East Meets West

East-West

Errant scholars claim Marco Polo introduced noodles to Italy after a long sojourn in China. This is probably more myth than reality, but, in antiquity two geographically disparate lands were known to produce noodle dishes: Italy and China.

Today, noodle dishes are a worldwide affair, though they are typically categorized as either vaguely European or Asian in flavor. Hawaii has long been a melting pot of cultures, and Waikiki dining takes that to a new level. Restaurants here have all styles of noodles, from classically styled Italian cuisine and traditional Chinese dishes to Pacific Rim fusion.

Try some of these Island-inspired takes on one of the most popular forms of food in the world. Pro tip: Grab an entrée with fresh fish or other ocean dwellers for a noodle experience you could only find in Waikiki.

Linguine-all-aragosta-e-granchio
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio

Fresco Italian Restaurant
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio: The editor and photographer for this magazine are often invited to try dishes during photo shoots. Generally, they only take a slight sampling. This pasta they not only devoured, they fought for the last bite. The Maine lobster is perfectly done and the tomato cream
sauce may actually be divine. A soy tobiko garnish is an inspired Asian twist to this Italian linguine.

Lo mein and Singapore street noodles

P.F. Chang’s
Lo mein and Singapore street noodles: P.F. Chang’s is one of America’s favorite Chinese-inspired restaurants for a reason. The food is consistently tasty and the Waikiki location offers some local flair only found here. The lo mein is a tried and tested favorite. These slightly thicker noodles are tossed with soy sauce, egg, fresh veggies and your choice of beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Singapore street noodles are a thinner rice noodle with curry sauce, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Either dish will keep a noodle lover happy. Try one or order both to share family-style around the table.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Il Lupino
Spaghetti and meatballs: Nothing says Italian more than spaghetti and meatballs. While not a traditional menu item, Il Lupino will add its veal, pork and beef meatballs to any pasta. These massive meatballs are in no danger of rolling away from a casual sneeze, though they are all covered in cheese. Delicious parmesan to be exact. Il Lupino’s spaghetti with meatballs leaves nothing to be desired, except perhaps a longing for a larger  stomach.

Hot udon with shrimp tempura

Miyako
Hot udon with shrimp tempura:  tunning ocean views and a romantic air aren’t the only things Miyako has to offer. The traditional Japanese cuisine will make even sushi-shy individuals into sashimi (raw fish) fiends. Hot udon soup comes with thick noodles in a savory broth. It’s paired with deepfried shrimp tempura and dipping sauce. Scrumptious and satisfying, this soup-and-shrimp combo is a fully cooked option if raw fish isn’t for you.

Spaghetti alla pescatora

Arancino
Spaghetti alla checca: Sometimes, a simple spaghetti dish is all you need. Arancino’s Spaghetti alla checca is just that. Spaghetti noodles, fresh mozzarella, basil and a classic tomato sauce come together in this elegant and thoroughly delicious pasta. Spaghetti alla pescatora: Seafood lovers will rejoice in this spaghetti dish that features  shrimp, calamari, live clams, mussels and a garlicky white wine sauce. It’s clear why this pasta is consistently a guest favorite. Be sure to bring a camera, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well.

At the Heart of Kualoa Ranch

kualoa-ranch

You may know Kualoa Ranch as the site where countless movies and television shows have been filmed, including Jurassic Park, Lost and Fifty First Dates. But to many of the ranch employees, film shoots and guest tours are the public side of the ranch that exists to keep the working ranch alive and running.

“Everybody knows us for Jurassic Park,” says Taylor Kellerman,  director of diversified agriculture and land stewardship. “But there’s really no other place like this.”

It’s easy to see why. With stunning views of mountains and ocean, Kualoa Ranch is easily one of the most photogenic places on Earth. The ranch is nearly 4,000 acres of undeveloped land that encompass the Hakipuu, Kualoa and Kaaawa valleys.

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There are other families or trusts on Oahu that own larger parcels of land in Hawaii, but Kualoa is unique because it is still a functional ranch and nature reserve without urbanization in prime Oahu real  state.

