Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All good things must come to an end

Towards the end of our Hawaiian holiday we actually got a bit more active, which isn't the way I had planned it, but perhaps there was just some inherent, unspoken knowledge that the holiday was nearing its end and we tried to cram as much in as possible, including a second visit to the beach.

A quick funny pic addition too. I love browsing supermarkets when overseas. I like my own local supermarket plenty enough already, but I always feel like I'm getting an intimate insiders view of the local lifestyle when I'm in a foreign supermarket. There always seems to be the weird, wacky and wonderful in any given aisle.

Spam a lot? Check out the variations

Real cheese? You've got to be kidding!

Supermarket and other adventures aside, we visited a little izakaya (Japanese sake and food place) one night for another attempt at eating light. We walked up a staircase lined with Polaroid photos on the walls. I don't recognise anyone but then again, my knowledge of Japanese celebrities is somewhat limited.

We're seated at the bar and order drinks from the server. I'm not sure if he actually speaks English (there's a lot of pointing, smiling and nodding action happening as we order) but he's friendly and the drinks arrive swiftly.

Kirin from Tako-no-ki Izakaya (Royal Hawaiian Ave, Waikiki)

The idea behind izakaya dining is that you snack while drinking your sake or beer or whatever it is that you're consuming. Like peanuts and beer taken one culinary step further. There are a few tables of Japanese tourists about enjoying their sake and snacks, and even a family at the table seating. We're seated at the bar right near the grill, so the sounds and smells of what's to come are prominently parading themselves in front of my face.

My sometimes-more-adventurous eating companion has found a menu item that gives me the beginnings of a chill down my spine, but tako wasabi on the menu doesn't sound as bad as it looks.

Tako wasabi

When this tiny bowl arrives, I'm not sure how adventurous I want to be. Little pieces of chopped raw octopus swim in a sweet wasabi dressing with a few shallots. The dark skin in particular puts me off a little, so I delve for a small, skinless piece. I like the dressing - it has a proper wasabi hit and a sweet dimension that sort of enhances the octopus. But the octopus itself is of the strangest texture and doesn't quite conform to the notion of chewing and masceration. I chew and chew, then give up and swallow and look forward to the next dish.

Ahi poke

Another restaurant and another version of this Hawaiian specialty. Again this version is strong on sesame flavour and I'm a little disappointed to have to dig for my tuna under the masses of raw onion. Next the cooked dishes make their way to us.

Edamame and grilled Kurobuta sausages

Edamame is fast entering my list of comfort foods - I like them warm with salt sprinkled on them post-boiling and this is how they are served here. The sausages have come straight from the grill with a scrape of hot English mustard and a wedge of lemon. They taste a little of packaged frankfurts I'd get at home - obviously without the red skin and a little firmer in texture.

Lastly we're served our okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake) which is pretty much the biggest version I've ever had.

Modernyaki (top) and close up of noodle filling (bottom)

It comes smothered in okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise with a few bonito shavings and ground nori, and comes with a spatula for self serving. This is the so-called modernyaki - a version with soba noodles encased in the pancake along with more traditional fillings such as cabbage and pork. It is huge, hot off the grill and smells amazing. Digging in to civilised wedges, the inner is cooked to a moist degree with the seasoned noodles being a standout in the overall concoction. It's really a meal that has it all: carbs, vegies, protein and mouthwateringly delicious to boot. It is, however, quite filling as we again fail our task of eating light.

The next afternoon following a brief stint in the water and sands of Waikiki Beach, it's almost a must to hit one of the beach bars. Most of these sit within a hotel right on the beach but are open to the public, and most welcoming to beach-goers straight off the sand. Most of them are also quite busy, especially as sunset commences, so it can be difficult to get a table or even a seat at the bar. They're not so much of the standing around and drinking type places.

We end up in one of the swish hotel bars where there's live music (Hawaiian, of course) and hula. It also doubles as a restaurant where there are many a dressed-up American tourist. I feel underdressed, what with my bikini peeking out of my mini dress, clutching a towel, sunscreen and book at the reception but we're seated by smiling staff nonetheless.

We're in the outdoor section of House Without A Key and the atmosphere is incredibly laidback. There's a touch of posh to it, but we disregard price tags as this is one of our last night's in Waikiki. As such, we can't go past the cocktails.

Planter's punch (left) and mai tai (right)

Big points on presentation and alcohol content, but I admit I'm still a novice when it comes to rum. Despite the fruity additions, I find it a little difficult to appreciate the taste of rum - of which the mai tai includes two shots, I think. The Planter's punch is a sweeter drink, the juices blending to a fairy floss flavour in my mind. Suffice to say, by the second cocktails I don't mind the rum taste so much. We also get a huge basket of complimentary kettle cooked potato crisps.

We order a cold pupu platter to further snack on, again visually stunning and with tastes to match.

Jumbo shrimp (left) and ahi poke (right)

The shrimp look gorgeous, probably king prawn sized, and are served with a spicy Thai sambal dressing that doubles as a dip for our crisps when the crustaceans are gone. The ahi poke is served almost tartare style with the only addition being shallots. The tuna is firm with a stronger fishy taste than most others we've tried, with a subtle sesame and soy dressing.

We kick back and take in the scene: the sun setting on to the beach horizon, palm trees swaying with musicians in the courtyard, accents from around the world surrounding us (even a few other Aussies) and cocktails in hand. This is our Hawaiian holiday.

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House Without a Key on Urbanspoon

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