Sushi Izakaya Gaku – Honolulu, HI

Sushi Izakaya Gaku has been around for a long time but somehow it has never become a mainstay restaurant for us. I don’t know why, we always eat Japanese food and this is a good restaurant. One reason could be because of the parking…not a huge fan of the limited parking in the area. Second reason, the prices. I think some items on the menu are pricier than other restaurants. And so sorry! I forgot to take note of the prices for this meal. 🙁 I guess you just have to enjoy the pictures and my somewhat limited memory of the food…

Dashimaki Tamago

We are always on a quest to find the best tamago. Sounds silly right? But here’s what I prefer, dashiyaki tamago that is more savory than sweet. A lot of the tamago served in Hawaii is on the sweeter side, I prefer more on the dashi side. Gaku serves one of the best! The best still goes to Imanas Tei.

Otoro and Salmon Sashimi

The otoro sashimi costs about $40.00 here, that’s the amount you get. It’s a bit costly but it is good quality. My favorite otoro still is hands down Izakaya Torae Torae.

Spicy Negihamachi Tartar

I can never help myself, no matter where I go, I like try the restaurant’s version of spicy tuna/hamachi/salmon. This one is good, and yay for no rice. Delicious!

Seared Wagyu Beef Sushi

Homemade Steamed Pork Dumpling

Tokusen Ochazuke
gaku’s special yokubari chazuke (salmon, mentaiko & ume)

Yummy, just felt like a warm soothing dish. Loved it!

Hiyashi Shiratama Zenzai
cold sweet azuki beans with mochi balls

Warabi Mochi Maccha Ice Cream
fern mochi with green tea ice cream

Another dish I always order if I see it on a menu, warabi mochi! Love the warm soft mochi…this was a perfect pairing!

Olive Garden – Honolulu, HI

Yes, Hawaii finally got their own Olive Garden and I don’t know what the big whoop is. Never have. I’ve tried Olive Garden on a few trips in the mainland and just never understood the appeal. I don’t know how the lines are now, but if you know Hawaii…Olive Garden is located in Ala Moana where the old Bubba Gump’s was. Now if you can imagine that, imagine the line going from the restaurant all the way down to Macy’s. It was that busy when they first opened! In a pandemic no less.

Anyway, we decided to do a take-out order which they actually made pretty easy to do. They have a separate door/entrance for take-out orders specifically. No online ordering so I just went in to order, they are so busy that they can hardly answer the phones anyway. I placed my order and was told the food would be ready in 30 minutes. Great, I knew it would take a bit of time so I headed over to Target for some browsing.

So how was the food? To me? Blah and overpriced! The amount they charged for a regular fettucine alfredo is outrageous. But…I have a few family members who have never tried Olive Garden before so we had to give it at least one go. Here goes…

Calamari | $12.99
lightly breaded and fried. served with marinara and spicy ranch

Calamari was good, hard to screw up this dish. Would I order this again? Yes.

Fettuccine Alfredo | $17.99 (!)
our signature sauce is made every morning. served over fettuccine

Ugh, I can’t bear to look at that price. Can you believe a dish of plain fettucine alfredo costs that much? I mean, alfredo is actually so easy to make at home too! We actually decided to get this cheaper dish and cook up some steak to top it at home. Thumbs down.

Lasagna Classico | $20.99 (!)
layers of pasta, parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino romano and our homemade meat sauce

That piece of lasagna before your eyes is $21. Is it worth it? Well, I just went Sam’s Club last night and bought a family sized pan for $15 so I say no.

Chicken Alfredo | $22.99
sliced grilled chicken and our signature alfredo sauce over fettuccine

Okay at least this dish has a bit more stuff to it. But $4 bucks for some grilled chicken breast on top? You’re killing me smalls. It was enjoyed so I guess that counts for something.

