I had all sorts of ideas for Sam's $40 day meme, but since I was so busy, I didn't get to hit all the wonderful Cheap Eats places I know in the Bay Area. Instead, I did it in Honolulu!
Thanks to the helpful tidbits I've found on the very comprehensive and detailed Hawaii-based food blog, 'Ono Kine Grindz, and the Japanese resource, Chikyuu no Arukikata (Globe Trotter), we ate so well on a $40 budget, I actually have material for TWO FULL $40 Days!
You see, we Japanese are so passionate about food that we dedicate over 75% of our travel guide book space to food. And a significant portion of those pages list great Cheap Eat finds, known as B-Kyuu (B-Rank) Gourmet. Although Vietnamese sandwiches and beef noodles soups were ranked high in the B-Rank Gourment listings, we skipped those, since we have plenty of opportunities for both dishes in the Bay Area.
What we feasted on instead was uniquely Hawaiian (I think) and surely deliciously satisfying! Here's Day One...
Breakfast: Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery are the perfect way to kick-start a day of fun in the sun. Leonard's claims to be the first ones to serve these fried dough treats. They were steamy hot and covered with melting sugar granules. The dough had unexpected texture - more like bread dough than donut dough. The combination of the sweetness from the oil and from the sugar made this a perfect breakfast pastry, but there is no way I should eat more than one of these. The calorie count must be horrifying. Unfortunately, they had regular malasadas and cream-stuffed malasadas. Of course I had to try them both. And even more unfortunately, they had four different kinds of stuffed malasadas. And of course I had to try them all. Luckily, there were four of us, so we all split different malasadas. Besides the chocolate cream-stuffed ones, they were not very memorable. There was a light-pink cream, a off-white cream, and a translucent white cream, but they all seemed to be sugar-flavored and I couldn't tell what the flavors were really supposed to be. Realistically, for one person, one regular malasada and one stuffed malasada ought to be more than plenty for breakfast. (Regular: $0.69 and Stuffed: $0.89, DAY TOTAL = $1.58)
Lunch: One of the unique things about Hawaii is how various cultures have contributed different dishes to make for a unique Hawaiian rendition of a dish from a far away place. Oxtail soup is supposed to be Okinawan in origin, but the ones in Hawaii definitely seem to have deviated away from the Okinawan version. My JPN guidebook tells me that oxtail soup is now a famous B-Rank Gourment dish to be enjoyed when visiting Hawaii. The recommended spot was Kapiolani Coffee Shop, which is located INSIDE of a bowling place. I have to say, the place was a little bit too loud with bowling commotion for my taste, but this place apparently serves 400 - 500 bowls of oxtail soup a day! The oxtail was cooked to a fall-off-the-bone tenderness and the deep nourishment of the soup was a perfect way to recover from the flight from SFO. With tons of cilantro, the soup was suprisingly light. I added the accompanying rice into the bowl of soup to make a at-the-table porridge, which is considered to be very bad manners in Japan, but oh-so-tasty. If you think it kind of looks like the Vietnamese beef noodle soup, you're on track. It felt almost like the Vietnamese beef noodle soup without the noodles... (Oxtail soup with enough rice to feed an ox: $7.95, DAY TOTAL = $9.53)
Snack: How can one eat in Hawaii and not eat shaved ice? Waiola Shaved Ice is one of the most popular shaved ice joints. Personally, I am not a fan of their super-duper fine ice, preferring the Japanese-style crunchy shaved ice, but my travel companions were big fans of Waiola. Waiola's ice melts without resistance, disappearing in your mouth on contact with your body heat.
What I like about Waiola Shaved Ice is their custard pudding. They cover a Japanese-style custard pudding/flan with shaved ice and pour tons of syrup (any flavor of your choice) on it for a cool treat.
I usually dig through the ice just to get to the cutard pudding and then eat all of the custard. I then tackle the ice to wash down any custardy richness. Although I was intrigued by the many Hawaiian flavors (like lilikoi and other unknown flavors), I stuck to green tea... (Custard pudding with enough syrup to drown in: $3.50, DAY TOTAL = $13.53)
Dinner: Now, dinner was a real treat. I almost don't want to share my secret find. We went to Sunrise, a Japanese restaurant owned by an Okinawan native, who serves Okinawan dishes alongside sushi so fresh, I'd be paying ten-times more in the Bay Area. I am not kidding. His fish was so good, I've literally paid ten-times more for the same quality fish.
I devoured the house-special 'poke', which is a Hawaiian marinated fish salad. Strips of super fresh, firm, sweet fish - mostly tuna and yellowtail - were marinated in a soy-based dressing with onions and cucumber.
Then, I followed this with a Okinawa soba-sushi combination plate. The Okinawa soba noodles had this wonderful texture without being overly chewy or too firm. These flat noodles were wheat based (not buckwheat based like traditional Japanese soba) with a faint sweetness to them. The translucent soup joined forces with the noodles by providing subtle saltiness without overshadowing the sweetness of the noodles. Topped with a bone-in pork piece, this could've been enough for me if I were eating by myself.
The sushi plate that followed was impressive in cost performance - six pieces of nigiri and six pieces of rolls. I didn't care too much for the egg, but everything else was wonderful. I can't emphasize enough how impressed I was with the quality of the fish here.
Interestingly, this place is a BYOB restaurant, and since I didn't know about it, I ordered beer with my meal. Instead of simply telling me they didn't have any, the Chef gave me two bottles of his own beer, which he pulled out of a cooler under the cash register (where customers can keep their beer cold). He looked genuinely apologetic about the fact that his establishment didn't serve beer and told me I should take the two bottles because his customers had left it behind the night before. What wonderful kindness!!
I think Sunrise was one of the greatest finds during my Hawaii trip! (Poke: $13 and Okinawa soba and sushi combination: $13 - which is almost too much food for one person, DAY TOTAL = $39.03)
Besides the restuarant fun I had in Hawaii, I also discovered two new fruits - a dragon fruit and the very advanced lilikoi. And I've got a whole 'nother day worth of $40 eating, so check back often this week for the rest of my Hawaiian Epicurean Debauchery!