Lighter fare also fits season
The weeks before and after Thanksgiving are not times to pig out. Through year's end, the abundance of rich foods often leads diners to seek simpler, comforting selections when left to their own devices. Here are a couple of little outlets that may fit the bill on a chilly evening or a morning free from Christmas shopping:
Two Vietnamese restaurants in the Liliha/Lower Nuuanu area opened within the last year and Skippy's, the best of the bunch, is the one left standing. It happens sometimes -- that wondrous alignment of people's choice and critic's opinion that leaves me thinking everyone's an absolute genius with excellent taste.
The menu features a simple mix of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Chinese fare, so it may take you a couple of tries to figure out what's what.
Some things, such as cold vermicelli ($5.50) topped with slices of spring rolls, barbecue pork, crisp cucumbers, fresh mint and chopped peanuts, need no explanation. Splash on the accompanying fish sauce, nuoc cham, and you're good to go.
But you may be surprised to find their ginger garlic chicken ($5.75), which one would assume to be a stir-fry dish, is actually the equivalent of cold ginger chicken as served in a Chinese restaurant. And their idea of "cake noodle" served with chicken or shrimp ($6.75) may not be soft squared blocks that we know, but a frilly mass of noodles deep-fried until crispy, Vietnamese-style. It depends on who's cooking.
Didn't get a chance to examine the components of their won ton, but beyond this, you're safe ordering the likes of barbecue chicken, pork or pork chops ($5.75 each). To start, an order of spring rolls runs $5.50; two summer rolls, $3.
And let's not forget phó, here beautifully clear and perfumed with star anise and cinnamon. It's a little skimpy on the meat -- $5 selections are rare steak, beef balls, or a combination of both -- but compensates with a lot of vegetables, including thorny cilantro, Thai basil, bean sprouts, chili slivers and lemon. Don't be shy about adding it all to the bowl, or co-owner Lannie Nguyen, who greets everyone with a "hello, honey," will come right over, thinking you don't know what to do.
Skippy's is also open for small $4.50 breakfasts of meat and eggs, fried rice, or mushroom, ham and bacon omelets, which may be all you can handle the day after Thanksgiving.
NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARBULLETIN.COM
Skippy's Vietnamese Food owners Khuong Vu and Lannie Nguyen hold bowls of cake noodle with shrimp and phó with slices of steak and beef balls.
Claudia Neeley's little café opens only weekends in a most unlikely setting, a former Shell gas station on East Manoa Road. (The rest of the time, she runs a vegan personal chef service.)
It's next door to Boston's North End Pizza, and across the gas station island from a drive-through coffee kiosk, where you'll have to buy your drinks, unless all you want is water.
It's a very makeshift situation and the drive-through site may give worrywarts a reason to stay away. You know, you could be biting into a crepe and next thing you know, a car's jumped the curb. Oh well. Try not to think about it. If you're eating sugary waffles, you're living dangerously anyway.
An inch-thick Belgian waffle is the base ($4.75) for Neeley's creations, with toppings that range from $1 for fresh bananas and strawberries in syrup, to $2.25 for Peach Melba, with vanilla ice cream, peaches and raspberry syrup, or a combination of peanut butter with bananas and chocolate syrup.
Health nuts might appreciate a flaxseed granola bowl ($5.50 small/$7.50 large) topped with bananas, strawberries and the latest anti-oxidant phenomenon, Brazilian acai.
For the best of savory and sweet worlds, two dining companions might order one waffle and one crepe ($7.75) and share. The crepe fillings offered so far are spinach and mushroom in a thick pesto cream, and a mix of asparagus, butternut squash and tofu in a Thai red curry sauce. Both are delicious, though the first is more traditional and the latter may be too spicy for some. I also don't know if it was an isolated incident, but the spinach crepe I received was heavily salted, with each crunchy grain discernible. Please be more careful with the shaker or pinch, or at least switch to kosher salt. Thank you, very much.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The makeshift Boston Waffle Shoppe offers a basic Belgian waffle with a variety of toppings.