IHOP – Honolulu, HI

Sometimes, you just gotta eat. You don’t want to cook and you just want to eat some good ole American Breakfast. IHOP is just that. Yup, I read the reviews beforehand (spoiler alert: they aren’t great) but I figured I could get some not terrible food. Was it good? Ehh…food was alright. A bit pricey if you ask me. The service was a bit inattentive because it was a bit busy, would I return? Well, not anytime soon.

Appetizer Sampler | $12.99
Mozza Sticks, Onion Rings & Crispy Chicken Strips served with marinara & choice of honey mustard or ranch.
Philly Cheese Steak Stacker | $13.49
Signature favorite is stacked with grilled Philly sirloin steak and thinly sliced onion, then topped with melted American cheese on a perfectly grilled roll.
Country Fried Steak & Eggs | $16.99
Get an 8 oz. fried beef steak smothered in country or sausage gravy, then served with two eggs*, hash browns and two buttermilk pancakes.

This was my entree, sorry I didn’t get a picture of the pancakes! This was just alright. The country fried steak was breaded heavily and deep fried too long, so it was too hard for my liking and not enough gravy to soften it. The eggs were cooked perfectly, there are hash browns hiding underneath the country fried steak. Wouldn’t recommend it, you can get better CFS at other restaurants.

Yakiniku Korea House – Honolulu, HI

Yakiniku Korea House is a great Korean restaurant in Moilili. They have great lunch specials and I enjoy their menu because to me it’s more authentic Korean food versus a localized version. They even have the Yukhoe raw beef dish I love! Well, I haven’t tried it here because no one is willing to eat it with me and I can’t eat the serving all by myself and I’m going to assume they would not let me take it home. Ugh, third world problems.

Pork with Potato Stew (serves 2) | $29.95

Here’s a dish I got recently, big soup ready to feed 2-3 people. I like how it boils up in front of you, let it cook down some more at the table so the meat gets more fall off the bone and the potatoes get softer. Kinda spicy (I mean look at it!) but a great way to sweat out some toxins!

We got five complimentary ban chans; seasoned bean sprouts, seasoned acorn jelly, traditional kimchee, mac salad, and a more fresh water kimchee? They don’t explain it but I enjoyed the traditional kimchee more. They did refill our banchan when we asked.

HOWEVER, apparently rice is not free refills. They charge $2.00 for an extra bowl of rice! Hmm…not a fan of that charge. She didn’t let us know it cost extra either and it’s not like it’s the fancy mixed rice, it’s just plain white rice. I think when you cough up the dough for a big soup dish, the rice should be complimentary!

Tangö Contemporary Café – Honolulu, HI

Tangö Contemporary Café has been a favorite of ours for quite a few years. Absolutely love their food including dessert (which I don’t always partake in). The service is great, awesome free parking, and of course the food is good. I would recommend calling in a reservation beforehand, they don’t get crazy busy but when I called twice within a month, the whole restaurant was closed for a private party. Let’s get to the food!

Salmon Board | $13.00
Gravlax, Smoked Salmon Rillette, Roasted Garlic and Herb Labneh, Pickled Cucumber, Rye Bread

I know there’s supposed to be a difference in the two salmons but it tastes the same to me? (shoulder shrug emoji). I feel like this dish has changed from the first time we got it, in a good way! It used to come with a certain bread I wasn’t a fan of. I like the crispy salmon skin too! Perfectly crisp.

House-Smoked Duck Breast and Duck Leg Croquet | $27.00
Herb Polenta, Balsamic Demi Glace

I decided to try something different this night. My usual go-to dishes include the lamb (YUM!) or the beef short-ribs…how was this dish? It was okay, not great but not bad. It looks better than it tastes I think, left me wanting some Chinatown Roast Duck. I’m also not a great fan of the polenta – wish it was a bit creamier.

