When it comes to food, the first thing people tell me about the Big Island was that I had to visit Da Poke Shack. A small place located in a set of condominiums that served fresh poke. Of course, they branched out to another location, but we wanted to try the original. Not to mention, it was on our way to the airport. Our last chance on this trip to try it.
We got there right when it opened and there was no one but us there. There would soon be a trickle of patrons but it was still too early for the lunch crowds. The place works more like an order to go. There’s basically communal seating on the two picnic tables set outside. I figure on hot days, it’s preferable to eat it somewhere else. We chose to eat it there.
The price to the amount of poke you get was quite high. Our bowls which included two scoops from the lower shelf (where the poke is located) and one scoop from the top ran us over $13, depending if you want brown or white rice. The platter on the other hand ran over $20. This was all market price so I’m sure it fluctuates over the year. But who knows, there’s a poke trend in California that may keep prices high. Only time will tell.
Overall, every piece of tuna here was pristine. No chewy bits of cartilage, just straight up proteins. I see why people have been recommending this place to us.
Da Poke Shack
Oceanfront Kona Bali Kai Condos
76-6246 Alii Drive #101
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
+1 (808) 329-7653
Verdict: Portions are small, but the fresh cuts of fish are worth it.
With over 30 varieties, Cafe 100 has been an institution for this iconic local favorite, the loco moco. It’s a dish composed of four simple building blocks, rice, hamburger patty or patties, gravy (lots of it) and a fried egg on top. Though most historical records indicate, the fried egg was introduced after the original concoction. I won’t dispute that. If the egg was an evolutionary step, so be it. It’s a magical combination. And at Cafe 100, they have that and are constantly trying out new combinations.
It’s sort of a drive-in where you park, order at the window, get your food, pick a table outside and pig out. Prices are very modest and although we got the “traditional” sizes, you can go for the original smaller sizes. That way you can try more. Food comes out pretty quick, so get that table ready. We had a decent size group and could have tried more varieties. But since it was our first time there, we had to go for the popular stuff. That worked out perfectly as it was more than enough food for us.
969 Kilauea Avenue
Hilo, HI 96720
Verdict: Must try for your loco moco fix!
Not to be confused with the original Umeke’s, Umeke’s Fishmarket Bar and Grill is the full restaurant with a bar. Plenty of room here to meet up with friends to eat and drink. With all of Sunday dedicated to happy hour why wouldn’t anyone want to spend it here. Well, that’s if of course you were tired of the beach. But I digress. We wanted a glimpse of the Hawaiian food here in Kailua-Kona. This place kept coming up in our research so why not give it a try.
It’s a just a bit outside of downtown Kona along the same road you’d find Kona Brewing. Once you get in you’ll know you’re there. Plenty of people waiting for a seat. Plenty of souvenirs to buy along the wall. But not too much room to sit and wait. There’s a bar, but they don’t want people standing around there. It does make sense because you’ll end up crowding the tables near by.
For us, we were lucky a few seats opened up at the bar. Though it took 30 minutes for us to get seated.
Think of a sports bar slash restaurant and you have the vibe here figured out minus all the TVs. The place is lively though not at all loud. We needed to flag down the staff a few times as they tended other tables, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Our food came out in good time. Appetizers. Then the main courses. We ordered the heavier dishes and only included a couple orders of what they’re known for, the poke. I didn’t have any myself, so unfortunately I don’t have it in this write up. No worries, I will have this place again when I revisit the Big Island.
Umeke’s Fishmarket Bar and Grill
74-5563 Kaiwi Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
+1 (808) 238-0571
Verdict: A great spot for Hawaiian food with it’s own personal touch.
When Ino Sushi in Japantown closed down last year my heart sank. There went a great little shop that specialized in traditional nigiri, simply fish and rice with hardly any additives. It will be missed. However, moving into the space was the former owner of Koo, Kiyoshi Hayakawa. A place I loved for, you guessed it, traditional sushi. Not that the new trend of unique tasting sushi wasn’t good. It’s just sometimes, you’ll want to taste more unadulterated fish. That’s what Koo brought, and now that’s what An Japanese Restaurant brings back to Japantown. Though at a higher price of $80USD for their 12 piece nigiri set with an appetizer and salad.
We didn’t make a reservation and decided to walk in right when they opened to make sure we got seating at the counter. It’s a small place which probably seats around twelve people comfortably. During the Ino days seating was quite difficult to get if your timing wasn’t right. Throughout the meal, there were still seats available. So if you’re looking to try this place out, you should swing by soon as I’m sure things will get busy. They have only moved in for about a year and seem to be still adjusting. I’ve seen them referred to as Sushi An. Now it’s An Japanese Restaurant. The omakase pricing changed as well, though a very modest increase from $75. I speculate that’s due to the unique fish they’re able to offer. But then again, maybe it’s the rent.
Anyways, the experience was still fantastic. The chefs were very quick to keep the nigiri prepared, one bite at a time, while the waitress made sure the sake glasses were kept at an adequate level. Love their spillover cups. And what makes this dinner so great in a space like this, you get to talk to the chefs. No really, you get to talk to them. There’s only six people at the bar and you’ll get to know more about the unique cuts they serve. Trust me, I was that annoying guy asking everything from the type, to the region, and even the pronunciation in Japanese. Yeah, they didn’t mind at all and even wondered what I’ve eaten before. That’s getting to know your soon to be repeat customers.
An Japanese Restaurant
Japan Center East Mall, Upper Level
22 Peace Plaza #510
San Francisco, CA 94115
Verdict: A win even with a few misses and a high price point, check this place out. You’ll love the cozy atmosphere.
Thanks to Instagram, I learned about a Korean craze around cheese ribs. Whole pork ribs prepared and wrapped at your table with gooey mounds of cheese. I had to give this a try. My friends wanted to give this a try. So, we all did. My search brought me to a place in Los Angeles that actually, as the name suggests, specializes in bossam, a meal where you wrap thinly slices of pork in lettuce or cabbage. The name of the restaurant was Mister Bossam and one of their popular dishes was the cheese ribs. Of course, with a group of nine we went for both.
Our reservation was actually set up for an hour before we arrived, but they still accommodated our large group, putting several long tables together. It was unusually empty for a Saturday night, but I’m not sure how many people would look for such a heavy meal after Thanksgiving. Well, besides us. Not knowing the portion sizes, the waitress worked with us as we ordered. Several times she hinted that we may have gotten too much food. We did. Not by too much though. But very happy she was kind enough to point it out and even helped portion the sizes to our party.
After we ordered, our drinks came out first. Then in about ten minutes they brought out four burners for our table. I thought we needed only two. To my surprise, the other two burners were to keep the pork belly warm. Not a bad idea. Not bad at all. We ate for about an hour, getting refills of sides and lettuce as we went. All included as part of the meal. By end, the only starch we had, if we had any room, was the fried rice. Also included in the meal. Gotta love leaving full and happy for such an attentive staff. I do wonder how it would have been on a busier night.
338 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020
+1 (213) 388-5379
Verdict: I’m in love with this stuff and I recommend you try it out too, both the bossam and the cheese ribs.