Archive for the ‘Pop-ups’ Category

Ramen Lab popped into Lucky Belly

November 28th, 2012
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ramentNadine Kam photos
Old School Tokyo ramen was one of three ramen options offered at the Sun Noodle Ramen Lab pop-up at Lucky Belly Nov. 25. The chicken and shoyu broth was topped with ajitama egg, charcoal-grilled char siu, wafu spinach and bamboo shoots. The flat, medium thick noodles are most popular with ramen lovers in Japan today.

Most people still think of Sun Noodle as the little company in Kalihi that supplies our ramen houses and makes pi for our won ton soups.

But the company, founded in 1981 by Hidehito Uki, is a major player on the national food scene due to the growing popularity of ramen. After shipping noodles to California and Washington for years, the company opened a Los Angeles factory in 2004, started shipping noodles to New York a year later, and now has established Ramen Lab in New Jersey, where executive chef Shigetoshi Nakamura helps would-be ramenya owners develop original menus and concepts for their restaurants.

They've also helped established restaurateurs like Marcus Samuelsson, who wanted a recipe incorporating Ethiopian teff flour.

With much of the country yet to discover the joys of ramen, it's definitely a business with an upward trajectory.

Nakamura was in the house at Chinatown's Lucky Belly on Nov. 25 for a one-night Ramen Lab popup. The particulars: No reservations, first come, first served from 5 p.m. while supplies lasted, and there were at least 60 people lined up from the corner of Hotel and Smith streets to Little Village, after the first in line, from about 4 p.m., were admitted.

I arrived at about 5, but was lucky enough to be part of a group that had been second in line at about 4:15 p.m.

The chef presented three types of ramen, representing local, Japan and New York styles. With the enthusiasm generated by this popup, more events may be coming our way. It's only fair, given that Hawaii has offered a warm, supportive environment for Sun Noodle to grow up.

rameniNew York Heritage ramen is Italian inspired, in a tomato broth topped with basil, crimini mushrooms, Italian sausage and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The chewy, curly temomi noodles are best sellers in Hawaii and New York. You need to be in the mood for Italian to enjoy it. I ordered this because I like different, but what I really craved was the Tokyo combination of pork and egg.

ramenTonkotsu black ramen with thin, straight hakata noodles, pork broth topped with sumibiyaki charcoal-grilled char siu, kikurage (cloud ear mushroom), scallions and drizzled with black garlic essence. These noodles should be eaten quickly. Alas for the food blogger, time required for photography takes time from enjoying the ramen at its optimal.

ramenchefSun Noodle Ramen Lab executive chef Shige Nakamura and his wife Maiko.

ramenshirtHisae Uki, daughter of Sun Noodle founder Hidehito Uki, wears a Sun T-shirt touting outposts in Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York.

'Ilima Awards 2012: The way we dined

October 11th, 2012
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ikissNadine Kam photos
PR woman Kristin Jackson, left, in her other life as Kiss My Grits restaurateur, with Kim Oswald. Kiss My Grits was a double winner in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's 'Ilima Awards. The public voted it "Best New Restaurant," and critics gave it one of 22 Critics Choice Awards.

Work on the annual Diamond Head Theatre and Honolulu Star-Advertiser 'Ilima Awards officially begins in June, but the work actually continues all year as we eat our way through many, many restaurants and take notes on what was memorable and what we liked best.

June is when I and fellow food and entertainment writers—Joleen Oshiro, Nina Wu, Elizabeth Kieszowski, Jason Genegabus and Betty Shimabukuro—start comparing notes in advance of the October announcement of award winners, and soon after, we start fanning out to make sure the restaurants are continuing to perform well.

ilimaWe try to include mix of restaurants high, low and spots in between for diversity that reflects the entire dining scene. Of course, for the restaurants, it helps to have a visible profile throughout the year to remind us who's out there. There are many more restaurateurs who go about running their restaurants in a low-key way, and I admit we always miss a few of these. I already have a few in mind that didn't make the book this year but deserve another look next year. And, of course, it helps to open before August, when our decisions are finalized.

Click book for a look inside.

