Posts Tagged ‘sake

23
Feb
11

Sushi ii: a place for a really “good” time

Sushi ii

655 Keeaumoku St, Ste 109
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 942-5350

The man that made our stomachs sing, Garrett Wong.

For starters let’s clear up something. This place is Sushi ii (pronounced “ee” as in the Japanese word for “good”), and NOT Sushi 2 or whatever it is called in Waikiki. This happy little eatery is located in the Samsung Plaza and lives up to its name as “good” if not super. Garrett Wong, who has had the fortune of being written about in Honolulu Magazine, and serving the HGC at Natsunoya a year ago, has created a great sushi spot that I would rather keep hidden for my friends and I, then share with the rest of you. However, that would not do him any credit. Anyway, let’s get to the review.

The Good: the Fresh Selection

So much to choose from, where to begin?

At Sushi ii there is an awesome selection of sushi. You want it? Garrett probably can make it or has it. He puts in orders for Japanese fish (as in they are from Japan!) and he really puts care in selecting the freshest and tastiest fish possible.. The Grub Club supplied over fifteen eaters at this establishment and I think we ate almost every kind of fish or crustacean supplied on the menu. Everyone in general seemed please, with the people at the counter getting a nice selection of fish. I will say that the kitchen also makes some great deep-fried moi and flounder. You can tell that Garrett cares when he makes his sushi as well, as generally, you never need to add shoyu and wasabi. It is just right, as sushi should be consumed.

One moi time!

Finally, dessert never disappoints. You would think that you wouldn’t feel heavy and full after eating a bunch of fish, but oh no you definitely can. So I appreciate the lightness of the panna cotta. It is a nice finisher.

The Bad: Wait and Size

I am kind of torn, as this was probably my fault and lack of planning. However, I definitely felt that the kitchen orders for the table group could have come a little faster, but then again when you try to pack in over 15 people at the same time I think that is totally my bad. So it wasn’t Sushi ii’s fault that we had to wait so long, but the wait was bearable due to the BYOB and great company. The size of the restaurant and parking lot definitely will make it a wait some nights. So come prepared, by buying a lot of sake from the Sake Shop.  In terms of the food though, nothing I ate was bad. I would order it again, and would probably like to try more from the regular and special menu.

Wait for this? Absolutely, would do it again!

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5

I would go back and indeed I am trying to plan another dinner for some other friends. I have a bottle of Dai Ginjo and some ideas of what fish I want in my belly. I highly recommend going to the Sake Shop before hand and selecting a bottle of sake or two. The owners of the Sake Shop are friends with Garrett and they definitely know what he is making and help you select a good bottle to go with your meal. For our own part, it was kind of neat I met the owner who made the sake bottle I bought for dinner, which was Mizbasho and it was the Ginjo, which was perfect because it was subtler and matched all the variety of sushi that we ate.

I highly recommend for sushi lovers to check this fun little place out. I also wish Garrett and his crew the best, and hope to see them soon.

See you again real soon!

One More Word

As always please check out my fellow Grub Clubber, Kyle H., who is a better foodie and reviewer than I at this link. Moreover, if you just peruse the other Yelp reviews most people have given it a four or five stars. Also please check out the HGC Flickr photostream for all that we ate that night!

05
Feb
11

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.

03
Sep
10

midnight munchies spotlight: Imanas Tei’s Beef Tongue and Other Goodies

It’s not a secret that I am a big fan of izakaya (居酒屋) food. It’s also no secret that I like to stuff my face late at night. Probably later than one should following sound medical advice. Oh well, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to take wonderful pictures of the food that goes so well with sake or Japanese brew.

Anyway, Imanas Tei, while not technically open till  midnight (and the kitchen closes well before then), is a place I find myself often on Friday or Saturday nights with friends close to midnight, which is perfect because after sake and sushi I can run (may be take labored steps) toward Bubbies for ice cream!

Anyway, here are some of my favorite late night salty treats that go well with sake and friends:

Kinpira (金平) gobo (牛蒡) or burdock is a nice salty and sweet appetizer with a bit of crunch that like to start out with.

Agedashi tofu (揚げ出し豆腐) another nice small dish. I like the texture of the crunch with the soft tofu inside sitting in a nice broth. I think I also delude myself into thinking I’m eating something healthy because it has tofu . . . .

Beef tongue or usually referred to tan shio (タン塩), which literally translates into “tongue salt” because it is usually flavored with salt is one of my favorites. The texture is usually delicate, but slightly chewy and the saltiness erodes any delusion in my head that this is something healthy . . . well there is the lemon and parsley, no? Anyway, I can’t saw if Imanas Tei’s beef tongue is better than Aki-No-No’s because I really just like the beef tongue itself.

You can’t go to a Hawaii izakaya and not get some sort of sushi, or well I can’t. Always one of my favorites is unagi, cucumber, and avocado roll. To me its a classic that I never get tired of and probably could it 3 days a week, possibly 4 if there is sake with it.

Speaking of sake, I love Imanas Tei because it has my favorite sake for izakaya food. Akitabare Junmai “Northern Skies” compliments salty food quite well because of how dry and smooth it goes down. Not to be trite about it all, but the name is highly evocative of a northern skies, crisp and cool. I highly recommend it.




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