Something new: eight50 at Leeward Bowl

A new craft bar is opening its doors today inside Leeward Bowl at the Pearl City Shopping Center. It has a dozen craft brews on draft, nearly 100 bottles of highly curated beers from around the world, and whisky lovers will be drooling over its selection of rare bottles.

Leeward Bowl owner, Richard Akimoto took an interest in the craft beer movement happening across the United States and wanted to create a comfortable, upscale environment to enjoy great brews and food.

Whisky lovers will drool over their selection of rare bottles.

It’s rare to find a bar that has a bottle of Rip Van Winkle, four E.H. Taylor’s, Angel’s Envy and Stagg sitting on a shelf for public consumption. These bottles are only allocated to a lucky list of distributors and bar owners.

 

I sat down with manager Kelly Jeffers to learn more about eight50′s beer and spirits program. “We have something here for everyone,” Jeffers assured me when I asked what he would recommend to a novice craft beer drinker. His staff has undergone 20 hours of intense beer training, so don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation.

The Vito Corleone ($9) is a sweet cocktail made from blended scotch whisky, amaretto, lemon and ginger ale. It was a cool and refreshing sip that I'd order again. It tasted like a lemon lime gummy candy.

The Vito Corleone ($9) is a sweet cocktail made from blended scotch whisky, amaretto, lemon and ginger ale. It was a cool and refreshing sip that I’d order again. It tasted like a lemon lime gummy candy.

 

The training was very apparent during my latest visit; our servers were attentive, knowledgeable and very friendly. I look forward to returning and trying a bunch of new brews.

 

The bar was packed on Thursday night during their soft opening.

The bar was packed on Thursday night during its soft opening.

Eight50 offers a small gastropub food menu that ranges in offerings from a steamed clams in white wine ($15) to beef tenderloin with a balsamic reduction ($16).

The bleu cheeseburger ($13) is small in size but packs a ton of flavor. The patty is juicy and well seasoned. It is pricey for the portion.

The bleu cheeseburger ($13) is small in size but packs a ton of flavor. The patty is juicy and well seasoned, but it is pricey for the portion.

 

The parmesan truffle fries ($10) is a large plate of thin cut fries with shavings of cheese and spritzed with truffle oil.

The parmesan truffle fries ($10) is a large plate of thin cut fries with shavings of cheese and spritzed with truffle oil.

The bar has a movie theme and will play classic movies on its flatscreens and a giant projector with alternative music playing over the speakers. Plans for taco and trivia Tuesdays are in the works, so stay tuned.

The beer list is impressive with many bottles that I've never even heard of. The Thornbridge Hall is a $41 bottle that is one of the rarer finds of the collection.

The beer list is impressive with many bottles that I’ve never even heard of. The Thornbridge Hall is a $41 bottle that is one of the rarer finds of the collection.

The grand opening celebration starts at 4 p.m. today. There is ample parking in the lot for the shopping complex and bowling alley.

eight50
850 Kamehameha Hwy.
Monday-Saturday 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Sunday 4 p.m. – Midnight
eight50 on Facebook

Hukilau Honolulu’s Big Mondays

Hukilau Honolulu, located under Executive Center downtown, has started a new “Big Mondays” beer tasting program, which includes pupu and big screens for Monday night sports. Every week from 5 to 8 p.m., for just $25 you can get a platter of pupu and six new beers, some of which will be making their Hawaii debut. In addition, you can get some “beer talk” with Beer 808’s Andy Baker.

The Frolic team checked out the first Big Monday, featuring Anderson Valley, Maui Brewing, Goodlife Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Mendocino and Coronado Brewing. Here’s their take:

Tracy Chan

Hukilau as a beer pub is believable. The atmosphere is right, the seating encourages small groups of two to four people to settle in and talk story, the tables and bar counter offer enough room to spread out a little with some pupu and several beer glasses. It’s quiet enough that when brewmaster Andy Baker came around to talk about the beers, we could hear him clearly.

Cons: The spacious interior isolates each group, even if you’re coming with a few close friends but want to hang out with a larger group or interact with the people nearby. Suggestion: Rope off half the space for a beer-tasting lounge. That would make it easier on the brewmaster too.

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I’m going to be honest, I’m not a fan of IPAs. Why Hukilau chose to launch their beer tasting event with a collection of beers that only a well-schooled minority would fully appreciate, I’m not sure. The first beer in the flight, Andersen Valley’s Blood Orange Gose (a cloudy, top-fermented beer made sour with the controlled application of lactobacillus bacteria) sounded good on paper, but I could only ingest it in careful sips because of the sourness. As first impressions go, not great.

That said, NONE of them tasted like Primo (Melissa!) and I was pleasantly surprised by Maui Brewing’s Lorenzini Double IPA. The Kihei, Maui company’s special Winter 2015 release was delicious, hazy and sweeter than most of the IPA offerings. Named after a shark’s “Ampullae of Lorenzini,” which allows the shark to detect electric fields in the water, this beer had a higher bitterness rating (80 IBUs) than any of the others but was also the most accessible, with a fruity mango scent, a smooth, mild carbonation and a sweet bitterness from the blood orange and Maui cane sugar it’s brewed with. I definitely would drink this beer again, and it went great with the steak and calamari.

