The Mini-est Mini French Toast Ever

Happy 2006 everyone!
Sorry about not posting for such a long time. Our family just moved from Hawaii Kai to the Kaimuki area and we’ve been incredibly busy moving things back and forth (apparently no moving company is willing to work on Christmas Eve or Day :)) and doing some fixups on the home. I also spent the past few days in bed doing absolutely nothing due to a case of allergies gone really bad. But now all (or most at least) is better and even though I am without internet connection – it will take a lot more to stop me from eating!

Shann and I met up for light dinner/snack at Ginza Kimuraya in Kahala Mall last Friday. We were not very hungry so decided some tea time treats would be good. Ginza Kimuraya is a Japanese bakery and their Kahala Mall location is the first in the US. Their product line is similar to Saint Germain (with prices to match!), however their pastries appear much more delicate and refined. Here’s a shot of their matcha cream and red bean cakes. They also have a wide range of different an pans (sold out by the time we came) and just recently introduced a line of matcha products. In addition to the self serve bakery counter there’s a full service sit down area. You can order complete dinners (menu centers around Japanese-Italian fusion food) or small snacks “sets”.
I had the French Toast Set ($5.00). The picture on the menu showed 4 large slices of french toast beautifully arranged on a white plate. So imagine my surprise when the waiter carried out a huge white plate with four of the tiniest slices of toast I’ve ever seen in my life! We sat there for a full 10 minutes laughing in disbelief. They must have been a full square inch each! I think they took a singe slice of bread, cut off the crust and then cut it into four pieces. Oh man. Well aside from that fact it was very good. There was not need for butter or syrup as there was plenty of flavor in the toast. It was almost like the bread was buttered, lightly dipped in the batter then brushed with syrup before being fried. Mmm. I only wish there was more :) The toast was served with a side of tsubushian (mashed sweetened red beans) and whipped cream.
Shann had the Pastry Set ($5.00). Our server brought out a tray of pastries for her to pick from (this was basically anything that was left on the bakery side of the shop). Shann chose the chocolate croissant and the blueberry custard tart. I don’t know why they called it a tart because it was croissant dough rolled up, topped with a little custard and some blueberries. I’ll never understand the Japanese (though I love their food!) Both pastries were on the dry side and though they were flaky, there wasn’t enough dough, or as Robyn would say, “soft innards” to make it an above average pastry.

Both “Sets” come with your choice of coffee or tea. This certainly was a “delicate” meal. I left very hungry and had a complete dinner at grandma’s later on in the evening. But I really did enjoy the french toast. Maybe this is the part where someone should go – “it’s quality over quantity!” Perhaps we can have high quality but also enough quantity? At least enough to make us full? LOL. Either way, I’ll still go back to Ginza, maybe not to dine in but definitely to pick up my baguettes and brioche!

Ginza Kimuraya Kahala Mall Honolulu, Hawaii 96816 (808) 735-9600

I have a particular weakness for Vietnamese desserts. Give me anything mochi-like, chewy, a bit sticky with plenty of coconut and mung beans and I lose all willpower to refrain from devouring both your share and mine. This weakness was inherited from my mom which is why she never objects to my proposals of “I think we’re hungry, Lien Market?”

Lien Market is right in the middle of all the butcher and seafood shops in Chinatown. Though the sign says they specialize in seafood and grocery, they carry a limited amount of groceries, no seafood, and plenty of Vietnamese desserts. We picked up a few boxes of sliced apple bananas cooked in a sugar syrup and rolled in sesame seeds with a side of coconut milk. Just pour the milk over the bananas and serve at room temperature. Mom got some red and mung bean balls wrapped in sweetened tapioca for breakfast. The beans are boiled and mashed with coconut milk and sugar. It’s pretty good plain, but I suppose for aesthetic reasons they’re wrapped in sweetened tapioca. I doubt many people would but a box of mashed mung beans. hehe. To balance all the sweet snacks we also got a pack of nam. Think Asian carpaccio. Raw ground beef (or pork) is “cooked” in salt and vinegar and mixed with vermicelli noodles then shaped into little squares and topped with a slice of raw garlic and pepper. It’s slightly sour with a spicy bite. Nam is a firm block of meat, with a rubbery texture that can only be appreciated after you realize how simply delicious this stuff is! I like to snack on the nam alone, but dad likes to slice his Saint Germain baguette lengthwise and make a nam sandwich.

So this is my idea of snack time. At $2.50/box for the sweets and $6/10 pieces for the nam, the snacks at Lien are well priced (as are most things in Chinatown). The owners are super friendly people and if you come on a good day they’ll have a hot pot of oh-so-soft and fresh dofu fa sitting on the counter. A large cup with a spoonful of some addicting ginger syrup is just a dollar.