Grilled New York Steak, Kauai Shrimp | $29.00
Garlic Roasted Potato, Peppercorn Demi Glace

This is my friend’s go-to dish, and how can you go wrong? Steak and Shrimp? Delicious! I’ve tried it and it is great!

Kona Coffee Ice Cream Cake | $7.00
Kona Coffee, Vanilla and Italian Chocolate Ice Cream with Chiffon Cake

One of my favorite desserts in a restaurant. Simple choice but sooo good. The flavors just work so well together and I really enjoy the lightness of the chiffon cake against the rich ice cream. If you like the taste of coffee, you will love this dessert!

Yard House – Honolulu, HI

Yard House is a good ole American restaurant to me. A great selection of food and drinks, I don’t come here for stellar service or atmosphere but do enjoy the food! This post includes dishes from two visits, the second visit…to my dismay was the Saturday of Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. Yeah, I didn’t realize that until after I put in my wait-list request on their website. Also due to this fact, I think my wait time was still 2 hours. The initial wait time was 1.5 hours so I arrived then and was still given a buzzer to wait for about 20-30 mins more. I think this was due to Saint Patty’s day so I won’t poo poo their system just yet. Let’s get to the food!!

Sunset Sangria | $11.50
new amsterdam vodka, aperol, la perlina moscato, citrus agave, passion fruit, seven falls rapids red blend, strawberries, black cherry, pineapple, mint

Okay, there was some confusion when I first put this drink order in. They have this Sunset Sangria and a Sunkissed Sangria. Well I order Sunset and our waiter decided not to write orders down (why do waiters do this) and kept repeating back Sunkissed to me…and it was just confusing. I got the right drink in the end so cheers to his memory. It was delicious. Sangria is always delicious.

Fried Calamari | $13.25
spicy tomato sauce, roasted jalapeño tartar

One of my favorite appetizers here, great dish. Perfectly cooked and love the spin on their dipping sauces.

Poke Nachos | $14.75
marinated raw ahi, avocado, cilantro, serranos, green onions, nori, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha aïoli, white truffle sauce, crispy wontons

A little pricey yes, but delicious. We practically licked the plate clean. I think it’s a pretty good serving size for the price, would recommend!

Rib Eye | $30.95
(12 oz) spinach mashed potatoes, broccolini, house made steak sauce
Turkey Burger | 13.75
roma tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, garlic aïoli, fries

Out of all the dishes on the menu, this is one of my go-to’s. If not, the dish I always order. I know what you’re thinking, a turkey burger? Really, Jenny? Yes, really. They really nailed down a great recipe for their turkey burger, I prefer it over any burger any day. Everything just works in this burger, it’s delicious. I even let my kid brother try this burger and he then loved it too. A kid liked it, just try it.

Clam Chowder | $3.75 (add-on for Turkey Burger)

Eh, it was okay. A bit salty but I felt like something soupy that night. I usually actually get their Tomato Bisque which I enjoy a lot but felt like the chowder that night. I can’t say $3.75 is a good price, especially if you get the tomato bisque.

Mini Trio Sampler | $11.25
cheesecake brûlée, peach apple cobbler, chocolate soufflé cake

This was a nice selection to share! I gotta say we were pretty stuffed so we didn’t enjoy the dessert as much as we should have. Biggest surprise, my favorite dessert was the peach apple cobbler. It was delicious!! I think if I were to order dessert again, I would just get the full serving of a peach apple cobbler. Hmm, I’ve been into cobbler lately…may have a recipe to share soon-ish.

The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood – Honolulu, HI

Signature Prime Steak & Seafood is a great restaurant with an awesome view in Ala Moana. I’ve celebrated a few holidays here and whew, I hope you save up if you want to have a good meal here. But what’s great about Signature is…they have a pretty good Happy Hour too! Decided to come early on a weekday to try it out. We came by like 5pm because we heard it gets pretty busy for Happy Hour, and that was true, we got one of the last tables!