Established in 1850, the property was initially used as a sugar plantation. Ruins still stand from Oahu’s first sugar mill located near the entrance. After several years of poor rainfall, sugar planting came to a halt and cattle ranching was introduced.

Today, the ranch has more than 600 head of cattle, and harvests roughly eight animals a month. As Kellerman says, the cattle are “grass fed and grass fi nished,” meaning they are raised freerange over the grassy slopes of the ranch all the way up through harvest. Almost all cows are grass fed at some point in their lives, but not all are allowed to graze their entire lives.

The cows are rotated every fi ve to seven days through different pastures to avoid over-grazing. Most pastures offer ocean vistas or panoramic Koolau mountain range views. Given the care, location and attention they receive, these must be some of the happiest cows in the world.

Interspersed throughout the pastures are groves of papaya, bananas, pineapple and other tropical plants. The goal is to utilize as much land as is possible with diversified crops. Produce is usually sold to local markets or restaurants.

Robust chickens are rotated through groves and their eggs are collected for consumption. Their grazing is an eco-friendly way to help manage weeds and pests while providing fertilizer. This type of nature-based solution to weed and pest management is  epresentative of how Kualoa Ranch solves problems. The ranch also makes its own mulch and manure in an attempt to employ the full ecosystem Kualoa Ranch has to offer.

baby-shrimp
Baby shrimp being prepared for transfer to a shrimp pond.

Part of that ecosystem is the Molii fi shpond. This is one of the few remaining ancient fi shponds on Oahu. It’s an estimated 800 years old and roughly 125 acres. In these historic waters, oyster farmers grow live oysters in floating cages that never rest on the bottom of the pond. Roughly 1,000 oysters are harvested weekly for local consumers and restaurant use. It is the only Department of Health certified oyster farm on Oahu.

Chickens grazing in a papaya grove
Chickens grazing in a papaya grove

Like the chickens, these oysters serve a dual purpose. “Each oyster can filter 50 gallons of water,” says Kellerman.

That helps to keep the fishpond waters clean for use by future generations. The fishpond is also home to one of Kualoa Ranch’s  ultural tours, where guests can enjoy the pond’s serenity while  earning about Hawaiian aquaculture.

Education about farming and Hawaiian history is vital to the ranch. In addition to its tours, local school groups can come to learn about nature and some of the farming work done on the ranch. While  here, local keiki (children) can visit a well-loved petting zoo where they can get a personal introduction to farm animals.

Past the petting zoo that’s used for educational purposes are several small ponds for raising Pacifi c white tiger shrimp and tilapia. One unique aspect of Kualoa shrimp is that, when restaurants or markets
call in an order, the shrimp are caught that morning and served the same day. These are some of the freshest shrimp available on Oahu.

A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf
A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf

When chefs call in an order for shrimp, oysters or tilapia, sometimes they’ll also ask for naturally occurring plants like coconut or breadfruit that grow on Kualoa Ranch but aren’t specifically farmed. “We’ll get whatever we can for you,” says Kellerman, even if that means doing some foraging to find high quality plants when requested.

Despite its size and commitment to the land, Kualoa Ranch doesn’t produce a large quantity of food.

Banana trees growing  near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.
Banana trees growing near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.

“We grow these killer quality products, but our volume isn’t huge,” says Kellerman.

That’s why Kualoa Ranch recently started food-tasting tours to give guests the opportunity to try the different foods the ranch yields. This allows visitors to see the working side of the ranch and taste the sweet and savory results of its sustainable farming.

If you’d like to try Kualoa products, prime steaks, oysters and shrimp can be ordered online and picked up at the ranch. The gift shop will sometimes carry fresh foods, and will almost always have frozen ground beef available for purchase. Burgers from the café are all from Kualoa ground beef.

Kualoa Ranch is more than a tourist attraction or Hollywood set. Chatting with employees makes it clear many feel they work the land in stewardship to maintain a part of Hawaiian history that is quickly disappearing. The owners employ four full-time staff whose sole purpose is to maintain and improve the property, often restoring streams or fields that are in disarray. These positions are completely privately funded and are one more way Kualoa Ranch attempts to keep the land timeless so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

On an island where space is in high demand and limited availability, Kualoa Ranch is firm in its adherence to non-urbanization and land stewardship. The ranch has evolved to be self-sustaining now that farming isn’t as economically viable as it once was.

