Archive for July, 2015

Yard House introduces menu updates

By
July 16th, 2015



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comFrom Tennessee to Waikiki: Nashville Hot Chicken is now on the menu at Yard House.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

From Tennessee to Waikiki: Nashville Hot Chicken is now on the menu at Yard House.

Yard House has introduced a quintet of new handcrafted cocktails to help you beat the summer heat, borrowing from the romance of the past.

Noting that shows like "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire" have given new life to forgotten drinks, the company's executive chef Carlito Jocson creating the new cocktail collection:

Blood & Smoke: Blood orange and ancho chili spiced margarita made with Del Maguey “Vida” mezcal, El Jimador Silver tequila, Ancho Reyes, Monin Blood Orange, house-made citrus agave and aromatic bitters poured into a salt-rimmed glass.

Bourbon Berry Sour: Made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, housemade citrus agave, Dekuyper Razzmatazz, orange bitters and raspberries for added sweetness.

Hibiscus Rose: A refreshing herbal and botanical gin martini featuring Bulldog gin, St. Germain and Lillet Blanc with orange bitters and Monin Hibiscus.

Sidecar: This classic cocktail steps into the 21st century with D’Ussé VSOP cognac, Cointreau and housemade citrus agave poured into a sugar-rimmed glass.

Cucumber Citrus Tonic: A light, spa-like drink made with Bulldog gin, Aperol, house-made citrus agave, tonic, cucumber and orange plus orange bitters.

You can probably tell the Hibiscus Rose and Cucumber Citrus Tonic are the more female-friendly drinks; the latter was especially refreshing on a very humid Friday evening.

I also enjoyed the Blood & Smoke on its own, though thinking those smokey notes would probably go great with a burger or steak.

New cocktails to help you cool off this summer, from top counter-clockwise, Hibiscus Rose, Blood and Smoke ancho chili spiced margarita, and a Cucumber-Citrus tonic.

New cocktails to help you cool off this summer, from top counter-clockwise, Hibiscus Rose, Blood and Smoke ancho chili spiced margarita, and a Cucumber-Citrus tonic.

The restaurant also added a few new dishes to its summer menu, including Nashville Hot Chicken, a Tennessee variation on Southern fried chicken, inspired by Jocson’s recent visit to the city where it is every bit the local institution as the loco moco and laulau are in Honolulu.

According to area lore, Thorton Prince was served fried chicken doused with extra pepper as punishment after a late night out on the town, but he enjoyed it so much that he and his brothers perfected the recipe and opened Prince's Hot Chicken in the mid-1930s. It's still going strong today.

I can see why. For one thing, who doesn't love fried chicken? This is a twist on the fried chicken and waffle idea, the waffles swapped here for a trio of small sweet potato pancakes.

Then, I love spicy food, and this combines chipotle and pepper with a crisped exterior, and sour-honey hot sauce to help cut some of the heat, though for me, it could have been way hotter.

It's also served with ranch dressing and pickles, and topped with crispy sage.

The California Roll has been remade with a base of pan-crisped koge rice that is perfection. So flavorful it didn't need the sauce.

The California Roll has been remade with a base of pan-crisped koge rice that is perfection. So flavorful it didn't need the sauce.

Everyone serves fried chicken, but no one else offers crispy duck wings, served with a vaguely Southeast Asian herb salad of cilantro, basil, mint and red onion.

Everyone serves fried chicken, but no one else offers crispy duck wings, served with a vaguely Southeast Asian herb salad of cilantro, basil, mint and red onion.

When you think you're done, a fantastic sampler trio of desserts awaits. They included a chocolate souffle cake, banana cream brulee, and apple crisp. I loved them all!

When you think you're done, a fantastic sampler trio of desserts awaits. They included a chocolate souffle cake, banana cream brulee, and apple crisp. I loved them all!

At the other end of the country, Jocson's trip to Portland fueled the addition of Crispy Duck Wings to the menu. It has a vaguely Southeast Asian appeal, tossed with a maple-sambal soy glaze and toasted sesame seeds, then served with an herb salad of cilantro, basil and mint with red onion, all flavors well-represented in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants here.

