I’m back! Sorry folks for the hiatus (and by folks I mean my actual parents since they are the only ones who read this blog) but luckily I have been inspired once again. Surprising, what inspired me wasn’t an exotic, international, off the beaten path destination. Instead, I found inspiration in the Aloha State, right here in our own backyard. I seized an opportunity to head to Hawaii, partially because Hawaii has nothing to do with my work at Tafari so I thought it would be a great chance to drag along a friend and get some R&R. I was actually completely wrong in thinking this because my brief trip resonated Tafari over and over again. It reminded me that Tafari is a concept not a destination. “He who inspires AWE” can happen at anytime, anywhere.
Being a sister agency to a company that has operated the Hawaiian International Music Festival for 27 years, I have been fortunate enough to visit all the Hawaiian islands, multiple times. The Hawaiian islands are beautiful but sometimes a tourist trap, which is what I especially believed true for Oahu. This time I stayed at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore. The verdict…hands down my favorite area of all Hawaii. The hotel served its purpose but it was the location that really won me over. It felt local, true Hawaiian. Even being peak season it felt quiet and open. It had such a relaxed feel that I caught myself driving at least 5 miles under the speed limit. Everything seemed like a hidden gem, even though I knew the locals know these places like the back of their hand. I was enamored by the shrimp shacks that lined Kamehameha Highway and eager to eat everything in my path. I want to say that I discovered the places I am going listed for you below, but I know that is not entirely true. However, I cant honestly say everywhere I visited felt much more local and off the beaten path than any other place I have been in Hawaii. Here is a taste of where I went:Poke (raw fish appetizer served in Hawaiian cuisine) (the following places are located in Honolulu but still off the beaten path)
Tamashiro Market – 802 N. King St
This place is a little market that packs a lot of punch. You will find tons of fresh fish and shellfish and along the back wall is the poke counter. There were at least 15 poke choices (mostly ahi.) Here I tried the Ahi Chili Poke and the Ahi Llimu Poke. The chunks of ahi were huge and extremely fresh. The flavors were subtle, probably to highlight the fresh fish. I preferred the Ahi Chili Poke because I thought the green onion added a great flavor.
Ono Seaford – 747 Kapahulu Ave
I read about this place in a blog years ago and have always wanted to try it. Here I tried the Wasabi Ahi Poke and the Spicy Ahi Poke. The chunks of ahi were not as big as Tamashiro Market and slightly not as fresh tasting. However, the flavors were perfect, especially the Wasabi Ahi Poke. They also make the poke when you order it versus Tamashiro Market, who has it pre-made, deli style.
Kahuku Shrimp Shacks
Mochi (a Japanese rice cake that is fluffy and squishy) (one of my old college roommates is Hawaiian and she got me addicted to all sorts of Hawaiian snacks, one being mochi so I had to collect as much mochi as I could before leaving the island)
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – 56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
This is the original Kahuku shrimp truck and often the talk of town when it comes to shrimp trucks. You get a lot of shrimp here, probably around 12 pieces. I really wanted to try the “No Refunds: Hot and Spicy Shrimp” but instead went for the Shrimp Scampi since it is the island specialty. It was good but the pieces were a little small.
Romy’s Kahuku Prawn and Shrimp Hut – 56-781 Kamehameha Hwy
Yummmmmm. You get less pieces here than you do at Giovanni’s but they are big and they are yummy. I ordered the Garlic and Butter plate with spicy sauce (its like a spicy soy sauce, well, that is exactly what it is.) I was very tempted by their other choices, sweet and spicy as well as friend shrimp, but I had to go with the signature dish. I waited 30 minutes for it because they don’t cook it until you order it but It was so good. I would be willing to wait longer if I ever go again.
Kahuku Grill – 56-565 Kamehameha Hwy
Its easy to miss this place because its behind a Quiznos. I happened to see their Christmas lights from a distance and was curious to know what it was. Little did I know at the time that this is where you can get the world famous macadamia nut coconut shrimp. Of course I ordered the shrimp plate, which came with a lot of macadamia nut coconut shrimp. The sweet and spicy dipping sauce was fantastic, I could have made a smoothie out of it. I thought the shrimp was very good but the size of the shrimp was a bit wimpy. There was a lot more coconut than shrimp but nonetheless, it was a great meal.
Happy Hearts Mochi – www.happyheartsmochi.com
I can’t give you an address for this place because I don’t really know where it is or how I found it but this place is an antic and a true hidden gem. Basically you have to call ahead and then go pick up your order from someone’s house. Sure it sounds sketchy but I don’t have good common sense when it comes to security (one of my best friends in NYC often calls me randomly just to ask if my door is locked.) They had me pick up the mochi at their new factory (don’t know what else to call it,) which is located at Natsunoya Tea House. I could write an entire blog post about this place because as it turns out this is a word of mouth, reservation only restaurant overlooking Honolulu. They require a 10 person minimum reservation and trust me, the view is stunning. When I walked in they were in the process of making that night’s meal so they gave me a little tour. I literally walked into their kitchen and sampled their bento box while waiting for them to bring my 4 pieces of mochi (usually people buy a minimum of 60.) Now back to the mochi…it was huge and amazing. They have seasonal strawberry mochi, peanut butter mochi, haupia mochi, etc. The only drawback is that you have to refrigerate this mochi (or else I would have carried 60 pieces back with me.) When I left, the entire staff came outside and waved goodbye. Again, I bought 4 pieces at $3/piece, I am hardly their best customer but I felt like it!
Nisshodo Candy Store- 1095 Dillingham Blvd
I almost crossed this place off my “try” list because I envisioned it as a typical candy store. Then I literally almost passed this place because it looked like a small office that would be connected to a tire store or Bob’s 20 Minute Oil Change Service. The entrance looks like a backdoor and is pushed way in the corner of a very unassuming parking lot. Had someone with a small child not walked in before me I probably would have run for the hills. Inside was a sweet lady who you would totally find at a bakery. Bellow her, in the bakery counter was coconut mochi or as I like to say, little squishy puffs of heaven. Such a great find!
Haupia Pies (traditional coconut milk-based Hawaiian dessert)
Ted’s Bakery – 50-024 Kamehameha Hwy
This is the only place I tried Haupia, which is a like a pudding with a slight coconut flavor. I feel like I have mentioned coconut a lot in this post and I have to say, I am not all that enthusiastic about coconuts but “when in Rome.” Even though this was the only place I tried Haupia, I am pretty sure its one of the best. I also took home a loaf of banana macadamia nut bread…so good.