As Kellerman says, “Every seat on a tour that’s sold keeps the land in perpetuity.”

Beyond Brunch at Cinnamon’s

beyond-brunch-at-cinnamons

For over 30 years, Cinnamon’s has been a staple of Windward Oahu’s breakfast and lunch scene. Always popular with locals, the restaurant has become increasingly popular with tourists in the past five years, sometimes causing diners to wait up to two hours for a table on busy mornings.

Owners Puna and Cricket Nam found themselves in a happy predicament. With such large crowds, “it was no longer a personal feeling,” he recounts. He wanted to maintain steady business, but also reduce congestion so that everyone could get a table in a reasonable amount of time.

The solution: a second location. In November of 2014, Cinnamon’s in Waikiki opened at the Ilikai hotel. This second location carries over the original restaurant’s breakfast delights, including multiple award-winning pancakes and benedicts.

Guava-Chiffon-Pancakes
Guava Chiffon Pancakes

The delectable guava chiffon pancakes recently placed No. 8 in Time Out Magazine’s national best pancake ranking. You simply have to try them. Sweet and tangy guava sauce cascades over fluffy pancakes all topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Or if chocolate is more your flavor, try Puna’s favorite, the red velvet pancake, that took six months to perfect.

In addition to breakfast and lunch, the Waikiki Cinnamon’s also offers dinner, a first for the restaurant. Kalbi short ribs have quickly become a house favorite for dinner, and the restaurant includes a lighter side menu for the health conscious among us. For the non-health conscious, know that pancakes are served all day.

With gorgeous harbor views, Cinnamon’s is growing in popularity in Waikiki not only for its comfort food, but also for ambiance. Friday evenings tend to be busy as diners can view fireworks from the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It also hosts live music with background artists playing Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Additionally, the Ilikai has live music every Friday and Saturday that can be enjoyed at Cinnamon’s from 6 to 9 p.m.

Try out Cinnamon’s for ono local grinds (delicious local foods) any day of the week. Friendly staff, good food and a beautiful setting combine for a perfect dining experience.

Boneless Kal-bi Short Ribs
Boneless Kal-bi Short Ribs

Uncle Bo’s. Where the Locals Go

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uncle-bo
Chef and Co-owner “Uncle” Bo Pathammavong

On any given night on Kapahulu Avenue just outside of downtown  Waikiki, hungry diners mill around in front of Uncle Bo’s restaurant.  When asked why they hang around for a table when there are plenty of available eateries in the area, they simply reply that Uncle Bo’s is worth the wait.

Uncle Bo’s has been dishing out lip smacking foods for 10 years now in Honolulu. It’s been popular with repeat local guests and visitors alike.

When asked about its popularity, co-owner Ho Suk Lee says, “I think locals love coming to Uncle Bo’s because they know where to find value. They know at Uncle Bo’s they will share a fun experience with ono (delicious) food and great drinks!”

A must try is the Boca Rota as a pupu (appetizer) to start. The Boca Rota is perfectly toasted cheesy garlic bread topped with sliced prime rib and sautéed mushrooms.  Bo’s has a long list of pupus, each one seemingly more appetizing than the last. Gather family and friends to make a meal of sampling appetizers for a flavorful dinner.

For those who prefer entrées to small plates, try the Baked Opah Mauna Kea. Lee describes the dish as “Opah that’s baked in our secret sauce topped with wok-fried shrimp. It’s a bit spicy but savory, tender and decadent at the same time. It’s been on our menu from Day One and we love it when our guests come back for it again and again.” To end on a sweet note, order Bo’s famous Hobos, taro beignets covered in powdered sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. These are decadence at its very best.

All of this gourmet food is served in an unassuming building with an inviting interior and a well-stocked, full bar. Various wine bottles adorn one bar wall, while an undersea mural covers another wall.

Avoid waiting for a table by making a reservation in advance or arriving early. You can also head out to its second location in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore.

Boca Rota appetizer
Boca Rota appetizer