Friday, August 31, 2007

Brew Review: Dos Equis Amber

Dos Equis Amber (Mexico)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 4. Amber, yes, just alluring with a rich, dark caramel tone.
Aroma: 3.5. Slightly sweet, a tad nutty, but not overpowering.
Flavor: 3.5. Not as sweet as I recall from the college days, but nice anyway. No funky aftertaste.
Texture: 3.5. Goes down with a bit of carbonation. Smooth and rich.
Drinkability: 4. Not as heavy, of course, as a stout or porter, and not as tart as a lager.

Overall score: 18.5 / 20.0

Cost: $3.
On the label:
Summary: Not as good as I remember, but it still scored very high. I guess my taste for stouts has increased. This is a nice, smooth brew without that lager funkiness.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kohnotori

Kohnotori is so easy to miss, located between Puck's Alley and 7-Eleven on S. King St. A more famous restaurant is next door, but Kohtonori offers so many tasty and reasonably priced pupus. It's been more than a year since my first visit, but I plan to go again in the near future. They have some simple, yet eclectic pupus.

1. Don't miss the yellow and white sign.
2. Busy on a weeknight.
3. Chili powder was mild.
4. Beef tongue? It was good. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars (out of 4).
5. Tofu disappeared before my eyes. Melts in da mouth. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
6. Fried gizzards. Had to try. Was pretty good. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
7. Chicken. Ono.
8. Not your typical musubi. Crunchy/roasted on the outside. Not bad. Pupulemeter: 2 1/2 stars.
9. Gohan. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
10. Chicken liver. Looked like art. Tasted like liver. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars IF you like liver. (And I don't like the stuff normally.)
11. Asparagus. Came with a dollop of mayo. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
12. Chicken cartilage. Had to try it. Crunchy, salty. Pupulemeter: 2 1/2 stars.
13. Roasted garlic. Was sweet, ono. They give around 20 cloves. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
14. Hiroshi digs into ... what?
15. Mushrooms. Succulent with grated daikon. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
16. Hiroshi's soup. Looks good.
17. Lotus root with meat. Crunch, tasty. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
18. Easy to miss this place. Look for this sign.

Kohnotori
2626 S King St Ste 1
Honolulu, HI 96826-3248
Phone: (808) 941-7255

This restaurant is located behind the old Mo'ili'ili Barbershop location (pictured at top right on this page).


Brew Review: Longboard Island Lager

Longboard Island Lager (Kona Brewing Co.)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 3.5
Aroma: 2.5
Flavor: 2.5
Texture: 3.0
Drinkability: 2.5

Overall score: 14.0 / 20.0

Cost: $3
On the label: "Hang loose with a refreshing Longboard Island Lager. It's a spirited beer with a light sand-washed color. Thirst's Up! It's a smooth crisp ride all the way in."
"Since 1994, Kona Brewing has been been committed to making handcrafted brews of uncompromised quality. We invite you to visit our brewery and Pubs whenever you are in Hawaii. Mahalo!"
Summary: Disappointing, to say the least. Aftertaste of a tangy, though tart brew. Would go great with spicy food on a sweltering, muggy day. However, it is 2:30 a.m. and I am eating nishime with this brew. I liked Kona Brewing Co.'s special coffee beer. This one, though, is a bit of a klunker.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies (circa 1975)

There's so much to reminisce about, it can feel overwhelming. But I'll start with Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies.

On those days when mom would have me and my little brother, Kimo, walk with her from our block (where the fire station used to be) to Star Market, I suppose we dreaded it. Mom always made sure we went shishi before we left, and also had a glass of water. She was concerned about hydration that way. I was about 8 to 10 years old when we did these walks to get groceries. It felt like 10 miles away, but we seemed pretty healthy now that I look back.

On the way home, we stopped by Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies sometimes. Most of the time, she kept walking and we kept begging, "Ma, let us get chichidango! Please!" And our mom, being deaf (literally) just kept going. She'd turn back, knowing what we wanted, but also knowing that her wallet was almost empty and that the mochi store doesn't take food stamps, haha... she kept going and Kimo and I would grunt and catch up, those bags of groceries slumping in our arms.

But the times when we got those chichidango were GREAT. Those pink, yellow and white colors just called out to my stomach so much. To this day, I don't turn down a chance to get some, even though I prefer the regular bean mochi.

It was a sad time, of course, when the mochi shop closed down. After decades of serving the community, gone. Turned out the store moved across town to Liliha, of all places. Still the same name, but might as well have been on Mars for a youngster like me. It was later, during college, that I learned that my part-time on-campus job led me to the new owner of the mochi shop. Her name was Eva, can't remember the last name. The nicest lady you'd ever meet.

