Taormina’s summer menu

Chef Hiroyuki "Hiro" Mimura of Taormina Sicilian Cuisine.

Chef Hiroyuki “Hiro” Mimura of Taormina Sicilian Cuisine.

I’ve been kind of surprised to see chef Hiro Mimura of Taormina Sicilian Cuisine being so proactive lately, with events like Mangoes at the Moana, and now various seasonal menus. I have always liked Taormina’s food, but it’s nice to see chef Hiro keeping his creative edge sharp and reaching out to new audiences to showcase his talent. (Disclosure: Waikiki Beach Walk is my social media client.)

One thing that people probably don’t know about him: although chef Hiro started his career in Japan, he honed his craft by working for a few years in Florence, Italy. When he came to Taormina in 2007, his goal was to provide authentic Italian flavors to his customers. This is the real deal.

I got to taste his latest creative endeavor with some foodies recently, a new summer menu (available now through September 14). While you can order any of the regular items they offer, these additional items are lighter and celebrate the flavors of the season. Here’s a quick look:

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Just a taste: Some of the new appetizers at Taormina Sicilian Cuisine.

There are a few different ways to try these items: You can get a bite of four different appetizers like this for $22. You can also get these as part of the “Trinacria Collection” tasting menu, which is a total of $75. From left, seared ahi with watermelon radish, hearts of palm and edible flowers; creamy pea soup; chicken liver pate with truffle oil; and mini puff pastry sandwich with prosciutto, buffala mozzarella, Ho Farms cherry tomatoes and arugula. All were good, but our hands down favorite was the pate, with its gorgeous truffle essence.

Ahi

Ahi with watermelon radish, hearts of palm and edible flowers.

This is what a normal serving of the ahi would look like if you ordered it.

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Perfect for summer: chilled spaghetti ($19) with avocado, Big Island tomatoes, arugula and greens, all served with a light balsamic dressing. (For lunch you can get this as a full course, but it’s capellini with shrimp.) This one is big on flavor, very bright and rich, and surprisingly quite filling.

Uni pasta, also known as Ricci di mare.

Uni pasta, also known as Ricci di mare.

A few years ago, I did a blog post about Taormina Sicilian Cuisine and their uni pasta — better known as ricci di mare in Italy, where it originated — and named this one of my favorites in Hawaii. It still is, although the dish looks a little different. If you have never had sea urchin, this is a good introduction as it’s mild but very briny, with flecks of the uni throughout. If you are a fan, as I am, this one is for you! Ala carte, it is $33; on the Trinacria Collection tasting menu, it’s an extra $10.

Truffle carbonara

Tartufo fresco at Taormina Sicilian Cuisine.

Talk about decadence! The tartuffo fresco is a creamy pasta dish comprised of fresh fettuccine carbonara with seasonal fresh truffle, pancetta, Hamakua mixed mushroom and a poached egg. Chef Hiro comes to your table to shave fresh truffles over it and surround you with the aroma. It’s eggy even if you don’t bust the egg, so try a couple of experimental bites so you can appreciate the additional richness. This is an additional $20 on the Trinacria Collection tasting menu, and market price if you order it on its own.

Chicken

Grilled chicken with brown butter sauce, $24.

I usually don’t order chicken when I go out to eat, since it is often a plain, overdone dish put there to satisfy people who don’t like surprises. But I’ll order this one. The grilled chicken is part of the regular menu, but chef Hiro brought it out so we could try one of his most popular dishes. It’s moist and flavorful, with the lemon butter and garlic sauce providing the perfect contrast to the tart capers. Even though we were full, we couldn’t stop eating this one. It’s huge, though, so you may want to share it with someone as you each eat your own pasta.

Whole peach

Peach compote, $12.

Save room for dessert! The peach compote was one of our favorite things of the day, as it was as refreshing as it was delicious. You get a whole white peach (be careful of the pit) poached in white wine and served with vanilla creme anglaise, orange granita, and lemon zest. It sort of tastes like a peachy creamsicle, and is very light — a good way to end the meal. Before I wrote today’s blog I almost went back just to have another one. You know, just to be sure it was still delicious.

