Arancino at the Kahala celebrates their two-year anniversary

Time flies. I can’t believe it’s been two years since Arancino opened their third restaurant at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, but here they are celebrating their second anniversary in business.

To celebrate, Executive Chef Daisuke Hamamoto has created some new dishes (starting June 1) to add to their signature favorites, and we got to try some last night to show you. One of them, the duck, was something we had before as a one-time special, but they’ve put it on the new menu so more people can try it.

Amuse bouche at Arancino at the Kahala.

Amuse bouche at Arancino at the Kahala.

I loved Arancino’s corn foam amuse bouche, so was a little sad when I saw this pea foam starter with pancetta. We all loved it, though. Even if you aren’t into peas, try this — it’s not like any peas you’ve ever had.

Misticanza, $13.

Fresco di mare, $24.

You’ve seen us post this medley of local seafood before, but for the anniversary, Daisuke has made the plate fuller with uni, ika, abalone, scallop, and amaebi shrimp;  they also added slices of spicy ahi (previously a separate appetizer).

Terrina di fegato, $20.

Terrina di fegato, $20.

If you like foie gras, this delicate terrine is nicely done. The foie is marinated in cognac and brandy, then served with brioche and assorted berries. The round disks are actually onions, and not too strong!

Risotto al vino rosso con anatra, $26.

Risotto al vino rosso con anatra, $26.

This grilled muscovy duck dish was created for Valentine’s Day, but it did so well that they brought it back for the anniversary. The risotto features sangiovese red wine, so that flavor is a subtle balance with the cheese. The fried leeks add a very subtle crunch.  I think when people see this, they don’t know what to expect, but once they pop the first piece into their mouth, they are pleasantly surprised at how good it is.

Pesce al cartoccio, $32.

Pesce al cartoccio, $32.


Our Diane Seo had to leave us after the duck dish, so I’m showing her what she missed: We got to eat her parchment paper bag filled with peace (fish) di giorno, Manila clams, shimeji mushrooms, broccolini, sun dried tomatoes, and white wine. We loved that the flavors were subtly rich, and of course the steam made everything super tender. I was getting full, but I had to finish my piece of fish because it was so good. To be honest, this was a perfect dish to split with the next dish, so you get surf and turf.

Stracotto di manzo, $30.

Stracotto di manzo, $30.


To add freshly shaved summer truffles, add $20.

This braised short rib is great on its own, but if you want to kick it up a notch, adding freshly shaved truffles make it amazing. The beef is tender and almost silky, especially with the Sangiovese wine reduction. It’s served with seasonal vegetables and a bit of truffled mashed potatoes. If you go with a friend, split this and the fish to make your own surf and turf.

Bianco mangiare, $11.

Bianco mangiare, $11.

I love almond tofu/almond float, so this roasted almond panna cotta was more than the perfect way to end the meal. It’s light, but you get that lovely almond flavor with hints of coconut in the house made gelato and coconut granita. (Not to mention, anything coconut is all the rage right now.)

With Aya Ina, Daisuke Hamamoto, and Sayaka Mori.

With Aya Ina, Daisuke Hamamoto, and Sayaka Mori.

Mahalo to Aya Ina and Daisuke Hamamoto of Arancino at the Kahala! I was happy to have my friend, NHK meteorologist Sayaka Mori join me for dinner. She’s visiting from Japan and was excited to see The Kahala for the first time, too.

To see Arancino’s regular menu and hours, click here. The new menu items featured here start June 1.

Arancino at the Kahala
5000 Kahala Ave.


Holoholo Bar & Grill starts daily breakfast service

Several months ago, I blogged about Holoholo Bar & Grill, a neighborhood bar with ultimate local grinds. As of today, they have separated their lunch and dinner menus and have started a new breakfast menu — meaning they’ll be open from 7 a.m. daily.

You can get mimosas or, um, any cocktails during any meal of the day. They won't judge you. But I might!

You can get mimosas or, um, any cocktails during any meal of the day. They won’t judge you. But I might!