Shrimp Scampi | $22.99
shrimp sautéed in a garlic sauce, tossed with asparagus, tomatoes and angel hair

Okay this was my dish, I wanted to go just a bit healthier even though it’s pasta. I like when menus tell you the calorie count with the items. Yes, I have become one of those people. Was it good? Sure, it was! The portion is a bit puny and I don’t know if you can tell but get a few of those asparagus thick stalks (the ones you supposed to snap off and throw out).

So each entrée does come with either a soup or salad. The salad I think is a better deal, the soup was just alright. They are also supposed to give you free breadsticks. I don’t know how you are with take-out orders but I always try to check everything before I leave because they often times mess up. Well this time, they forgot one our soups so I asked for it. They brought it out and also brought out the breadsticks. So…they forgot the soup and the breadsticks! It’s alright, I got all my food in the end and paid a hefty price tag for it. Would I return? Probably not anytime soon. I would suggest Romano Macaroni Grill across the way if you are at the mall and hankering for some Italian.

Recipe: Origami Onigiri

How do I title this post? This is quite embarassing. I am huge on TikTok videos and I have been making choke recipes based on videos I have watched. I don’t really want to name my posts after TikToks so I’m just going to cop to it when I’m writing out the posts. This one is old now but if you have been on TikTok, you saw the origami posts. First it was with a tortilla that you cut up and then fold strategically.

I didn’t take step by step photos of my folding up my tortillas but this is what I have been packing up for lunch almost daily. It’s so much easier to eat right when I have food ready to go. It’s much too tempting when I have to go out to eat.

Well, before you know it, Asians came through and came up with the origami onigiri which of course is superior. Check it out.

Yes! Okay, I go show the step by step with this one.

I don’t know if you can tell but you cut a line in the bottom middle of the nori…

Fold the left bottom section up…

Then you fold the left part to the right…

And then fold it down and you got em…ready to eat. I’ve learned since then as I mastered this for tortillas that it’s actually better to fold both bottom sides up and then fold them together.

Play with the ingredients! Who wouldn’t want egg in their spam musubi? Enjoy!

3660 on the Rise | Waialae, HI

Do you folks have the urge to say “why you lie” when you see or say Waialae? Or is that just me? Anyway, 3660 on the Rise recently opened up their dine in again so we wanted to give it a try! Let’s take a look at how it went…

A blend of 3 types of Bacardi, orange curacao, guava juice, limeade, lychee juice

3660 Fruit Punch
Orange, guava, cranberry juices and limeade

I can’t comment on the Waialae-tai but I did get the Fruit Punch. LOL, it tastes only like orange juice with some cranberry juice poured on top. I didn’t even know there was all these other juices until I had to type it out.

Ahi Katsu | $20.50
sashimi-grade ahi wrapped in nori & deep fried medium rare, wasabi-ginger sauce

Hands down, their best dish. Period. Sansei has a similar dish (did they knock it off from 3660?), anyway we shared this as an appetizer but I think I would order it again just as my entrée. It’s SO good. The sauce for the dish is like crack, I could lick it up with more rice.

New York Steak Alaea | $41.00
pan seared with garlic, hawaiian salt and butter, crisp onions

Duet of Fire Roasted Long Island Duck | $39.00
fire roasted duck breast with lilikoi coulis over stir fry of season vegetable & crisp duck leg with a pan seared chinese taro cake, pineapple plum compote

Guys, the duck was my dish and I was super excited for it. I was a bit disappointed though. So sad, which side would you guess tastes better? I was placing my bets on the right side. Who doesn’t love a tender duck breast? Ah, wasn’t a fan of it…and the lilikoi sauce was too sweet for the duck. I actually enjoyed the crisp duck leg more, the seasoning and the meat! The meat was actually quite tender even though it looks dry in appearance.

Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake | $11.00
warm cake with a melted chocolate center, topped with vanilla ice cream, mocha sauce

My dessert! Okay so like, I know that it says mocha sauce but it looked like melted ice cream. Kind of funny. Was it good? Sure, nothing spectacular though.

