Fishing for Dinner at Zauo Restaurant (Day 6: Part III)

DSC09979One of the most unique dining experiences that we had in Japan was eating at Fishing Restaurant Zauo.    Zauo is a restaurant chain in Japan where you literally catch your own dinner.  Ev’s brother recommended that we take Connor to eat at the one located in the Washington Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo and I was able to book reservations for dinner online through Open Table before we left for Japan.DSC09970The seating area of the restaurant was designed to look like a big wooden boat in the center of the restaurant. Surrounding the boat were large fish tanks where you would fish for a variety of seafood.  The night we went, there were flounder, sea bream, horse-mackerel,  top shell, shrimp, and rock fish.  DSC09985We purchased some bait for 100 yen and went fishing.  Once we caught a fish, we got to choose how we wanted the fish cooked from a list of various preparations.  The price depended on the base price of the fish and the cooking options selected.  You could also just order the fish directly off the menu (without catching it) but the prices were slightly higher.
DSC09967The first fish we decided to catch was a Flounder (base 3,661 yen).  We were told that the trick to catching the flounder was that you basically drag the hook along the top of the flounder until the hook snags the flounder so that you can pull the fish out of the water.  Ev’s dad was able to catch the flounder in about five minutes.
DSC09989The cooking options for the flounder were sashimi, simmered in shoyu, fried, deep fried (+324 yen), sautéed in butter (+324), sushi (54 yen a piece), miso soup (+162), fried bones (+216 yen).  We chose to fry half and make sushi with the other half.
DSC09991After we had finished the sushi, we had the bones and fried it up until it was crispy for 216 yen.  I liked the fact that we basically ate every single part of the fish and nothing went to waste.
DSC09993The second fish we caught was the sea bream (2,970 yen base).  This fish was harder to catch and you definitely needed to buy bait (tiny shrimp).  Thankfully, Ev’s dad is an excellent fisherman and caught the fish in less than 10 minutes.  He said the trick to catching this one was that he loaded the hook with as many shrimp as he could fit on the hook.DSC09988The sea bream had the most cooking options, which were sashimi, grilled, simmered in shoyu, fried, chazuke (+410 yen), sushi (+54 yen a piece), kamameshi (+324 yen), miso soup (+162 yen), grilled bones (+216 yen) and bones simmered with shoyu (+324 yen).DSC09994For the sea bream, we chose to have half simmered in shoyu and half made into sashimi.    The simmered sea bream (shown above) was my favorite preparation of the night.DSC09998We also used the bones and head of the sea bream to make miso soup for everyone.  Connor was a big fan of the miso soup.  After the sea bream, we sent Ev out to catch some top shells, which were large sea snails.
DSC09997We had the top shell prepared in sashimi style and grilled.  We all preferred the grilled top shell over the top shell sashimi .  The top shell sashimi style was a little too crunchy and did not have much flavor.
DSC00004We ended the night with a grilled rock fish.  The rock fish wasn’t one of the standard fish on the menu so I don’t recall what the exact price was for this fish.  It was a good size and had a nice grilled smoky flavor.
DSC00005Overall, the Zauo Restaurant was a fun experience and great place to go with kids.  Connor really enjoyed seeing all the different types of fish and watching everyone fish.  I was really glad that I had booked reservations for 5pm when the restaurant opened because it got really crowded as the night went on.   The meal was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth the price given the novelty.

Dinner at RyuGin (Day 5: Part II)