I came across this story online at MidWeek in December 2006 that covered the gamut of great mochi shops on Oahu. In the story, I see that my favorite old mochi store has new ownership, still located in Liliha. I should go there sometimes, just for old time sake, and support an establishment that was an apple in my youthful eye. Where the store once stood, Kuni Dry Goods now exists. That's a whole 'nother story, how Kuni used to have the bigger space on the corner, but the demand for sewing material and classes diminished over the years as society changed. Now Kinko's is there, busy day and night.

I would love to go back in time to the mochi store, with my grown-up wallet and a few more bucks in it, and buy all the chichidango I want to my heart's content. And I'd buy a ton of mochi for Kimo and mom, too. That would definitely make them smile.

Note: I'm searching the net for a photo of the exact kind of chichidango that was at Mo'ili'ili Mochi. Very tough to find. Other moxhi shops have pink and green chichidango, but none have the pink, yellow and white that I see so vividly in my mind's eye. Maybe I'll have to go to the store in Liliha and see if they make the same kind that was in the store 30 years ago. This is becoming a little bit of a mystery hunt.

Brew Review: Singha

Singha (Thailand)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 3.5
Aroma: 3.0
Flavor: 3.5
Texture: 3.5
Drinkability: 4

Overall score: 17.5 / 20.0

Cost: $3
On the label:
Summary: Quite shockingly good. Crisp, goes down really smooth, and zero funky aftertaste. I now realize that my experience with Asian beers has been poor in the past, but I have found Singha and Tsingtao Draft to be excellent, and I don't even like lagers in general. Looking forward to my next Singha.

Check out more at Singha's website.

Kam Bowl/Kapiolani Coffee Shop

Kam Bowl is no more. Sure, the home of great ox tail soup is still alive.

Kapiolani Coffee Shop moved out when Kam Bowl shut down, but the ambiance, the history, the location, are all gone. I suppose I'll take my nephew to visit Kapiolani Coffee Shop in its new location some time. Won't be the same seeing Walgreen's there soon. But here's an ode to one of my favorite old-school eateries. These photos were taken two years ago, long before Kam Bowl closed down.

When my nephew, Josh, was still a student at Kapalama Elementary School, this was one of our favorite places to eat at. Same when he was going to summer school at Kamehameha. Talk about prime location for hungry kids and hungry old guys.

My pals Donald and Kua came along, too, since we all know and appreciate truly good local food. Especially when it's pretty cheap. Donald pulled a surprise on me and order a breakfast meal. I didn't know they served breakfast any time! Bacon looks good, eggs even better.

I've been watching a lot of PBS and National Geographic channels lately, so the sight of yolk breaking reminds me of critters stealing eggs from eagle and turtle nests. There was even an episode of No Reservations when an African tribal hunters found some eggs in the bush. They cracked those eggs open over a large, flat rock and let them cook under the scorching sun. The eggs were scrambled, gritty and (to the hunters) very tasty. Anthony Bourdain, the host, could barely eat the eggs. Too much dirt. Yum.

I worked in Burger King, had my share of Whoppers. I grew up eating a Big Mac now and then. But the hamburger deluxe at Kapiolani is simplicity and complexity in a beautiful combination. I could go for one right now. Sometimes I like mustard in my burger, but not in this one. Simple ketchup and mayo do fine. A burger just ain't a complete burger without tomato and onion. I'm that spoiled. At Kapiolani, this burger is just $2.50, totally stacked. Pupule-O-Meter: 3 1/2 stars.

When I first took Josh here, he was in kindergarten and I wasn't sure if he could get his mouth around a burger, let alone finish one. Guess what? He always finished his burgers, sometimes before I did. I never saw a little, skinny kid eat so much! One thing I did for him was to cut the burger into quarter pieces. Made the job a lot easier. This is also one of the only ways he'll eat tomato and onion.

There's something primal about a beautiful plate of freshly-cut, freshly-cooked french fries, or wedges. At Kapiolani, these are probably the best bargain. Just $2.20 and takes two normal people to finish it. Remember to sprinkle your salt (and pepper) on it while the fries are still wet. Once it dries, forget it. Salt bounces off to the bottom. And let the fries cool off for a minute or so because the interior of each wedge is still hot, hot, hot. Once it cools, it's the perfect combo of tender potato inside and crispy exterior.

This has nothing to do with any of our meals. It's just a container of chopped ginger, a staple for everyone who enjoys the famous ox tail soup at Kapiolani. I passed on the ox tail soup in favor of a burger, but I usually pass these days anyway. When Josh was a kindergartener, a large bowl was $5.50. Then the price went up to $7.50 a couple of years later. Now, it goes for $10.50!

I think the price is too high, but as long as people are willing to pay a premium for great ox tail soup — it has five spice, parsley, peanuts — Kapiolani should charge as much as it can. It's the signature dish of the establishment, and they want to run a good business. I understand all of that, and I miss the cheap price of yesteryear. Waah.

Figures that the skinniest one of us, Kua, eats the most fatty stuff. Isn't that how it usually works? I remember being young and skinny and eating like an animal. The hamburger steak plate here is just decadent, smothered in brown gravy and onions. Totally worth devouring. Totally filling. This could probably hold your appetite through the day.

