Earlier this summer I met up with Radford, a friend whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. And it seems that’s what happens when you go to college. A year passes by, then another, and another. And before you know it, you haven’t spoken to that person in about a bazillion years! We met up Kaka’ako Kitchen in Ward for plate lunch. But not just any kind plate lunch. Opened by Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise, Kakaako aims to bring the standards and quality of plate lunch type food up a notch.
Cause you don’t usually find risotto on the menu at plate lunch places! It was ‘tighter’ risotto compared to other places in Honolulu such as Kaimuki’s Town or Café Sistina where the risottos were very loose, in some cases, bordering soupy. It was well seasoned with a medley of diced sautéed veggies such as bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and onions. What I enjoyed best was the light drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the dish giving the dish an unexpected though enjoyable sweet dimension.
I had a bite of Radford’s curry katsu, the most photogenic curry dish I’ve seen in a while! You see, curry katsu doesn’t usually look like nice. What you typically get is a mountain of rice, a row of chicken katsu nicely lined up and curry poured over the top. It’s not often you encounter the same mound of rice with katsu arranged in a dazzle, curry with cuts of onions big enough to notice (and actually distinguish from the curry) and then a smattering of green onions and what I’m pretty sure is toasted coconut.
Radford’s katsu, it came with a dish of sesame seeds for you to grind up and mix with their house katsu sauce. The katsu I grew up on, and am used to eating are the ones you find at local plate lunch places throughout the island. Rarely have I been to a place where katsu is elevated to be the central focus of a restaurant.
I had the lunch special, a trio of katsu skewers with shrimp, veggies and a chicken and mushroom – it was the perfect size to leave me content, yet not overwhelmed, it was all very lightly fried, delicately crisp and barely a spot of oil. All the meals come with rice and miso soup. I’m afraid I am no expert when it comes to reviewing many types of food, katsu being one of them. But I know what I like, and in this case I liked it. Very much.
Radford gave me a heads up on Hokulani cupcakes in Restaurant Row, where I stopped by a few days later. I went in right before they closed and was sad to learn that they were completely out of cupcakes. I chatted with the owners, a husband and wife team, for a while, such nice people! I was about to leave and come back the next morning when they’d have more cupcakes, but then Ana ran into the back kitchen and brought out a carrot cupcake and gave it to me. She said it was one of the ‘sample’ ones they baked this morning but didn’t put out to sell – now how nice is that?
Think of Hokulani as a refined local sister of Manhattan’s Magnolia Bakery, only with better service, frosting more creamy than sugary and cupcakes just the right size. This particular carrot one was extremely moist with a soft crumb and not the least bit too sweet. I’m a sucker for cream cheese frosting and this was spot on, the part I love most is the fact that there’s enough frosting to keep you happy but not make you sick. Like the ones at Magnolias where the cupcake to frosting ratio is like 50:50 – that is ridiculous!
1200 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
Outrigger Regency on Beachwalk
255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
Hokulani Bake Shop
500 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 4-B
Honolulu, HI 96813