Peach bellini, $21.

Peach bellini, $21.

I’ll definitely go back for some of these dishes on my own before summer is done. If I’m off the clock, I’ll probably get their special peach bellini, which features fresh peach puree and a high-end champagne. Cheers!

 

Taormina Sicilian Cuisine
227 Lewers St., Waikiki Beach Walk
808-926-5050

My first juice cleanse: Nalo Juice Company

Nalo Juice's daily menu, found outside 24 Hour Fitness on King and Bishop streets.

Nalo Juice’s daily menu, found outside 24 Hour Fitness on King and Bishop streets.

I was about to do a Something New post about Nalo Juice Company, which hit the scene quietly about three months ago, when owner Kale Furuya suggested I try their juice cleanse to fully experience them. (Kale is pronounced Ka-leh, not like the vegetable.) I had always been interested in a juice cleanse, but with this blog it’s hard to get three to seven consecutive days when I wouldn’t have to be dining out. As luck would have it, I had three days last week that were open, so we scheduled that in.

Kale is no stranger to the world of fresh-pressed juices. He used to own Impressed Juice, and sold his share when his partner wanted to sell the company to Japanese investors. He decided he was done with juicing and would focus more on digital marketing, but his loyal customers kept pressing him (nyuk nyuk) to bring his juice back, and a series of events led him to create this new company.

When he was with Impressed, he kept hearing that he needed to meet chef Craig King, who is known for Glow Juice on Maui and had developed an exclusive cleanse program. One day, Kale ran into his friend’s aunty at yoga (see how Hawaii works?), who introduced them. Craig called him during his hiatus to tell him he wanted to make the new juice company happen.

Kale with one of his business partners, Emile Meder.

Kale with one of his business partners, Emile Meder.

Kale is also master sommelier Chuck Furuya’s son, so he had a connection and credibility with Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms. Things are done different this time: Nalo Juice is the only food safety certified juice company in Hawaii, they do all their juicing at Nalo Farms every day, and they source from the highest quality farms. All the greens come from Dean, of course, but he helps Kale source the rest of the ingredients. The company is different in that it’s run by mixed generations: the young people (all under 25) come up with the ideas and work the front lines, while the older financiers maintain stability in the business and ensure its long-term success.

“The most important thing, whether you do a juice cleanse or just buy an occasional bottle, is that we have a legit nutritionist who creates the original blends,” Kale said. “A lot of juice companies just guess, based on what tastes good to them. But we come up with ideas, and Craig researches and develops them for us to ensure nutritional quality as well as taste.”

Okay, that alone convinced me this was going to be pretty good. Here’s how the program went.

Day 1

Kale Furuya greeting me with my first round of juice.

Kale Furuya greeting me with my first round of juice.

All Nalo Juice cleanses start on a Monday, so everyone starts on the same day with the same juices. He only takes 12 cleanse clients at a time, though, so be sure to sign up ahead of time.

The day’s “meals” go as follows, from right to left: Ko’olau Sunset for breakfast, comprised of beet, watermelon, coconut water and lemongrass; green juice of cucumbers, parsley, kale (the vegetable) and cilantro; and the coconut broth of the day. On this day it was an Italian spice blend. Yes, that’s a lot of liquid, but you’ll need it.

Breakfast was always nice for me because I enjoy fruit juice. The Ko’olau was nice and mild, and was easy to finish at first. But remember, this was my first day, so I wasn’t used to drinking so much liquid at once. The third bottle was a little hard to finish. You can’t have coffee, so the first day is the hardest as you feel a little light-headed going through the day. I did work out, though, so it’s not like it hinders you from functioning.

Lunch was hard. I don’t like vegetable juices unless they’re full of fruits or sugar! Kale explained that different enzymes work on different things, so the whole point was to train our system to release the enzymes in the morning for the fruit, then different enzymes at lunch with the vegetables. By the way, our Diane Seo loves the green juice. Kale does, too. Even Ryan Pang of Fitness HI said it was mild. So it depends on your taste buds.

