Friday, April 17, 2015

Staff on Vacation

We are scheduled to return on April 29.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ruby Tuesday Moanalua (Honolulu) 2

It’s been a while since the wife and I had breakfast at Ruby Tuesday in Moanalua, so when we couldn’t find parking at a popular cafeteria in Mapunapuna, we kept on going past the airport and slid into a very convenient parking space at Ruby Tuesday.

We last went there in June 2010, when they first started serving breakfast.  As I recall, the menu consisted of one page, and the food wasn’t all that wonderful. I had their kalua pig hash and fried rice with an egg on top. Didn’t particularly care for it.

I wanted to give them another chance – figured nearly five years was a long-enough wait.

What a difference. The breakfast menu has expanded immensely, and matched all their other menues.

Our server, Kristina was wonderfully attentive and helpful, from the moment she greeted us to the moment we left.

First of all, the biscuits. As TV chef Rachel Ray says, “Yummo.” Very light, very tasty.

Prepackaged butter and jam, of course, but who cares? It went well with my hot coffee and orange juice.

The wife had their Spinach and  Mushroom Scrambler (scrambled cheese eggs, baby portabella mushrooms, Swiss cheese, artichokes, creamy spinach sauce, served with sliced tomatoes). I tried a bit, and nodded my head in agreement. Couldn’t say anything because it’s impolite to speak with one’s mouthful.

Her scramble came with fresh tomato slices. More about the scramble later.

I had their Chicken and Waffles (crispy Belgian waffle topped with spicy chicken wings, served with butter and maple syrup). Now, every time I’ve had chicken and waffles anywhere, from Honolulu to Las Vegas, I was disappointed. They always served chicken breasts, which when deep fried, can end up tough and dry.

These pieces of chicken, however,  were wings. See, wings have lots of skin that crisp up nicely when deep fried. I’m sure you’ve had chicken wings –with tea, with beer, in front of the TV, at parties – so you know what I mean.

The wings were great, nicely seasoned and crispy/tender.

And the waffle – waffles have to be crispy crunchy on the outside, and soft, moist and sweet on the inside. The Ruby Tuesday waffles were just like that, quite unlike the usual waffles I’ve had at numerous other restaurants.

Waffles and chicken, chicken and waffles. With maple syrup (I asked if it indeed was maple).

The wife couldn’t finish her breakfast, so she asked Kristina to wrap it up for her. Well, Kristina came back and apologetically advised that when she placed the scramble plate down to get a box, someone picked it up and threw the leftovers in the garbage.

So, to atone, she ordered another complete spinach and mushroom scramble on the house for us to take home. Now that’s customer service, and a sure way to get me back there.

Ruby Tuesday Moanalua: 930 Valkenburgh St., #211. (808) 422-8585.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pyramid Cafe (Las Vegas)

Pyramid Cafe is a breakfast and lunch restaurant in located on the casino level of the Luxor Hotel & Casino, 

Since I was staying at the Luxor, it made sense for me to stumble into the cafe the first morning I woke up there. The line to get in was fairly packed; I'd estimate at least 20 people in line. Maybe I should have woken up earlier?

Luckily, after I stood there in the unmoving line for about 10 minutes, they opened up another section and in no time flat, the line disappeared. Good luck to start the day!

They've got all the usual breakfast favorites – standard egg/ breakfast meat dishes, omelets, steak and eggs, scrambles of various delight, eggs Benedict, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, French toast, a continental (Danish) breakfast, and on and on. For breakfast, anyway.

The menu changes for lunch – soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and a few specialty comfort entrées such as spaghetti and meatballs, lettuce wraps, grilled herb chicken breasts, fish and chips, and broiled Atlantic salmon filet.

I ordered their Eggs Benedict, which delighted Jill, my server, who said that was her favorite (she didn't say that to a woman sitting behind me when she ordered the same thing) ... It's always fun when waitresses flirt with me, trying to coax a big tip from me.

So anyway, the Eggs Benedict tasted good – yummy hollandaise, runny yolk, nicely flavored potatoes. The only thing was (yep, you guessed it) the English muffins were soft with no crunch whatsoever. Soft, soft, soft. I told Jill and she apologized and said she'd put in the suggestion.

The acoustics in the section I was in were weird. A man two booths in front of me was talking to his booth mate. I saw his lips moving, but heard his voice perfectly synchronized ... BEHIND me. Now, how weird is that?