We were fortunate to have Ev’s parents with us for the beginning portion of the trip while we were in Tokyo.  Ev and I decided to take advantage of the available babysitters and had a nice night out in Tokyo with just the two of us.DSC09883For our one night of freedom, we knew we wanted to splurge on an amazing meal.  After researching all 13 three-Michelin star  restaurants in Tokyo, we decided to eat at RyuGin, a restaurant known for its Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. We decided to eat there because in addition to earning three Michelin stars, RyuGin was named one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants by the Diner’s Club every year since 2011.
DSC09884I should first mention that getting reservations here was a little difficult from the US.  First, they do not have an online reservation system so you have to call to make a reservation. Second, if you are not a resident of Japan, then the only way you can book the restaurant is by going through a third-party reservation company or going through your hotel’s concierge service. Fortunately, we had booked our Tokyo hotel well in advance so we were to ask our hotel to book our reservations.  Now on to the food!
IMAG0248Our meal started with two appetizers in quick succession. The first appetizer was a a Firefly Squid Dish with Butterbur and Young Pea. Ev was a big fan of the tiny, charcoal broiled firefly squid that had a nice slightly smokey taste.
IMAG0251The second appetizer was a Hokigai surf clam that was plated on an abalone shell with shiso and other small green herbs.
IMAG0252After the appetizers, we had an Owan Soup course, which comprised of Greenling fish, Lotus root dumpling, and Junsai in a light Ichiban Dashi. I had never had Junsai before and it had a very interesting texture. It was crunchy but had a crunchy jelly like coating surrounding it.
IMAG0254The next course was our sashimi course, which contained three different types of sashimi – a red clam and squid sashimi, a white flatfish sashimi, and a katsuo sashimi.  I really enjoyed the Katsuo (skip jack tuna)  which was a really nice, fatty tuna.
IMAG0255Then came the grilled course, which was a grilled sea perch with a taro potato dumpling accompanied with a mustard vinegar sauce.
IMAG0256After the grilled dish came the stewed dish, which consisted of a fried Goemon Tofu, uni, and abalone in a rich bonito consume broth with a slight hint of citrus.   We were told that the abalone had been simmering in the broth for approximately 10 hours.  This dish seemed very simple, but very satisfying.
IMAG0257Our next dish was our meat course of Sanuki Olive Beef from the Kitagawa prefecture resting on top of a beautifully carmelized onion topped with asparagus.  The beef was very good but the onion underneath made the dish.
IMAG0259Or final dish before desert was the rice dish.  The course came with a small bowl of rice flavored with cherry blossom tea with tiny Sakura shrimp, picked vegetables, and a “Chrysanthemum” Soup.  The flower in the soup was actually a piece of egg custard that was elegantly cut to look like a Chrysanthemum flower.  Unbelievable.
IMAG0260The first dessert course was a single strawberry simmered in a light brown sugar syrup with a small spoonful of sakura ice cream.
IMAG0263The second dessert dish was a hot sake souffle with a cold sake ice cream.  This was by far my favorite dish of the night.  The souffle was seriously delicious.  It was warm and custard-like in the inside and crunchy and sweet on the outside.
DSC09885As we were leaving, we bumped into Chef Seiji Yamamoto and thanked him for the meal.  He also graciously agreed to take a picture with us.

Overall, we both enjoyed the meal and the food was very pretty.  But, we thought that the service was just okay considering how difficult it was to get reservations and the cost. We honestly don’t recall exactly how much we paid for our meal (I joke that it cost so much that we’ve blocked out all memory of paying our bill), however the meal plus sake cost us approximately $300 per person.  If I were to visit Japan again, I would probably won’t revisit again and would try another of the three-star Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo.

 

 

Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38 Food Review

Recently, Ev got a promotion at his job, and to celebrate, the family had dinner at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38, a new restaurant that opened near Nico’s.  Harbor Restaurant’s menu has been designed around its Brasa ovens, a charcoal burning grill/smoker/oven appliance that delivers a unique smokey flavor to food. We each ordered a  bunch of appetizers, entrees, and sides and shared them family-style.  As we typically do, we ordered way too much food.
DSC01415Garlic Roasted Eggplant with shaved Parmesan and toasted garlic crostini ($10).  The eggplant was cooked nicely and made into a gooey garlic spread.  I really liked this.  Ev thought it was a tad too garlicky.
DSC01395Brasa Grilled Scampi with roasted peppers and capers over squid ink pasta and served with garlic bread ($28). This was my favorite of the dishes of the night. I typically don’t care for squid ink pasta but this one was very well done.
DSC01402Brasa Pork Chop on a bed of baby spinach on lentils($25).  The pork chop had a nice smokey flavor, but I thought the pork chops were a little dry.
DSC01398Brasa Roasted Half Chicken with herb stuffing and grilled vegetable jus ($23).  We ordered the Barasa Chicken Caesar salad but received this instead and we didn’t have the heart to return it.
DSC01397Seafood Paella ($28).  The paella had shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, fish, chorizo, peppers, onions and rice, sautéed in a spicy broth topped with cilantro.  This dish was Ev and Ev’s dad’s favorite of the night.
DSC01400Seared Brussels Sprouts with bacon and caramelized onions ($7).  Ev’s dad really likes Brussels sprouts, so we had to get these when we saw them on the menu.  I’m not a real big fan of Brussels sprouts but these were good.
DSC01401Brasa Potatoes with roasted vegetable jus ($6).  These were cooked well but nothing special.
DSC01396Even though we had tons of food left over, we couldn’t pass up on the Brasa roasted Cast Iron Skillet S’mores topped with vanilla gelato ($9).   Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.
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Overall, I really enjoyed our dinner at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38.  The ambiance was decent, and the service was surprisingly good considering that they had just opened.   The portion sizes were also pretty big.  My only note of caution is that the restaurant is an open-air restaurant, so it might get a little warm if you’re eating near the windows on a muggy night.

Japanese Taste Hakkei

My birthday landed on a Tuesday, and Ev asked me whether I wanted to celebrate my birthday with dinner on my actual birthday or on the weekend afterwards. Since we both had to work the next day, I told him we could celebrate my birthday on the Saturday following my birthday.DSC07699As such, I wasn’t expecting anything on my actual birthday, but Ev decided to take the family out to dinner anyways.  We ended up at Hakkei, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. The restaurant was really busy that night, but we were lucky enough to get the last available table.  DSC07713Because it was my birthday, we decided to splurge a little.  I got the Chef’s appetizer + Oden (with 5 choices) and Ev got the Chef’s appetizer + 2 kinds of Grilled Fish.  The Chef’s appetizer changes from day to day, and I was told that we got a few extra dishes because they were so busy and we had to wait a little longer than normal for our food.  I don’t remember what was in each of the little dishes, but they were all very tasty.
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We also ordered Connor some fresh homemade tofu with green onion, bonito, and ginger sauce ($6.80).

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And some stewed pumpkin ($5.80).  Connor was a big fan of the pumpkin and he pretty much ate all the pumpkin by himself.
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I order Oden every time we come to Hakkei, and I’m never disappointed.  It’s comforting, like a warm hug.  For my 5 choices, I picked an egg, daikon, tofu, gobo dumpling, and stuffed cabbage roll.  Ev had two types of fish his main dish.  I believe one was grilled the other was stewed.  I forgot to take a picture, but they were also very tasty.

Overall, Hakkei serves really simple Japanese foods prepared perfectly.  It was a very nice way to celebrate becoming another year older with the two most important people in my life.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my birthday.  🙂

Pig and the Lady

Pig and the Lady is arguably Ev’s favorite restaurant. We first discovered P&L when we had dinner at its pop-up restaurant on Valentines’ Day 2012 and have been hooked ever since.  We were also big fans of P&L farmer’s market offerings and were stoked when they finally opened their brick and mortar store on King Street.  Here are some pictures from our last visit to P&L.
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Ev decided to order the P&L Mazemen ($15), which was like a mix between a Vietnamese pad thai and deconstructed pho. His meal included a large bowl of pho noodles with beef & tendon, roasted peanut-chili satay, cucumbers, cherry tomato, fermented mustard cabbage, cilantro, and tokyo negi.  It also came with a small, side bowl of broth.  Ev was a big fan and said that he would get it again.
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I decided to go with the traditional P&L pho ($13), which is supposed to be P&L’s signature pho dish. It included a fatty slice of smoked bacon, brisket, a soft egg, Tokyo negi, fried shallots and a beef pho broth.  The pho also included traditional pho sides – basil, bean sprouts, and lemon wedges.  The P&L pho is definitely not a traditional pho, but it is still one of my favorite dishes from P&L.

