Saturday, November 8, 2014

Livestock Tavern

 Livestock Tavern opened just in the latter part of October by the Owners of Lucky Belly in Chinatown. I've heard such great reviews in just the last few weeks that I had to make my way down, even with all the road construction going on downtown. You're that special, Livestock! And you definitely did not disappoint. I will be back if not for their amazingly-tasty and visually appealing cocktails, but also to try some of their different menu items. I wouldn't even mind coming by myself for lunch, as the vibe and feel of the restaurant is so rustic, comfortable and cool. I see this as the place for a business-casual lunch with friends or clients, and if you're off the clock, a stellar place to get some amazing drinks.

A friend and I went there around 1pm on a Friday, and were immediately seated. I thought it would have been packed, but I guess the lunch crowd left early. We ordered the Clam Chowder, Burrata with Pesto/Fig/Arugula and a Lobster Roll each. I thought it was strange that they were out of a few items- the Heirloom Tomato Salad that comes with Cured Duck would have no duck, the Venison Carpaccio had no Venison, but instead prosciutto and no Bundaberg Ginger Beer. What a shame! I hope they fix this soon!

Anyway, everything we ordered was delicious and filling. My favorite was probably the Burrata with Pesto/Fig/Arugula and I would most definitely order it every time! The New England Corn Chowder had a lot of hearty "gunk" as I like to call it, and I'm sure most people can make a lunchtime meal out of it especially with the little slice of Rye Bread that it comes with. By the time the Lobster Roll came, I was on the fuller side of things, but as soon as I grabbed the roll to take a bite, I was astonished as to how soft and buttery the roll was. It was filled to the max with a generous amount of Lobster. Definitely not skimpy, and it better not be at the $18 price tag. The sauce on the lobster was light and not overpowering, which I liked. As much as I enjoyed how soft the roll was, I would have enjoyed it more (and felt not so guilty) if it wasn't so damn buttery!!! The tips of my fingers were shiny as heck with oil.

Next time, I'll be back to try some new cocktails by Alicia and a bunch of other dinner items like the Porridge and Pork Belly, Crispy Trotters (that I've heard so much about!), Shrimp and Grits and Mushroom Stuffed Pasta.

I'm definitely impressed with Livestock. For being open for such a short time, service was on point, albeit a bit slow at times, but always attentive and courteous. Food was served hot and tasty with such unique presentation. Not to mention the presentation of the restaurant itself was unique and notable as not many other places have that aura. You don't feel like you're in Hawaii anymore! (And I kinda like it!)

PS- Be sure to try their Seasonal Sweet Tea, which is an Apple and Cranberry Tea with All-Spice Simple Syrup. I grabbed one to go, and it kept me refreshed the entire day. Really sweet!

"Nothing Gold Can Stay"- Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Aviation Gin, Lime Juice, Spiced Almond Syrup, Apricot Simple Syrup, and Angostura Bitters

Seasonal Sweet Tea to go!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Highway Inn Kaka'ako

 I am a fan of all things Hawaiian food. Laulau, Kalua Pig, Poi topped with Lomi Salmon, Squid Luau, Beef Stew, Pipikaula, Poke, and end with a big slice of Haupia. YES. Now, don't get me wrong, I have and always will be a loyal client of Young's Fishmarket (See post HERE). You won't find anywhere else that makes a better Laulau. Moist, lots of luau leaves (my fave!), seasoned with just the right amount of salt, and loaded with lots of pork and butterfish inside. Oh and don't get me started on their Roast Pork. If you're lucky to get an order fresh and just cut, you are one lucky buggah. It will be the best Roast Pork you've ever tasted, even counting all those Roast Pork/Charsiu butcher shops in Chinatown. But, being the foodie that I am, I just had to try out Highway Inn to see what the hype was all about.

Now, this is the NEW Highway Inn, located in Kaka'ako by Starbucks on Ala Moana Blvd. We arrived on a Tuesday around 1130am, just in time for the lunch crowd. Thankfully, we were promptly seated and there was no wait. I immediately asked the waitress if they had their Salt Meat Watercress Soup that day, and yup, they did! I've read on Yelp that some days they're out of it or don't have it completely. I also didn't see it on the menu, so I'm sure it's a Special! And special, it is. Hoooo, if you have high sodium and high blood pressure, I warn you to be careful with this soup, as it is oh-so-tasty, but definitely on the saltier side. The meat is fork-tender, and the watercress adds a nice refreshing flavor to the salty soup. Take your spoon, add some rice, dip in for some soup, meat and watercress.....DEVOUR. You will not be sorry!