Pyramid Cafe: In The Luxor Hotel & Casino, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd., South. Phone: (702) 262-4000.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MW Restaurant (Honolulu)

The wife and I took advantage of a gift card we had for MW Restaurant for our wedding anniversary dinner.

I’d heard a lot about MW from my foodie friends on Facebook, who raved about their Hawaii regional cuisine.

I love their logo – the letters "M" and "W" formed by two forks. By the way, "MW" stands for "Michelle and Wade" Ueoka, the owners.

The restaurant is not visible from the main boulevard; one has to enter through the building’s side driveway and use their valet service, as the restaurant is on the backside.

Unless you did what we did and entered the parking lot from the back street.

Any parking you find there can be used (subject to certain restrictions) and you won’t be charged the $4 valet fee.

Inside, MW is bright and friendly, with the service counter on one end, and a small bar on the other. We got there for our 5 p.m. reservation and there was plenty of room. However, the host said that from 5:30 to 5:45, their reservations were stacked up, thanks to a corporate party in the adjoining room.

Our waitress, Alyssa, who’s a grade-school teacher during her day job, was very helpful in explaining a few of the menu offerings. She and the wife hit it off because they are both graduates of the same Honolulu high school.

Their buttered toasted bread with a mayonnaise-butter aioli was absolutely delicious. They give you one slice apiece and you can ask for more, but as tasty as it was, we exercised restraint and held off.

I had regular iced tea (it tasted of a mild mango flavor); the wife had the greenest green tea I’d ever seen – iced Macha Shiso Green Tea.

Macha is the powdered tea used in tea ceremonies.

Shiso is the  leaf used to flavor Japanese salted plums – ume.

The wife ordered their Miso Butterfish, which, of course, I tasted. Oh my, one of the best I’ve ever had. It kind of made me wonder if I should have order it instead.

But I had ordered their “Course Menu Tasting” selection.

My meal started off with a chef’s selection of appetizers:

  • Onaga and Nairagi Ceviche with Avocado Salsa and Corn Tortilla Chip – a pretty tangy spoonful of “pickled” fish that woke up my mouth.
  • Ahi Poke with Ikura, Uni, Crispy Rice Cracker – the traditional Hawaiian raw-fish dish, this one a bit on the spicy side that slapped my tongue to ensure it was awake.
  • Raw Kusshi Oyster with Oscetra Caviar – this reminded me of the ocean, with the little pop of the caviar.
  • Unagi and Butterfish Arancini with Nori Tsukudani and Kabayaki Mustard – this was the creamy appetizer of the bunch, it soothed the mouth of the previous appetizers’ vibrancy.
  • Pickled Local Beets with Hawaii Island Goat Dairy Goat Cheese, Dill Pickles and Ume Beet Vinaigrette – an excellent taste of tangy beets and pickles, tempered by the creamy goat cheese.

The next course was Mochi Crusted Opakapaka (pink snapper) with Kim Chee and Yuzu Kosho Soy Vinaigrette. This is one MW’s most popular dishes, and in fact, it’s the one most mentioned in Facebook postings. The wife ate half of mine.

Then, they brought me a Seafood Ravioli with Kauai Shrimp and Mentaiko (fish roe) Butter Sauce. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, and the ravioli was so good. The only problem was that I just dug right into it without taking a picture first. Now that’s a head slapper. I did take a picture when I realized that, but then when I got home, I did a search on Yelp to find an untouched dish. I did – one posted by Jason D. So I swiped it to show you (that's his picture on the right). Thanks, Jason.

My last entrée dish was “Stew and Rice” (Big Island Tenderloin on Oxtail Risotto, Peanuts, Carrots and Mushrooms), basically a small steak on risotto. The steak was pretty tender, nicely done medium-rare, requiring no additional table seasonings (I refrained from asking for Tabasco Sauce). The risotto was delicious – just softer than al dente, with the peanuts, carrots and mushrooms providing some slightly firm “crunch” (or should I say “shmunch”) with each bite.

Finally, for dessert, they brought us a Tropical Fruit Creamsicle “Brûlée” (Lilikoi Sorbet, Tapioca Pearls, Tropical Fruits, Lilikoi Custard, Guava Chiffon Aircake). They knew it was our anniversary, so they wrote a “Happy Anniversary” message in chocolate on the plate.

My God, that dessert was so damned delicious I didn’t want to share it with the wife. But she ate … and ate … almost half of it.

If you go there, look for me. I need to go back and try some of the other wonders on their menu – say, the belly pork.

