Fringe benefits…what can I say?
"They are freaking spectacular," okay?
Yelp kicked off its Yelp Eats Local campaign this week in support of Kanu Hawaii, a local nonprofit aimed at making Hawaii a model for sustainability through personal commitments made by its users.
This month, Kanu put on its fourth Eat Local Challenge to date, inspiring people to make the conscious decision of eating local food. When people choose to dine at the eleven partner restaurants (details)
But why eat local? It’s sooo expensive and sooo hard to find.
It’s simple. It’s sustainable, especially for our isolated selves; it supports the local farmers and economy; it causes much less pollution; and best of all, it tastes so much better.
So when Emi first told me about this gathering at Sushi ii, I hummed and hawed over if I should go or not. I am not a fan of sushi. What else could this place possible serve that’s considered “local?”
I found out, by nipping my distain for sushi in the butt and going, that Garrett and Sabrina serve hopes and dreams on big ass plates of love.
The dinner started off the right way with a paiai (puh-e-i) topped with sea asparagus, pulled pork and garnished with some naughty bits of yum. The trick is to scoop up the entire tower, dip it in the spicy barbecue-hoisin sauce, and pop it in your mouth.
Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds with chopsticks. I obliterated it and any chance of eating it in one bite. Did I care? No! It was damn delicious even in smithereens.
Next to it was a Sabrina’s own Jamaican jerk rubbed, coconut-crusted mahimahi drizzled with her homemade mango sauce. This piece of fish, the first and probably only one I’ve ever really had in years was excellent. It had a nice cinnamon-y / Thai sweetness to it that had me going in for more. The crispiness of the outside was great too, then mixed with the salad….omg.
Even before the first course, we were already loosening our belts. But when we saw the size of the first course, we knew it was gonna be a good dinner.
The table I sat at included Amber-Lynn Hyden, weather anchor at KITV4; Linda Chiem, Pacific Business News reporter; Chad Yamamoto, Super Yelp Elite; Nadine Kam, Star-Advertiser Food/Fashion columnist; and Kristen Whisenand, Yelp Public Relations.
Was I starstruck? Yeah. But they’re all freaking hilarious! Who knew?!
Our courses were broken up with this kaffir lime shooter (non-alcoholic) which was airing on the sweet side. We were served lime slices with our mahimahi, but since they didn’t do much for flavor, Nadine added one to her shot, like a boss (her blog post)
Meanwhile, Amber-Lynn is taking photos with her iPhone like a pro (her blog post); Chad and I are fighting over our husband Teddy’s Bigger Burgers; Kristen is pouring more and more wine; and Linda is working on something.
Now it is time to be wowed.
The Naked Cow Gorgonzola-stuffed Big Island + Wagyu Beef Slider on a homemade rice bun toasted with Naked Cow Dairy butter and served with Caramelized Onion Sour Cherry Ketchup.
This is about as gourmet as gourmet gets.
When you encounter a burger of this caliber, you have to wonder how genius the chef is behind it. This is just ostentatious!
When you bite into this masterpiece, the crunch of the bun melds with the juicy greatness of the medium rare burger then the spunky gorgonzola (italian blue cheese) hits you and you sit back in your seat and go “mmmmmmmmmmmm.” All is right in the world.
BUT WAIT. You need to put the ketchup! YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Its sweetness is the perfect neutralizer to the gorgonzola and char of the burger. Use it all because guaranteed, Sabrina wont be selling this in a bottle anytime soon. Unless Emi strongly suggests her too.
This watermelon drink is like punch mixed with crack. Addiction, major. It was a great pallet cleanser, and very refreshing. We need the recipe for the next party, please!!!
But what’s next will keep you coming back. And back. And back. And back in the same week. Again. And again. And again.
Banana Dream Pie made with fresh picked local apple bananas. It is also known as Speechless Pie because once you bite it with your miniature fork, all words cease to form. CANNOT DESCRIBE. MUST EXPERIENCE.
Chad Y beholds its gloriness.
Garrett and Sabrina are both truly passionate about their work, just as artists should be.
Sushi ii (Yelp)
655 Keaaumoku Blvd
Call ahead for reservations because this place is tiny!
DON’T FORGET to put your receipt in the Yelp Eats Local ballot box! Garrett and Sabrina will donate $10 from every yelper’s meal to Kanu Hawaii.
Ah Chinatown, one can never get enough of your famous sights, smells, or restaurants. Brasserie du Vin, Indigo, and JJ Dolans are all excellent choices, but what if you’re stumbling out of NextDoor at 2 a.m. and need a sobering burger or two?
This is where new kid on the block, Downbeat Diner and Lounge, saves the day, or night for that matter, with hours that will make all you owls hoot. (11 – 3 a.m. Monday – Thursday and until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays)
Located on the corner of Hotel and Smith, Downbeat is a quaint eatery and bar that specializes in “good American basics,” like burgers, milkshakes and hash browns, but they also have a “strong vegetarian and vegan component,” with all dishes with that alternative.
It is co-owned by local musician Josh86 of The 86 List and Black Square and his manager, HPU Associate Professor Dr. Serena Hashimoto, and oozes character with custom-print booths, a jukebox, and industrial fixtures throughout.
“It’s the dream location,” said Hashimoto, “It was originally a pho shop so it had a hood, the location was perfect, and I couldn’t think of a reason not to pursue it.”
After soliciting for suggestions on what my stomach should pursue, I decided on Hashimoto’s favorite, the BLAT, or Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato sandwich, with fries for $9.50.
For such a simple sandwich, each bite packed a punch of freshness and flavor only Uncle Kalei could deliver from his Waialua farm. The crisp bacon complimented the medley of local ingredients well but the $2 optional fries were the unfortunate opposite and lacked the texture I was looking for.
On my second visit, dessert was the name of the game, and I went all in for a $7.00 Basket of Apple Fritters with Ice Cream. All I can say is that if this is the last thing you eat, you have lived a full life.
These fritters are not the rocks you find at Napoleon’s, but more of a Whole Foods breed a la chunks of apple filling mingling in a lighter version of a Leonard’s malasada. I ended up taking more than half of them home, so bring a few friends to share…or not.
For chocoholics, the deluxe Mac Nut Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich will have you writing home to mama about its rich flavor, airy texture, and economical price of just $5. (Feeds many)
For Hashimoto, opening a business was something she did not see herself doing, but she says, “I’m fortunate for the perfect timing and my light teaching load, which make this the perfect opportunity.”
On the other hand, Josh has “always seen himself managing something,” but had never thought it would be Downbeat.
Although they opened on New Years, Downbeat Diner will be celebrating its Grand Opening on Friday, Feb. 11.