Now, I'm a big Squid Luau lover as well, and I definitely didn't miss that on the menu. It's something about that sweet luau stew with bits of tender squid that float throughout. I have to spill that Pakele's Hawaiian Food shop in Ko'olau Shopping Center has the best creamy Squid Luau and so-so-so inexpensive, you won't believe it. You get a pint for $4.75, less than $5! Where else are you going to get a deal like that!?

However, Highway Inn did not disappoint on the Squid Luau front. Not as sweet as Pakele's (though I like mine real sweet) and a good amount of squid too. This was my perfect Hawaiian Food lunch- Salt Meat Watercress, Squid Luau and some sizzling Smoke Meat!

A friend had the combo plate with Laulau and added Squid Luau (for $3.25) plus a bunch of other gigantic sides of Lomi, Okinawan Sweet Potato, Poi and Haupia. Amazing, filling meal for a great value (less than $20!!), though he said the Laulau was not as flavorful as Young's. Can we say we told you so? Haha.

Hmm, I'm missing something. The star of the show. Highway Inn's Sizzling Platter of Pua'a Uahi or aka Sizzling Platter of Smoke Meat and Pipikaula! Now, the hostess did mention that their most popular dish is the Smokin' Moco. Everything that a typical Loco Moco is, but instead of a hamburger patty, Smoke Meat!! And that Sizzling Platter was so delicious that it was devoured by the 4 of us in seconds. I may just order a Smokin' Moco next time! Smoke Meat is so hard to find here in Honolulu, that when I see it on the menu, there's no question I'm ordering it.

And that, folks, is all you need to know about Highway Inn! Great Hawaiian food, parking is plentiful in their lot or street, and fresh dessert made daily. Stop by Starbucks next door if you need a pick-me-up for that Kanak Attack you're about to receive!

Sizzling Platter of Smoke Meat and Pipikaula

Salt Meat Watercress

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kaimuki Superette

 A friend mentioned having lunch at Kaimuki Superette one day, and I had previously no knowledge of it. I looked it up on Yelp and found it to be a very new lunch/dinner shop in Kaimuki that specializes in lots of fresh ingredients and farm to table menu items. It was opened by the owner of Town, Ed Kenney, just a couple months ago.

Parking is hard. I parked on 9th Ave and there is free street parking. If you park on Waialae Ave, you pay the meter, and usually all stalls are taken. They have a 2-3 really tight parking spaces to the side of the restaurant, but most likely, they will be taken as well.

When I walked in, the place was packed! There are maybe 5-6 small 2 person tables and a big 4 person table plus some bar seats by the window. The place isn't big nor set up for large parties.

My friends finally arrived after going around the block a couple times to find parking, and we ordered. Everyone has said great things about the He'e Roll with tender pieces of octopus, so we all ordered that and also the side sampler with your pick of 5 different sides.

The He'e Rolls arrived stuffed with hefty pieces of octopus with a creamy sauce and small slices of celery, bread was soft but had crispy edges. I got down to business and devoured the whole thing in no time. The sides all had very unique taste combinations. Watermelon with jalapenos, Quinoa with veggies, Family Tomatoes with cheese, Beets and Pesto, and Butternut Squash. I liked the Quinoa and the Tomatoes, but the one that stuck out in my mind was the Watermelon and jalapeno. It was juicy and refreshing with a tinge of spice at the back of your throat. Still undecided whether I liked it or not!!

I still felt hungry after eating everything, and as we sat and talked, I decided to see what their desserts were all about. I ordered the Mango Crumble and the Olive Oil Cake with Lilikoi compote to share. I'm not big on sweets, but I must admit these were delectable. Mango Crumble came out warm with a side of homemade whipped cream and the Olive Oil Cake was moist with lilikoi scattered on top. I was impressed. I think it was better than the entree!

The food here at Kaimuki Superette is not something I crave on a regular basis, but it was great to try. I walked out feeling fresh and healthful after and maybe still.......a bit hungry, which was just a testament to their fresh, local ingredients. Would be more tempting if they added juices/smoothies to their menu using the fresh ingredients too!

PS- Stock up on fresh, homemade Chili Pepper Water, Opah Belly in Olive Oil, and a variety of jarred fruits and pickled veggies.

Watermelon with jalapeno, Quinoa, Tomatoes and cheese, Beets and Pesto, Butternut Squash

Olive Oil Cake with Lilikoi Compote

Mango Crumble with homemade Whipped Cream (not pictured)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monkeypod Kitchen

 Another one of Mom's favorite places to dine is Monkeypod. I just didn't know why. I went when they first opened, and wasn't amazed. Sure, their Kale Salad was good but I wouldn't drive all that way for "ok" food. Then, years later, about a couple weeks back, I gave it another try after Mom's once again, "rave reviews." Whenever she needs a little getaway, she drives all that way to have the Poke Tacos accompanied by a nice glass of wine.

