Dining around Oahu
Last month, I was invited to the wedding of a former coworker, and since the groom had gone to University of Hawaii, and the bride was from Japan, they held the wedding in Waikiki. Since I hadn't been to Hawaii since the early 1990s, and hadn't really had a chance to explore the area (culinarily or otherwise), I figured this would be a great opportunity to check out the area. Due to a variety of logistical reasons (primarily my work schedule, and the date of the wedding), I didn't have a chance to get off of Oahu... but I did otherwise have ten days exploring the island.
Here's the full list of places I ended up reviewing, 18 in all: http://offbeateats.org/category/us/hi/
But I'll cover the highlights.
First up was Joe's Grill Express
. There aren’t a lot of great ways to get to HNL from New Hampshire, with most every option involving either a long layover, multiple hops, or red-eye flights. Or a combination of these. Between that, and an actual snowstorm in Seattle (requiring us to wait almost an hour for what is apparently just the one deicing truck at SEA), we pulled into HNL at almost midnight. Luckily, we had known that our flight would be getting in relatively late, so that we decided that the easiest way to handle things would be to get a hotel room near the airport. But that left us, pre-rental car, located in a part of town near the airport that's mostly a culinary wasteland. Mostly. There's at least one exception to that, and that's Joe's Grill Express.
Joe’s Grill Express is in a fairly nondescript strip mall about a half mile East of the airport, and a short walk from either the Best Western (where we stayed) or the Alamo Rent-a-Car lot. Like a substantially large fraction of lower cost restaurants in Hawaii (typically these places are called “Drive Ins” or “Drive Inns”, despite not actually having drive-up service, although this usage isn’t unique to HI, I’ve seen in it New England as well), the decor is sparse and almost non-existent: you walk in the door, and there’s basically just an ordering window and a few tables (and the ever-present in HI cat statue for good luck). But what it lakes in ambiance, they more than make up for in quality and variety. Hawaii is a culinary melting pot, with contributions coming from native Hawaiian cuisine, the mainland, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean and Filipino being the major contributors, and Joe's is mostly a Filipino place. We were both unable to resist ordering theiradobo pork omelet with fried rice. A few minutes after ordering, it came out as a nice three-egg omelet stuffed with an ample portion of adobo pork, all over a bed of fried rice. And this was just about the perfect breakfast for recovering from a late-night flight and a five-hour jetlag shift. The omelet was cooked perfectly. The fried rice was nice and crispy and flavorful. And, most importantly, the adobo pork was absolutely delicious:
Let's open that up to get a look at the adobo pork:
Soft, tender, and juicy chunks of pork in a rich and spicy sauce with some rice garlic and pepper notes, I would have been thrilled with just the pork. But it combined perfectly with the fried rice and egg to make one of the more delicious breakfasts I’ve had recently, and a great way to start off our trip. Full review here