Mile High Waialae Pie | $12.00
layers of haagen dazs vanilla & coffee ice cream, macadamia brittle, caramel & chocolate sauces

This picture does not do this pie justice. It really is a mile high piece, I don’t think anyone could ever finish this in one seating…it should definitely be a shared dessert. My companion could not finish the dessert and I told him, just take home the brittle! The waiter said he should take the whole slice home…and kind of hard to say no yeah? So he did. It didn’t work out (ice cream soup?). Rest in piece (get it?).

Anyway, with COVID precautions, they are now using their party rooms for the restaurant dine in. Plenty of space between tables so no worries there. I think they use the main restaurant as a staging area for take-out. The wait staff there are super nice and on it. Great experience, would definitely return again…gotta support local!

La Birria – Aiea, Hawaii

These Birria Tacos have been all the rage in the food trend world for a few months now. When La Birria opened up their food truck in Pearlridge, I knew I had to try it! The tacos looked so good and the dipping sauce, it made me so curious! So we made the trek out there and stood in a socially distanced line (took about an hour I think!) because we really checked it out during peak popularity. No online ordering but once you got up to the front of the line, it was pretty quick and easy to order with the nice worker. Then you gotta wait for the food, they are churning it out!

Let’s first take a look at the menu.

12 Pack Birria Queso Tacos | $45.00 (!)

Birria Queso Pack (3 tacos) | $12.00

We had a few folks trying this so I needed a few extra tacos but certainly not another 12 pack! So how was it? I hate to be the party pooper but it was just…okay. Nothing special about this taco. I felt like the dipping sauce lacked depth and flavor, would have loved it to have more of a concentrated taste to it since the tacos themselves were a bit bland. Would have loved a bit more cilantro and maybe some red onions to add a nice kick.

Birria Saimin | $12.00

Okay so since I was all excited for the broth, I had to try their twist on saimin! Well like I said, the broth is just okay so the saimin was also just okay. Was it worth $12? No. I wouldn’t order that again.

Gotta do the noodle pull!

Anyway, they are still super popular and actually opened a second truck in Kakaako! Maybe they have improved by now? I’m not sure, I did get this many months ago and since they were selling out so fast everyday…I always wondered how well they could properly marinate the meat for the broth. I wish them well since I am always down to support local, hope they have staying power when this food trend bubble pops. Maybe they can be like the new bubble tea (that trend will never die).

Recipe: Hokkaido Milk Bread

Here I am. First recipe post after talking about healthy stuff and I am posting about bread. I just had to, Jalna has been posting about making bread so how could I forget my bread making adventures a few months ago? Remember when yeast was harder to find than clorox wipes? Well, somehow I found out Elvin’s Bakery was selling both bread flour and instant yeast, it was fate. I watched many videos of people making Hokkaido milk bread and I just had to try it myself. My first try? Complete failure, I had to throw it out. Then I got the hang of it…biggest difference? Measuring ingredients in grams and using a kitchen scale. I’ll post the recipe and then some step by step photographs…hang with me to the end…for the most satisfying bread pull (well satisfying for me).

Hokkaido Milk Bread

Makes one bread in a 5×9 inch loaf pan

Tang Zhong:
35 g (1/4 cup) Bread Flour
175 g (3/4 cup) Water

Prepare the Tang Zhong:
1. In a non-stick pan combine bread flour and water.
2. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture thickens into a pudding-like consistency, or reach 65°C-150°F.
3. Transfer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool down at room temperature.
4. You can use it when cool down or, better, refrigerate it overnight: use it at room temperature!