Since I had a hard time finishing lunch, I looked forward to dinner. The broth is a savory blend of coconut water and miso with various other vegetables and spices to create a comforting soup (you have to warm it up) that fills you. At first I felt like it wasn’t fulfilling, but it really did make me full and not hungry.

Day 2

Wait, what? The green juice doesn't change!

Wait, what? The green juice doesn’t change!

By the way, you pick up the juices each day at their stand on Bishop and King. He opens at 8 a.m., so unfortunately you can’t have breakfast until then.

The day’s juices, from right to left, were: The Lighthouse, with papaya, pineapple and lemon; the green juice, and a “southwest” flavored broth. I’m not gonna lie, I was bummed out to find that lunch does not change! But I did better this time, and was happy to be hydrated but not hungry.

I liked The Lighthouse better than the Ko’olau; it wasn’t as sweet and it had more tropical fruit flavor. By this time, I was already used to it, so I was able to take the bottles to a client breakfast meeting and have that while the client ate and it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I could scroll through my instagram feed, which is full of food, and seeing that didn’t bother me, either. (Eating with my eyes was actually kind of fulfilling.)

The one thing that killed me was going to a class that night. I knew they were having refreshments, so I was mentally prepared, but I didn’t know they would be catering from Natsunoya Tea House! The smell of homestyle Japanese food filled the room and I nearly died. I just sat there drinking lots of water while people around me raved about the fish. I made a little plate to go, and put it in a glass container when I got home for later.

Day 3

Okay, I think I'm used to it. My reward is that delicious Bellows blend.

Okay, I think I’m used to it. My reward is that delicious Bellows blend.

The third day’s juices, from right to left: Bellows, with mango, watermelon and coconut milk; green juice for lunch, and shiitake-konbu broth. The Bellows is my favorite juice, as it’s lightly creamy, like drinking dessert. This was no problem to drink three bottles … heck, I would have drunk a fourth. This is the first juice that sells out at the Blaisdell farmer’s market, so go early if you want to try it.

I was able to down the three bottles of green juice at lunch, after my workout. People asked why I didn’t add things to it to make it more palatable for me, but I wanted to get the full intended effect of the cleanse. If specific enzymes were working in my body for the green juice, I didn’t want to screw it up by adding fruits.

At this point, I was so used to just having juice that I bought a few extra bottles from him at the Blaisdell market and had that for breakfast on the fourth day.

Kale with another business partner, Kara Gifford.

Kale with another business partner, Kara Gifford.

The results

People say that you wake up on the third day and you’re alert, and full of clarity. I didn’t have that high, but I wasn’t tired, either. I woke up feeling lighter and definitely not bloated — I didn’t realize how bloated I was before the cleanse, until I saw myself after. I did have a “clean” overall feeling, though. One of the good things, too, is that you are constantly well-hydrated. You know how they say to pee clear once a day to maintain hydration health? You’re peeing clear all day.

Also, I didn’t do this cleanse to lose weight, I did it to get healthier. So I may have dropped about five pounds at most, but the proof was in measuring my blood pressure on the fourth and fifth day (following the cleanse). The numbers dropped each subsequent day, so I knew I had done some good for my body.

My eating scaled back a little, at least for now. My first solid food was that little plate of food from Natsunoya that I had saved. I just wanted a taste! Interestingly enough, it wasn’t as fulfilling to eat it, as it was to smell it. That night, I went to Goodwill Goes Glam, and my dinner was vegetarian curry topped with a fried tofu patty. The rich curry and the fried tofu were kind of hard to eat — it was almost painful going down and I ate less than half. So try to ease back into your solid diet after the cleanse with lighter foods.

The hardest part about the cleanse was probably getting used to it the first day, but I was mentally prepared, so I only had to deal with being light-headed. The craving for solid food was minimal, and all mental — I wasn’t ever hungry. Even when the Natsunoya food smell was killing me, I wasn’t actually hungry. But overall, it wasn’t as hard as you would think.

