Posts Tagged ‘kalbi


Off-Premise: “Oshogatsu” at Off the Wall Restaurant

Oshogatsu (お正月) or Japanese New Year is appropriately celebrated when it is the weekend before Chinese New Year at a restaurant that serves Okinawan food with a twist of French, Italian, and Korean flavors . . . wait a minute, what?!

Well, of course it all makes sense when the celebration is in Hawaii, the catering events company is Off-Menu, and the restaurant is Off the Wall.

The menu for the night.

Off-Menu: the Start

While, some traditions are dying in Hawaii others are beginning to take root. I sincerely, hope that this third Off-Premise event is a sign of things to come and look forward to like the New Year that we all celebrate. While I found the food at Off the Wall not necessarily new and mind-altering, I would daresay that the food was more approachable than Chief Sean Priester’s experiments. They offered something that I would eat on a regular basis or be happy to bring to a potluck, per chance celebrating the New Year or gathering of friends. However, before I get into it all let me lay the scene.

The sun is setting, but the reds and oranges in the sky are still strong enough for sunglasses as I pull into the Pearl Kai Shopping Center. The parking lot is half full, with dinner goers and drinkers trickling in to their affordable eating spots and drinking dives. Out across the uneven parking lot a white tent stands out. It is signature Off-Menu.

I arrive and sign in. I’m handed my table number on a personalized card and handed a sheet of paper. It’s game time. This time it’s not guessing the name of exotic fruits and vegetables. This one is squarely running with the theme of Japanese New Year. The party-goers need to play a matching game of connecting the meaning/symbolism of a traditional food dish to the food name. I stare at the food, the names, and the symbols. I then stare at them again, and then I proceed to fold my paper and stuff it in my pocket. I had realized that studying seven years of Japanese, watching countless anime, and hanging out at my best friend’s house every New Years for o-zōni was not going to help me. Time to mingle.

Can you tell me the meaning of all foods without looking online. Actually, go and look online I doubt you would get it all.

I’m handed a free pomegranate pear spritzer, which is sweet and relaxing, even without the alcohol and grab a caprese skewer. The spitzer with the skewer are perfect for enjoying the weather and the company of old and new friends.  After chit chatting we are ushered behind closed doors into Off the Wall.

I could drink these all day as they had no alcohol . . . wait actually I could drink the ones with alcohol all day as well.

However, this was not the Off the Wall I remembered eating at several weeks ago for dinner. Off-Menu has done it again. They have transformed a tiny space into something else with tricks of lighting and fabric, what was once a local hang out spot for plate lunch, is now a white room with hints of red. It is like an homage to the “Red and White Song Battle” of NHK fame.

Move over salad in a cup, it is salad on a stick!

Off the Wall: the Food

With the visual feast and set-up presented by Off-Menu, and their guests ushered in this hidden white room, the real fun could begin. Off the Wall presented us with five courses.

First up, was Edamame Hummus with Grilled Flatbread and Tofu Katsu Wrap, served with a Soy Sweet Chili Sauce. This was served family style, which was different from the past two Off-Premise events. It was a nice change and kept well with the Asian theme. I would order this for my attempt at “Meatless Mondays” and is a good lunch snack. However, I would like to see the edamame teased out more. I think they should experiment with different types a flatbreads and see, which would hold the hummus better. The tofu katsu wrap was fun and the crunch was there. I think I would like a more crispy bite. More akin to the rolls you would get at a Vietnamese restaurant. Overall, good warm up and a way for people at the table to get acquainted with each other.

Edamame Hummus and Tofu Katsu

Next up was something that surprised me. It was Korean Salmon Carpaccio. Normally, I do not like salmon. However, this Kalbi Salmon Tataki with Kim Chee Garden Salad took me by surprise. When I think of Korean food I do not think of salmon, nor do I think of a searing on the salmon. I personally think that the kalbi compliments the taste of salmon quite well in the way it was presented. I would probably eat this as a salad for lunch. It is light enough, but has a slight spiciness that I like from the kim chee. So compliments to the chefs, as I appreciate it when someone can get me to eat something I normally do not care for. If you want to see a pictures of the Korean Salmon Carpaccio and other food pics from the event check it out at here.