Dad was away on a trip, so I decided to join Mom for a nice lunch before I played some golf later that afternoon. I ordered Monkeypod's infamous Mai Tai to start. WOOOO, boy is that drink dangerous! Dark and light rum plus a delicious honey-lilikoi foam. Mmmmm! I warn you it is strong, so be sure to drink some water with that drink!

Next we ordered a couple dishes to share. Mom couldn't go without the Poke Tacos (and I was curious to try it too!) and also the Bourgeois wood fired pizza, which is topped with Big Island Lobster, Hamakua Wild Mushroom, Garlic White Sauce, Parmesan and Thyme. Really amazing combination. The lobster was surprisingly ultra tender, not rubbery at all! I would definitely get this next time with the Poke Tacos!

What was also nice was that the bartender was generous enough to give us some sample tastes of wine that we were curious about. I find small things like this have a big impact on return clients. And well, we'll definitely be back.

Verdict? My mind has did a 180 for Monkeypod, thanks to Mom! I will definitely be back for that deliciously-opulent Lobster Mushroom Pizza, and I'm definitely trying the Pod Thai drink complete with all things Thai- Rum, Creme de Coconut, Lime, Lemongrass-Cardamon Syrup, and Thai Basil. Yum!

Mai Tai!

Stop by Island Vintage Coffee right next door to Monkeypod to have a sweet Hawaiian Honey Latte after lunch or dinner!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shaloha Pita

 One of the questions I get asked most often is "What is your most recent favorite place to eat?" And most recently, my answer has been an ecstatic "Omg, Shaloha! It's this little gem of a place I wish I found sooner!" And trust me, I wish I had found it sooner. Really. How I first came across Shaloha was in Foodland Farms. I saw their 6 piece Pita bags on a little bread stand when I first walked in. Even though it is at a steep $6.99 per bag, after the first bite, there was just no turning back! I decided to find this little shop and check out what other great eats they have. That's where the enlightenment began. Falafal, Shawarma, Schnitzel, Taboulee, Pita chips and Hummus.....what more could you ask for!? Oh, yes, Sage, the Owner. He is the topping on the cake! What a gem. Just a very entertaining, genuine, passionate-about-his-food type of guy. And he is very well known. Any and everyone that I've talked to about Shaloha and has picked up food from there knows this guys and speaks nothing but goodness! Talk about some damn good PR. Hi, Sage!

I took a minute to look at the menu on the wall and while standing there, Sage offered me a slice of pita dipped in some of his amazing hummus. He's got this thing wired. Hit em with the hummus and get em hooked! And that's just what happened...

After ordering the Falafal Pita, it arrived in front of me packed with lots of toppings and stuffed to the max with the falafal practically falling out. He also was nice enough to give me the Student Deal (even though I told him I wasn't a student anymore) which comes with a free side, so of course, I ordered the Pita Chips with Hummus! I guess it's nice to look much younger than I really am! Everything was delicious and the Pita was nothing short of spectacular. It will be the most soft Pita you've ever had. Naturally. It's so good I have a 6-pack in my freezer right now! You may pick those bags up at Foodland or at his shop, located very close to St. Louis Drive Inn, a laundromat, and L&L in Kaimuki.

I went a second time, and sadly, Sage wasn't there. Anyway, his awesome workers set me up with a delicious Shakshuka Pita. I had wanted to try this since Day 1, but could only eat so much! Shakshuka are farm eggs poached in a tomato sauce. This is then stuffed into the ultra-soft pita bread and served. It's become what I crave on a weekly basis. That, and the damn addicting Pita Chips and Hummus! PS- Must eat the Pita Chips immediately or they get a bit soggy after sitting.

Need a refresher? Their Lemonana, mint-infused lemonade will freshen you right up and quench that thirst. It's so light and crisp with the little bits of mint that float throughout the drink.

One more piece of info you may want to know. When I was talking to Sage the first time there, I had asked him why he doesn't make a tzaziki sauce (which is one of my favorite dips that I recently learned how to make myself!). He explained that he has a tahini sauce that he uses, and that his food is not Greek, it's Israeli. Ding Ding! Well, hello, first time trying Israeli food, and turns out I love Israeli food!

Folks, this is a MUST MUST TRY. If you don't like the food (but trust me, you will), at least you will be charmed by Sage and his contagious humor. A gem of a guy!