I’m a semi-regular at this bar because they’re in town with ample free parking and serve food that features local flavors that I like. Owner Jill Owens is a Roosevelt girl, so you get an elevated taste of Papakolea in her dishes. (I’m from the next valley over, so I can totally appreciate that.) So far, everyone I know who has tried Holoholo for the first time is blown away by most of the menu, so if you are up early enough, you’ll also like these breakfast offerings. Note that breakfast goes until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Toasted bagel with Okinawan sweet potato cream cheese spread.

Toasted bagel with Okinawan sweet potato cream cheese spread, $3.50.

Oddly enough, one of our favorite items of the morning was the bagel with Okinawan sweet potato cream cheese spread. It sounds so simple — and it is — but something that made everyone at our table perk up and take notice. It’s not cloyingly sweet at all, but does have some of that purple potato flavor, just enough to make it interesting.

Poached apple oatmeal bowl, $6.50.

Poached apple oatmeal bowl, $6.50.

Also on the lighter, healthier side, the oatmeal bowl is a nice change from the normal bland stuff you make at home. This is topped with bananas and poached apples (with dried cranberries on the side), which gives it unique flavor and texture. It makes you wonder why no one has thought of this before! Oh, yeah. Because poaching apples is a pain in the butt.

Green tea pancakes, $11.

Green tea pancakes, $11.

No, these are not squid luau pancakes. These pancakes have green tea batter and a creamy matcha sauce so you get intense green tea flavor. It doesn’t look so attractive, but if you like green tea, you will love it. (Pam Davis and I don’t care for green tea, but everyone else on our table did, so this exuded squeals of delight from them.) Jill Owens of Holoholo said the recipe is based on the flavors of green tea ice cream, since her staff runs out to Bubbie’s for green tea mochi ice cream all the time.

Da Fatty Bo, $11.

Da Fatty Bo, $11. I like my eggs looking all natural.

I can testify that Holoholo Bar & Grill has amazing smoked meat, since I order it on kale salad every time I go there. They took that meat and sautéed it with potatoes and onions, and put it on rice with eggs. It’s not quite a smoke meat moco since there’s no gravy. Smoke meat don? Smoke meat hash? Whatever you call it, it’s a winna. And kind of filling. Ladies, make sure you have friends to share this with.

Monte Cristo bennie, $12.

Monte Cristo bennie, $12.

Here’s a twist on a classic, one that I wrote about before: It’s more than a Benedict, it’s more than a sandwich. Instead of an English muffin, you get a grilled ham, turkey and cheese sandwich topped with an egg and hollandaise sauce. This is really heavy, though, so be sure you are hungry!

Lilikoi butter cake with ice cream.

Lilikoi butter cake with ice cream.

To end our tasting, they brought out miniature versions of their new lilikoi butter cake. It’s not on the breakfast menu, but if it’s in the pastry case when you are there, you can order it. The cake is nice, but the light lilikoi sauce is what really makes it — tart, sweet, and refreshing. It’s perfect with a little scoop of ice cream. (I had it again that night.)

Small kid time "coco 'n' crackahs" at Holoholo, $4.

Small kid time “coco ‘n’ crackahs” at Holoholo, $4.

Okay, I’m saving the most unique thing for last: a Papakolea favorite, “coco ‘n’ crackahs.” If you work in the food industry, you don’t normally eat at work, and this is something that Jill takes comfort in after a long day. Basically, it’s a bowl of hot cocoa and soda crackers. You crumble the crackers into it (not all at once) and eat it, like soup. It is like eating cereal and milk, actually, except the flavor is in the liquid and the crunchy crackers simply support it. I crumbled a few in and ate some, then added more crackers as I went along to get a consistency that was half crunchy, half soggy — your style may be different, depending on what texture you like.

I liked it, but I think I would recommend you have this to share with someone since the bowl is quite big. And if you’ve never had it before, here’s a lesson from Jill on how to eat it:

For more photos, click here.

Holoholo Bar & Grill
2494 S. Beretania St.

Happy birthday, Iron Chef Morimoto

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto at his Waikiki venue.

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto at his Waikiki venue.

If you owned a chain of restaurants in foodie destinations around the world, where would you want to celebrate your birthday? For “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, the obvious choice is Honolulu.

Actually, Morimoto has namesake restaurants in nine other cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Wailea, Boca Raton, Mexico City, Napa, South Beach and New Delhi), but he favors Honolulu for the golf and abundant karaoke. He even entertained the guests at last night’s event with the one song he performs. I had to work so missed the performance, but you can see one of my older videos of his singing here.