Happy Birthday Tyler

Last month we went to Rijo Restaurant for Ev’s Brother, Tyler’s birthday. I was a big fan of Rijo Restaurant for lunch (see review here), so I was really excited to try the restaurant’s dinner menu.

We started the meal with one of Rijo’s signature dishes, the Dungeness Crab Cake with Truffle Egg Tofu ($16). Unfortunately, the family devoured the dish before I had a chance to take a picture, so all I have is my 1/5 portion of the dish.  The dish came with two crab cakes on a bed of soft homemade tofu.  The dish was a little pricey but very tasty.
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Next we shared the Crispy Tofu and Quinoa Salad ($10). Ev and I had this previously when we ate lunch here. We liked it so much that we ordered it again for dinner. It was just as good as the first time.
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We also wanted to try one of Rijo’s sushi rolls and decided on the Scallop & “zuwai Kani” Dynamite maki sushi roll ($15), which had thinly sliced scallops, cucumber, avocado, and baked snow crab. There was also a roll with spicy tuna that looked good but Ev’s dad cannot eat spicy food so we decided on the Scallop one instead.
DSC04404For our entrees, Ev’s mom had the Two Way Saikyo Yaki Butterfish ($29), which was served in a fancy metal pot.
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Ev’s dad had the Ribeye steak.

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Ev had the ravioli.

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Tyler and I both ordered the catch of the day, cooked in a steamed, asian-style preparation. The fish was prepared well, and wasn’t overcooked. .

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Tyler got a free dessert because it was his birthday.  He ordered the Choclate Lava Cake with molten matcha Green Tea.

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Ev’s mom ordered the cheesecake.

DSC04425Ev’s dad ordered the creme brulee
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And Ev had a gelato sampler.

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I was aparently so preoccupied with taking pictures of everyone else’s dessert, I forgot to take a picture of my own dessert, which was the panna cotta with some fresh fruit.  Once again, it was a nice meal with the family.

Golden Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Bar

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Ev and I are always on the lookout for new ramen spots, so we were excited to hear that Golden Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Bar opened on King Street. So, a few months ago (yes, I’m a little behind with this post) when we were lazy and didn’t want to cook, we decided to take Ev’s parents to eat at Golden Pork.  When we got there, all the tables were taken so we had to wait outside for about 10 minutes before a table opened up.

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Ev has a theory that if the restaurant decor is too put together, it must be a chain or franchise. As soon as he stepped into this restaurant, he declared that this restaurant must be a chain because the interior design was much too nice to be a mom and pop restaurant.  I searched the internet, and while it doesn’t look like there are any other Golden Pork restaurants out there, the Golden Pork is owned by IKKA Dining International, a subsidiary of IKKA Dining Project, a Japanese company that apparently owns 21 restaurants.  So, I guess Ev was sort-of right this time.

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We started our meal with Golden Pork Buns, which consisted of a steamed bun and pork rib dressed with lettuce, a dollop of mayonnaise and hot mustard ($3.50 each). At first, I was a little concerned about the amount of mustard, but it was surprisingly not as hot as I thought it was going to be. The bun was also a bit dry.

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I decided to order the Spicy Red Miso Dragon Ton-Kotsu Ramen ($10.50).   The Ton-Kotsu ramen came with very thin cut noodles (almost like somen noodles), which was very unique.  I got the medium spiciness (Level 2), which may have been a tad too spicy for me.  While I was able to finish the bowl, I recall saying “Woah, this is spicy” at least a few times during my meal.  I can’t imagine how spicy Level 3 would be.

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Ev ordered the Black Garlic Tsukemen with extra noodles ($11.50 + $1.50).  The noodles in the Tsukemen were very think in contrast to the very thin Ton-Kotsu ramen noodles.  The portion sizes were very good here because Ev clearly didn’t need the extra noodles.  He ended up not finishing his meal.

