GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mahea Henriques of Fresh Catch on Waialae Avenue holds a variety platter of fresh raw fish.
A great catch found on Waialae
Memory is complex, and perhaps more than our bodies, makes us who we are. Anyone close to someone suffering from Alzheimer's might note that without memories, that beloved family member or friend becomes a stranger in a shell that looks familiar.
It's not something most of us think about as we go about our business trying to recall the mundane: computer passwords, elusive words and special dates, but every once in a while, a sudden recollection can be jolting.
In taking a single bite of the poke at Fresh Catch, my memory whisked me back to small-kid time, picking up ogo by the bagfuls with my family at Ewa Beach, going home and washing the sand from the branches and eating it plain, a huge red-purple salad imbued with the flavor of the ocean, and here it was again! I don't think I've experienced the same sensation since I was 8 or 10. When you do see ogo it's in scant quantities or has the air of stale refrigeration.
That led to memories of clamming in Kaneohe, of keeping my eyes on the sand for the telltale water spouts, digging out the creatures and placing them into water-filled buckets where they spit out silt and bubbles. I thought at first that this was a trick memory. There're no clam beaches in Hawaii! I had to ask my mom if I had just imagined it, but no, at one time, there were indeed edible clams in Kaneohe Bay.
Growing up in Kahaluu, Reno and Dominic Henriques had similar memories of fishing Heeia, and their joint restaurant and recycling operation, Fresh Catch, marks their attempt to bring back some of Hawaii's old-fashioned-back-yard staples, complete with their own fresh catch, including opihi from the Big Island when they're able to travel.
The takeout establishment, housed in a former Pizza Hut on Waialae, is home to about 30 kinds of poke and grill-ready marinated meats, in addition to a handful of daily plate-lunch specials. Picnic tables await if you're too hungry to make the drive home.
It's best to head to Fresh Catch early for the best selection. Bentos, for instance, tend to dry up by the end of the day.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Reno Henriques shows the take out serving of his ahi casserole plate lunch.
There is a daily plate lunch special, and the most popular thus far are Monday's furikake salmon and Sunday's clam chowder. Note that Fresh Catch is closed on Wednesdays. I was able to check out Thursday's wonderful ahi casserole ($9.25). It's sad that I was surprised to find the ahi so fresh. For most other restaurants, the only reason to make such a casserole is to get rid of old fish. That is definitely not the case here. And, there are plenty of extras in there, like lup cheong, Dungeness crab from Oregon, and toothy slices of pink-and-white kamaboko with only skosh mayo.
Pork in the homemade laulau ($7.50, with potato salad, two scoops rice and a small helping of ahi poke) was similarly fresh and fork tender, served on a bed of mesclun.
Entrees taste clean, with less of the fat, oil, salt and none of the fillers that we see at other fast establishments, so you'll feel no ill after ingesting the whole deal.
After graduating from St. Louis High School in 1995, Reno got formal training at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore., but upon returning home found no one he knew cared for his new Euro-based repertoire.
"Aw, they just wanted old-fashioned Hawaiian food that you don't find too much of anymore," he said. "I wanted to bring back the old, Hawaiian-style goodies, like pipikaula they can pick up for parties." Also offered: pasteles, smoked meat and marinated meat sold by the pound. Last-minute party-goers are discovering the beauty of that latter, and given the traffic, you'd think this is the only place to get it.
"We have people from Waianae and Mililani coming in," said Reno's wife Mahea. This, after only being open three weeks.
I keep looking for a sensational crabcake, which doesn't seem to exist on Oahu, only to find the right crab packed into a sandwich at Fresh Catch. Reno says he's experimenting with using the same Oregon Dungeness into a crabcake. Get back to you later on that one, but I have high hopes.
Other imports from Japan include thinly sliced topshell (sea snail) poke and wasabi tako.
You're gonna have to hunt for your favorite poke to your taste. You can't go wrong with the basic onion and limu ahi here, but when it comes to sweet shoyu or mayo-coated salmon, well, I have an aversion to the abundance of soy sauce, teriyaki flavor and mayo that many crave.
And there's no need to stop at seafood when Mahea is the resident dessert expert, also baking up old-fashioned favorites like red velvet cupcakes ($2.50) and banana bread ($4), both with liberal sprinklings of chocolate chips. Cream cheese brownies are also a keeper, and she plans to put her newfound cake-baking skills to work since completing a crash course for the sake of the restaurant.