Would I do it again? Definitely. I would have to plan way ahead to find another three days to do it, but I think it’s good to reset our systems once in a while. If you do it, let me know how it goes and post your comments, below!

Nalo Juice Company
On the corner of Bishop and King streets and at the Wednesday Blaisdell market
Juices are $8 each
Cleanse program is $60 per day; if you go for a whole week it is $50 per day.

Did this: Mangoes at the Moana 2015

Can you believe it’s been seven years since the first mango festival at the Moana Surfrider came to be? I remember when it was held out at the Sheraton Makaha, coordinated by Mark and Candy Suiso of Makaha Mangoes right in their neighborhood. The concept was so popular, Starwood brought it to Waikiki so more people could celebrate one of our favorite summer fruits.

Refreshing cups of Makaha mangoes for $5 at Mangoes at the Moana.

Refreshing cups of Makaha mangoes for $5 at Mangoes at the Moana.

They still have a farmer’s market, mango seminars and workshops, free mango cooking demonstrations, plus the best mango contest (where you bring two backyard mangoes for experts to judge). This year they also had a silent auction, as well. There were three celebrity emcees: Guy Hagi of Hawaii News Now, comedian Augie Tulba, and our own Will Chen.

For 2015, eight renowned Oahu chefs participated in the most popular event, the mango throwdown. Each team had to come up with a mango-themed dish, and were scrutinized by the public as well as a panel of judges. Each plate cost $6 but these were well worth it.

Ni'ihau lamb dumpling with mangoes by Lee Anne Wong.

Ni’ihau lamb dumpling with mangoes by Lee Anne Wong.

One of my favorite dishes was the Ni’ihau lamb dumpling by Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe. Hopefully this is a new menu item! Sweet, savory, tender, you name it. I could eat a regular serving of this.

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Lee Anne ended up winning, for the second year in a row, first place in the judge’s choice.

Mango "sorb-eiche" by James Aptakin of Mac 24-7.

Mango “sorb-eiche” by James Aptakin of Mac 24-7.

My other favorite won, too! James Aptakin of Mac 24-7 is known for making some elaborate, labor-intensive dishes for these events, and he did not disappoint. He made a shrimp ceviche topped with mango ginger carrot sorbet and a shrimp powder (freeze dried from stock from the shrimp shells) and pop rocks with flowers, Peruvian purple potato, coconut milk, habanero salt, and who knows what else.

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James won the people’s choice award.

Here are more scenes from the Mangoes at the Moana, including the other dishes we tried. I’ll be honest, I liked all of the dishes they served. It was probably a tough job to judge them, so I’m glad I got to relax and just eat.

Mangoes at the Moana 2015

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Shaymus Alwin of Azure made cold Kona lobster with green mango and jicama salad, mango horseradish, chicharrones and ikura.

Happy birthday, Rap Reiplinger

Poi Dog, one of the most popular of Rap Reiplinger's nine comedy albums.

Poi Dog, one of the most popular of Rap Reiplinger’s nine comedy albums.

If you’re local, usually over 35 years old, you remember this funny guy with a funny name who hit the comedy scene in the 1970s. Rap Reiplinger made locals laugh both with the group Booga Booga (with Ed Ka’ahea and the late James Grant Benton) and on his own until his cocaine-related death in 1984.

So why am I remembering him today? Well, if you’re young, you probably don’t know who he is. You probably say words, maybe even whole lines, from his sketches in your everyday life without knowing where they came from. There are a lot of local comedians who have made an impact on Hawaii living, but none as much as Rap, who would have been 65 years old today. And keedz nowadays have no appreciation of how much of their lives have been affected by this comic genius.

For example: my business partner, Russ Sumida, often says, “I like da crackah!” — which is fitting because he is a nutty Japanese man from Kaimuki who likes crackers. When I taste wine, I sometimes say, “Subtle, yet annoying!” Our young colleague, Crystal Yamasaki, has no idea what that is about. Or our references to Mahalo Airlines, or Mr. Frogtree, or … the list goes on.

