and good quality Ikura/Uni is huge.

Everything we had was delicious. Yohei Sushi always has a good selection of fresh fish and ingredients. Service is good and Ryuji and Kazuto always make me feel welcome. I highly recommend this place.