Other Yard House classics have been updated, such as grilled Korean pork belly now served with kimchi sour cream and green onions, a Cobb salad with several protein options, and a Cobb with kale option.

The California Roll, a staple on the Yard House menu for most of the restaurant’s 18-year history, has also been refreshed, and fans need not worry about the change, which I think is an improvement. The usual white rice now spends time on the grill to get the bottoms nice and crisp. The texture is wonderful.

It's also worth noting that guests who opt to participate in Yard House's Round It Up America program can have their tabs rounded up to the nearest dollar as a painless way to put your spare change to work helping national and local non-profit causes.

Dince 2010, RIUA has raised more than $2 million that has gone toward feeding the hungry, culinary scholarships, international disaster relief, assistance to military families and veterans, and more.

Guests who want to round up when visiting Yard House can ask their server or bartender for more details.

Yard House is at Waikiki Beach Walk, 226 Lewers St. Call (808) 923-9273 or visit www.yardhouse.com.

———

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Healthy is tasty at HiBlend

By
July 15th, 2015



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comHiBlend's Aloha Bowl ($12.50) is a triple combination of acai, pitaya and poi, which really works here, the taro flavor shining through, along with the tropical flavors of mango, pineapple and papaya in addition to strawberries, blueberries and kiwi. It’s finished with honey, mint, granola, chia seeds and bee pollen. Share it with a friend.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

HiBlend's Aloha Bowl ($12.50) is a triple combination of acai, pitaya and poi, which really works here, the taro flavor shining through, along with the tropical flavors of mango, pineapple and papaya in addition to strawberries, blueberries and kiwi. It’s finished with honey, mint, granola, chia seeds and bee pollen. Share it with a friend.

BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Through their HiBlend Health Bar & Cafe, brothers Joey and Miles Sugahara and Jason Chang seem out to prove once and for all that healthy can be tasty and satisfying.

It's not so hard to get people to drink up juices and smoothies because they're refreshing and typically sweet, but on the food side, dishes deemed healthy generally taste green, a color and flavor profile that repels lifelong meat eaters.

Brothers Joey, left, and Miles Sugahara. Joey said he was always into fitness but only recently became interested in the nutrition aspect of health, and by walking the talk espoused by the cafe, dropped 40 pounds in six months.

Brothers Joey, left, and Miles Sugahara. Joey said he was always into fitness but only recently became interested in the nutrition aspect of health, and by walking the talk espoused by the cafe, dropped 40 pounds in six months.

Knowing that, HiBlend offers a range of dishes so diners can get a vegan salad if they wish, but those attempting to transition from an unhealthy diet to a more healthful one do have access to fish, small amounts of bacon and cheese to help greens go down easier.

Joey's savory dressings also increase the flavor quotient.

I love this place for its combination of juices and food. I, for one, cannot survive on a liquid diet. For balance, I need food and most juice bars don't offer any food, or they offer cursory to-go sandwiches, salads and pastries. Chances are those are refrigerated or hours-old or otherwise unpalatable.

Here, food is made fresh to order and always tasty, and Joey said the road to good health starts with changing your relationship with food by recognizing what food is in the first place. It's not about the artificial or the processed. Borrowing from the Paleo philosophy of eating only what our forebears would have recognized as food, it means starting with fresh produce and studying labels to make sure you are getting food, not fillers and chemicals with names you don't understand.

HiBlend uses certified and non-GMO products sources local organic ingredients from Wally's Farm in Hawaii Kai. Here's a sampling of what's on the table:

Candy Greens and a Red Dragon Smoothie. Candy Greens was formulated with kids in mind, a drink that incorporates spinach and kale with the sweetness of apple and pear juices so you don't notice the greens. The smoothie features pitaya, organic grapes, oranges and lilikoi.

Candy Greens and a Red Dragon Smoothie. Candy Greens was formulated with kids in mind, a drink that incorporates spinach and kale with the sweetness of apple and pear juices so you don't notice the greens. The smoothie features pitaya, organic grapes, oranges and lilikoi.

