Sunday, January 11, 2009

Onwards and upwards... to Diamond Head

We plough on through our eating adventures in Hawaii, even on this day that we plan to hike up the extinct volcano that is Diamond Head; a landmark oft seen in photos and other memorabilia of Waikiki and Hawaii.

One can not hike without proper sustenance and nutrition - even if it's just a 40 minute hike - so we made our way to the nearby McDonalds. Really. Although Maccas are generally the same around the world, there are always some slight localised variations. In this we revel. Spam, eggs and rice are on the breakfast menu, at a very reasonable price too, but we choose otherwise.

McDonalds breakfast on Kuhio Ave, Waikiki

One such local variation is the addition of a small box of pineapple with all value meals - how very Hawaiian, and healthy at that. My orange juice is the size of a medium drink in Australia - at this point I'm still adjusting to serving sizes.

Sausage and hot cakes

My fellow hiker goes for the savoury sweet combo of hot cakes with a sausage pattie. I don't believe you can get this in the Aussie stores, but I could be wrong. It comes with maple syrup and whipped margarine, and is standard Maccas fare. I go for the relatively exotic-sounding sausage and egg McGriddle in a meal.

Sausage and egg McGriddle

What on earth is a McGriddle? I'm still none too sure. You've got your sausage pattie, fried egg and plastic-looking, artificially yellow cheese enclosed in two pieces of what seems like pancake. It's sweet, fluffy, a little on the oily side and quite unusual. Again, it's a bit of a sweet and savoury combination that sort of works, and sort of doesn't.

A meal at Maccas for me usually means I've had a big day/night or I'm about to have a big day/night. This time it's the latter as we conquer Diamond Head amid plenty of complaining, sweating and photography. Below were my rewards:

View of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head

Shave ice
(here with pineapple and passionfruit flavourings)

Note: the shave ice was rewarded upon our descent back to the bottom of the mountain, not at the top - although a store at the summit would be an interesting business venture.

Shave ice is another Hawaiian specialty. Similar to a snow cone, it is literally just ice that has been finely shaved and packed into a cup then doused with flavouring. The ice in shave ice (note that it is 'shave ice' not 'shaved ice' - a distinction I felt compelled to make many a time) is supposedly finer than what you'd find in snow cones elsewhere, hence the difference and attraction. Either way, by the end of the hike up and back down we're thankful for anything that's cold and drinkable. As we reach the bottom of the large cup most of the ice has melted leaving a sugar-concentrated liquid. We think to conserve the health of our teeth and toss it out.

While resting up back at the hotel we attack some of the snack foods we've acquired from the nearby ABC Store - one of the more interesting pictured below:

Fried cuttlefish legs
(and yes, Twinkies in the background)

Think fishy, super chewy and savoury. Not much more. Okay washed down with loads of Coke. Following more rest and long showers, dinner beckons and this night we venture down to the beach in search of a light feed. We take a number for Furusato Sushi and wait outside with others to the sounds of the quite talented buskers singing on guitar nearby.

The restaurant is small with about eight tables and seating at the sushi bar. We're nearing a ravenous state after the short-ish wait and dive right into the menu. With Kirin and edamame (soy) beans to whet the appetite, a range of raw and cooked foods arrive to the table.

Ahi poke from Furusato (Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki)

This is the Japanese version of a Hawaiian version of a Japanese dish. Sort of. This poke is heavy on the vegies and sesame flavouring, and light on the serving size. The tuna is as fresh as any and we demolish this appetiser rather quickly. Next up is my fellow diner's order of uni sashimi; that is, sea urchin roe and lots of it.


It's not the most visually appealing dish, but it's the biggest serve of sea urchin roe I've ever seen. Served raw with a knob of wasabi and nori sheets as its only partners, the flavour of sea urchin is not one that I tolerate well. "Creamy" is the word my fellow diner often uses to describe it, and while I concede that the texture is indeed creamy, the taste is foul on my tongue. But each to their own, I say as I retreat to the safety and warmth of my bowl of udon noodles.


Thick white udon noodles caress my tastebuds, as if shooing away the bad memories of uni. The soup is so flavoursome that I drink it all up along with the bean curd sheet and fish cake. It's beautiful in its absolute simplicity, and probably made so much the better after my taste of the uni.

California roll

And we finish with a California sushi roll made fresh and filled with real crab meat (none of this crab stick business), cucumber and avocado, and sprinkled with just some sesame seeds. It's a satisfying meal early in the night although when 2am rolls around (after a beverage or two) and we're walking through the streets back to the hotel, we could go for a bit of a snack. We stumble upon (not quite literally) a little takoyaki store in a side street and we pounce. Funnily enough, we're by no means alone in our early morning food endeavour and we watch as our octopus balls are made fresh in front of our eyes.

Takoyaki in the making (place on Seaside Ave [I think], Waikiki)

I'm fairly sure that all the takoyaki I've ever tried in restaurants are of the frozen variety, especially as they tend to be very similar from every Japanese establishment and also perfect sphere shapes, so I have high hopes for these freshly made ones. We see a piece of octopus being added to the batter in each hole followed by pickled ginger and shallots. When cooked through they are served covered in okonomiyaki sauce (which looks like barbeque sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, fine bits of nori and a ration's sprinkle of shaved bonito. (I say that because the shavings are one of my favourite parts - I love seeing the bigger pieces move and sway about in the steam emitted from the takoyaki).


With high expectations usually comes disappointment. That's a pessimistic view but we are unfortunately disappointed in the final result. The takoyaki are soggy with the dough close to being raw. Perhaps the cook was a little overwhelmed by the masses of waiting late night snackers, though I would have been happy to wait a little more for better cooked versions. Also the octopus is a little bit tough, in all making it a less than satisfactory snack to end a long day.

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