Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review: Haleiwa Joe's, Oahu Hawaii

We took an amazing day trip away from Waikiki to the Valley of the Temples on Oahu, a multifaith place of serenity with a large cemetery and multiple places of worship. 

I was there primarily to see the Byodo-in Temple which is a replica of a Buddhist temple in Uji Japan. Set amidst the foggy rainforest mountains of Oahu this is a place of beauty and tranquility worth hiring a car to visit. 

After a morning visit to the temple we were fired up for a big lunch, some searches on Yelp and we found ourselves directed to Haleiwa Joe's a popular brunch eatery with locals. 

The gorgeous views continued at the restaurant showing off the postcard worthy forests and mountains of Oahu. The rainforest nature makes this part of the island foggy and prone to showers so be mindful when wandering their gardens. 

Despite coming at the end of the brunch shift the restaurant was still packed and the food regularly being replaced. The crowd is all locals and townies mostly celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. 

Haleiwa Joe's brunch is a buffet offering multiple hot and cold dishes, a carvery, an egg station and a salad bar. At $26USD a head this is a total steal. At night the restaurant turns to a la carte seafood but with a deal this good and a view that beautiful, it's worth heading out for lunch. 

Grilled breakfast favourites abound like sausage, chorizo, eggs, bacon, eggs Benedict and more. 

Lunch food like this beef roast with horseradish cream and hand tossed salad with passionfruit (lilikoi) dressing were also available if eggs and bacon don't satisfy your midday meals. 

A huge range of breakfast pastries and desserts was on offer including mini muffins, danishes, tarts, scones, waffles and puddings. Cream, ice cream and some sauces was also available. 

For the coeliacs and non wheat eaters there were options as well like this delicious coconut jelly with cream and blueberry compote. 

The view alone is well worth a visit to Haleiwa Joe's as was the huge range of grilled meats and breakfast staples. For us this was a wonderful chance to get away from the other tourists and have a meal that felt a little more "normal". 

As well as the delicious food it looked like champagne toasts and tiki classic cocktails were in strong demand and bigger groups were getting very rambunctious... probably not the place if you like a quiet meal. 

Haleiwa Joe's 

46-336 Haiku Rd
Kaneohe, HI 96744

All you can eat brunch, family friendly with gorgeous views

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Gazen Izakaya, Waikiki Hawaii

Well I know there's been a bit of a break in content but there's a good reason! I moved to New York City and life got in the way. Moving across a continent is a big deal! Well I'm back in a sensible routien and I have lots of catch up to do on content and a whole new city to explore full of every kind of food imaginable. 

For my first wedding anniversary we decided to go to Waikiki. I had spent some time in Hawaii on work trips but my husband was yet to savour in the delights. Neither of us had been to Waikiki since we were very young, when you used to refuel in Hawaii on flights from Australia across the Pacific. 

Waikiki is now the perfect Japanese holiday destination and is filled with a hearty mix of Americans, Japanese and Australians... which makes it feel a little like being back in Sydney. This means a great variety of Japanese specialty restaurants all over Honolulu. 

Gazen was a real find, a traditional and authentic Kansai style Izakaya in suburban Honolulu. Aimed mostly at local residents rather than tourists the restaurant had a vibrant homely feel with many regulars who stopped to speak to us. 

Tuna Sashimi $16.50USD

Fresh and delicious, it seemed unreasonable to holiday in the middle of the Pacific and not eat tuna!

Tofu sampler $12.80USD

This was the real stellar dish of the visit. Home made tofu in three different styles - kurogoma black sesame tofu, sukui tofu in soy milk broth, zaru cold fresh tofu with Hawaiian sea salt. Each was delicious though I liked the sukui with a little soy and wasabi, were I coming back again I would have altered how much I order. I was expecting half or less of each sample. 

Croquettes $7.75USD

A home made specialty croquette made with ground chicken scallions and tofu. Delicious!

Tofu and Jako salad with yuzu dressing $7.50

Had I realised how large the tofu sampler was I would have skipped this but I was hypnotised by the range of fresh tofu products (and this was the small salad!). It was delicious but we ate less than a third of it. The yuzu dressing was crisp fresh and delicious, I expect there is a local yuzu farm since this was no bottled dressing.

