The Weekly Eater


Sunday, December 9, 2001

Aladdin owner Tarek Guirguis shows off a plate of his Greek salad.

Go with the greens to combat
holiday cookie fatigue

The things you learn from your daily newspaper aren't necessarily the things you care to know but might be compared to medicine: tough to swallow but ultimately good for you.

That's how I felt reading our Wednesday food columnists Joannie Dobbs and Alan Titchenal recently as they made clear the cause-and-effect relationship between holiday noshing and New Year dieting resolutions.

I mean, we knew all that Halloween candy, Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and all the Christmas gingerbread, eggnog and cookies take their toll, but we're sadly mistaken if we think limiting ourselves to an extra cookie a day would sneak past the hips. Hah!

As they wrote, "consuming an extra 100 calories each day (over 35 days) could result in a gain of 1 pound of body fat."

Well, after last week's sumptuous feast at Morton's, I vowed to take it easy this week and stick to a near-vegetarian diet. We could all eat a little healthier -- though sometimes this backfires, as when our righteousness in eating salads is succeeded by rewarding our exemplary behavior with a stolen Kiss or a big wedge of apple pie.

Restricting our intake of red meat and dairy products is good, but vegetarians and vegans should sympathize if few are willing to go all the way. The chasm between carnivores and herbivores is too great to bridge in a single bound. Far better to take the slow approach than fall victim later to withdrawal and relapse. And the best incentive right now is a holiday party dress ... one size too small.

At Aladdin, a new Mediterranean restaurant downtown, the men behind the counter were telling me of their origins. They were two Egyptians -- one of them being Tarek Guirguis, owner of Pyramids Restaurant -- and one Jordanian, being from Jordan apparently cause for much ribbing and laughter.

As I stared at them blankly, it occurred to them to ask, "Do you know Jordan?"

I know where it is, and in ugly-American fashion, that's about it, but when it comes to the food of the area, all you have to know is that the baba ghanouj (eggplant spread), hummus (garbanzo bean spread) and tabouli (parsley, tomato and bulghur salad), at $3.95 each, are great vegetarian choices and among the few such dishes I could eat every day without tiring of them. There's also a Greek salad ($5.95), if feta, or goat cheese, is OK with your diet plans.

If you're one who doesn't have to diet, splurge on the tarna ($6.95), marinated and spit-grilled chicken cut into fine slivers and served on pita, which is absolutely wonderful, or the shawerma ($6.95), sesame-marinated and spit-grilled beef, also cut fine. Each entree is served with hummus and a salad.

And this is where to get the best falafel in town. These crushed garbanzo, fava and split-pea patties are light, crisp and airy, not like the leaden bombs you may have tried on the mainland or other Mediterranean restaurants here. Aladdin is at 801 Alakea St., near Mr. Frypan. Call 585-0707.

Shopping need not distract you from your new healthy outlook. Even at Ala Moana Center's food court, as you're surrounded by spareribs, roast chicken and cuts of pork and beef from Lahaina Chicken Company, Mrs. Field's cookies, and grilled chicken with peanut sauce from Little Cafe Siam, you can head straight for Paradise Cafe, where you can pick up a Three Salad Sampler for $6.50. Entree salads have chicken and tuna, but I'm sure they won't mind if you go with the smaller side salads such as the Caesar, mixed greens, pesto-coated pasta or fresh fruit.

Heading upstairs, California Pizza Kitchen offers sustenance in the form of a smashed pea and barley soup ($5.29) and a basil and tomato Spaghettini ($9.29). If mozzarella can be included in your diet, you might also try Japanese Eggplant ($9.99) or Portobello Mushroom pizzas ($9.99), sorta like a good bread because of the springy crusts.

Other choices:

You need not ignore your favorite restaurants. Sure, Sansei is known for sushi and pupu, but they also make a wonderful spinach salad at lunchtime. Kakaako Kitchen has gourmet salads such as Waimanalo greens topped with seared ahi, shiitake, olives and onions ($8.95), plus daily vegetarian entree specials such as Eggplant Parmesan ($7.25) on Tuesdays and a grilled portobello and tomato salad ($7.95) Wednesdays that is often a sell-out.

Over in the University of Hawaii area, you can't go wrong with Indian cuisine at India House or Maharani. At Maharani, start your meal with pakoras and potato-and-chickpea fritters accented with cilantro, cumin and other spices, then move on to vegetable masala or Aloo Dal, cubed potatoes and lentils cooked in a light creamy sauce of coconut milk and herbs.

Next door to Maharani is Down to Earth, where entrees such as Tofu Lasagna and Cumin-Spiced Enchiladas are sold by weight. While there, squeeze in a little healthy grocery shopping and stop by at Siam Imports for Christmas gifts, too.

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

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:

very good, exceeds expectations;
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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