Finishing off the fries isn't difficult. I enjoy them with ketchup, and occasionally with Huy Fong's Sriracha Sweet Chili sauce. A restaurant that doesn't stock this sauce is missing the boat. It's a great condiment that I love.

With so many great old-time restaurants closing down, icons of my youth crumbling down, I guess I shouldn't complain. Kapiolani Coffee Shop isn't dead. It's just in a new place.

Time to start a new ritual.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Brew Review: Cooper's Best Extra Stout

Cooper's Best Extra Stout (Australia)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 4.0. Dark as shoyu. I like that.
Aroma: 3.0. Not a strong aroma, but definitely rich.
Flavor: 3.5. Sweet, then a tinge of bitterness.
Texture: 4.0. Goes down as smooth as Guiness.
Drinkability: 3.5. Nice, not as sweet as Guiness, but still sweeter than the average brew.

Overall score: 18.0 / 20.0

Cost: $3, size 12.7 oz.
On the label:
Summary: The only other Aussie beer I'd seen was Foster's Lager (oil can). This brew has an old-fashioned look with the label and 19th-century font style. However, once I poured this baby into my mug, it looked very much like Guiness, except a little darker. This didn't disappoint a bit. Hail Australia!

See more at Cooper's site.

Wahiawa has Seoul

WAHIAWA — The oldest kal bi restaurant in Hawaii had been there forever, in my sights, but unvisited by this Pupule. Until now.

The trip to Waialua for the football photo shoot was informative, productive and ... unfulfilling. See, I was hungry, and the only place I know of in Waialua that has food worth stopping for is a little bento joint that closes at 1 p.m.

That was way too early. On the way back to town, I decided to make a pilgrimage to Seoul Inn, which is known as the oldest kal bi restaurant in Hawaii. Never been there, but what kal bi fan can resist such a claim?

The place is slightly off the beaten path, but convenient nonetheless. I'd seen it many a time while driving to games at Leilehua High School and always wondered. Is it that good? And why is the restaurant still in an old building surrounded by dingy stores? It didn't make sense, but it also meant that the potential for great food was high. It's often the case with old restaurants in small towns.

So I parked (not a lot of spaces, but very accessible) and made my way in. Thought I'd make it take out, but after ordering, the place just grew on me. I'm glad I stayed. As I downloaded my Waialua football photos, I started to wonder about Wahiawa in general, with all its fast-food joints outnumbering the local establishments. There's no way I'd go for Taco Bell or Wendy's (two of my fast-food favorites) over Sunnyside Drive In. But Seoul Inn?

The food only took 10 minutes to arrive. The kal bi was the star. The superstar. Tasty. Sweet, maybe too sweet for some kal bi-holics, but fine for me. It came with the bone, authentic Korean style. I can do just fine with or without that bone. The veggies were terrific. The soy bean sprouts surprised me. I didn't know what it was, but they tasted like they'd been fermenting in garlic for weeks. So good. So so good. The waitress was kind enough to bring me seconds.

I made sure to make the rounds on the veggies with each bite of kal bi. The regular kim chi was surprisingly unspicy. There are arguments to be made about what authentic kim chi should taste like. Local style is very low in red peppers and tastes more like Japanese tsukemono (pickled veggies) than anything. Of course, check history and Korea didn't have red peppers until the Portuguese voyagers brought them to shore. So, people who claim that true Korean kim chi is not super spicy — not like the fiery red jars I used to buy at Dae Han Store (now gone) — may have a strong argument.

In any event, the veggies rocked. The rice did not. The rice was almost cold, a bit too chewy and definitely on the verge of crunchiness. Not good qualities for good rice, but it was 5 p.m. and I may have caught the cook at an "in-between" time for their regular crowds.

I finished off my meal by sucking on the kal bi bone without a shred of manners. I also mashed my leftover rice on the kal bi plate to absorb the last of that carmelized, kal bi goodness. That's how good it was. And is.

For 7 bucks, you won't get a better, home-style Korean meal. The service was friendly and quick. I strongly recommend Seoul Inn if you love Korean food, are on a budget, and appreciate value. If you need fancy chandeliers and waiters in suits to enjoy a meal, go elsewhere.

Seoul Inn rating on the Pupule-o-meter: 3 stars (out of 4).

Seoul Inn
410 California Ave
Wahiawa, HI 96786-1947
Phone: 808-621-9090

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brew Review: Birra Moretti La Rossa

Birra Moretti La Rossa (Italy)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 4. Amber. Dark. Lush.
Aroma: 3.5 Slightly sweet.
Flavor: 4. Sweet, slightly nutty.
Texture: 4. Smooth, a bit fizzly, rich.
Drinkability: 4. Great on a cold night.

Overall score: 19.5.
Summary: A double bock brew. Haven't had a dark beer this memorable since my last Bass Ale.

See the Birra Moretti site