"Asian Shrimp and Chips"

The third course was different for me than everyone else. As you can already guess it has to do with my shellfish allergy. So I can’t really comment on the “Asian Shrimp and Chips” or Sweet Prawn Kaarage on a Bed of Vegetable Fries. Lucky for me I had the chicken kaarage, “lucky” because I love salt. I love salty and crispy. So this suited me just fine.  I thank the chefs for allowing substitution and I recognize their priority is not to wow the solo serving of chicken from the sea of prawns, but to me at the end of the day this was typical chicken kaarage. However, do not take that the wrong way I would probably order it day in and day out at as a plate lunch. I would say it is definitely better than all other places that serve chicken karaage nearby.

The chicken that I had instead of prawn.

Following that was the Braised Shoyu Pork with Okinawan Soba Pasta. This dish is what I was looking forward to and I think it was good, but I think what would have made it for me and other party-goers was if they had not shredded the pork and cubed it. The pork was there, but the consistency of the noodles versus shredded pork had the pork being lost in that texture. Still, I liked the dish and would also order it regularly as a plate of noodles to go.

Where is the pork? It was there, and it was still good.

Even after all that we were given dessert. It was Okinawan Andagi with Azuki Beans and Yuzu Mousse. I enjoyed it. I think it was a little too heavy after four dishes, but I can understand the need to end with something signature Okinawan. I don’t care for azuki beans so I skipped that, but scoped up the Yuzu Mousse. I have to say that the Yuzu could have teased out the citrus flavor more because it was closer to regular whip cream. The green tea powder flaked on the andagi though was a good move and did nice balance of bitter to sweet.

Little balls of deep fried deliciousness.

All in all the meal was filling and there are dishes I would eat again. Would I say this was mind-blowing food? I’ll be honest, no, but it did not have to be. To me New Years celebrations are paradoxes. It is a celebration of the new using traditions of the old. We say good-bye to the past, welcome the future, and all doing this with things we are familiar with. However, every year you may celebrate it with a new friend, new location, a new food. This is what we had. I know the chefs used themes and ingredients they are familiar and comfortable with, but tried to make things that would be a welcome addition to your plate lunch or good eats dinner rotation.

I just needed a pretty image to break up the text, so here you go!

Before I close out this post, I would like to say that the restaurant and its staff was very accommodating. Off the Wall’s serving staff waited on us, and not Off-Menu’s. Lastly, they have a good selection of beers and sakes from Japan and Okinawa to match the dishes they have on hand. Moreover, they have good specials on them on certain nights of the week. I highly recommend stopping by Off the Wall whenever you find yourself out in Aiea and Pearl City area.

With that I look forward to a new year of food, friends, and fun.

P.S. Want another take on the event? Read this HGC and awesome Yelper’s write-up here.


Off-Menu’s Off-Premise 2: Dinner with a little Soul

The sun sets on the warehouses of Waipahu. It is industry and raw, the streets are empty and the surroundings remind me more of my college days in Philadelphia than in Hawaii. However, similar to how these islands are a pocket of land in the middle of the Pacific there is a spot of lights and music in the shadows of industrial Oahu.  In one of the warehouses, hidden in the back from Farrington Highway, there is life. No, there is SOUL.

Everyone should have a little SOUL in their life, no literally I mean you should go to Soul Cafe or Soul Patrol.

This past Saturday (11/13/10), I once again had an invite to Off-Menu Catering Service’s Off-Premise Dinner 2. This time it was with Chef Sean Priester (formerly of Top of Waikiki, and now of Soul Café), who was just awarded the 2011 Hale Aina Award for Best New Restaurant. Chef Sean brought soul and jazz to the affair, but as always with his signature a touch of aloha.

The truck was there, very cool touch!

I know a lot of guests arrived with trepidation, but that soon melted away when tried the Kukui Sausage Chorizo and Black Bean Nachos with Local Sweet Corn-Asiago Cream. This was definitely fun take on Nachos and I liked how different the cream played with the nachos and sausage from traditional cheese and nachos. Added to the fun was that these pupus were served from Chef Sean’s famed Soul Patrol lunchwagon. It was very fun to get food from a truck in the warehouse, and a creative touch to the whole experience.

