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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, November 9, 2000

99 Ranch Market
is crab heaven

BETWEEN bites of duck, oysters and sole at the French Fashion Show dinner, one of my tablemates casually asked, "So, what's your favorite food."

It's a loaded question for someone who writes about food. I believe I'm expected to offer up the theatrical. What awe I could create if I answered, "I live for twice-baked foie gras rolled in minced truffles."

At times when I'm feeling most honest, I might give an unsexy answer like, "Potatoes." They're generic, versatile, unassuming when in the presence of more showy ingredients, and will keep you alive as Doomsday nears.



Bullet Address: 1151 Mapunapuna St.
Bullet Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Bullet Prices: Market price crab, currently $4.99 per pound
Bullet Call: 833-8899

Watching the parade of fashion, I came to the conclusion that it's possible for people to hide through clothing, which enables them to present an image of who they want to be rather than who they are. But it's difficult to hide behind food.

The individual who refuses to try new or alien foods expresses fear of the unknown. The vegetarian harbors the desire to change the world for the better. You are what you eat, and not everyone wishes to reveal the truth. I know dieters who eat salads publicly and secret burgers at home, and vegetarians who ask chefs not to rat on them when they binge on meat.

One of the fashionable women at the show expressed a love of crab boiled and eaten on the spot at 99 Ranch Market, revealing earthiness beyond the chic.

"It's great, like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco," she said. "I try to go once a week. ... Wait, you're not putting my name in the paper, are you?"

Who wants to be undressed?

TRUE to her word, the Dungeness crab -- now $4.99 per pound -- is excellent, so fresh and sweet it requires no butter, no seasoning, no gravies.

The 99 Ranch Market staff will boil the crab for you, free, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. They'll also clean and fry up fresh fish such as aweoweo, kumu and papio (market prices).

My crab cost $8.73. Chow fun from another in-store deli was $3.64, adding up to a very inexpensive meal for two which I chose to bring home, deciding I am probably too squeamish, too lazy to eat crab in public.

There is a food court there, and you can order noodles, vegetables, chicken and drinks to accompany your crab, but to do so is something of a production. It takes planning as you must bring your own newspaper, napkins or towelettes, then go foraging for the rest of your meal. Restaurants have made it possible for us to avoid hunter-gatherer activities and apparently I spend too much time in restaurants to be very efficient.

I was right to go home, where I created a mess on the dining table with the juices running down my arm and all. I had to run to the kitchen sink afterward, crying, "Ugh! Ugh!"

"How do you do it?," I asked my expert the next day. "Do you bring your own nutcracker?"

"Well, you can be refined if you want, but I just crack it open with my hands," she said, adding the beauty of eating the crab on site is having no mess to clean, but I rather like the trash. It'll make a nice stock, perhaps for an oyster stew or corn and seafood chowder. And I know just to place to pick up fresh seafood.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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