One of the revelations I had while joining the festivities was that the restaurant had been around quite a while, too. Mari Taketa and I first reviewed it when it opened in September 2010, and it has outlasted many Honolulu restaurants since then.

Alex O'Loughlin, Hawaii Five-0, Teilor Grubbs

Many “Hawaii Five-0″ cast members celebrated with chef Morimoto last night. Alex O’Laughlin is trying my Sony QX100 camera, and Teilor Grubbs is photo bombing.

It’s been featured on the hit series “Hawaii Five-0,” and through occasional menu changes, new life is breathed into its food offerings so its appeal is renewed. Via The Modern, it’s also (sort of) a part of the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. Having the right celebrity chef and the right location is certainly a good formula for success.

Goofing around: "Hawaii Five-0 cast members with Arden Cho and Aiden James (right).

Goofing around: “Hawaii Five-0 cast members striking various poses with Arden Cho and Aiden James (right).

It was nice to see some celebs I had interacted with previously, like Teilor Grubbs (who is now a teenager!); Arden Cho, whom I met while doing a minor appearance in “The Dressmaker’s Daughter;” and Aiden James, an ukulele star who was at the Ukulele Picnic last year.




Here are some of the dishes we had during the birthday celebration, all from the menu:


Calamari salad.


Softshell crab maki.


They had duck in Peking buns but I asked for a plain plate.


Wagyu carpaccio.


Morimoto’s take on fish tacos.


Spicy Alaskan king crab.


Assorted sushi: Salmon, ikura, uni, and unagi. But see the gray thing in the middle? That’s a kani miso nigiri … featuring crab guts. Super delish!

Congratulations and happy birthday, Iron Chef Morimoto! We’re looking forward to the next five years.

The 2015 Nā Hoku Hanohano Awards


Photo by Ricky Li

The stars came out to shine last night at the 38th annual Nā Hoku Hanohano Awards, held again at the Hawaii Convention Center. The big highlight of the night was longtime singer and kumu hula Keali’i Reichel winning eight awards, marking 35 Nā Hoku awards in his career.

With his latest album, “Kawaiokalena,” Reichel won all three awards for Hawaiian language (haku mele, Hawaiian language performance, and Hawaiian album of the year) and for sound/mix engineering, favorite entertainer (people’s choice), male vocalist of the year, song of the year and album of the year. Reichel is rumored to be looking at retirement from music to focus more on hula, so this was a perfect finale for him.

Kawika Kahiapo was the only recording artist this year to win awards with different projects: music album with “Ku‘u ‘Aina Aloha” and slack key album with “Ho‘omaluhia.” Newcomers Hū’ewa won most promising artist, as well as group of the year — over veteran artists Waipuna and Amy Hanaiali’i and Willie K. All the winners are listed below.

As usual, the event featured collaborative performances with various nominees, as well. (Videos to be posted as they are uploaded.) Here are some of the scenes from last night’s gala, also provided by Ricky Li and Crystal Yamasaki:

Nā Hoku Hanohano Awards 2015

Picture 1 of 52


The winner’s list is as follows:

Female Vocalist:  Mailani, “A Lot Like Love” (Ha)

Male Vocalist: Keali‘i Reichel, “Kawaiokalena” (Punahele)

Group of the Year: Hu‘ewa, “Hu‘ewa” (Ha)

Single of the Year (physical CD or digital): “‘Ohai Ali‘i Kaluhea,” Kuana Torres Kahele (KTK)

Album of the Year — awarded to artist(s) and producer(s): “Kawaiokalena,” Keali‘i Reichel IMG_6146 edit(Punahele); Keali‘i Reichel, Fred Krauss, Jim Linkner, Shawn Pimental and Michael Grande, producers

Song of the Year (composer’s award): “Kawaiokalena,” by Keali‘i Reichel from “Kawaiokalena,” Keali‘i Reichel (Punahele)

Favorite Entertainer (determined by public vote): Keali‘i Reichel

Most Promising Artist(s):  Hu‘ewa, “Hu‘ewa” (Ha)