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One cool thing about attending the beer tasting was the free Erdinger beer stein we got to take home, while supplies lasted. This tall, elegant glass stein is an incredibly classy way to drink beer. It’s shaped for getting the maximum flavor and enjoyment out of your favorite wheat beer/hefeweisen. No promises that Andy can get these steins again, but we hope so!

Some of the featured pupu at Hukilau Honolulu.

Some of the featured pupu at Hukilau Honolulu.

Grant Shindo

I was pleasantly surprised at the selection that Hukilau offered for this first Monday beer event. Leading off with the Anderson Valley gose was a bold move for any beer lover. Personally I don’t like sours and the citrus from the blood orange is a pucker-inducing sip that lingers on the tongue. The Sierra Nevada is a good introduction for the inexperienced craft beer drinker with lots of hops, big flavor and overall a solid choice.

A huge trend in the craft beer scene is the rise of the IPA. These bitter sips are gaining popularity across America and have become a mainstay in the craft beer movement. We tasted the Maui Brewing Lorenzini double IPA, GoodLife descender and Talon double IPA.

The last beer of the night was the smooth, almost caramel-flavored Erdinger dunkel. This dark beer is a great choice to end the flight. I’m looking forward to future events, as the price is definitely right and the selections are well-informed.

Hukilau Honolulu
1188 Bishop St. (downstairs)
808-523-3460

Sneak peek: Rijo at Harbor Court

IMG_1863A new contemporary Japanese restaurant has soft-opened in the former Palomino space on the third floor of Harbor Court. Slated for grand opening this February 23, Rijo serves lunch and dinner seven days a week overlooking Honolulu Harbor.

With 250 seats, the restaurant is huge. Executive chef Yoichi Saito is a Roy’s Restaurant alum and former chef at the now-closed Park Restaurant in Waikiki’s Aqua Lotus Hotel.

Frolic’s Will Chen and I went last week to get a sneak peek at the lunch offerings. So far I have only been able taste a few dishes, so stay tuned for a review. Cocktails average $10, lunch entrees about $15 and dinner selections $25 to 30.

We started off our Friday with some cocktails. The Rijo Raba ($10) is their version of the Moscow Mule with Grey Goose melon, ginger beer, lime juice and mint in a copper cup.

We started off our Friday with some cocktails. The Rijo Raba ($10) is their version of the Moscow Mule with Grey Goose melon, ginger beer, lime juice and mint in a copper cup.

Will ordered a whiskey smash ($10) made with Four Roses bourbon, lemon and mint.

Will ordered a whiskey smash ($10) made with Four Roses bourbon, lemon and mint.

The Rijo sunset roll ($15) is a spicy tuna roll topped with unagi, hamachi, salmon and avocado.

The Rijo sunset roll ($15) is a spicy tuna roll topped with unagi, hamachi, salmon and avocado.

The rib eye and foie gras negimaki ($14).

The rib eye and foie gras negimaki ($14).

Rijo Restaurant
Harbor Court, third floor
66 Queen St.
Open daily
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner 5 to 10 p.m.
808-208-8181

Something new: Yakiniku Yoshi

A5 Japanese wagyu marbling

A5 Japanese wagyu marbling

See that marbling? That is the prized A5 Miyazaki wagyu beef that we found at Yakiniku Yoshi, newly opened on Young Street.

A5 wagyu is the highest grade of Japanese beef, from carefully raised cattle who are raised on high-quality feed. As you can see, it is fantastically marbled, giving it a smooth texture and juiciness. And the menu at Yoshi has a lot of it.

General manager Hajime Saito knows his beef. He worked at Yakiniku Hiroshi in Waikiki for over 10 years and was scouted by a longtime customer for this new venture. Sent to Japan for research, Saito found not only a smokeless infrared grill, but also sources of A4 and A5 wagyu beef in Miyazaki and Gunma prefectures as well as Snake River Farms in the United States.

Toro sandwich

Toro sandwich

My first visit took place before Yoshi’s grand opening on Jan. 31. Unaware that it had not officially opened, I was offered a chance to sample a cross-section of the menu including shrimp, beef tongue, kurobuta pork and Japanese and American wagyu. Then, because the restaurant was still in soft-opening mode, it turned out that everyone’s meal was on the house.

To get a more accurate assessment, I returned as a paying customer and ordered one each of their Japanese and U.S. wagyu sets for two (an extensive a la carte menu has USDA prime beef, kurobuta pork, jidori chicken and seafood).

Each set includes an organic salad, kimchi, namul, crispy nori sheets, wakame soup, toro sandwich, chef’s choice noodle and dessert. The toro sandwich was a brilliant start to the meal. Marinated meat is layered on a super soft bun and topped with cool lettuce. This slider-sized sandwich awakened my taste buds and I encouraged Saito to include this on the regular menu as well.