Caprese plus! The classic salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is enhanced with capers, red onions and feta, served over mixed greens with three dressings: garlic citrus aioli, balsamic vinaigrette and pesto.

Caprese plus! The classic salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is enhanced with capers, red onions and feta, served over mixed greens with three dressings: garlic citrus aioli, balsamic vinaigrette and pesto.

This is my favorite dish, ahi tartare served in a half avocado over spinach. The ahi itself is spiked with capers and red onions, and coated with a creamy housemade Caesar dressing. There is a sweet poke option, but I prefer savory to sweet.

This is my favorite dish, ahi tartare served in a half avocado over spinach. The ahi itself is spiked with capers and red onions, and coated with a creamy housemade Caesar dressing. There is a sweet poke option, but I prefer savory to sweet.

I also love the smoked salmon and bacon sandwich served on sourdough bread with tomato, avocado, spinach and a bit of cream cheese, with your choice of the eight house dressings listed below.

I also love the smoked salmon and bacon sandwich served on sourdough bread with tomato, avocado, spinach and a bit of cream cheese, with your choice of the eight house dressings listed below.

The BALT is a BLT with avocado, kale and Pepper Jack on croissant with your choice of eight house dressings: pesto, pesto aioli, garlic citrus aioli, kale pesto, smoked pepper aioli, avocado aioli and kale pesto aioli.

The BALT is a BLT with avocado, kale and Pepper Jack on croissant with your choice of eight house dressings: pesto, pesto aioli, garlic citrus aioli, kale pesto, smoked pepper aioli, avocado aioli and kale pesto aioli.

The watermelon pizza salad features spinach, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries and pear with crumbled goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette, sprinkled with chia seeds and bee pollen. Finish the rind, which is said to be very nutritious.

The watermelon pizza salad features spinach, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries and pear with crumbled goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette, sprinkled with chia seeds and bee pollen. Finish the rind, which is said to be very nutritious.

So healthy and tasty, the Veganese salad of kale, shredded carrots, cucumbers, green apples, celery, red onions, peanuts and mint, with a Thai peanut dressing.

So healthy and tasty, the Veganese salad of kale, shredded carrots, cucumbers, green apples, celery, red onions, peanuts and mint, with a Thai peanut dressing.

The Dragon Bowl starts with dragonfruit, or pitaya, topped with strawberries, blueberries, banana, coconut, granola, toasted coconut and honey sourced from rescued bees.

The Dragon Bowl starts with dragonfruit, or pitaya, topped with strawberries, blueberries, banana, coconut, granola, toasted coconut and honey sourced from rescued bees.

A trio of health shots is also available. These are kick-ass Zester shots of apple, lemon and spicy ginger, at $2.50 a pop. (The boot is about a thumb high.) The other shots are a ginger shot with apple, and Pineapple Express, with pineapple, ginger and mint.

A trio of health shots is also available. These are kick-ass Zester shots of apple, lemon and spicy ginger, at $2.50 a pop. (The boot is about a thumb high.) The other shots are a ginger shot with apple, and Pineapple Express, with pineapple, ginger and mint.

HiBlend Health Bar & Cafe is in the Samsung Plaza at 661 Keaaumoku St., #105A. Call (808) 721-7303 or visit www.hiblendcafe.com.

———

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Viva la French Fry Day

By
July 10th, 2015



PHOTO COURTESY HANK'S HAUTE DOGSMonday is National French Fry Day, and Hank's has a $1 offer for you.

PHOTO COURTESY HANK'S HAUTE DOGS

Monday is National French Fry Day, and Hank's has a $1 offer for you.

Hank's Haute Dogs is celebrating National French Fry Day on Monday by offering $1 natural-cut fries with the purchase of any of its haute dogs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hank's 324 Coral St. location in Kakaako.

The fries are regularly priced at $2.75.

I'd just celebrate the fact that we can celebrate the French fry instead of the Freedom Fry, as they were redubbed back in 2003 to retaliate against the French, who refused to abet our nation's attack on Iraq. It just goes to show you how childish so many of our Congressmen are.