Instrumental Composition (composer’s award): “1,000 Crystals,” by Pali Ka‘aihue from “1,000 Crystals,” Pali Ka‘aihue (PK)

EP (“Extended Play”) of the Year (must have between three and eight songs and less than 30 minutes of total playing time): “Cha-Lang-A-Lang Christmas,” Na Hoa (Na Hoa)

Contemporary Album:  “Reunion,” Amy & Willie K (Island Soul)

Island Music Album:  “Ku‘u ‘Aina Aloha,” Kawika Kahiapo (Pono)

Rock Album:  “Live Duke’s on Sunday 2,” Henry Kapono (Kapono)

Hawaiian Music Album:  “Kawaiokalena,” Keali‘i Reichel (Punahele)

Jazz Album: “Good Thing,” Maggie Herron (no label)

Instrumental Album: “Jus’ Cruzin’,” Ledward Kaapana (Jus’ Press)

Alternative Album:  “Kalakaua Avenue,” Streetlight Cadence (Streetlight Cadence)

Christmas Album:  “Endless Christmas,” Ginai (Black Hawaiian)

DSC03408Slack Key Album:  “Ho‘omaluhia,” Kawika Kahiapo (Pono)

Reggae Album:  “Paradise,” Kolohe Kai (RKD)

Religious Album:  “Victorious,” New Hope Oahu (Dream Worship)

R&B Album:  “Waking Up,” Maryanne Ito (InTribal Scribings)

Compilation Album of the Year — awarded to Hawaii resident producer(s):  “Island Style Ukulele 2,” various artists (Neos); Bob and Pati St. John, producers

Graphics — awarded to Hawaii resident designer(s):  Wailani Artates, for “Olanui,” by Sean Robbins (Sean Robbins)

Liner Notes — awarded to Hawaii resident annotator(s):  Neil J. Hannahs, for “E Mau Ke Aloha” by Waipuna (Poki)

Haku Mele — awarded to composer(s) of first-time recorded Hawaiian language song:  “Kawaiokalena,” by Keali‘i Reichel from “Kawaiokalena,” Keali‘i Reichel (Punahele)

Hawaiian Language Performance Award: Keali‘i Reichel, “Kawaiokalena” (Punahele)

Engineering Awards — awarded to Hawaii resident engineer(s)

Hawaiian Genre: Michael Grande, Jim Linkner and Shawn Pimental, for “Kawaiokalena,” Keali‘i Reichel (Punahele)

Non-Hawaiian:  Michael Grande, for “They Come and They Go,” Reggie Padilla (Pass Out)

International Album — (non-U.S. artists only):  “Kepani,” Kentaro Tsushima (School Bus)

Ki Ho‘alu Foundation Legacy Award:  Bobby Moderow Jr. of Maunalua

Moe Keale “Aloha Is” Award: Melveen Leed


The Nā Hoku Hanohano Awards culminate a monthlong celebration of Hawaii’s music, but there are still live music events you can attend, including hula and performances on Waikiki beach and live music at Kani Ka Pila Grille in the Outrigger Reef. Visit for more information.

Something new: Bread + Butter

I am always nagging people to read my blog, but today … well, I’m kind of hoping they won’t. Bread + Butter, a new cafe/restaurant/pinot bar in the spot on Kapiolani where Angelo Pietro once occupied, has only been open a week but I’m already a regular. And I’m going to be really sad on the day that it gets so busy that I can no longer kapu “my” table.

It’s already busy at lunch, even with no fanfare, so I know that day is coming fast.

One of the regular faces you will see at Bread + Butter (besides mine).

One of the regular faces you will see at Bread + Butter (besides mine).

Bread + Butter is owned by Diamond Dining, the same company that owns Shokudo next door and Buho Cocina y Cantina in Waikiki. (Disclaimer: My company does the social media for Buho.) It’s distinctly different in various ways: One, there are more healthy options; two, the place offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner; three, it’s got many grab-and-go takeout items.

Senior marketing manager Justin Mizufuka said the concept is generally a focus on simple things, simple flavors. “Simplicity is the root of a lot of things, so we’re going back to the basics. If you think of the context of bread and butter, we often refer to it as the foundation of what we learn,” he said.