Ahi Poke | $12.50 (Happy Hour)

This was good! Nicely seasoned, nice pieces of fish. I enjoyed the addition of avocado. Would have loved some rice with it but there I go being too asian again.

Rustic Truffle Mashed Potatoes (add-on to Prime Rib Eye) | $3.00

Your eyes aren’t fooling you here. Yes, it was only $3 as an add-on to our steak. Pretty generous serving and truffle? Well, I have a thing for truffles so I am all win for this.

Garlic Fries | $7.50 (Happy Hour)

These are one of the best garlic fries I have ever tried. Subtle garlic flavor and very snack-able sized fries. They weren’t too thick nor too thin and was perfectly fried, yes, recommend!!

12 oz. Prime Rib Eye | $25.00 (Happy Hour)

This alone is worth it for Happy Hour. How am I going to drag myself to eat a regular steak in the restaurant for regular price (at least double the cost) when this definitely sufficed. The taste and quality was there, dang, do I have to do senior citizen dinner times for life?

Seafood Trio | $9.50 (Happy Hour)
Oyster, Jumbo Shrimp, Ahi Sashimi

I couldn’t resist. I was still kind of hungry after our food and had get this. A seafood trio for $9.50 sounded like a steal for me. I predicted that it would just be one piece of seafood for each because of the cheap price, I was kind of right! They did give two slices of ahi though, score! The ahi has a sort of wasabi/horseradish cream sauce on it. I enjoyed it! I enjoyed all three and would definitely order this again.

Mimi’s Place – Honolulu, HI

Have you ever tried Peruvian food? My first experience with it was for a dish I made for a cook-off about a year ago. I combined Rotisserie Chicken with a Peruvian Huacatay Salsa which now that I think of it, was quite a risk. I had never tried the sauce before but it came out delicious! I didn’t win the cook-off but it certainly made me a fan of Peruvian food.

Imagine my excitement when I got to try a Peruvian restaurant right here in Hawaii! Mimi’s Place is located on Keeaumoku across from Walmart, let’s check out the food!

Cancha | Peruvian Corn Nuts

Complimentary snack before your food comes out! I can’t say I’m a fan myself, I don’t like corn nuts in general. It’s a bit too hard for my liking but I think if this is your type of thing, you would love it!

Empanadas | $9.00
Home-made traditional empanadas

Mmm…empanadas. Mmm…deep fried meaty goodness. Tasted great! Interesting take? It’s topped with confectioner’s sugar. Huh? I didn’t expect that, is that a thing? I can’t say the sugar did much to influence the taste either…but it was fine!

Ceviche Barrio | $19.00
House ceviche with a spicy lime marinade. Topped with fried seafood.

I have never eaten raw mahi mahi before. I know, I know…the mahi is technically “cooked” through the acid of the ceviche. I’m still gonna say it’s raw…with swimmer’s skin…lol. I enjoyed the dish! So nice and refreshing, I would recommend it!

Seco De Carne (Lamb Style) | $21.00
Slow-cooked traditional cilantro lamb stew

This should tick all my boxes. Sorry, it didn’t. Would have loved the lamb to be fall off the bone kine tender…was kind of dry and stringy. I’m not a fan of beans so that’s off my radar there. And yes, it was $21 for that one piece of meat. Sorry, I don’t plan to order this dish again.

Arroz Con Pollo | $17.00
Traditional slow-cooked cilantro rice with chicken

YAY…okay I will say…I love that cilantro plays a big part in their cooking. For those who hate cilantro, I don’t think the cilantro flavor is strong at all. And even if there is cilantro, it’s cooked down in the dishes so you won’t get the strong raw cilantro flavor anyway. I just love braised chicken thighs…and this was nicely flavored…and cilantro rice? Well, I’ll just keep my mouth open and you can shovel it straight in. Delicious. I would recommend this dish!

Parking? Hmm, a bit tricky. I don’t think they are part of the Samsung Plaza’s vendors (that lot is a nightmare anyway!). My friend parked at Ross and decided to buy something to get validation. I am Chinese and parked at Walmart – break the rules and no have to buy anything. Hahaha just try to park more creatively (i.e. probably not first floor).