A5 Japanese yakisuki, marinated

A5 Japanese yakisuki, marinated

The A4 & A5 Japanese wagyu set is $140 for two. It has:

• Choice of scallops or shrimp – I opted for the scallops, which are poached in butter and miso for a rich, luxurious experience.
• A-grade chuck tataki or zuke – The tataki was sliced thin, each slice tender and flavorful.
• A-grade sampler
• A-grade rib steak – This highly marbled steak is the prized piece for any wagyu lover. Each piece barely touched the grill and was served very rare. The lightly warmed cuts melted in my mouth.
• A-grade yakisuki with yamaimo and egg

The gold grade U.S. wagyu set is $110 for two and includes:

• Fried intestine
• Squid geso – The squid legs are covered in tasty garlic; you grill them until tender.
• Kurobuta pork – The prized Japanese black pig produces tender, marbled pork.
• Skirt steak – Nice, thick slices.
• Gold rib eye steak
• Gold rib eye yaki shabu – A paper-thin slice of U.S. wagyu that you grill just a few seconds before eating.

US wagyu, see the difference in marbling?

US wagyu, see the difference in marbling?

Both sets have a decent portion of food. Here’s how I break down the relative value. If I were to go to a Japanese yakiniku spot that serves decent quality beef (USDA prime), I could expect to pay between $40 and $75 per person ordering a la carte. The gold grade U.S. wagyu from Snake River Farms is above the USDA prime grade in marbling, and at $55 per person is a fair price for all the meat and sides you receive.

But the real value is the Japanese wagyu set for $70 per person. If you’ve ever been to a restaurant that offers an A5 Miyazaki wagyu supplement in place of a prime steak or U.S. wagyu, you’re looking at anywhere from $40 to $100 tacked onto your bill.

An entire “tasting menu” of all this Japanese beef is a very good deal and I plan on going back and ordering it again.

An a la carte meal at Yakiniku Yoshi will run you anywhere from $40 to $100 depending on the grade and quality of meat.

Yakiniku Yoshi Honolulu
1316 Young St.
808-784-0067
Daily 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
yakinikutokyo@gmail.com

Chocolate truffles 101

IMG_1589My mom, a sweet and shy person in public, is actually a rabid foodie who follows my daily eating adventures on Instagram. So when I post a pic of something especially good — like MW Restaurant’s chocolate cake — she’s waiting for her share when I get home. If I forget, she’ll lower her voice and say slowly, “You had the best chocolate cake ever and you forgot to bring some home?” Only it’s not exactly a question.

Last week my boss gave me a box of Kahala Hotel hand-crafted chocolate truffles topped with gold leaf to take home and sample. I didn’t even realize my mom had snuck into the room.

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“Wow, these are made from high-quality chocolate. The praline one is my favorite,” she said as I put down my laptop and camera bags. The box contained 16 pieces of vintage 70 percent dark chocolate, aged rum milk chocolate, roasted praline blond chocolate and citrus yuzu white chocolate truffles. Somehow she had already sampled each one.

So when I told her that Jeremy Choo, the pastry chef at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, was going to teach me how to make these limited edition chocolates, I could tell she was excited at the prospect that more truffles might be headed her way.

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Since I never worked with chocolate during my brief culinary career, I approached this as a challenge to see if I could make beautiful truffles like the professionals.

I met with Choo in his pastry lab in the Kahala’s kitchens. He had already started making the citrus yuzu white chocolate truffles. The centers — marble-size spheres of yuzu and other citrus — had been prepared and were lined up in their molds, ready for dipping in the tempered French white chocolate.

IMG_1717Choo taught me to reserve one hand for dropping the centers into the white chocolate, while the other would coat and set the truffle on a metal cooling rack. Six was the magic number to dip before moving on to the next step, letting each truffle rest in turn so it would set just enough, but not all the way through.

Then we rolled each just-set truffle individually on the cooling rack to create the signature texture. These we lined up and let cool further. Afterward they would be topped with gold leaf and then boxed.

IMG_1722As we meticulously rolled out each truffle, the tempered chocolate thickened and got increasingly difficult to handle. It didn’t help that because I was concentrating on perfecting each one, I was moving at 50 to 75 percent of Choo’s speed. Choo warmed up the cooled chocolates in the microwave and explained that since the micro warms from the inside out, this was the preferred method to make chocolate workable again.

After completing about 60 truffles, we called it a day. Or at least I called it a day. I had to get back to work, but Choo was planning to finish all four flavors that day. At 100 boxes, that was 1,600 truffles. Crazy!

Can you guess which of these truffles is mine and which was made by Choo?

Neither could we. I may not be as fast as the professionals, but aesthetically I think I’m up to speed!

I didn’t get to take any home this time, but fortunately for me my mom was still busy inhaling the first box.

If you’re interested in the Kahala’s truffles by Choo (including some white chocolate ones made by yours truly), the 16-piece boxes cost $35 and are available at the Plumeria Beach House, by calling 739-8760 or emailing restaurants@kahalaresort.com.