Thursday, May 29, 2014

Designers Last Supper at Likelike Drive-Inn

Nadine Kam photos
Designers Eric Chandler and Takeo, center, gathered a few friends for a last supper May 22 at Likelike Drive-Inn, with apologies to Da Vinci. They are retiring to Washington.

Where would you go for a last supper if you were leaving town for good or for an extended period of time?

For designers Eric Chandler and Takeo, who are retiring to Buckley, Wash., they could have gone to any of their upscale haunts. But their destination of choice was Likelike Drive-Inn, site for a last supper with friends that took place May 22.

It was a logical choice for the designers, who recalled many a late-night strategy meeting held over roast pork or oxtail soup, with Miss Hawaii USA hopefuls. Their frequent mantra was, "Life is short, eat dessert first," when it came to Likelike's hot fudge sundae, custard and lemon chiffon pies.

On the menu created by chefs Kenny Tateyama and Chris Okuhara were some Likelike classics, such as corn chowder and fried rice—served for the occasion with an over-medium egg on top—and specialties such as baked short ribs with Spanish sauce and steamed opelu served whole local-style in a soy-sesame sauce and topped with slivered carrots, shiitake, ginger and green onions.

Likelike Drive-Inn's famous neon sign was the backdrop for this photo of Nadine Tanega when she was Miss Hawaii USA 1994.

Among the guests enjoying the company of the always entertaining designers were KITV news personality Pamela Young, former Miss America Carolyn Sapp, former Miss Hawaii USA Nadine Tanega (Hogan, 1994) and former Miss Hawaii Pam Kimura (1992), Drs. Angela Pratt and Caroline Hee, Marian and Jack Morrison, Iwalani Tseu, Steven Ai, Johnny Kai and others.

Pamela Young compiled a video of some of the footage of the designers she'd put together through the years, mentioning that she must have worked on well over two dozen stories about their work and projects over the years for television, just as I had done in print.

In the last formal story I wrote on April 10 about their imminent departure, I mentioned that over 40 years time, they had helped more than 50 community groups—from the Chinese Chamber of Hawaii's Narcissus Festival, the Chinese Women's Club of Honolulu, Cherry Blossom Festival, Travel Women Hawaii—produce annual fashion shows. Their expertise will definitely be missed in the fashion community.

At any rate, even in retirement, the two can't survive not working, so were already talking about plans to collaborate with Seattle-area schools, indigenous tribes and the Seattle Museum, as well as try their hand at farming Washington apples. I expect one day I'll be writing here about their organic cider and apple sauce!
Likelike Drive-Inn is at 745 Keeaumoku St., and has been a Honolulu fixture since 1953.

The group gathered for a last photo with the neon sign in the background.

On the menu, following corn chowder and a tossed salad, was baked shortribs.

I especially enjoyed the drive-inn's fried rice topped with an over-medium egg.

You have to be really local to enjoy whole opelu topped with soy sesame sauce, carrots, shiitake, ginger and green onions.

KITV’s Pamela Young scarfed down dessert of baked custard pudding so fast, the staff brought her seconds. This dessert amounts to true bliss.

 Young interviewed the design duo for a KITV broadcast.

The designers met in 1970s Honolulu. Chandler grew up in Seattle but had moved to Japan. Takeo had grown up in Japan but moved to Seattle, so when they met, they had a lot to talk about.

The designers thanked their friends for decades of support, with an invite to visit them in Buckley, Wash.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dip into Little Sheep hot pot

Nadine Kam photos
The Yin Yang broth at Little Sheep features one-half original beef-and-chicken stock based herbal broth, and one-half spicy broth. The broth cost is $3.95 per person. On the right is an order of thin-sliced lamb shoulder, 12 ounces currently at $15.95

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot celebrated its grand opening, in part, with a media tasting that took place May 14 at the new restaurant in Ward Centre.

I felt relieved to see a restaurant worthy of the large, glossy space. The first Little Sheep restaurant opened in 1999 in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China. Today there are more than 300 locations, spanning Asia and including five restaurants in Canada and 15 across the United States.

With a track record like that, you assume a certain degree of professionalism, but there were a lot of service issues on this night and on a followup visit, as if ingredients are not prepared to go as at other hot pot or shabu shabu restaurants.

Ingredients that can be added to the pot include, from left, assorted vegetables, noodles, fish cake, sausages, scallops, tripe, more noodles and shrimp dumplings.

There seemed to be no logic to timing, method or organization involved in food delivery. Some tables received everything immediately. For me, soup was a long time coming. The vegetables and side dishes took a long time to materialize on media night, and on a second incognito outing, took an hour-and-a-half to materialize. But the meat came quickly, such that on both visits, we had gobbled up most of the meat before the vegetables, dumplings and noodles, etc., ever arrived.