Tea Party Cook-off

Our division at work had a Tea Party the other week! This tea party was a cook-off competition with the proceeds going towards a charity. I always try to participate in the cook-off to support a good cause and of course the competition itself! With the help of a few colleagues, we did a great job! Actually, we won the best savory category! I had an idea for this dish and yes it’s been done before but I never executed myself before.

We made salad in won ton cups, finger food perfect for the tea party! I was a bit particular about this dish. I wanted the won ton cups to be perfectly light and crisp…and the won ton pi they sell in stores are generally too thick. So, I made a trek out to Chinatown because Yat Tung Chow Noodle Factory has an “extra thin and extra small for soup” won ton pi. LOL…I went into this not knowing what to expect. Well it was cheap and the customer service was stellar (just kidding about the second part). Well the pi worked out great! It fits perfectly in the mini muffin tins and it is thinner than most pi so it worked perfectly for my recipe. Check out the pics below! I’ll post the various dishes from the cook-off too!

Asian Crunch Bites
Any suggestions for a new name? Haha…salad in a cup didn’t sound too great. But this name is a bit too ambiguous. 
Best Sweets Winner!
Look at how beautiful this dessert is! Tasted great too! Definitely a worthy winner.

I have to give this contestant SO MUCH CREDIT. Sorry to the sweets winner, but I voted for this dessert as the winner. This person made these wagashi sweets all by hand and I’m sorry I don’t have all the pictures but she made different fruit shapes for each (the effort, food coloring, etc.!). The time and effort put in…is amazing. I grabbed this one. And yes, she individually packaged each one too!

Tonkatsu Tamafuji – Honolulu, HI

You’ve heard of Tonkatsu Tamafuji right? You must have. It’s the most popular tonkatsu restaurant in Hawaii. Time your visit wrong and you could be waiting almost 2 hours to get in! Knowing this, I decided to come in right before 5 on a weekday. And guess what? I actually got a table right away! The restaurant was already pretty full though which is crazy. People were eating dinner from 4pm, talk about senior citizen mealtime right?

So how was it? Definitely worth it. The service was amazing and the food was DELICIOUS. I don’t get hankerings for tonkatsu but when I do, I would definitely stand in line to eat here, it’s worth it! Check it out!

Miso Soup | White miso with clams and green onions

You get your choice of miso soup with your meal! The options are either red or white miso and either clams and green onions or tofu & seaweed. Delicious!
Complimentary Tsukemono | Must use tongs!

From left to right: pickled cabbage (no good, not pickled enough yet – eat if you like the taste of raw cabbage), daikon (surprisingly good and my definite favorite!), umeboshi (I didn’t eat this one but it certainly looked good!)

Roasted Sesame Seeds

Get ready to “smoosh” your sesame seeds with the mortar and pestle! Just go for it until it becomes a chunky paste. You then add the tonkatsu sauces they have on your table to make your dipping sauce!
Jyukusei Pork Loin Katsu Set (180 g) | $21.00

This was my dish and O.M.G…delicious. Absolutely heaven. The pork is so tender and juicy, the panko crust is light and crunchy. There is a sign in the restaurant that says…they make their own panko! Well done! Did I say I don’t have a hankering for tonkatsu? I certainly am having a hankering as I type this…

Oyster Katsu (3pcs) and Pork Tender Loin (2pcs) Set | $23.50

This wasn’t my dish but oh man, I would totally get this next time. I got to try an oyster and I love oysters and it was delish! Love the tartar sauce that comes with the oysters and you get two pieces of pork too! Great deal. I didn’t even get to talk about their rice choices! You get three, Hokkaido Rice (white rice), Seasoned mixed rice, and Five grain rice, and the rice is unlimited. I got the Hokkaido Rice because I wanted a plain rice for my tonkotsu drenched in katsu sauce…delicious!