Milk Bread:
Bread Flour 340 g (2+2/3 cup)
Salt 3 g (1/2 teaspoon) 
Sugar 30 g (2 tablespoons)
Active Dry Yeast 5 g (1+1/4 teaspoon)
1 Medium Egg (about 40 g), room temperature 
Whole Milk, lukewarm, 140 g (1/2 cup+1 tablespoon) – microwaved for 1 minute
Tang Zhong (about 155 g)
Unsalted Butter, cubed and softened at room temperature, 40 g (3 tablespoons)
Extra bread flour for the working surface
1 Medium Egg and 1 T Whole Milk mix for brushing the top

Prepare the Milk Bread:
1. In a large bowl mix flour and salt.
2. Add sugar, dry yeast and combine.
3. Add the egg (beaten), lukewarm milk and start to combine with a spatula.
4. Add the Tang Zhong and combine with a spatula until reach a very sticky dough.
5. Add the butter (room temperature) and combine with a spatula.
6. Sprinkle the work surface with at least 3 tbsp of flour and start to knead the dough with your hands; if you have a stand mixer you can use it, since the dough is pretty sticky.
7. Incorporate a little flour until knead the dough, but don’t add too much flour: the dough have to remain very soft and slightly sticky*

*NOTE: The consistency of your dough may vary depending of your flour. If your dough seems too wet, you can add up to 1-3 tbsp more flour until the dough comes together but consider that this is a pretty sticky dough. You can use your scraper instead of your hands to help you kneading.

8. Knead for about 15 minutes or until the dough will be smooth and elastic.
9. Form into a ball, place it in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
10. Let it rise in a warm place** for about 45 minutes or until triple in size: the dough will be ready when you poke it and it will maintain its shape.

** I preheated oven on 170°F (lowest my oven would go), turned it off after 5 minutes. Placed dough to rise in the warm oven, opened the oven door after 10 minutes because I was afraid it would be too hot in there. 

11. Transfer the dough over a silicone pastry mat or a floured surface and split it into 3 equal pieces.
12. Roll each piece into a ball and cover every ball with plastic wrap.
13. Use a rolling pin and roll one piece into a long oval shape.
14. Fold the right third of the oval over the middle, then fold the left third of the oval over the middle.
15. Turn the packet and roll it into a rectangular shape.
16. Roll the rectangular from the bottom to get a fat roll.
17. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough.
18. Arrange the 3 rolls of dough into a greased 11,5×22,5 cm – 4,5×9 inch loaf pan. (I have a 5 x 9 and it worked fine)
19. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until the dough reaches the rim of the loaf pan.
20. Brush the top with beaten egg + milk.
21. Bake in a preheated static oven at 350°F for 25 minutes.
22. Cool down for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool down on a wire rack
23. You can store the bread into a paper bag and place the paper bag into a plastic bag for about 1 week.

Recipe from: How Tasty

Making that tang zhong…
I actually make this the day before and chill it in the fridge.
Butter diced into cubes and weighed exactly, ready to go!
Wet dough waiting to be kneaded
Arm workout done, now it is time to rise…
Thar she blows. (Sorry)
Measure the dough into three equal parts and start the rolling and folding…fold up!
Then down…
Roll into rectangle shape, fold up…
Fold down…
Pinch the seams!
Gotta do this three times and line them up in your bread tin! Ready for the last proof…
Kaboom! Proofed, ready for egg wash and the oven!
Look at that…like magic…bread!

Welcome Back

A puzzle I started during the pandemic that I definitely finished
(no, I didn’t).

How’s that? I just welcomed myself back and this isn’t even a full post. How are you folks doing out there? I know it’s been a long time – and I hope you are all taking care during this neverending pandemic. I am trying to hold on as well. I do have to be honest before I continue, I’ve been dealing with some health things these past few months and I’ve really been through the wringer. Not to worry, nothing life threatening (well let’s not make it life threatening).

Anyway, in a bid to take better care of myself – I’ve been playing around with recipes to eat better. I’m trying to make realistic changes in my life so that I can keep to this lifestyle versus fad diets that are bound to fail. The past 3 months or so have been the lowest so I definitely lost all motivation to do much of anything…but I’d like to say I am turning the corner a bit.

Anyway, I haven’t stopped eating…that’s the point of this post! Yes, I try to eat healthy during the week but I still try to eat some ono food on the weekends. Got plenty of recipes to post and of course good eats. For those who have stuck around and are reading this post, thank you. I just bought a new laptop so I should be able to post easier and more frequently. Take care guys…new post soon!