Beef tataki $8.50USD and cucumber salad $4.50USD

American beef sometimes leaves a little to be desired, I probably would have skipped this if I was returning. The Cucumber salad was nice and cut through some of the fattier dishes, I wish it had come with more of the yuzu dressing from the other salad. 

Grilled chicken with onion sauce $9.25USD

If you were coming for a healthy meal this would definitely be a great option. Skin removed grilled chicken is served on top of sprouts and scallions with a delicious savoury ground onion sauce. Yum.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable pancake) $4.75USD

This takes a little while to prepare so you want to order this first and have it appear a the end of the meal. Fried vegetables and served topped with sticky sweet sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito and herbs. Delicious. If you like the look of this check out my simple recipe for okonomiyaki a great way to get kids to eat more vegies.

Somehow I managed to not even get a picture of the seasoned burdock root dish we ordered which was by far one of the best. I suspect that exhaustion from so much food was to blame. 

So my usual approach when going to a tapas or izakaya place is to order one dish from each section of the menu and then order again if the party is still hungry. In this case this turned out to be a mistake and we were unable to eat half the food. The key here seems to be that this was not actually "small plates" and that really this was izakaya style food but with American sized meal portions. Just a litle nod to Hawaii's blended culture. 

The food was wonderful and that tofu was to die for, definitely worth going back to. Doing it again, I probably would have ordered the okonomiyaki and the tofu and left it at that. Service was usual immaculate Japanese deference. 

My only tip? Drive yourself or make sure to have instructions on your phone for a taxi driver since this was a townie restaurant away from the resorts and the drivers both there and back commented they had not heard of it. 

Gazen Izakaya

Traditional Japanese gastropub in suburban Honolulu

2840 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Recipe: Okonomiyaki

It looks super fancy but okonomiyaki is a simple dish that's easy to make during the week. Okonomiyaki is "grilled as you like it" so get creative with the vegetables and toppings - use up leftovers and smother in delicious sauces for a sure fire winner.


1/2 a head of cabbage
3 eggs
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
1 serve of hon dashi (bonito stock)
2 tbspn sesame
2 tbspn soy sauce


1/2 cup diced spring onion (scallion)
1 bottle of squeezable mayonnaise
1 bottle okonomi or tonkatsu sauce
1 tbspn sesame seeds


Dice the cabbage and scallions and set asside. If you are using leftover vegetables or meat in your dish now is the time to mix them in

Mix the flour and bonito stock together in a bowl. For a gluten free alternative use rice flour.

Bonito stock can be bought in powdered sachets at any good Asian supermarket. For a vegetarian alternative use Vegeta or add vegetable stock in place of water to the egg mixture.

Crack the liquid ingredients into a bown or jug - egg, soy milk, sesame oil, soy sauce and water. 

If using liquid stock add to this step. Whisk until well combined.

Mix the flour, vegetables and egg mixture into a loosely formed batter. You can add more water at this stage if you want a more pancake like consistency.

Oil a small non stick pan and fill 3/4 inch with vegetable batter. Fry until the vegetables are browned half way up the sides. 

Use a plate to flip the pancake and fry until golden brown.

Prepare your pancake for dressing. 

Drizzle okonomi or tonkatsu sauce on top of the pancake. 

Tonkatsu sauce is very similar to okonomi sauce but usually intended for fried pork, it is easier to find in the US. 

Drizzle mayonnaise in the same direction as the okonomi sauce using a small squeeze nozzle

Turn the plate and drag a chopstick across the sauces for a decorative touch.

Sprinkle with scallions

Top with sesame seeds and serve on its own or with your favourite grilled meat and Japanese croquettes.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Biergarten Restaurant, EPCOT Florida

DisneyWorld might not seem like the most gourmande holiday but EPCOT is amazing foodie adventure. There are regular wine tastings and food events held at the "world of tomorrow" and an amazing global showcase. 

Around the main lake is a series of country themed arenas similar to the World Expo with iconic architecture, shops, food and bars. The German section includes a delightful village square with Bavarian architecture selling clocks, sweets and of course sausage. 

Outside in the square you can stop for a German beer or a sausage snack, but the real attraction is the all you can eat buffet restaurant Biergarten $59.99 per adult for all you can eat German fare.