Lien Market 145 N. King St. Honolulu, HI 96817 (808) 536-3381

Note: I’ve concluded that my camera refuses to take good pictures at restaurants where the average entree exceeds $20. Either that or my photo taking skills really suck. Sigh. They do suck. Notice how everything is so yeeeellllow?

Kristen called for an impromptu dinner at Roy’s in Hawaii Kai tonight. We haven’t seen each other for nearly two years even though we call each other on a weekly basis. Having spent the summer after graduation doing nothing but eating wonderful meals at La Mer and afternoon teas at the Mandarin and Halekulani it was only appropriate that we meet again over a lovely dinner.

For appetizers we had crabcakes with a coconut cream sauce and panko crusted coconut shrimp (no picture, although it would have turned out all yellow anyways). I know, lots of coconut, perhaps a little too much as the coconut flavor overpowered both dishes. The crabcakes were very dense and meaty – no “fillers” here! Plenty of pepper and garlic were the central to the pure and simple cakes. Just avoid the sauce unless you’re looking for coconut overkill. The shrimp was more or less coconut flavored shrimp tempura. Enjoyable, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I had the Goose with Taro Mashed Potatoes as an entree. Thin slices of goose were arranged around a mound of sweet mashed taro. There was some heavy handling of coconut milk in the potatoes. By this point of the meal, all I could think was “stop it with the coconut!!!” Aside from that, you can’t really go wrong with mashed taro. The goose was roasted (a little too long in my opinion) and served with a thick shoyu “gravy.” Though satisfying, I was not very impressed with the dish. A restaurant as highly acclaimed as Roy’s can certainly do better. At it’s best, the individual components were enjoyable on their own. At it’s worst, the entree was boring, confused, overcooked, and heavy.

Kristen and I both have a sinful obsession with sweets and desserts of any sort so we started off the dessert extravaganza with the Neopolitian Creme Brulee. Three egg shaped balls of creme brulee were placed on top thin tuile cookies, sprinkled with sugar and torched till nice and crisp. The flavors (left to right) were dark chocolate, hazelnut and strawberry. The chocolate was my favorite of the trio, dark and more bitter than sweet, it was creamy and very thick (I like my brulee nice and “thick”). The hazelnut and strawberry were just decent though the flavors were not strong enough to elicit anything more than “that was good.” The chef hid an entire strawberry inside the strawberry brulee, leaving me feel ever so slightly ripped off – there was more strawberry than brulee!
Next was the White Chocolate Eggnog Cheesecake with Hazelnut Gelato. The cheesecake was cut into four small triangles, showcasing the dark chocolate center of the cake (the menu said white chocolate but no one mentioned dark…) The cheesecake tasted like eggnog heavily spiced with cinnamon and surprisingly complemented the hazelnut speckled gelato. We also had the Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle a la Mode. This is a Roy’s “classic.” It’s a predictable dish that’s now on the menu of every other restaurant, but something I enjoy nonetheless. Roy’s does an excellent version of what I call the “three sensation dessert.” First, the crisp shell of the cake, then a thin layer of moist chocolate cake followed by intense warm chocolate pudding/fudge/goop. Alternate spoonfuls of the souffle and ice cream till you feel like you’re on the verge of a heart attack. Then move onto the next dessert.
To finish: Mango, Pear and Cranberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream. Unlike most cobblers where the fruit is soft, both the mangoes and cranberries remained crisp after baking beneath the nuttry shortbread crust. The cobbler relied on the sweetness and flavors of the fruits, tiny cubes of juicy sweet mangoes, tart ripe cranberries and the mellow comfort of pears. A side of ice cream was an appropriate complement to the warm baked fruits.

Ahh, it was an indulgent dinner. Sugar high anyone? The meal itself was not the best I’ve had at Roy’s. I feel as if they’ve really gone downhill on quality control since opening all their mainland branches. But I was here to see Kristen and the company made an okay dinner almost delicious. Who else would eat that much dessert with me! I shall sleep well tonight.

I planned on posting this a long time ago, but then something called final exams got in the way :) This will just be a quick post (I just think the chocolates are exceptionally beautiful!) because I have plenty of cooking and eating to do here at home.

Every year the College hosts an evening called Death By Chocolate on the last day of the fall semester. This is how it works: the planning committee is allotted a budget around $6,000 to blow on everything and anything chocolate for a huge feast. The committee is split up into a few groups, the main ones being Common Chocolates and Specialty Chocolates. I was more than happy (ecstatic, really) to serve on the Specialty Chocolates group. The Common Chocolates spends their budget on chocolate fountains, pounds of See’s, cakes, mousses…well you get the idea, common chocolate stuff.

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase – here’s some of what the Specialty Chocolates ordered for the event.


Some exceptional pieces were the Quatre Epices (the spotted one on the bottom) – a complex play of black pepper, nutmeg and cloves in a milk chocolate ganache and the Thai Ginger, a dark chocolate piece with hints of lemongrass, coconut and bits of crystallized ginger.