Most of the restaurant is tables and chairs, all for self-service. There is a raised bar in the middle and a set of couches, both good places for meetings.  As you can see, there’s a counter to buy meat and cheese by the pound, and eventually bread. To the left of that is a bar, and at dinner you may be served by their chef, who also makes wine recommendations. Who’s the chef?

Chef Masa, left, and Justin Mizufuka.

Chef Masa, left, and Justin Mizufuka.

They brought in chef Arnoldo Masa Gushiken, who is originally from Argentina but has been working in Japan for many years. (He has bonded with chef Arturo Silva of Buho!) The menu is very American and local, but you see his Japanese and Spanish influences in many of the items. Warning, there are a lot of photos to follow because I’ve already eaten half the menu this week.

Taro + banana pancakes, $10.95.

Taro + banana pancakes, $10.95.

Let’s start with breakfast, since they open daily at 7 a.m. The taro pancakes are a popular choice, and my coffice mate eats them every day. While the pancakes by themselves are not life-changing, taking a bite complete with fruit and whipped cream is wonderful — in fact, the whipped cream is the big enhancer, making the sweet, tart, even savory flavors come alive.

Breakfast pizza, $7.95.

Breakfast pizza, $7.95.

I like the breakfast pizza, since the crust is chewy and moist and the ham, pesto and egg are so flavorful. I took this photo before they cut it so the yolk would be intact. It’s definitely a breakfast for a knife and fork, though.

Beef short rib loco moco, $16.95.

Beef short rib loco moco, $16.95.

The beef short rib loco moco comes in a small skillet, but it is super filling. The beef is fork-tender and the gravy is more of a sweet-savory glaze than the thick brown gravy from Hilo. We loved the crispy shallots, too, for extra crunch. This is definitely a must-try when you are hungry!

Breakfast dashimaki tamago, $7.95.

Breakfast dashimaki tamago, $7.95.

There’s no way to photograph the breakfast dashimaki tamago nicely, or clearly articulate what it is. It is basically a frittata of egg and rice, topped with a thin but very savory slice of ham. The skillet comes to you sizzling, so by the time you cut into it, the rice on the bottom is nice and crispy. It’s good for kids or people who don’t like surprises.

Salmon + shiso musubi and spam + quail egg musubi, each $3.

Salmon + shiso musubi and spam + quail egg musubi, each $3.

As you read this blog, I’m probably eating one of the grab-and-go musubis they offer. I haven’t tried either yet, but took a photo anyway so you could see what they look like.

caption here

Freshly brewed cortado at Bread + Butter ($3.50).

If you like a nice jolt of caffeine but need mellow flavor, try the cortado. It’s a shot of espresso cut with a little milk — I call it the Spanish version of a Flat White. I’ve had three coffees now at Bread + Butter and they have all been smooth Kona blends.

Smoked ahi sandwich with salad and pickled vegetables, $13. (Grab-and-go is $6.95.)

Smoked ahi sandwich with salad and pickled vegetables, $13. (Grab-and-go is $6.95.)

Do you want to know what my favorite thing on the menu is? The smoked ahi sandwich is probably the best tuna sandwich of my entire life. Yes, life. Chef Masa smokes the tuna himself and then flakes it; it’s super labor intensive, which is probably why he doesn’t sleep. The sandwich is stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, avocado and sprouts, then served with a green salad from a local farm and pickled vegetables. Justin likes to have a pickled vegetable in each bite, which is good, but I think the sandwich can stand on its own. You get an earthy, smoky flavor from the ahi against the fresh, bright, mellow and woody flavors of all the vegetables. I dream about this sandwich now.

Note, it was so good that my coworker Crystal Yamasaki gobbled up her half instantly. Also, it went well with the sparkling wine that chef Masa is holding above, the Segura Viadas Brut Reserve.

Beet + peach arugula salad, $12.

Beet + peach arugula salad, $12.

Most people know about beet salads, but beet salad with peaches? This one, with arugula, candied nuts, and sprinkles of Gorgonzola cheese gives it an unusual (and delicious) twist. There are many sweet flavors swirling around the spicy, bitter arugula, and the cheese mellows it all out. It’s definitely one of my top picks for lunch or dinner. (I’ll probably try the mango + quinoa salad today.)