If you're wondering why I disappear from Facebook and Twitter all summer, it's because of the extra task of helping to write the book. The reward is the annual 'Ilima Awards ceremony that took place Oct. 8, a benefit for the theater, that begins with cocktails and a DHT song and dance performance honoring the award winners.

This year marks the 17th annual awards, which started in partnership with the Honolulu Advertiser before our papers merged.

On stage, Loretta Ables Sayre—straight from her star turn in "South Pacific" on Broadway—joined the cast and cracked up the audience with a particularly suggestive number sung to the tune of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," which had her getting up close and personal with a few of the representatives from Kiss My Grits, Prima, Lahaina Grill and Amasia, which included the Lahaina Grill rep burying his head in her bosom.

Other highlights included "Funny Girl" star Isabelle Decauwert singing about food to the tune of the musical's "Don't Rain on My Parade," and Tricia Marciel bringing hilarity to the otherwise bittersweet tune of "The Way We Were," sung as "The Way We Dined."

And, a representative from 3660 on the Rise provided one of the most entertaining moments of the night during the finale, when the members of the youth ensemble Shooting Stars got him to his feet and he joined in, rather well, on matching their dance moves.

Then, it was all about tasting, and the ultimate reward was hearing from guests that they enjoyed sampling from restaurants that they hadn't heard of prior to that night.

isouthernKiss My Grits offered a generous combination of catfish, okra and black-eyed peas, along with grits and hush puppies, below, that all threatened to fill a diner up before hitting any other booth. I missed the bread pudding that came later.

igrits

ibistroAlan Takasaki, left, is the chef-owner of this year's Critic's Choice of Best Restaurant, Le Bistro. He was cooking up shortribs, below:

ishortrib

imatsubaraAzure executive chef Jon Matsubara with his inspired sambal clam banh mi and liquid brandade.

iazureDiners accustomed to grabbing a plate were caught off guard when Matsubara placed the cracker-style "banh mi" in their hands, instructing them to take a bite, then follow with a sip of the chowdery salt cod brandade.

icupsThe stack of small brandade cups caught the eye of our 'Ilima Awards book page designer Joe Guinto, who admired their architectural form. (more…)

Ikemen brings Hollywood style to Yataimura ramen

June 22nd, 2012
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ikemen1Nadine Kam photos
Ikemen CEO Max Kawabata with his Back Draft dip-style (tsukemen) ramen, $11 at Shirokiya's Yataimura through July 4. Chewy Sun noodles are served with char siu pork and tonkatsu broth stirred with green onions and ground beef chili paste. The close up is below.

Max Kawabata already has six restaurants in Japan, with cuisines ranging from izakaya fare to barbecue.

It would have made sense to repeat one of his successes when he made his move to Los Angeles, but why go the easy route? Not one to repeat himself, his Hollywood debut came via ramen, and Lady Gaga, among other celebs, is a fan.

You can check it out firsthand during the two weeks Ikemen has set up shop at Shirokiya's Yataimura.

Although Ikemen offers the soup ramen most familiar here, its specialty is tsukemen, or dip-style ramen, in which the noodles are served at room temperature and dipped into a warm Ikemen pork broth.

The tonkatsu au jus, as it's called, is then enhanced with other ingredients in variations of the basic ramen. Inspired by the change of address—right at 1655 N. La Brea and Hollywood Boulevard—names of dishes are inspired by Hollywood. These would include the Johnny Dip (a basil-enhanced, pesto-style broth), the fiery Back Draft, and most amusing, the Ghost Buster, a cream of mushroom broth with a marshmallow reduced in flames and stirred into the broth on the spot in an homage to "Ghostbusters" Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!

Bring your friends so you can try the various broth selections. They were all good, I finished every last noodle, which is amazing considering I've never been able to finish a bowl of ramen anywhere else. I'm hoping they pick up so many fans here that they'll have to open an Ikemen outpost here, though with Kawabata at the helm, it may morph into some other restaurant entirely!