Inside the Bavarian beer garden theme continues with a Disneyfied village where Octoberfest runs every day!

There's a proper German brass band playing polkas and as we were there at Christmas they played lots of Season songs and games for the kids. 

Try the flight of German beers ($13USD) including an Oktoberfest brew, a Dunkel, Weissbier and a sweet Grapefruit Weissbeer or order any of the above in half litre steins ($8.25 - $9.50USD) to wash down all that meat!

German style cold meats like liverwurst, white sausage, white fish salad and salmon mousse. Cold fresh salads and pasta salads are also included. 

Meats include hot fish and chicken dishes, sausages and goulash with spatzle and hot vegetables. 

The carvery is the real star of the show though. Roasted beef, chicken, pork, meatloaf and turkey are all available along with hot cabbage, potatoes, onions and excellent gravy. Grilled and stewed sausages are perfect for the kids. 

Good german style bread, just perfect for sausage and mustard.

Finish up with Bavarian cakes, pastries, cheeses and puddings filled with sticky berry jams and spices. 

American style cookies, cream cakes and fresh fruit are also included. 

Honestly we were surprised at how excellent and how authentic the food is. The atmosphere was pure Disney magic, all the staff are from Germany or Austria and can talk about both the beer and the food at length as well as entailing their own (family friendly) Octoberfest stories.

I think what impressed us the most was how many locals were there. Seated at long communal tables we got to know the people we were dining with and found we were the only tourists! The quality and the value for money are so good that all the locals come into EPCOT just to eat here. I had to giggle as I watched an ex serviceman dig into a pile of meat and beer and talk about when he was first stationed in Germany.

The food is rich and filling though, come with an empty stomach and elastic waisted pants!


1510 Avenue of the Stars
Orlando, FL 32821

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Disney Polynesian Village Spirit of Aloha Luau, Orlando Florida

As well as multiple theme parks DisneyWorld has a number of hotels on property ranging from affordable family lodgings to high end resorts. The Polynesian Village is one of the original resorts that opened with DisneyWorld in 1971. 

With no family in tow we were looking for something a little different to do for Christmas dinner and booked the Spirit of Aloha Luau. This is a theatre dinner with tropical food and Polynesian entertainment strung together with a slightly hokey Disney channel style story about a Hawaiian girl leaving her family to make it big in America.

 Truly I was hoping that there would be a Character experience with Lilo and Stitch but instead we got a series of fairly authentic Polynesian dances. Many island cultures were represented including Tonga, Samoa, Maori (New Zealand) and of course Hawaii.

 Costumes were based on real Polynesian national dress and the highlight of the night was an incredible fire dancing display as the finale. Some games and songs appeared during costume changes and of course songs from the soundtrack to Lilo and Stitch were highlighted. 

The dinner is presented in a large tropical bungalow, prices varied based on the view of the stage but even the "cheap seats" had an excellent view. Prices per adult include all you can eat food plus basic beer, wine and sangria $64USD for Category 3 to $74USD for Category 1. 

Tiki style cocktails were available for additional cost like this Pina Colada fit for a Hawaiian King at $14USD

The appetizers were reasonably healthy and included a tangy Coleslaw, Mandarin Salad, Sesame Soba noodles and chunks of sweet Hawaiian pineapple.

The main meal was a hungi / luau style barbecue meat platter including roasted chickens, ribs, pulled pork and an Asian vegetable medley. Gluten free and vegetarian alternatives were available on request.

Further platters were available on request but the servings were generous and we found we were unable to eat the platter presented to us. 

A moist pineapple bread pudding with soft Hawaiian style bread was served for dessert. 

The food was surprisingly good for a family all you can eat dinner and the service and show were Disney quality family entertainment. We had a great time and while it was a little cheesey it was great fun especially for the kids. The dance shows were excellent and the music and comedy were at least Dad Joke funny. 

To top it all off Florida had a heat wave over the holiday break. The heat, food and families dining in tropical Hawaiian clothing made it feel just like Christmas in Australia. We had a great time and would recommend it for someone looking for a different dinner at DisneyWorld. 

Disney's Spirit of Aloha Luau

1600 Seven Seas Drive
Orlando, FL 32830