Kee’s Chocolates. I had the opportunity to speak with Kee Tong on a couple occasions last year when I stopped by her shop on slow afternoons. Soft spoken and ever so kind, Kee graduated from the FCI before opening her Soho shop. Her passion for creating truffles clearly show though in the workmanship and flavor of her sweets! Kee’s Black Sesame and Green Tea truffles.
Norman Love: from top to bottom: Tahitian Caramel, Milk Chocolate Truffle, Palet d’Or, Dark Lime, Mocha, Pineapple, Lime and Pumpkin Trays of Norman Love and Woodhouse. Chris Elbow: from left to right: Citrus Caramel, Rosemary Caramel, Morello Cherry and Bourbon PecanSome more Chris Elbow: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Fleur de Sel Caramel, Espresso Lemon and Venezuelan DarkAnd this was how the chocolates were served. We had to cut them in half (this broke my heart!) and put them in paper cups.
The event itself was a bit crazy with thousands of students in a mad rush to grab chocolates. It made me a little sad to see how some people valued quantity over quality. They would grab a few, stuff them in the mouth and make away with some more before they even swallowed. I wanted to say, “hey! do you know that that piece cost $3, do you even know the flavor? What you’re eating?!” but of course I refrained from doing such a thing.
I also ate quite a bit myself, but stopped short of my initial plan to sample EVERYTHING. My favorite for the evening was Norman Love’s Pumpkin, Chris Elbow’s Rosemary Caramel and the Oak-aged Vidal: Apricot & Lychee from DC Duby’s Ice Wine Series (no picture). The soft, spicy pumpkin cream was enrobed in a whimsical white chocolate shell while the Rosemary Caramel tasted just like the name. The flavors fresh rosemary swirled into caramel in a pyramid shaped truffle was intoxicating. DC Duby is a relatively new chocolatier, but if the fruity wine based truffle is representative of their other products, then there’s some new competition in the market! I think I’ll lay low on the truffles for the next few months. Death by Chocolate was a fun event but I was really overwhelmed (by both the amount of chocolate ordered and the mad rush of chocolate desperate students) not to mention truffled-out.

Restaurant Yamagen

Is this someone’s house or a restaurant? It could work as either, but lucky for us, Restaurant Yamagen happens to be, well you guessed it, a restaurant! King Street is full of ramen shops such as Jimbo’s. Most of them are noticeable from their brightly lit yellow interiors and crowds of people with late night ramen cravings. Yamagen differs from the majority of ramen shops in that it closes earlier and is quiet and dimly lit.
I first noticed Yamagen while working at Alan Wong’s this past summer. I occasionally walked to the bus stop by Long Drug’s and always paused to look at this house-looking-restaurant, never knowing what to make of it. I kept Yamagen on my “to try” list, especially after reading Reid’s post. And so tonight I finally got “to try!”

I had the Tempura Dinner Set ($8.50). It’s hard to tell from the picture but I’ve never been served a bigger bowl of rice in my life. It was HUGE. I could barely finish half of the rice and I’m a pretty hefty starch eater! The tempura was an assortment of shrimp, squid, zucchini, string beans and sweet potatoes. The batter was on the thicker side and grew limp a little quicker than anticipated (my favorite tempura was at the now closed Tatsu’s in Manoa). But the first couple of bites of were satisfying crisp, showcasing the juicy sweet shrimp or warm potatoes if you could ignore the slightly oily residue on your tongue. The quality of the shrimp and squid were above average, large flavorful pieces. The meal also came with a bowl of wakame soup and tsukemono. The tsukemono were actually pieces of pickled Chinese cabbage which I found to be on the bland side. The soup was nicely seasoned and served with seaweed and green onions. My favorite part of the meal was the small unassuming serving of chopped squid, shrimp and green onions topped with miso paste. You can see it on the corner of the tempura plate. I mixed it into my rice, threw on a dash of shicimi togarashi, and oh man, I could have easily made a meal out of that alone!
My sister ordered the Tempura Udon ($7.50). The boiling hot broth was clear and just a bit sweet. Though were slightly overcooked, the noodles still retained the elastic pull quality udon noodles must have. They served just as much tempura in the udon as they did in the dinner set!
Yamagen is an excellent deal for the portions they give. Only two of the five inside tables inside were occupied but I noticed most of their business came from people who stopped by for takeout. It’s a place that sets you in a different mood as you step off the hustle of busy King Street and into a small, hidden Japanese restaurant. It’s almost comforting in an odd way, discovering a calm oasis in a soothing bowl of udon noodles. Everything seems to move at a unhurried pace. The lights are dim, the food, hearty and abundant. Why…I feel like curling up and falling asleep after this lovely meal.

Restaurant Yamagen
2210 South King St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 947-2125