MW Restaurant: 1538 Kapiolani Blvd. Phone (808) 955-6505.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yagura (Honolulu)

Yagura is a small Japanese restaurant on Middle Street in Honolulu's Liliha neighborhood. If you live in the area, it’s handy. If not, you have to have good timing to snatch one of four parking stalls in front of the place. Otherwise, good luck finding street parking.

I ate there once before, a few decades ago, say sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. The menu is typically Japanese, the usual popular entrees you can find at many other Japanese establishments.

Seating is limited, but ample for a lunch crowd. The interior is well-lit and … it smells good, with aromas of Japanese cooking in the air. Rather simple décor, with a kind of homey appeal.

In the back is a little nook with Japanese samurai armor on display, with flowers in a vase and a little sign imploring customers not to touch the armor.

We sat directly in front of the display so I could turn around and study the medieval war artifact.

These things fascinate me. The only thing they couldn't stop was bullets. So when firearms were adopted in Japan, that spelled the end of this type of armor.

I had been in the mood for some teriyaki beef – you know, the heavily charred, burnt shoyu kind. So that’s what I ordered. The usual starters came: Miso soup, tossed green salad with creamy French dressing, salted cabbage, and steamed white rice.

The teriyaki beef was served on a sizzling hot platter. Quite impressive, I must say. Hopefully the entrée would live up to its promise.

Unfortunately, the flavor was a little too mild for me. I wanted dark grill marks and got none. Plus, the rib eye was on the tough side. Heck, it WAS tough. But as disappointed as I was, I was hungry, so I ate it all. What did help were the onions under the steak; they added quite a bit of flavor to the dish.

To top off my meal, I had a huge scoop of green tea ice cream. Now … THAT hit the spot, and mitigated some of the disappointment over the teriyaki beef.

The wife had a teishoku combo – her misoyaki butterfish was divine, the sashimi was very good, and she gave me one of her shrimp tempura. So the lunch turned out well anyway.

By the way, lots of people came by to order take-out meals for lunch.

Yagura: 1655 Liliha St. Phone (808) 533-2160.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Cracked Egg Summerlin (Las Vegas)

I've been to the Cracked Egg before, but not at this location, one of five located throughout the Las Vegas area. Having seen last year when I stayed at the Red Rock Resort, I headed of to it straightaway from the airport following an early-morning arrival.

The interior is cozy and bright, a bit on the small side. I would guess that clientele is mostly residents of the developments in the area – all ages seemed represented, save for little kids, who I guess were in school.

Having enjoyed their Carnitas Omelet before, I went for something different. Torn between their Lucie's Scramble (sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and Muenster cheese) and their Chicken Tenders, Gravy & Scrambled Eggs.

My server, Rhonda, asked if I wanted toast or coffee cake with that. Of course, I chose coffee cake and started munching on it with my coffee. It was very soft, a bit too soft for me, and very sweet, a nit too sweet for me. Okay, but not great.

In retrospect, I should have had the omelet instead of the chicken tenders. It was like having chicken-fried steak, but without the steak. They were nice and crunchy, but the tenders were on the dry side. At first the dish looked like it had a lot of country gravy smothering the fried chicken, but in reality, there wasn't enough.

As for the eggs, I think they cracked them on the griddle before scrambling them with the flat spatula. I prefer my eggs homogenously scrambled in a bowl before they hit the griddle with butter – the more butter, the better. Theirs had no butter.

My verdict? Merely satisfactory for me this time around.

This Cracked Egg is located at the southeast corner of West Charleston Boulevard and South Hualapai Way, a way before you reach the Red Rock Resort when heading north on Charleston. It's at the corner of a shopping center, just north of Terrible Herbst Gas Station, across the street from the Hualapai Animal Hospital.

The Cracked Egg Summerlin: 9921 W. Charleston Blvd., Phone: (702) 476-4204.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Big City Diner Kaimuki (Honolulu) 3

The last time we went back to Big City Diner in Kaimuki, I felt like eating Asian. So I scanned the menu and decided on Korean Kalbi Steak.

I’ve had their Kalbi for breakfast before with eggs, and have always loved the way they prepare it – heavily marinated, then charred slightly over the grill.

That’s what they brought me. But instead of thinly sliced ribs with bone (their breakfast style), they brought boneless steak – two nice pieces, deliciously marinated and garnished with sesame seeds and chopped green onions, and nestled nicely over fresh cabbage slaw.

Accompaniments were a big scoop of white rice topped with furikake, and a nice little pile of spicy kim chee.

That was a very nice lunch!

Big City Diner: 3565 Waialae Ave. Phone (808) 738-8895.