You fill out a checklist to order, so make sure to doublecheck that list before you leave. When I was there, three items never made it to our table.

Others who visited after my review appeared in the paper said service improved, but was optimal if a) you are a Mandarin speaker, and b) if you yell angrily, not at just one person, but two or three servers and a manager.

I hope these issues are settled soon because I really enjoyed the food, especially the lamb, fresh veggies, roe-filled fishcake, enoki mushrooms and condiments.

I also like that it's spacious so you don't feel crammed or have to worry about navigating around people to get refills on sauces.
Little Sheep is at Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Boulevard, above Genki Sushi. Call 808.593.0055.

Pork wontons, shrimp dumplings and scallops.

All the ingredients simmer in the pot. Included are choi sum, fishcake, noodles, enoki mushrooms, lamb, tofu, won bok, and more.

Little Sheep CEO Michael Wu.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot interior.

The restaurant’s logo.

At the condiment bar.

More condiment bar offerings of green onions, garlic, chili oil and red chili sauce.

Some people like to keep their sauces separate. I like to throw everything together, including a base of sesame sauce, chili with oil, and sa cha sauce topped with garlic, cilantro and green onions.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hy's opens doors to new Executive Level

Nadine Kam photos
Katsuhiko Tabata, left, and Toshihiko Tabata receive a blessing from kahu Cordell Kekoa during the opening ceremony for the new Executive Level at Hy’s Steakhouse.

Hy’s Steakhouse opened the doors to its new Executive Level private dining area in what was formerly the Green Room, with a private party that took place May 18, hosted by T. Brothers International owners Toshihiko and Katsuhiko Tabata.

Most of the event took place in the general dining area, where guests arrived to see a beautiful spread of caprese salad, grilled vegetables, sashimi, the restaurant’s classic Caesar salad, prime rib, lamb chops and more.

Unfortunately, by dinner time, I was still full from brunch earlier that day, so didn’t feel like eating, though I heard so much of it was wonderful. Darn!

Hy's photo
A detail of the new Executive Level space.

After much dining and socializing, it was time for a blessing by kahu Cordell Kekoa, and the cutting of the ribbon leading to the new Executive Level, which is a great improvement over the former disconnected floral look of the old room. The new setting pairs well with the stately, dark wood interior of the rest of the restaurant, and the Executive Level can be converted into a private dining area that features a flat-screen monitor with Wifi capabilities, CD/DVD player and laptop connectivity for group meetings and events for up to 25 people.

Set up in the Executive Level were an array of desserts, including stations where guests could observe the making of classic Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee that have been on the menu since the restaurant opened.

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This is just one of the changes that have taken place since T. Brothers became the owners of the 38-year-old steakhouse in 2011.

Hy’s has also introduced Happy Hour in the lounge from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, with a special menu that includes prime rib French dip, fried panko onion rings, prime beef blue cheese sliders, and grilled asparagus topped with poached egg, shaved Parmesan and truffle oil.

And, with Japan ownership comes opportunity for expansion, with the first Hy’s Japan set to open early next year in Osaka, adding to the growing roster of Hawaii brands being exported abroad.

A chef works his magic in Hy's Broiler Room.

Grilled vegetables.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lox of Bagels on the move

Nadine Kam photos
There be lots of bagels at Lox of Bagels, now open at a new Dillingham location. Among bagel selections are sun-dried tomato, cheese and spinach flavors. You'll also find the classic plain New York-style bagel, cinnamon raisin, and poppyseed among the 20-plus varieties available.

Lox of Bagels has opened a new location at 1111 Dillingham Boulevard, at Kokea Street, bringing the Sand Island business closer to central Honolulu.

The bakery operation will also be moving over, scheduled to become fully operational in a month, before closing the Sand Island kitchen later this summer.

The new location will offer Lox of Bagels 20-plus varieties of New York-style bagels, plus edibles such as bagel sandwiches, bagel dogs and specialty Bagel Puffs, bagel dough stuffed with fillings and baked. Some of the classic Bagel Puff combos are a cinnamon raisin puff with plain cream cheese; sesame seed puff filled with azuki bean paste; or a plain bagel filled with peanut butter and cream cheese.

According to company president Terumi Drake, among favorite sandwiches are the chicken salad bagel sandwich ($6.75) with the works: lettuce, tomato, sprouts, onions, mayo and mustard, as well as the namesake Manhattan Delight ($9) combo of lox and cream cheese.

Expansion plans don’t stop there. Another Kapiolani location is expected to open in July, with a new café concept, and will be dubbed Café Grace by Lox of Bagels.

Seems promising!

Kahu Wendell Silva performed a blessing before the grand opening of Lox of Bagels May 15. Standing beside him are district manager Stacy Kim, left, and company president Terumi Drake.