Seoul Tofu House – Honolulu, HI

Seoul Tofu House opened a few months ago and I couldn’t help but salivate from the pictures I saw popping up on social media! I love myself a good soondubu…and a good Korean meal in general! This restaurant is located in Waikiki, right next door to the International Marketplace. I don’t think they have their own parking option. I parked at the International Marketplace and bought something from Mitsuwa to get parking validation. If you spend $10 at any store in the marketplace, you can get a validation for 1 hour free parking. Good deal! So how was the restaurant?

Look at this handy notch on the chairs! Why don’t all chairs have this??

Cucumber Salad | $3.50
sliced cucumbers tossed in a sesame oil dressing

I’m always excited to try smashed cucumbers at restaurants. This one was a thumbs down for me unfortunately. While I don’t expect complete marination since it’s a fresh cucumber dish – there was not enough seasoning in this dish. Maybe a bit more salt would have made it better.

Grilled Spicy Chicken with Cheese | $24.50 (bansang: complete meal)
juicy chicken thighs that are marinated in a fiery 
Housemade Gochujang paste. It is grilled, sauteed, and then served with onions and 
kabocha pumpkin, and then topped with mozzarella cheese and aonori

This dish was surprisingly delicious. While I like dishes like this, it’s not something I order usually. Well, this dish certainly changed my mind. Their sauce is delicious! Yes, a bit spicy (but not really to me) but it has a great sweetness to it too. Definitely a homemade sauce from the restaurant, I loved it. I would recommend it!

Grilled Short Rib Patties | $20.25 (bansang)
100% all natural local Kunoa Beef special blend patties that are seared, grilled, and then glazed in a unagi sauce. they are topped with dried jujube (red date) and crushed pine nuts.

Good dish! A definite winner with kids. I don’t know about the unagi sauce description, just tasted like a nice savory teriyaki-ish burger patties!

Marinated Grilled Short Ribs | $28.99 (bansang)
savory and grilled to perfection, these short ribs are marinated in a traditional Korean BBQ-style soy based sauce. it is served with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and roasted garlic

Look, can you ever go wrong with kalbi? Definitely not. Was it worth $29? Probably not, it did taste good though.

Seafood Soondubu | $13.99 (all soondubu are bansang)
soondubu is traditional spicy soft tofu soup. made with 24 hour beef broth served in a hot 
stone pot that is sure to warm the soul. filled with your favorite ingredients and topped with green onions, enoki mushrooms, and sliced chile

The grand finale, my dish!! They’re known for soondubu so of course I had to get it. And look at the cost! Only $14 for the full meal and it’s for the seafood one. They were pretty generous with the seafood too. The broth had a nice deep flavor, would definitely recommend it. The service was great when I went and the food came out fast. Give it a try!

Vietnamese Food – Los Angeles, CA

One of my favorite cuisines is Vietnamese Food. If I am ever feeling under the weather, Pho is the dish I crave most. Color me surprised that we only tried two Vietnamese Restaurants during this trip, although the trip wasn’t all that long. I’ll cover both restaurants in this post.

House Special | $13.49
Pho Kobe Style Beef – Thin Sliced Wagyu Steak Fillet Beef
Com Cha Suon Nuong | $9.49
Grilled Pork Chop and Pork Egg-Custard with Broken Rice

I can’t comment too much on the pho, I got the grilled pork chop dish. It was delicious!

Final meal in California at Pho Hue Oi
Mango Tango | $3.95
black tea with mango, passion fruit coconut jelly
Garlic Noodles with Grilled Jumbo Shrimp | $15.00

Okay, I just realized that I went to two Vietnamese restaurants and didn’t eat pho in either one. What was I thinking? Well if you think I have any regrets, I have none. These garlic noodles with shrimp were so delicious. Mmm…what a send-off of a meal. The drink? Perfect! I really wish I had found this restaurant earlier in the trip because I am sure we would have given it a second visit.