A Weekend in Vancouver

the beautiful vancouver shoreline and skyline

As part of the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is known for its natural landscapes and outdoor activities. When the weather is nice, a run or stroll through Stanley Park is par for course, while during the winter season, people flock to nearby resort town Whistler for some world class skiing. But something else Vancouver has going for it is its ethnic diversity. There’s a very sizeable Asian population in the city–nearly 43% of residents are of Asian heritage–and they’ve brought the flavors of their local cuisines with them. A high quality avocado toast is just as easy to come by as an excellent plate of dumplings. The access to great food on a global level is what makes Vancouver one of my favorite cities to visit. If you find yourself there for a few days wondering where you should eat, the food recommendations below will give you a sense of Vancouver’s globe trotting nature.Read More

Hawaii Travels, Part II: Eating in Oahu

I really can’t believe just a few days ago I was soaking up the sun in Hawaii, and now I’m surrounded by mounds of slushy city snow. Of course, when you’re in paradise for several days, you get a little too comfortable with your surroundings, and you say stupid things like, “another beautiful beach? you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, take me back to the city!” What sort of ungrateful person complains about first world problems like too many beautiful beaches? Clearly me, and as punishment, the gods sent me back to a hell frozen over.

It’s not all bad with the snow. Working remotely gives me some time to go through my pictures and reminisce about happier times. First up is a post on all the great places I ate at in Oahu. Of all the islands I’ve visited, Oahu has the best food. It has an advantage in that it’s actually the hub of a major city, whereas the other islands cater more to the tourist/retiree crowd (think lots of grilled mahi mahi and pupu platters). As such, Oahu has a lot more variety–you can certainly go all out with fancy Hawaiian meals at Roy’s and Alan Wong’s (much better than the ones on the mainland, fyi), but you can also get reasonably priced and extremely tasty local specialties. If you ever find yourself in Hononlulu and in need of food recommendations, you can’t go wrong with this list.

1. Sushi Sasabune

course 9 - caledonia blue shrimp with salt and japanese skipjack tuna
omakase at Sushi Sasabune

The omakase at Sushi Sasabune was hands down my favorite meal in Hawaii, so much so that it deserves its own separate post. If you’re looking to splurge on the best sushi ever, this is the place to go. In my opinion, it holds its own against highly regarded sushi joints on the mainland (Neta, 15 East, Sushi Yasuda). The restaurant itself is a bit modest and the chefs can be a little bossy, but it doesn’t matter when your food is so unbelievably good. Don’t do the dainty a la carte nonsense, man up and eat all 13 courses in the omakase, you won’t regret it.

2. Side Street Inn

ahi poke 2 - side street inn
side street inn’s ahi poke
farmer's salad - side street inn
the farmer’s salad is simple but delicious

Side Street Inn is this janky, hole in the wall restaurant that features the best of the best in Asian comfort foods. Korean kalbi, kimchee fried rice, ahi poke and pork chops are just some of the many offerings on the menu. The show was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” show and received high praise from the culinary curmudgeon, so it’s a very popular spot for dinner, to say the least. Luckily the restaurant accepts reservations and also operates two locations in Oahu to accommodate more people. The food here is hearty and heavy, with most plates featuring something fried or overly marinaded, so it’s probably a best idea to hit the beach beforehand.

kim chee fried rice - side street inn
best in show – the kim chee fried rice
kal bi 2 - side street inn
the juicy and sweet kal bi deserves an honorable mention
fried spicy chicken - side street inn
…as does the fried spicy chicken!

3. Diamond Head Market & Grill

It’s almost worth a car rental just to be able to drive on over to Diamond Head Market & Grill for breakfast. This is literally a food market that operates a take-out counter and has a few picnic tables outside. Again, not very fancy and not the most comfortable, but you’re going to have to work hard for the best pancakes and breakfast plates on the island. My recommendation is that you go with a group so that you can try a little bit of everything. The eggs and portuguese sausage/spam and roast pork hash are standouts, as are the pancakes, which you must save room for! Drop by the actual market after the meal so that you can take home some treats for later. If you can only choose one, go with the okinawa sweet potato haupia square, a delicious regional sweet that you can’t get anywhere else.

coconut pancakes tripadvisor
coconut pancakes, courtesy of tripadvisor.com
egg, portuguese sausage and fried rice plate, courtesy of placesiliketoeat.com
foodspotting Okinawa Sweet Potato Haupia Squares
okinawa sweet potato haupia square, courtesy of foodspotting.com

4. Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck

A visit to Oahu will likely involve a drive along the North Shore, with a stop at Macky’s, a food truck that specializes in shrimp plates. You can get shrimp seasoned in coconut, lemon pepper, plain, or spicy hot, but my personal favorite is the butter garlic. For just $13, you can get a satisfying meal of 10 incredibly large and plump pieces of shrimp over rice. To freshen up your garlic breath, drive further into downtown Haleiwa and clean your palate with some shave ice from Matsumoto.

mackys - garlic shrimp plate
a plate of garlicky, buttery shrimp from macky’s

5. Kirin Chinese Restaurant

I almost didn’t make it to Kirin, an excellent Chinese seafood restaurant in Oahu, as I was so focused on the local oddities like spam and pineapples. We came here on a last-minute whim right before heading off to the airport. That last-minute scramble to the restaurant was almost in vain, as all the tables were booked for the evening. Luckily, a plea to eat quickly before the 7 pm seating got us a table and set us up for the quickest and one of the most satisfying dinners on our trip. The chicken and salted cod fried rice, a house specialty, the perfectly battered and fried salt and pepper calamari and the steamed fish were divine. The Chinese seafood scene in New York is pretty bad, and it makes you wonder why you have to go all the way to Hawaii or the West Coast to get something decent. If you’re interested in checking out Kirin for dinner, be sure to make a reservation so that you can enjoy a more leisurely dinner than we did. A lot of people were eating black bean crab and lobster, so I’m sure you’re supposed to order one of those as well, and the dim sum is also supposed to be really good.

6. Eggs ‘n Things

If you’re staying in Waikiki and need to grab breakfast near your hotel, then head on over to Eggs ‘n Things. This restaurant doesn’t take reservations and is extremely popular with Japanese tourists, so be prepared to wait for a table. When we dropped in at around 10:30 am, the ETA for a party of three was about an hour, although the turnaround is quick and in actuality we probably waited 45 minutes. The egg and meat plates are solid, but my favorite was the seared ahi tuna, eggs and brown rice (the ahi was definitely superior to Diamond Head Grill’s, a testament to how good it was since it’s nearly impossible to beat the magical Diamond Head Grill in anything). There’s also a cafe downstairs that makes a tasty acai berry smoothie, which is a nice way to end brunch. 

ahi tuna eggs n things foodspotting
ahi steak and eggs, courtesy of foodspotting.com
whip pancake sampler honolulumagazine
whip pancake sampler, courtesy of honolulumagazine.com