Samples of bagel sandwiches include the popular chicken salad bagel combo, shown here in the foreground on a spinach bagel.

Employees Marina Higa, left, and Celina Velasco show off their Lox of Bagels T-shirts featuring a salmon leaping over a bagel.

Kai Coffee Hawai'i opens at Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Kai Coffee Hawaii's café latte.Sarah Honda photo

Kai Coffee Hawai’i opened its doors this morning at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa.

Owner Sam Suiter aims to bring the “Total Cafe Experience” to fans of great coffee, including single-origin pour overs made to order.

During the grand opening, Kaeo Skeele demonstrated the art of the pour over, with Maui Yellow Caturra Raisin coffee, made from coffee beans aged on the tree.

Baristas consider the pour over to be the cleanest and purest way to make and appreciate coffee. Infusing the ground coffee for the correct length of time with a low-tech hand pour produces a fuller, fruity taste, often with floral notes.

In keeping with the desire to present minimalist but high-quality fare, the new coffee bar will also feature sandwiches and pastries from downtown Honolulu’s The Baker & Butcher. Among the offerings will be BLT, poached tuna, curried chicken salad, trip tip beef, and veggie sandwiches ($9); a salted caramel brownie “sandwich ($4.50),” chocolate croissants ($4), and fresh-baked cookies ($2.25).

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Nadine Kam photos
Kai Coffee Hawai'i owner Samuel Suiter and wife Natalie.

Among dessert selections at Kai Coffee are these salted caramel brownie "sandwiches."

Yummy chocolate chip cookes from downtown Honolulu's The Butcher & Baker.

You might find fruit tartlets such as these raspberry-topped treats.

Coffee and tees available for purchase.

Kai Coffee Hawai’i is in the Pualeilani Atrium Shops on the ground floor of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa.

The Baker & Butcher is at 1111 Bishop St., Suite 112. Call 537-4140.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grand Cafe adds family favorites to list of specials

Nadine Kam photos
Fried rice with roast pork and lup cheong is one of the family favorites to be featured as an occasional special at Grand Cafe & Bakery.

Tucked away inside the Hawaii State Art Museum, Grand Cafe & Bakery doesn’t get the street traffic of more visible restaurants, but for those who haven’t discovered this downtown oasis, it’s worth a visit.

Since moving to the site about a year-and-half ago, from its former Pauahi and Smith street location, the cafe has focused on classic dishes for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Beginning this month, they’ve also begun offering their Chang-Vierra clan family favorite dishes as a series of weekly specials every Tuesday and Wednesday, introducing two dishes at a time. My full write-up appears in the paper on May 14.

Last week it was a delicious beef rib stew ($15.50) with a side of pickled onions, and silky mac ‘n’ cheese ($10.50) combining brie, aged white cheddar and Parmesan with a creamy mornay sauce, topped with the crisp of a panko crust.

Meaty beef stew served with a side of pickled onions.

This is among the best mac ‘n’ cheese combos I’ve tasted.

Seems like these two should be on the menu every day, but it’ll just leave you counting the days until they reappear June 3 and 4, and July 1 and 2.

The rest of the schedule for the month:

May 14
Meat loaf: A comfort staple made with beef and pork, $15.50.
Chicken tofu: A crowd pleaser attributed to co-owner Patsy Izumo, $14.75.

The Chang-Vierra clan's pickled roast pork makes its debut on the Grand Cafe menu May 20 and 21.

May 21 and 22
Pickled pork roast: A variation of the Portuguese vinho d’alhos ($15) created by chef Anthony Vierra’s grandmother Elsie Ho Chang.
Fried rice: A family favorite ($12.75) cooked up by Vierra’s grandfather Yun Kui “Yankee” Chang, chief statistician for Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. and stage, TV and film actor. It was enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Vierra now recreeates it to the best of his memory, not skimping on the char siu or lup cheong and roast pork flavor.

May 27 and 28
Shoyu chicken: A family favorite made with shiitake mushrooms, $14.
Baked beans and hot dogs: A small kid favorite, with another island classic, Gouvea sausage, $11.50.

BLT Steak honors military on Armed Forces Day

BLT Steak photos
Military personnel with valid I.D. will receive a discount at BLT Steak on Armed Forces Day. This is a seafood selection from the restaurant’s raw bar.

BLT Steak Waikiki is honoring all military on Saturday, Armed Forces Day, by inviting all active and retired military personnel to enjoy 50 percent off dinner for up to two, or 20 percent off tables of three or more on that day.

Just present your military ID card to redeem. The discount does not apply to tax and gratuity.

At the bar.
BLT Steak is in the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, 223 Saratoga Road. Call (808) 683-7440 for reservations.