Overall, Golden Pork was good but I think there are other ramen places in the Honolulu area that are just as good and have less of a wait time.  However, the food was tasty enough that I’m sure we’ll be back.  Also, I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have a highchair for Connor.  Eating hot ramen with a squirming baby in your lap is not easy and I don’t recommend it.  Ev and I ended up having to take turns eating while the other kept Connor busy.

Golden Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Bar -1279 S. King Street, Honolulu, HI 96814.  Open for lunch and Dinner daily.

Japanese BBQ Yoshi

Ev and I pass Japanese BBQ Restaurant Yoshi on the way to work every morning, and I’ve been wanting to eat there for some time now. So, a few weeks ago when my mom was over and we were trying to figure out what to do for dinner, I suggested Japanese BBQ Yoshi.

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Located in the lot next to Krazy Karaoke on Young Street, Japanese BBQ Yoshi had a pretty extensive menu of different cuts of beef,  as well as some poultry and seafood.  Because we had no idea what we were doing, the server suggested that we order one of the set menus (for two people) which has a little bit of everything the restaurant has to offer.  Since there were three of us, we decided to split the premium set menu ($140) and an additional side dish to start.  We figured that if we needed more food, we could at some point order additional food ala carte. However, the set meal ended up being so much food that we ended up not having to order anything else.

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I normally don’t take pictures of the condiments, but I made an exception here because their sauces were so good. In additional to a teriyaki and a sweet ponzu dipping sauces, they also served grated wasabi. I love real wasabi, and it was a really nice touch.

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The meal started with a nice organic salad, Korean nori, three types of namul (pickled radish, daikon and carrot, choy sum, and bean sprout), and a toro sandwich.  The salad was good and the namul was fine.  The toro sandwich was ok in itself, but a little odd to eat at dinner and the Korean nori appeared to be Korean nori straight from the package.  I didn’t think that the toro sandwich or the nori contributed much to the meal so its inclusion in the set menu was a bit strange to me.

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Shortly thereafter, the server brought out a bowl of kim chee, which was very good.  Ev liked this kim chee a lot.

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Next came the one dish we purchased outside of the set menu.  I think it was called jidori chicken.  I thought the chicken was very moist and the sauce was tasty.

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Next, the server brought out Beef tataki with green papaya, ginger, shiso, and shoyu.  At the same time, we also received 4 shrimp in a cute pan of garlic butter (not shown).  When ordering we had a choice between the shrimp and scallops.  We decided on the shrimp because my mom loves shrimp.  The shrimp were a good size and well seasoned.  Also around this time, we also received a bowl of wakame soup (not pictured) which was ok, but nothing special.

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Beef sampler of four different cuts of beef.  Although the slices of beef were small, all of them were tasty.  I particularly liked the ones on the far right, which had a nice marbling of fat and practically melted in your mouth. Yum!

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The next course was the wagyu steak, which was definitely the highlight of the meal.  Just look at that marbling.   For the price of this set, I thought we got a decent amount of beef here. The meat also came with a small assortment of vegetables (onion, corn, pumpkin, Okinawan potato, and mushroom) which were also cooked on the grill, but obviously, no one was talking about the vegetables when we ate this course.

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Next came the Sukyaki beef which was served with yamaimo and a raw egg. According to our server, you were supposed to lightly cook the beef and then dip it in the yamaimo and raw egg mixture. I tried the method once but didn’t care for it so I ate the rest of my meat with the dipping sauces shown above. I thought the yamaimo egg mixture just made the meat slimy.

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Our final entrée of the night was a bibimbap. We had a choice of either a bibimbap or a noodle of the day, which I think happened to be ramen that day.  Since my mom was with us, we decided to get the bibimbap since it was easier to share between the three of us.  I’m not sure whether it was because we were already full by the time the bibimbap came or if just nothing special, but we didn’t end up finishing this course and no one volunteered to take it home.

