Thursday, February 25, 2010

Imanas Tei + A Latta Gelata | Honolulu, Hawaii

Imanas Tei is a tiny restaurant located near the corner of South King and University. Since it's not on the main road, it's difficult to see as you're driving. We ended up parking in the paid lot next door because the tiny one in front of the restaurant was full of craziness. The food was a little on the salty side, which is usually the case with Japanese cuisine, so we grabbed some gelato at Whole Foods for dessert. This was another camera fail event, so iPhone pictures it is!

Imanas Tei Restaurant
2626 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 941-2626

A Latta Gelata (inside Whole Foods Market)
4211 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816

We sat at a huge table that takes up most of the dining room floor space. It was as if we were having dinner with 5 other couples, none of whom we had ever met. Yes, it felt like we were dining with strangers, and yes, it was weird.

As strange as this sounds, the potato salad was one of the best I've had. In my opinion, Japanese restaurants in general make the best potato salads. Must be that special Japanese mayo...

We also ordered Kabocha, since it's one of wifey's favorite foods. It was good, but nothing really special.

Wifey also ordered their mushroom miso soup.

This is their version of the cucumber roll. Most places just place a single cucumber spear in the middle, but Imanas uses lots of thinly cut cucumber ribbons. An intesting take on what is usually a pedestrian piece of sushi.

In addition to the cucumber, we ordered takuan and yamaimo rolls.

I love shishamo, especially when grilled like this. When I was done with this plate, all that was left was a leaf.

This is their seaweed salad. Looks fancy, but we were a little disappointed with the taste. The dish could have used some ogo or other texture, in my opinion.

For dessert, we went to Whole Foods for some gelato. The company that makes the gelato (A Latta Gelata) used to have a store in Kings Village, but that closed some time ago.

I went with a scoop of Strawberry + a scoop of Guava. It was the perfect ending to the meal.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hale: Modern Macrobiotic Cuisine | Honolulu, Hawaii

This special Valentine's edition of date night was comprised of dinner and a movie. With most restaurants offering a set menu for the night, I knew it would be tricky finding a veggie-friendly option. The solution? a little place called Hale, which serves up (mostly vegetarian) "modern macrobiotic cuisine." And the movie? What sappy, romantic, lovey-dovey chick flick did we see? AVATAR baby! in 3-D! Sorry, I digress...

The food was great. We went with the Prix Fixe menu and weren't disappointed. Chef Moco Kubota does an exquisite job with flavors and presentation. The service was good, but our waiter seemed a bit apprehensive (to the point where I wondered if he had just started on the job).

There was one negative aspect to our dining experience that I must bring up. Halfway through our meal, a couple was seated next to us. The lady sat next to my wife in the booth that runs along the left wall. She had a dog in her lap the entire time. Yes, a DOG, in the restaurant, next to my wife trying to enjoy her Valentine's Day dinner. Granted, the dog was very well behaved, but we were just a slightly perturbed that the staff did nothing about it (and annoyed at the lady who obviously had no concept of appropriateness at the dinner table).

Hale Macro
1427 Makaloa Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 944-1555
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If you didn't know it was there, you might miss this place. It's tucked into a little space on Makaloa and you won't find any signs on the road, just this one in the window.

The interior of the restaurant is shaped like a triangle, which limits the amount of seating. Ordinarily, this would be a non-issue, but being stuck so close to Fido can be rather unsettling.

The layout isn't all bad, though. One of the cool features is that the chef works behind the bar, so you can watch her prepare your meal.

As an appetizer, we ordered the fries (mainly because we saw someone else order them and they looked so good). In retrospect, we should not have ordered them. They were just average and made us full.

Now comes the good stuff...
Course #1: Maui onion and beet soup served in the same bowl with cauliflower and oatmeal soup. The beet soup was warm and contrasted well with the cooler cauliflower oatmeal soup.

Course #2: An appetizer sampler composed of stuffed baked tomatoes, ratatouille with homemade crouton, and organic tempeh escabeche.

Here's a closeup of the stuffed baked tomatoes. This was wifey's favorite.

Course #3: Wifey ordered the tofu, served on an Okinawan potato pancake with sweet and spicy papaya sauce and accompanied by Mesclun greens and steamed veggies.

My dish was identical to hers, except that I opted for Opah instead of tofu.

Course #4: Chocolate and strawberry cake with soy ice cream. It wasn't overly decadent as most chocolate cakes tend to be and offered just the right amount of sweetness to round out the meal.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Belladonna | Honolulu, Hawaii

Because we've been eating a lot of Asian food recently (Thai and Vietnamese tend to be the most veggie-friendly), we were in the mood for something a little different. Tucked in a little nook next to Coffee Talk on Waialae Avenue is a new restaurant called Belladonna. The decor is very modern and everything is pretty much brand new. Overall, the food was very good and the service was friendly. We sat at the bar, which gave us a chance to talk a little with the general manager.

I forgot my camera at home, so you're going to have to excuse the poorly image quality. I had to use my iPhone and these pictures really don't do the food any justice.

3605 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 426-3552

As you can see, the place is so new that they don't have permanent menus yet. In speaking with the General Manager, he told us that they are still trying stuff out, trying to get an handle on what people like.

The bread was average. It was served at room temperature with some butter. If it had been warmed up prior to serving, it would have tasted a lot better.

We started with the salad of the day: Mesclun greens, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and mandarin orange. The dressing was a peppery vinaigrette, which went well with the pungent goat cheese and sweet orange and walnut.

There were no vegetarian entrées listed on the menu. So wifey was just going to order a couple of salads. Our waitress picked up on it and offered that they could do homemade gnocchi or pasta with veggies in either marinara or cream sauce. She went with the pasta and cream sauce. It was a little on the rich side, but we were extremely pleased with the way they had been so accommodating.

This may sound pedestrian to some, especially at a slightly upscale restaurant, but I went with the meatballs and spaghetti. I remember hearing somewhere that they true test of an Italian restaurant is their meatballs and spaghetti and this place did not disappoint. These were probably the BEST meatballs I had ever eaten. They were cooked perfectly and were so moist that they practically melt in your mouth.

Wifey ordered crème brûlée for dessert. I'm not sure why they brought out 3 spoons. I can't really comment on the flavor or texture because I didn't get any :(

I was a little more adventurous with my dessert. I went with their homemade gelato. How is that adventurous? Well it wasn't your run of the mill chocolate ice cream - it was chocolate bleu cheese gelato topped with a balsamic reduction. The manager said they're still working on plating this one so it isn't much to look at, but it was really good.