Red bean + brie sandwich $4.95.

Red bean + brie sandwich $4.95.

Hawaii people don’t really know about Japanese red beans in sandwiches, but my friend Izumi Nagahama said sweetened azuki beans with butter are an amazing combination. Here, they serve it with brie cheese on a butter roll, which is also a genius idea. Who would have thought? It tastes almost dessert-like, kind of like taiyaki waffle cakes. I ate it for lunch one day, though.

French dip pizza, $14.95.

French dip pizza, $14.95.

There are currently four pizzas on the lunch/dinner menu: Margherita, four cheese + honey, fig + prosciutto, and French dip (above). They use thinly sliced Kobe beef on this and pop it into their state-of-the-art pizza oven. It’s drizzled with a special wasabi cream and served with their own French dip sauce. I’m not sure why no other specialty pizza places here have thought of this, but it is a fun, hearty pie!


Firecracker Gouda cheese dip, $7.

The staff seems to favor the firecracker Gouda cheese dip, which is a mix of chopped, roasted peppers and a dollop of cheese. It’s a little spicy and a nice snack, but I felt like the other menu items were so much better that I couldn’t waste precious stomach space filling up on this.

Dates + bleu cheese mousse, $7.

Dates + bleu cheese mousse, $7.

At the time we tried the dates + bleu cheese mousse, it was good but a little sweet. We loaded up on the bleu cheese, and that made it more balanced. So the next time you see this, you’ll have much more cheese on your plate. It’s a lovely dish and great with the pinots they offer.

Hand full of olives, $7.

Hand full of olives, $7.

The hand full of olives is a cute presentation of various varieties (some pitted, some not). I think many Hawaii people will get to eat olives that they’ve never seen before, in this dish.

Chicken liver pate with truffle oil, $7.

Chicken liver pate with truffle oil, $7.

Another of my favorites is the chicken liver pate with truffle oil, a light mousse in a recipe developed by chef Masa. It’s still got rich flavor, as pate does, but is well-balanced and not too oily. The truffle oil, of course, is what bumps it up a notch. We liked that it was served with that chewy pizza bread, too.

Smoked salmon + dill cream, $7.

Smoked salmon + dill cream, $7.

Chef Masa smokes his salmon, then serves it with dill cream and a melange of vegetables and orange chunks. The salmon is so moist you can almost drink it, and is good on its own, but the vegetables help make its flavor pop.

Lobster bisque mac + cheese, $9.95.

Lobster bisque mac + cheese, $9.95.

Everyone loves lobster bisque. And everyone loves macaroni and cheese. But together? That’s just crazy talk. This is served bubbling hot in a personal skillet, so be careful! It has all the simplicity and comfort you would want in mac and cheese, but the lobster bisque element makes it richer and more complex. It’s a definite must-try. Maybe split this and a beet salad with a friend?

Personal paella, $15.

Personal paella, $15.

Solo diners like me can never order paella in restaurants because it’s always served in a big pan for a party of two or more. But at Bread + Butter, you can get a personal-sized portion, complete with clams, mussels, and a giant shrimp. IMPORTANT: See the garlic aioli under the mussel? Be sure to mix that in the rice or get some of it on your fork with each bite. At first, we thought the paella was just okay. But when we  found out we were supposed to eat it with the aioli, that changed everything. This was great with a Chardonnay.

Shrimp peperroncino with squid ink pasta, $16.95.

Shrimp peperroncino with squid ink pasta, $16.95.

And, finally, the last of my favorites (so far): chef Masa makes his own pasta, so these squid ink noodles are soft and silky but still al dente. His light sauce on this is quite spicy, though, so it’s more for people who prefer the heat.

Overall, the prices are good and it’s a good value. The fare is light and mostly healthy, with something for almost everyone.

These were just the highlights. For more photos, click here.

Chef Arnoldo Masa Gushiken put in some long hours developing the recipes. Here he is in the middle of a project! —Photo by Justin Mizufuka.

Chef Arnoldo Masa Gushiken put in some long hours developing the recipes. Here he is in the middle of a project! —Photo by Justin Mizufuka.

Bread + Butter
1585 Kapiolani Blvd.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; validated parking available