Nachos, Sweat Tea, and a Game, what a great way to start an evening!

During this time the guests were able to hang out in the front of the warehouse trying to guess what the pictures fruits and vegetables were posted on wall as twilight turned to evening. The diners giggled and munched on their nachos as many of them colluded to try and figure out if #2 was lima beans or edamame (it was lima beans). After the appetizer and guessing was done we were ushered behind black curtains to a tent, but much like how I described the general evening the tent hid another surprise.

Can you guess all 25 fruits and vegetables? I couldn't.

It was a done up like a jazz lounge. Fun and festive, dark and colored lights,, and a DJ spinning jazz, R&B, and other lounge favorites.

I sat at Neo-Soul, I was kind of hoping for Funk.

After sitting we had out salad, but like the nachos nothing what we are used to here in Hawaii. Haricot Vert Salad with Nacked cow feta Citronette is not a salad I’m used to, but that was a good thing. The green beans definitely had more crunch and bite than any old piece of lettuce and provided an interesting backdrop for the cow feta with the balsamic citronette. It was a unique tasting experience, which I appreciated.

This salad had some bite and crunch to it.

Now, for what I considered the highlight of the night, the Braised Kalbi Shortrib Tacos with Kim Chee Sour Cream and Ginger Scallion Tomato Relish. I echo my fellow HGC Member and Yelper when I say this, “Chef Sean, please add these to your menu.” I had two, and I’ll be honest I wanted two more. It was the right amount of meat, which was also nice and tender, spiciness from the Kim Chee, and I found myself digging the relish. Also the flavor of the braising was able to hold its on against all of those flavors. Only thing is I’d say for taco construction (similar to burger construction) is that a little less of the ingredients would make for a less sloppy experience, but then again I do recognize some people like licking their fingers.

I could have probably eaten all 8 given the chance. . . .

I had the chicken version of the SOUL Seafood Jambalaya due to my allergy, but I have to say I enjoyed it, but after the tacos I kind of kept thinking back to them. The spiciness of the Jambalaya was good for someone who likes things mild to slightly spicy. I basically found it easy to keep taking full bites and letting the spices dance in my mouth. However, I felt that out of the dishes that I could get this anytime because Chef Sean has Soul Café, so I would have liked to see something different like the other dishes. This is not say it was a bad dish, but just that I was familiar with it already.

I had chicken, so none of that shrimp in mine.

The evening had a great pacing to it and I was looking forward to dessert, Pecan Pie Cupcakes, provided by another vendor and not Chef Sean.

I have to be honest. I love sweets, cupcakes, and I am game for trying things that I normally don’t like in one form, but being re-presented to me in another form, but I was kind of disappointed with these cupcakes. I understand that Hokulani and Cake Couture have a certain method of making their cupcakes, but if that is the base that a customer is going to envision when eating their cupcake than any new entrant should be aware of this fact. What has predecessors done and have they shaped the market’s view of how the product ought to be? Unfair, but that’s business.

I felt the cupcakes were too reminiscent of some of the drier pastries found on the East Coast. It was more muffin-like than the moist cupcakes that I favor. In addition, many of the other patrons agreed that the frosting was either too greasy or buttery for their palette.

Looked pretty, but could use some work imho.

Despite that I still have to say I had fun for most of the night. I enjoyed all the dishes, the company, and the ambience. Being in contact with the management of Off-Menu I know they have a bevy of fun ideas, venues, and chefs they would like to put forth in an Off Premise context.

Off-Premise Dining is quickly becoming like the garage band that is ready for a stage act. I highly recommend you check out one of the events if you can. It is an experience that may touch your soul, but definitely the stomach.

For a review from a fellow HGCer read this Yelp Review. For more info and pictures check out Nonstop. For details of future Off-Premise events contact Off-Menu.

and that is a wrap . . . until next time!


Raiding one refrigerator at a time!

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