THE KAERU KID: Long Way to Kau Kau

My favorite Nichi Bei columnist is Ryan Tatsumoto, the Gochiso Gourmet, because I am an unrepentant foodie. He writes in an interesting way and always presents some new nugget of information. A golden opportunity to meet him presented itself when I was given a very cheap airfare to Hawai‘i.

For first time visitors to O‘ahu, my personal list of must-do items includes the USS Arizona Memorial, snorkeling at Hana‘uma Bay, the Polynesian Cultural Center, surfing at Waikiki (if you can’t do it here, you won’t be able to do it anywhere), and seeing giant waves in winter months on the North Shore. I also fondly remember the tours of the old Dole Pineapple Factory. In my mind the present Dole Pineapple Plantation is a poor substitute, but for those who never had the opportunity to see the original factory, this might be of interest and includes the world’s largest maze. Other places of interest would include Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout, the Halona Blowhole, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl cemetery), Tropical Farms in Kane‘ohe, and Waimea Valley with its waterfalls. If you are also planning on visiting Maui, the helicopter and submarine rides there might be a better choice.

I had contacted Ryan before my arrival and he suggested we meet at Ryan’s Grill (no relation) at Ward Centre. I was saddened to see many restaurants in this area closed because of the poor economy and its effect on tourism, etc. He wanted to take me to Side Street Inn where Anthony Bourdain filmed the “No Reservations” Hawai‘i segment, but didn’t because of the poor parking situation there. Ryan’s Grill has a large beer selection and the food was good, but the Gochiso Gourmet’s company was the treat. When asked about the best dives to visit on O‘ahu, he referred me to two Websites that were a joy to read; my only disappointment was not having the opportunity to even scratch the surface of the many described eateries. The recommended sites are www.khnl.com/global/category.asp?c=63631 and http://tastyisland.wordpress.com.

My stay was in the Hawai‘i Kai area with a CouchSurfing (www.couchsurfing.com) couple. He is a local rep for a California beer company. A friend suggested visiting Hide-Chan Restaurant in Honolulu, saying it was good basic Japanese food at a reasonable price. My hosts were the only haoles in the crowded room and it turned out to be a good indicator of the quality of the food.

One place I had missed on my previous O‘ahu visits was the Valley of Temples with the Byodo-In replica. The original is located in Uji on the outskirts of Kyoto. The Valley of Temples is actually a mortuary with areas for all different religions. It is a beautiful tranquil place that can be recommended for all visitors.

It was time for lunch as I drove along the Kamehameha Highway to try the shrimp trucks in Kahuku, where shrimp are farm-raised right behind the trucks. I saw several trucks as I drove this area and had heard the most popular were Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck and Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp Hut. Readers can chime in with their favorites. I had the huge spicy prawns at Romy’s and finished with a Samoan dessert called pani popo. It is a sweet bun with a coconut filling.

A nostalgic stop was made at Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. Most shave ice on the mainland just don’t get the ice as fine, and most also do not offer azuki beans. I didn’t have the time to try Waiola Shave Ice in the Honolulu area, but some have said it is the best choice.

Nico’s Pier 38 was a recommended seafood place, but alas it must serve only lunch because it was closed for dinner. Sugoi’s, on my list, was nearby but it also was a lunch-only place. Two neighboring restaurants had few patrons, but then there was Utage Restaurant & Lounge, an Okinawan restaurant, with customers waiting for seats. Tried the Okinawan chanpuru (stir fry) that was good but not great, although it was a bargain price to include soup or salad, the entrée and drink.

2020 Japanese Culture Guide

2020 Japanese Culture Guide

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