When you're downtown


POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here are a few additions to downtown Honolulu:



» 1167 Maunakea St. / 536-2026:
» Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
» Prices: About $30 for two

What a difference marketing has made in the popularity and perception of shabu shabu as a particularly Japanese style of cuisine.

The Chinese-style “;shabu shabu”; at Lamb House restaurant on Maunakea Street struck me as something new, when, if I had just checked with my mom, the hot pot dish is something she grew up with in Hong Kong, and preceded the Japanese version by centuries. The Japanese simply gave it a catchy name, meaning “;swish swish,”; that's fun to say, easy to remember, and that was that.

Now, to pique appetites with something recognizable, Lamb House must bill its own hot pot as shabu shabu instead of its Chinese name, huo guo (fire pot), or, in Hong Kong, da bin loo (hot pot). Ouch.

Whatever the name, diners are presented with a sectioned pot, one containing spicy, anise-flavored broth, the other plain. Both are dressed up with dried red dates and goji berries for good health, and sections of corn cob.

Like so much of Chinese cooking, the hot pot was designed to stretch a meal and make the most of a little meat, so those who order the House Lamb Meat Set will find it will easily feed three, or stretch to serve four, for $33.99.

Of course, in the West there's no skimping on meat or anything else, so to fill local opu, this hot pot comes with a platterful of tofu, long rice, won bok and prawns, in addition to thin-sliced lamb cooked with a quick swish in the hot broth, and an additional entree of the house special lamb. The lamb is braised with thick folds of bean curd and served with the salty Chinese version of miso, a fermented yellow bean paste stirred with a touch of sesame oil.

The combination will be addictive to those with a taste for strong, pungent flavors, and if you don't have the company for a hot pot, you can order the house special lamb alone, served atop chewy egg noodles, for $7.99.

Those who cannot stomach lamb might try the Chicken Herb Set ($33.99), which also includes thin strips of beef and pork sausages. A Beef Satay Set for the same price includes beef brisket and tripe.

Another dish unique to this restaurant is mochi rice wrapped in lotus leaf and topped with shrimp ($12.99), prepared honey-mayo style.

For a more typical lunch, there's shrimp won tons in noodle soup ($4.99). Other dishes, like deep-fried pork ($8.99) and deep-fried chicken ($6.99), you'll find better elsewhere.



» 923 Alakea St. (between Merchant and King) / 537-4879
» Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays
» Prices: Mini plates $5.50 to $7.95; regular plates $6.95 to $9.95

This satellite of Bombay Indian Restaurant in Waikiki brings fast, affordable Indian fare to downtown Honolulu. The only thing that could make it better is offering some limited evening hours for those who want a quick bite before heading home or to pick up a takeout dinner.

As befitting its parent restaurant, the food here is much more assertive in its use of cumin and other spices that comprise curry, than nearby Govinda's or Komala Curry House. Even so, to suit the most palates, dishes are served mild.

A regular-size plate will feature two entrees (your choice of lamb, chicken or vegetable curries), plus your choice of basmati or brown rice, and your choice of white-flour naan bread or whole wheat paratha. Curries vary day to day.

A vegetarian entree of spinach and potatoes could be punched up to be less like frozen spinach reheated. There is also a kebab lunch with your choice of ground lamb ($8.95) or ground chicken ($7.95). Lamb kebab was reheated and rather dry, assisted mightily by a self-serve cilantro sauce.



» 102 Fort Street Mall (across from McDonald's) / 533-FRUZ (3789)
» Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Fridays
» Prices: A small cup without toppings is $2.85; a large is about $5.

For dessert, head on over to Fort Street Mall at Hotel Street for a taste of Yogen Fruez. Spoiled by the dozens of flavors available at other yogurt shops, I was shocked when faced only with the choices of vanilla and chocolate, but that's just the base for concocting your own flavors.

Choose from frozen fruit such as kiwi, mango, pineapple, blueberries, strawberries and more, that is blended with the yogurt by machine. It's amazing how little fruit is needed to flavor and color the yogurt. When some yogurt around town has strong artificial flavor, it's nice seeing exactly what's going into your batch of yogurt.

After you create your fruity blend, you can proceed to top with fresh diced fruit, as well as nuts and cereals.


Nadine Kam's restaurant review appears every Wednesday in the Star-Bulletin. Restaurants are reviewed anonymously. Meals are paid for by the Star-Bulletin.