The stylish Ikemen team will be at the Yataimura through July 4.

ispicy

izebraZebra dip ramen ($9) is Ikemen's top seller in Hollywood, with the tonkatsu au jus spiked with roasted garlic flavor.

itorchJimmie Heabea, a k a Jimmie Heaven, torches the marshmallow that gets stirred into the Ghost Buster ramen ($12) in front of him.

puftWho you gonna call?: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goes from benign to evil in "Ghostbusters."

ikementorchAnother view of the torching by photographer Craig Kojima.

ibrothDipping broth options, from left, are the Johnny Dip (pesto), Zebra and basic Ikemen dip of tonkatsu au jus with green onions and topped with fresh-shaved bonito, made from the stacked fish below. A side order bowl of Adachi bonito flakes is $3.

ibonitoIkemen general manager Takashi Adachi prepares, smokes, ferments and dries the fish through a process passed down through his family for more than 200 years. Before serving, the fish is passed through a katusobushi machine, reducing it to fine shavings.

'Eden Eats' Burmese at Lemongrass Cafe

March 16th, 2012
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pgcNadine Kam photos
Pacific Gateway Center executive director Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, left, and chef Aye Aye Maw, right, welcomed Eden Grinshpan, host of the Cooking Channel program “Eden Eats” to PGC's Lemongrass Cafe March 15 for a taping of a Honolulu episode of the show.

I admit to selective hearing sometimes. Invited to a popup dinner at Pacific Gateway Center's Lemongrass Café on March 15, I heard mainly "Burmese food," and maybe something to do with the Cooking Channel.

Dinner will start at 6, I was told. Two-and-a-half hours later ...

Beyond simply enjoying a cuisine I'd never tried before, the event was made-for-television, meaning a lot of delays and waiting. I felt like an actress, prepared to smile, perk up, animate and be excited on cue. Not one to emote, that's not easy for me. Put it this way: When my Kailua house was robbed of jewelry, all the contents of my dressers strewn throughout the bedroom, I overheard the police officers talking outside, saying they didn't believe me because I was too calm and rational. What was I supposed to do, cry, be hysterical? That's not me.

pgceden
Le Cordon Bleu-schooled Eden prepares to dig into the mohinga, a breakfast staple in Myanmar.

The crew of "Eden Eats," hosted by Eden Grinshpan, was delayed getting to the restaurant after filming malassada action at Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua. By about 7:30 p.m., other diners were allowed to start eating, but not the head table, where I was sitting and most of the filming would take place. Sitting next to me, Makana Shook said she was prepared to eat my arm. I was actually grateful for the delay because I had eaten lunch at Chun Wah Kam, and was still sated eight-and-a-half hours later.

The other diners paid for their earlier start, though, when at 10 p.m., those who wanted to leave were asked to stay for the sake of keeping the restaurant filled from beginning to end. We were released at about 10:30 p.m., easily a 12- to 14-hour day for most of the guests. People may have been tired or nervous because there were at least three incidents of tipped glasses over the course of the evening, though none while cameras were rolling.

The premise of the show is to peek into the sometimes strange world and kitchens of immigrants across the nation rebuilding their lives in the United States, recreating their cultures through food. It's a great concept, and you can get a taste of it at director Samantha Schutz's projects site. That is, if you don't mind a few bloody bits. True foodies wouldn't flinch.

The Honolulu show will air sometime in August.

The TV crew had the option of Ethiopian fare or Burmese, but Aye Aye Maw's Burmese cooking won the day. Her menu of ginger salad, shrimp fritters, cucumber salad, mohinga—a fish sauce and rice noodle soup that is the national dish of Burma—and tapioca dessert did not disappoint. (Read more in my column coming up March 21.) After a month of popups, she'll begin offering Burmese meals every Sunday from 6 p.m., at a very reasonable $20 per person.

"It's not for profit at all," she said. "I just want people to know what is Burmese food."

pgcmohingaMohinga, a thick rice noodle soup that is the national dish of Myanmar, is brought before the camera.

pgccucCucumber salad.

pgcshrimpShrimp fritters accompanied by an herb-filled tamarind-fish sauce and Burmese black tea, for sipping, not dipping. Unbelievably yummy!

pgccamerasCameras roll as Eden speaks with Dr. Thein, who also hails from Burma, and the chef.

pgcchipsPotato chips and shrimp chips kept hungry diners fueled before dinner started. Diners who said they never eat potato chips, finished off every bowl offered.