At any given time, you can say a line from one of his sketches, and people in the know will chime in to finish the skit — everyone gets a guaranteed laugh. His material was an extreme glimpse at how local people live and talk, and I think some were even made up. Okay, well, some people really do talk pidgin li’ dat, all da time. Like me karang yo allas? Cool yo’ jets!

His most famous skit, Auntie Marialani’s Cooking Show, is probably the most quoted to this day. Whenever I say “Oh, no eat meeee!” — people know where it’s from.

Another influentially iconic comedian, Andy Bumatai, reflected on his memory of Rap with me.

Andy Bumatai, left, with his mentor, comedian Mel Cabang.

Andy Bumatai, left, with his mentor, comedian Mel Cabang.

“When Rap left Booga Booga I was his replacement. I was just starting out as a comic. I’d heard of Booga Booga but never seen them live — I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “I was playing Frank DeLima’s breaks and not doing very well when Ed Ka’ahea and James Grant Benton came in and offered me the job. I was broke and took the gig because they were a famous comedy act even though I’d never acted or worked in an ensemble before. I was thinking, ‘how hard could it be?’

“That Saturday I went to the Territorial Tavern [on Bishop and Nimitz] to see them and learn Rap’s lines. The place was packed and Rap was on fire, ad-libbing like a madman and getting HUGE laughs. At one point he grabbed a fried egg from a previous skit, held it up with one hand and stuck his middle finger at the audience with the other and asked, ‘Okay, which came first, the fricken or the egg?’ The place went nuts. THIS was the guy they wanted ME to replace?! If I didn’t need the money so bad I would have told them I changed my mind. I didn’t last long,” he mused.

“Rap went on to do solo comedy, some classic TV shows and records (yeah, those big round things) but, to me, Booga Booga was the most fertile comedy soil he ever worked and for those lucky enough to have been at the Territorial Tavern when Rap’s comedy comet streaked by saw pure local comedy at its best,” Andy added.

Another classic sketch was “Room Service.” Do you ever wonder why people often yell, “Eh Russell, get PEN?” when they need one? This is how famous the routine is: in a business meeting last week, as we talked about local comedy, I brought out a photo of a cheeseburger and someone across the table said, “I know where you’re going with that!” And I really was about to spout out lines from the skit.

Young people of Hawaii, listen up! Watch these and other Rap Reiplinger videos on YouTube and learn about a piece of your local culture. And unlike other kinds of edumacational material, these will have you cracking up. Garanz ballbaranz.

How many times you wen listen to da album before you saw da show? Test your Rap knowledge!

1. What do you chant at the Lolo Telethon?
2. What are the last two names in the Japanese roll call? (Bonus: last four names)
3. In da Portuguese Huddle, what do they want to do before they win?
4. What advice does the Pilikia Hotline give for ukus?
5. What is Wendell’s Foot Long Laulau bettah den?
6. Who calls Room Service for a cheeseburger deluxe?
7. Complete this sentence: “Not too sweet, ____”
8. How many emergency exits are provided on Mahalo Airlines?
9. Who is Auntie Nelly’s braddah’s cousin George’s nephew’s son?
10. Who is Mits Funai?

Everyone used to sing the jingle about Wendell's foot-long laulau.

Everyone used to sing the jingle about Wendell’s foot-long laulau.

Image provided by Pomai Souza of Tasty Island.

Answers:
1. Bucks fo lolos!
2. Shimakuro, Kurosato, Satogata, Gotta go now
3. Eat!
4. Scratch um den! Or pour gasoline on top yo head and light one match.
5. Bettah den poi, bettah den pig. (Using only da finest ingredements.)
6. Mr. Fogarty (a.k.a. Mistah Frogtree)
7. “…not too rancid, but jesssss right, ah!”
8. Two at the front of the cockpit, and two at the rear of the cockpit.
9. Officer Medeiros.
10. Da guy Fate Yanagi shouldn’t go out with.

Can score, or wat?
10 correct: Wop yo jaws! You get um.
8-9: Wow, laulau! Pretty good.
6-7: You shua you shua?
4-2: You are either under 30 years of age or a Roosevelt grad.
All wrong: Bucks fo lolos! Don’t call yourself local!

