Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hawaii Journal Day 9: Dim Sum and More

Day 9: Monday

So, the trip is winding down. Today is the second to last full day. It's time to start winnowing the choices and going back to any places we simply can't resist.

Breakfast: Mei Sum Dim Sum Looks Fun

If you are a regular reader, you know that both my oldest daughter and I are big dim sum fans, so we headed back to Chinatown for a morning of dim sum. Mei Sum is a small restaurant, a far cry from the usual palaces, with a fairly typical dim sum menu; while they do have carts, at least during off hours, you order off the menu. We had all the standards, served in bamboo steamers, which was refreshing as most everywhere you go these days has metal steamers. The dim sum was good, though nothing too different from what we're used to in the San Gabriel Valley. The one thing Mei Sum excelled at was look fun, the wide rice noodles that encase various meats. The look fun at Mei Sum were delightfully greasy and porky with a great, chewy texture. We had two look fun dishes: shrimp and char siu. The char siu was stuffed with julienned pork strips...great stuff. My guess is that these were hand made look fun, either made in-house, or more likely, made by the nearby Ying Leong Look Funn Factory, one of the last factories making handmade fun.

Mei Sum
65 N. Pauahi St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
(808) 531-3268

Lunch: Gulick Deli

With our time here growing short, we really had to start getting to places if we wanted to visit. One of the things we definitely wanted to do was spend a day on the beautiful beaches of Kailua on the windward (east) side of the island. Unfortunately, we chose to do this on a Monday, and my two favorite Kailua eateries, Kuulei Delicatessen and Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop (for malassadas), are closed on Monday.

Instead, we brought food from yet another Honolulu okazuya. There is really no better beach food than okazu. You pick it up early, it's good luke warm, and you can wipe the grease off your fingers in the ocean.

Gulick Deli is an esteemed okazuya in the Kalihi neighborhood which now has a branch on King Street. We stocked up for the beach trip with all manner of okazu from chow fun to fried shrimp. Unfortunately, most of it was just average. There were a few stand outs, though. The spicy chicken, a fried, sweet glazed chicken was very good, as was the butter fish. Butter fish is an extremely oily fish, related to Chilean sea bass and black cod. The appropriately named fish melts in your mouth like...margarine. My experience has been that it's good almost everywhere; Gulick served its butter fish as broiled steaks.

Gulick Deli
1936 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826

Dessert: Shave Ice at Keneke's

On our way back from Kailua, we had a hankering for shave ice, so we stopped by Keneke's in Waimanaolo (see Day 2 for a review of their excellent plate lunch). I know I've had Keneke's shave ice before, but I had no discernible memory of it, which means it was at least 20 years ago.

Well, it turns out, they do a fantastic shave ice. The flavors were crisp and rich, the ice texture was soft and the quantity of ice cream and beans was good. Instead of whole azukis, Keneke's uses a mashed beans paste, which has the unfortunate quality of looking much like canned, refried beans, but the taste is pure azuki. This shave ice certainly rivals the best on the island. It will become a regular part of my Keneke's visits.

41-857 Kalanianaole Highway
Waimanalo, HI 96795
(808) 259-9804

Dinner & Dessert: Diamondhead Market and Grill

Ever since my first visit to Diamondhead Market and Grill on Day 3, I've been obsessing over it. It's definitely the most exciting new place I've been this trip, and I know that the next time I eat a scone in LA, I will sigh dreamily thinking of the wonder that is the Diamondhead blueberry scone.

Given all of this, I wanted to try their dinner plates. We ordered a teriyaki chicken burger, a teri hamburger and a kalbi plate. All of these were good, but none was excellent. Breakfast is definitely the thing to get at the Grill.

For dessert, we bought a few treats at the adjacent market. These were great. The blueberry cheesecake is lusciously creamy with just a dollop of pureed blueberries. The haupia sweet potato pie is a shortbread crust topped with a layer of Okinawan sweet potato and some very good haupia (coconut pudding) - a dessert with real Polynesian roots. The Diamondhead tort is essentially a banana cream pie with peanut butter; even though I'm not a big banana fan, and it was very strongly banana flavored, the salt of the peanut butter served such a good counterpoint to the bananas that I munched it down.

So got to Diamondhead Market and Grill for breakfast and dessert, but skip the dinner plates.

Diamondhead Market and Grill
3158 Monsarrat Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-0077

Tomorrow: North Shore Part II and a Rotund Chef

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