What was the best thing you ate this year? Foodies always, we asked this question of a bunch of Frolickers and others who eat out all the time. The answers were often surprising, in many cases closer to home and heart than we expected. Read on for the picks.
Despite all the fancy pants stuff we get to eat during the year, I get the greatest pleasure from finding simple items done really well. One of my favorite meals this year was the soba at restaurant Miyabi in Kobuchizawa. Deb Aoki and I had been wandering, looking for a temple, but never found it … instead, we stumbled upon this very local restaurant with fresh soba and tempura made with ingredients of the area (literally, right in their back yard). This was light, but very tasty, with a slight chewiness to the noodles and a delicate crunch on the fresh tempura. — Melissa Chang
I love the honey cream pineapples from Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo and have driven all the way out there to get them. (These are on the menu at Chai’s Island Bistro & Chai’s Waikiki.) They were developed to have low acid and high sugar, resulting in a pineapple that tastes like birthday cake. Yum! They are specially grown and you can’t take the crown to grow them yourself, so don’t even think about it. — Melissa Chang
Naem khao at most Thai restos. I believe this is from Siam Garden Cafe. Crispy rice salad. Sour. Spicy. Crunchy. Tender. Fresh herbs and lettuce to wrap with. I would eat this everyday. And need to eat it at least once a week. — Will Chen, fresh BOX
Crunchy tarte of langoustines, covered with Osetra caviar and gold leaf, at Yannick Alleno’s Pavilion Ledoyen, Champs Elysees, Paris. — George Mavrothalassitis, Chef Mavro
Jambon de Paris, beurre d’Echiré, baguette, cornichons, at Cafe de Flore, Saint Germain des Près, Paris. — George Mavrothalassitis, Chef Mavro
Every once in a while a dish, a flavor or a bite lingers on the tip of your tongue and makes your mouth water in anticipation of another taste. The first time I bit into an Aloha Tofu sesame rice soybean musubi ($2), I knew I had stumbled onto something special. The bold umami flavors from the seaweed, shoyu and dashi make my mouth water just thinking about them. Mix in glutinous mochi rice along with a premium rice grain, a touch of salt and a hint of sesame oil and you get this perfect snack. I savor each bite that pops with the essence of deep ocean flavors. The last three times I ate at Aloha Tofu Town in Iwilei, I bought out the rest of their musubis and ate them one by one for the rest of the day. — Grant Shindo
At the end of every month I profile a dish on my Instagram that was the best thing I ate last month. I usually base my choice on the one thing I am craving and could eat over and over again. The mochi-crusted opakapaka at MW Restauranttakes me back over a decade to when I was a wait captain at Alan Wong’s and Wade Ueoka was the sous chef. He returned from a trip to Japan and the dish was born. Over the years he has really fine-tuned it. The fish is moist and tender and the crust – light, flaky and crunchy – adds a nice hint of salt and the comforting flavor of mochi.The pickles are spicy and crisp. The somen noodles come with sauce on the side; it’s fun when you pour it on. I could likely eat this dish every day. — Olena Heu
This is a jar of moringa powder made by one of our farmers. He made this for me because he grows kalumungai leaves which is otherwise known as moringa olifera. For me this was the best thing that I ate this year because it was more about the learning process of what moringa is good for. It has so many health benefits and is a natural energy booster. I had a great time learning about it. You can also buy it at Down To Earth where it is called Maui Moringa however the color is that good. By dehydrating it at 110 degrees you get a deep green but it takes a little longer. I made a play off of a plantation ice tea with fresh pineapple juice, moringa and Shiso. All natural, no added sugar and very healthy.” — Michelle Karr-Ueoka, MW Restaurant
While road tripping through California, my wife and I stumbled upon Main Street Bar & Grill in a town called Clearlake where I had this massive pork cutlet breakfast. Aside for the impressive size, the cutlet was crispy without being greasy, and the pork was juicy and tender. What really made this dish memorable (and I wish I had a photo of it) was the side of pork sausage gravy. The velvety rich cream based gravy clung to the cutlet, the toast, pretty much anything that was dunked into it. — Ed Morita
