Editor's note: This spot has closed.
If you've been to the Farm Lover's markets at Haleiwa, Pearlridge or Kailua, you'll usually see a line for the Amaebi booth. It's kind of hard to resist when you can see Patrick Malone cooking everything in front of you, with the smell of garlic shrimp wafting through the air.
Also hard to resist: the gigantic shrimp that put the North Shore trucks to shame, and the super fresh fish, all caught on the Jenny and the Sea Falcon by Capt. David Lewis or Capt. Phil Westbrook. In fact, the fish served every week depends on what they actually catch, so they can't stick with a permanent menu board. Yes, it's that fresh — so when you see the prices, below, you know it's a good deal.
People who can't wake up early enough to make it to the markets can now ease up, as the crew from Amaebi now have a regular spot in Chinatown, too. It's a little hard to find at first because they're on the Ewa end of Pauahi Street, but downtown workers easily walk there to get their lunch or dinner. Is it worth the trek? Absolutely. I go to the farmer's market every week, but I also have driven into Chinatown just to get one of these plates. Check it out:
It's a small space, so it's basically takeout. They have one table in front of the stall for people who want to eat their meal on the spot, but it's really an extension of their farmer's market operation.
They also offer boxes of frozen shrimp that they've caught, in different sizes, if you prefer to cook it at home yourself. If they have fresh fish available, they'll cut it for you.
There are a few different plates featuring the shrimp. This one, above, is a combo comprised of a fish patty, a slice of the fish of the day, and two shrimp (size and quantity per plate depends on what they've caught). You can get it with white rice or shrimp/fish fried rice (seafood depends on what they have) for $1 extra. I liked this plate when I first tried it, but I like it even better now that Malone uses coconut oil instead of butter.
The more popular plates include three shrimp with two fish patties for $12, or four shrimp with two fish patties for $15. Tip: twist off the shrimp heads over your rice, so all the goodness from the heads fall into it for extra flavor.
I'm not exaggerating, the fish patty loco moco is probably the best one I've tasted so far. Usually fish loco mocos are a little bland, but Malone makes his own beef gravy, which isn't too heavy but has a good richness and savoriness that works well with the fish. You can also get a mini, with one patty, for $7.
Probably the best deal is the fried rice bowl, which is just $5 ($6 if you order it with an egg). It's shrimp and/or fish in a very tasty garlic fried rice. I thought it was a little weird to have it with a slice of lime, but I squeezed a little over it, and it went well together! Don't knock it til you try it.
They also make a mean poke, but it depends on availability. Malone is particular about this, since not every fish is a poke fish. They do, however, offer ceviche, derived from an experimental recipe.The flavors are bright and fresh since they squeeze the limes by hand and cut everything themselves. There's also a hint of spiciness that lingers — Malone doesn't make things too spicy so that they have universal appeal. The ceviche shown above was $10, but the price varies by market price and the size of the container — so it ranges from about $7 to $12.
For those who don't eat shrimp at all, Amaebi offers fish patties on their own. This mini plate is just $5; if you order a full plate with four patties, it comes with kim chee, and that's just $10. Since the patties are made from fresh-caught fish, they're not as heavy as mass-produced ones, and have a more melt-in-your-mouth quality. I like mine with a little of Amaebi's house made sriracha, but our Kelli Shiroma said it was super spicy. (She did, however, inhale the plate, so maybe that had something to do with it!)
If you like fish tacos, you'll love these. I usually pass on fish tacos at restaurants since they're usually bland to appeal to the masses. But Amaebi smokes their fish onsite, and that intense, rich smokiness really punches up the flavor in these tacos. The unique flavor is nicely complemented by the super fresh salsa, made with the same ingredients as the ceviche, above. It's probably ideal to eat these freshly made, onsite, but I did take a taco home to eat later and the flavor still held up.
Since Amaebi smokes their fish onsite, you can get a plate of it — I don't think I've seen a plate like this at other seafood restaurants, so it's pretty unique. Again, the type of fish will depend on what they've caught, so your plate may not look the same as mine.
The fish sandwich is usually mahimahi (again, depending on what they catch) with Kewpie mayo and a housemade sweet Thai chili sauce. The fish in the sandwich is fried, not smoked, so it's got milder flavor. I'd say this is good for people who don't want surprises.
Amaebi Hawaii still operates at the Farm Lover's markets, so they are closed in Chinatown on Thursday (find them in Haleiwa) and Sunday (find them in Kailua). They also are at Pearlridge's market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, but they open the Chinatown shop when they get back in. Otherwise they are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and Friday.
152B N. Pauahi St.