Viva la French fry!

For more information call Hank's at (808) 532-4265 or visit www.hankshautedogs.com.

———

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Who named the poke bowl?

By
July 8th, 2015



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comPa'ina Cafe's Poke Crunch Bowl starts with your choice of white or brown rice with teri glaze, nori and your choice of poke, topped with crispy tempura flakes inspired by udon for awesome texture. They are now approaching a milestone of selling their millionth poke bowl sometime this summer.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Pa'ina Cafe's Poke Crunch Bowl starts with your choice of white or brown rice with teri glaze, nori and your choice of poke, topped with crispy tempura flakes inspired by udon for awesome texture. They are now approaching a milestone of selling their millionth poke bowl sometime this summer.

Ward Village hosted an Auahi Street Dine-Around event on June 29 as an introduction to its newest restaurants — Agu, Bellini, Ginza Sushi, Mexico and Pa'ina Cafe at Ward Centre. I had already visited all of them, but never like to miss out on a potential story, so was willing to retry.

And what a story I found when, at Pa'ina Cafe, co-owner Derek Uyehara hit me with the tantalizing bit of information that he and his partners had come up with the poke bowl name in 2008 when they opened Pa'ina Cafe’s predecessor, The Poke Bowl, at the Ward Farmer’s Market.

It’s amazing because this little bit of Hawaii food history happened within a decade or so, and few of us noticed. I never paid much attention to Pa‘ina Cafe’s catchphrase, “Home of the Original Poke Bowl,” because in these days of excess branding, there’s a lot of cred inflation going on. And, the photographic proof predates Instagram, which launched in 2010.

I truly believe in the future, all claims of food origin will be settled via social media. With chefs and thousands of diners snapping pics of their creations/meals every day on Instagram, coupled with aggregation, it will be much easier for future historians to find first mentions of a specific dish.

When it comes to works of literature or music, authorship can be proven by copyrights, but taking credit for food creations is more difficult.

England’s 18th century 4th Earl of Sandwich is credited for inventing the sandwich when, during a card game, he became hungry but didn’t want to stop playing. As the story goes, he sent a servant to fetch bread and slices of roast beef, thus forever becoming immortalized in the lexicon of food we can’t live without.

But who’s to say some anonymous shepherd didn’t do the same with some slices of lamb when hunger arose in the field? The only difference? No historian was there to document the event.

As marketing became more prevalent, it became more important to establish first-server status as a matter of having proper bragging rights.

Depending on who you believe, the Caesar salad was the creation of Caesar Cardini during a busy Fourth of July, 1924, in his Tijuana, Mexico, restaurant, or by his partner Paul Maggiora, in 1927, or by an employee, Livio Santini, who claimed he made his mother’s salad in the kitchen of Caesar’s in 1925, and that Caesar took his recipe. Thus making Santini’s mother the actual creator.

Locally, the most high-profile battle for credit took place over the Mai Tai, which was either the creation of Don the Beachcomber (Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) in 1933, Trader Vic (Victor Bergeron) in 1944, or music man Harry Owens in 1954. (On a side note, Owens' grandson Alex, also naturally gifted musician, was one of my roomies when I lived in Kailua, but we never talked about the drink.)

Honolulu Advertiser three-dot columnist Eddie Sherman questioned its origin in 1970, causing Bergeron to quip, "Anyone who says I didn't create this drink is a dirty stinker."

Proscuitto and melon was accompanied by bellinis at Bellini.

Proscuitto and melon was accompanied by bellinis at Bellini.

I’ve been writing about food for a quarter century, and I believed the ubiquitous poke bowl was something that has always been around. After all, what could be easier than scooping poke over rice? But as I thought more about it, fish is generally considered one of the most expensive items on a plate, and therefore poke was often a dish served on the side in a small portion on Hawaiian plates, on buffet lines, or sold by the pound at fish markets and grocery stores, to pick on like pupu, or throw over rice yourself at home.

But I never ate poke bowls until Pa‘ina Cafe made it easy to pick one up as a quick, inexpensive lunch.