I apparently also forgot to take a picture of the meal’s dessert, which was three mochi icecream pieces (strawberry, chocolate, and green tea) and slices of fresh fruit.  I was also glad that my mom was with us because it would have been too much food to eat if it were just the two of us.  By the time we finished dessert, we were all really stuffed.

Overall, I’m glad we finally got to try Japanese BBQ Restaurant Yoshi.  My one criticism with this restaurant is that they need to do better job branding the restaurant.  From the signage, I have no idea what the real name of this restaurant is and the only reason why I am calling it Japanese BBQ Restaurant Yoshi is because that is the name they use on Yelp.  Also, for a restaurant that has the words Japanese BBQ in its name, I found the fact that they served Korean nori, namul, and bibimbap very odd.

Japanese BBQ Restaurant Yoshi looks very modest from the outside. Passing this restaurant all these months, I would have never guessed that this restaurant would be serving such premium cuts of A5 Miyazaki wagyu beef. For the three of us we ended up spending about $200 after tax and tip. While the meal wasn’t cheap, the quality of the meat was much better than the cheaper yakiniku places such as Gyu-Kaku or 678. A number of people compare this restaurant to Yakiniku Hiroshi, but unfortunately I have never been there so I am unable to compare the two. Obviously, unless you are rolling in money, this is not a restaurant that you can go to every day. But, still it’s an enjoyable place to go once in a while when you want to splurge on something nice.

Slurp at Vino

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Last month I had the pleasure of eating at Slurp with two of my friends from law school. Slurp is a lunch pop-up restaurant in Vino Restaurant in Restaurant Row. I was first introduced to this restaurant by a coworker a few months ago when we were looking for someplace to eat in the Restaurant Row area.  I was surprised that Slurp has been in business for about six months because I hadn’t heard about it prior to my coworker recommending it.
DSC03983My friend Doris and I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.95), which came with a thick pork broth, bean sprouts, charsiu, choi sum, and green onions.  I thought the ramen was very tasty and the portion size was pretty good, especially for the price.
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My friend Na ordered the Tan Tan Ramen ($8.95), which had a sesame garlic miso broth.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it looked really good.  I also liked that her ramen came with an egg.  I think i’m going to  order this one the next time I visit.

** Further Update **

Of course, the day I post this review is the day that the Honolulu Advertiser reports that Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas, Vino Wine Bar and Slurp! will be closing this month.  Slurp’s last day is May 15, 2015.  It looks like I might not get to try the Tan Tan Ramen after all.

Siam Garden Cafe

Siam Garden Cafe is Ev’s favorite Thai restuarant.  In fact, he likes this place so much, we’ve gone to eat there on Valentines’ Day two years in a row.  I joke that it’s becoming our Valentines’ day tradition.  I don’t mind though because the food is great, the prices are good, and we can always get a table in a reasonable amount of time, even on Valentines’ day.

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Ev and I haven’t orded a dish here that we didn’t like yet.  We usually share two or three dishes. This time we went with Ev’s mom so we split three dishes and some sticky rice (not shown).  The dish I picked was the Sweet Crispy Noodles ($7.99).  I’ve seen other people order this dish and I’ve always wanted to try it.  As described in the name, the dish comprised primarily of fried rice noodles with a tangy sweet sauce topped with pork.

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Ev picked the Sour Pork Sausage & Rice Salad ($11.99).  Ev and I have completely different tastes in food so I was pleasantly surprised that I liked the dish he chose.  I forgot to take a picture of the dish when it came out, but here’s a picture of the lettuce wrap on my plate.

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Finally, Ev’s mom ordered the Red Curry ($9.99) with chicken.  All of the curries are good, but I think this Red Curry is my favorite.  It goes great with sticky rice.  Again, I forgot to take picture when the curry first came out, but here’s a picture of my bowl – half eaten.

Overall, a great Thai meal.  I’d recommend eating at Siam Garden Café and I’m sure we’ll be back soon.