Something new: Flyin’ Ahi

There are a few places in town that we haven’t been able to preview — like Central Bakery and Menya Musashi — because they were just too unready for us to tell anyone to try. (Which is weird, because they are chains from Japan so they should get it right.) But at this writing, the new food truck Flyin’ Ahi is starting their second week in business, and despite it being their debut in the food industry, the owners are making us ‘ono for more.

Leroy and Loke Melchor of Flyin' Ahi.

Leroy and Loke Melchor of Flyin’ Ahi.

Leroy Melchor was previously a nurse and had wanted to start a food truck for a long time. This truck, in fact, is at least several months in the making, with research, consultations with Poni Askew at Streetgrindz, and finding the right truck. Poni suggested poke as their focus, since there aren’t many poke trucks on Oahu and none at Kewalo, the newest food truck venue. So Leroy got a nice truck that has a refrigerated window in front to display the poke, and outfitted with a shower so they can clean up after work. Loke is a teacher at Kamehameha Schools, so she and their kids help out since it’s now summer break.

For you carnivores: the pulehu combo, $12.

For you carnivores: the pulehu combo, $12.

My friend Bruce Watson, who also teaches at Kamehameha Schools, introduced me to the truck and I liked it so much that I went back. He ordered the one non-fish item, the pulehu combo, which has skewers of kalbi, barbecue pork (looks like chicken) and guava smokies. One word: Mean! It’s got just the right balance of sweet and savory. You’ll notice that there is both mac salad and tossed salad in the plate, because Leroy didn’t want to make it an either-or choice for people.

This is what happens when you take pictures in the blazing hot noon sun.

This is what happens when you take pictures in the blazing hot noon sun.

And if you think you need to be a big dude to eat this plate, think again. This young lady didn’t even blink when she ordered the plate after a long day of fishing.

My classmate Sandra Shim with the smashed patty salad, $10.

My classmate Sandra Shim with the smashed patty salad, $10.

The smashed patty salad is comprised of panko crusted ahi cakes with wasabi ranch dressing, organic greens and local veggies with a mango drizzle. I didn’t try this, but it’s been pretty popular with people looking for a lighter meal.

Tokyo poke plate, $12.

Tokyo poke plate with Flyin’ Ahi, $12.

There are three poke plates, or you can get the fish ala carte. You first choose the kind of plate, then the kind of poke. I tried the Tokyo poke plate, which comes with Korean nori so you can make mini temaki while you eat. Then I chose the “Flyin’ Ahi” poke with ahi, salmon, tako, taegu, cucumber, green and white onion, limu, and…did I miss anything? I think there’s more, but you get the picture. I liked this one a lot, partly because it’s so different from other poke in town. It’s fresh, with lots of textures in each bite, and I loved the little crunch of salt every so often.

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Also note the nice touch in the upper right corner? Every plate comes with a half-slice of brownie. I was surprised when I opened my box and saw that, since no one else does that on their plates. Leroy wanted a little taste of something sweet to finish the savory meal, and it kind of puts a “mommy loves you” touch on the whole thing. Stay tuned, though, as Loke may change it up with a cookie next time.

The Hawaiian poke plate, $12.

The Hawaiian poke plate, $12.

The Hawaiian poke plate comes with poi and lomi salmon. I believe this one is the “Koloa Boy” poke. I’m sorry I didn’t get to ask what was in it before I left, but they’ll give you a little flyer to help you order the poke of choice.

The Cali poke plate, $12.

The Cali poke plate, $12.

The Cali poke plate comes with organic greens and local veggies — a simple, straightforward plate. This person has ordered it with the simple, straightforward ahi limu poke. Just a reminder, you can order any of these plates with any of the pokes they offer, so your plate may look different.

 

Next time, I’ll probably try their Tsunami Fries, which are tossed in the wasabi ranch. I wonder which poke I should try? Let me know what you think and I’ll try it, too!

To see more, check them out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Flyin’ Ahi
1011 Ala Moana Blvd. (the Streetgrindz street food pod)
Lunch: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m.