One reason commercial establishments didn’t put two and two together is because the hot rice would cook the fish, which defeated the purpose of ordering the raw seasoned fish. Cooking poke wasn’t done commercially until poke don Sam Choy introduced us to “Sam’s original fried poke.” I wrote about it in 1997 when he opened Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab. By the time he opened Sam Choy’s Kahului in 1998, he was calling it “Fried Poke Magic” and it was still so new I had to explain it had been “seared and served around a mound of rice.” It was served entrée style on a plate, not in a bowl.

He had launched his Poke Festival in 1991 or 1992, and I attended many over the years. The poke was still a star in its own right, and rice was nowhere in sight.

Guacamole is always made to order at Mexico Restaurant.

Guacamole is always made to order at Mexico Restaurant.

Pa‘ina Cafe co-owner Blaine Kimura explained that he and Uyehara were brainstorming with Uyehara’s brother Craig in 2007, when they needed a name for a concept they were about to unleash, the build-your-own poke bowl. Opting for simplicity, someone said, “Why not just call it a poke bowl?”

“At that time I was looking for a one-handed meal, something you could carry,” Kimura said. “A lot of yogurt shops were opening and I liked the idea of customization. Choose your rice, choose your sauce, choose your toppings.”

But over on the North Shore, Kahuku Superette’s claim to fame is being “home of the best poke,” and Sheraton Waikiki executive sous chef Colin Hazama remembers frequently eating poke over rice there as early as 2006.

“I would go diving out there and eat that before I started working at Rum Fire, which was in 2007,” he said. But the dish was not offered as a poke bowl. Diners simply requested to have their poke served over rice.

I put the poke bowl claim out on social media, and friends and followers quickly piped up that they swore they could get poke bowls at Gyotaku more than seven years ago.

Gyotaku co-founders Tom Jones and chef Nobutaka “Tony” Sato were considering acquiring Suehiro restaurant in 2001, and ate there as way to study the operation.

“They were serving poke with salmon belly, ahi, hamachi and tako, for something like $4.95,” Jones said. “It was the first time I’d ever seen poke made with an assortment of high-quality fish. I thought, ‘Well no wonder they’re losing money, they’re giving this stuff away.’

“A week later, I ordered it again with a side bowl of rice, and I told Tony we’ve got to put this on our menu.”

A deal was struck, the Suehiro name changed to Gyotaku, and in early 2002 they introduced their new dish as “assorted poke don,” using the Japanese word for “rice bowl.”

Calamari, sushi and teishoku plates were served up at Ginza Sushi.

Calamari, sushi and teishoku plates were served up at Ginza Sushi.

Sato, who grew up in Iwate, Japan, said, “Japan has something similar to poke don. We call it zuke don, many pieces of maguro in shoyu over rice.”

“Zuke,” meaning “marinated,” was developed by fishermen during the Edo period (1603 to 1868), as a means of preserving their catch.

“Maybe poke came from zuke too,” Sato said.

He has a point. Hawaiian poke consists of sea salt, limu and inamona. There would be no ahi shoyu poke without the Japanese influence.

Agu's newest creation, Tan Tan Tonkotsu, is topped with pickled Chinese mustard cabbage, baby bok choy and aji tamago.

Agu's newest creation, Tan Tan Tonkotsu, is topped with pickled Chinese mustard cabbage, baby bok choy and aji tamago.

“My background is in the IT business, so we did a lot of searching for poke bowl references online and we believe we were the first,” Kimura said. “As more people, Foodland and Times started offering poke bowls, we came up with spin-offs like the Kewalo Bowl and California Bowl.

“At one point, I was talking to Mel Tanioka, the godfather of poke, and he told me he wanted to start offering poke bowls, and I said, ‘Go for it!’

“Anybody can make a poke bowl, but we wanted to do it for a mass market.”

During our phone interview from California, where he is vacationing, he said he’d seen several poke outlets and as the idea spreads far beyond our shores, he said what’s most important now is to let the rest of the world know that poke and poke bowls are Hawaiian products, no matter who came up with the name.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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