Rice-crusted Hawaiian sea bass with blue crab and Hamakua mushroom risotto, Thai inamona relish and chili basil nage from Roy’s Waikiki this past October. (Executive chef: Jason Ichiki) I really (really) enjoyed this dish because of the strong flavor profiles, they all just meshed so well together, tender fish and perfectly cooked risotto. — Aya Nishihara, Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
The best thing I ate this year was lolo niu (sprouting coconut sponge). Earlier this year I traveled to Tahiti where they would never dream of using canned coconut milk in their recipes. Prior to returning home I purchased an electric “rappe a coco” (coconut grater) so we could prepare Hawaiian dishes such as he’e lu’au the way they were intended. We husk, crack, grate and squeeze a dozen coconuts a day at Mud Hen Water and every so often we get lucky and find a shell with a sprouted sponge in it. In Hawaiian this little prize is known as “lolo niu”. The incredibly delicious sponge is light, crispy, sweet and rich much like a natural coconut meringue. If they were more common we would love to incorporate them into a dessert on the menu but, being so rare, they are usually gobbled up on the spot. — Ed Kenney; Town, Kaimuki Superette and Mud Hen Water
The most memorable thing I ate this year is pancakes at Lilihā Bakery. Since I moved back from California I have been searching for the best pancakes on the island. I have been to all the spots, and overlooked Lilihā Bakery because I’d been there, 10 years ago. But they are the best: light, fluffy, sweet, salty and oh so buttery. I do not have a picture but I think that’s an easy one to find.
Another was this whey ice cream from Amass in Denmark. It was served with sweet potatoes and chestnuts. The texture was like frozen pudding, so smooth and silky. These dishes are both in my life-changing category. — Jonathan Mizukami, Chef Mavro
I found this pudae chige, a.k.a. Korean army stew, at Red Stand in Samsung Plaza. A friend from Seoul first told me of the existence of this fiery hotpot of luncheon meat, Vienna sausage, Smokies, canned beans, kimchee, tofu, rice cakes and veggies about seven years ago at a tiny spot around the corner on Makaloa Street where Iyasume Musubi is now. When the hotpot came, set over a live flame, I looked at the processed meats and thought of my arteries. But dipping my chopsticks in the boiling cauldron, I could not stop eating. Everyone I’ve turned onto pudae chige finds it addicting. When the tiny resto closed I called Korean places all over the island; those that had pudae chige charged up to $44. For luncheon meat and Smokies. Red Stand’s is $28 and feeds three. Here’s the before photo (yes, that’s instant ramen). This dish, especially in winter, stays on the brain. — Mari Taketa
I have no idea why this happened since it’s hardly a new or exciting dish but I’ve become addicted to Hale Vietnam’s #3 pho. One busy week, on a rainy day when I was feeling stressed and low, I stopped by and had it. The chewy bits of tendon and tripe and the rich broth were crazily healing. I ended up going back three times in the next week for the exact same thing, sitting at the exact same table and without needing to look at a menu. And now even when I’m not in Kaimuki I’m hunting down tendon and tripe wherever I can find it. Why this is unusual is because I never ordered pho like this before; I was always a pho tai person. That one bowl on a rainy day totally was a game changer. — Diane Seo
My favorite bite from 2015 was gold and crisp on the outside, yet moist and chewy on the inside. The perfect waffle is found in Los Angeles on the corner of Echo Park and Sunset in a tiny navy blue alcove called Dinette. Although you can order it plain, this waffle is best enjoyed smothered in maple syrup and topped with a soft poached egg and a thick slab of applewood bacon. The smokey bacon cuts the subtle sweetness of the syrup so well, I struggled not to order a second after my first bite. I’ve traveled to LA three times this year, and each trip, I’ve made it a point to stop by Dinette for this deliciousness.
Is it a heart attack served on a biodegradable plate? Absolutely. But it’s so worth the risk! — Thomas Obungen