Lemonana with Mint!

Pita Chips sprinkled with Zaatar and Hummus!

Taboulee and Israeli Salad sides

Falafal Pita


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood

 After months and months of hearing rave reviews from my Mom, a steak lover and steak connoisseur, I was finally able to join my parents for their Anniversary Dinner at Signature. As a loyal customer to both Ruth's Chris and Hy's, I was skeptical. But lo and behold, Signature lived up to its name.

Mom ordered her usual New York Strip, while Dad and I shared the 28oz Wagyu Longbone!!! What an amazing cut the Longbone is- my pictures just don't do it justice. It is a large 28oz with the bone, and without the bone, 20oz of buttery, tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat that was perfectly cooked. After talking to the Manager, we learned that their steaks are wet-aged vs dry-aged. He told us dry-aged changes the taste of the meat, but wet-aged enhances the flavor of the meat. At the end of the meal, my parents and I were brought a generous slice of ultra chocolate-y 6 Layer Double Chocolate cake straight from Liliha Bakery in honor of their anniversary.

I can't say enough about the steak, but then there's the side dishes that are just as exquisite. Don't want to brag or anything, but I didn't think any other restaurant's Brussel Sprouts could beat my own. I was wrong. I like my Brussels Sprouts to have light and crispy outer leaves, however Signature's was moist and salted up with little slices of bacon heaven. If I knew how delicious they were going to be, I would've had two orders of the Brussels! And don't think you need to order rice or a big baked potato, you will do just fine with their Truffle Mashed Potatoes that come with every entree. A great value, I must say.

Mr. Peter Kim, the owner of Signature and many other restaurants that include Yummy's, Lahaina Chicken Co, and both Liliha Bakery locations, came by to say Hello to my Mom and Dad (as they are regulars there). Great guy! I can see how his determination, ambition and smarts has raised him to the level he's at as The Restauranteur.

Can't wait to head back to Signature to try their Happy Hour menu and Spicy Bloody Mary aka BZT with Sriracha, Wasabi and a big crunchy Bacon strip! Not to mention, the views from the 36th floor of the Ala Moana hotel are breathtaking at Sunset. Highly recommend!!

Wagyu Longbone! 28 oz of goodness!

New York Strip

Brussel Sprouts

Truffle Mashed Potatoes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lucy's Lab Creamery

Earl Grey and Strawberry Jam!

There are very few sweets shops that I crave. Via Gelato is one, and has been a favorite of mine from when they started as just a little gelato truck that could be found in Kahala and sometimes in town.

Then, came the anticipated opening of Lucy's Lab Creamery in Ward, a couple shops down from one of my favorite clothing stores, Bamboo Sky. It's dangerous when those two places are so close in proximity!! Shop, ice cream, shop, ice cream. Could become a vicious cycle!!!

I was able to head over to Lucy's one night when they were offering half off during their Grand Opening from 5-9pm. As I walked up to the line that was forming outside this little ice cream shop, I was excited to try everything. Turns out, they were out of all of their unusually-strange, but tempting flavors like Bacon Whiskey, Sea Salt Caramel, and last but not least Honey Lavender, which I dream about on a daily basis. The guy helping me was so nice, though, and let me try a sample of those flavors since they still had some left, but not enough for an order or scoop.

I ended up ordering a scoop of Fruit Loop Vodka with Fruit Loops on top and also a Pan De Creme filled with Earl Grey and Strawberry Jam. I had high hopes for the Fruit Loop Vodka, and low expectations for the Pan De Creme just because I can't imagine eating bread with Ice Cream! But wow, how wrong was I! The Pan De Creme is stuffed with the ice cream and jam and then smooshed in a machine with a round center opening. Looks like it's made for cooking a single burger patty. I haven't seen anything like it anywhere! Anyway........give the machine a few seconds and BAM, your Pan De Creme comes out warm and perfectly enclosed! Then cut that bugger open and out comes oozing ice cream and jam! To me, this Pan De Creme thing is GENIUS.

The next time I passed by and was craving one, I walked right in and ordered a mix of Honey Lavender and Blueberry Jam, which was The Ultimate Combo. Mind. Blown. Will be getting that for the rest of my life, thank you very much!

The only negative about Lucy's that I don't like is that their hours are so wacky and inconsistent! You must always check their instagram (@lucyslabhi) to see if they are open before heading there, or you could be driving a long way just to see a "Closed" sign.

If you're into gelato and ice cream, Lucy's is a must try! Enjoy!

Honey Lavender and Blueberry Jam Pan De Creme!