The Weekly Eater
Nadine Kam

Budget gourmets

WHEN IT comes to feeding teens, a lot of restaurateurs don't seem to be thinking beyond "Let them eat fat and sugar." Then they wonder why some people never progress beyond their pork cutlet and Krispy Kreme comfort zones. It's just so much easier to give people what they want rather than help develop the next generation of gourmets, which actually takes thought, nurturing and more cost and work.

Mahalo Manoa

Volcano Joe gives thanks to the Manoa community, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit VSA Arts and Aloha STAC.:

Featuring: Complimentary massages, yogong (yoga and qigong) classes, blessing and chants by mouth brush artist Matthew Kaopio (2 p.m.), music by Dallen Santos, Zaysha from Simple Soul and others. The Geico Insurance gecko will give free temporary tattoos to kids.

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

Call: 941-8449

Volcano Joe's Island Bistro, part of an enterprise that also includes a coffee house and catering business, takes a more respectful route, bringing an affordable gourmet touch to familiar fare, suitable for an open-minded and adventurous, if young, University of Hawaii at Manoa crowd. In return, owners Les Iczkovitz and Becca Bowen are rewarded with a packed house every day at noon, which includes grownups from the faculty and surrounding community.

No doubt some of the clientele are just taking advantage of the wireless Internet service offered, but they're more likely to show up at night, when the commuters have left the area and it's much quieter in the bistro half of the operation.

In spite of the bistro name, this place is set up more like a cafeteria where you place your order near the door, sit down and wait for your meal to materialize, then pick it up.

DECOR COMPRISES a series of old Manoa photos and such Hawaii memorabilia as reproductions of old menu covers and travel posters, reflecting a coffee shop/health food aesthetic. But don't worry, even though there are healthy choices on the menu, the staff knows it's the decadent stuff that will win friends. Hook people on the menu opening "Mound O' Oven Fries" ($2.95) and they just might branch out to salads later.

Those fries, by the way, are nothing like the usual fast-food versions. They really aren't fries at all, but thin, oven-crisped potato chips without the evil of your typical oil-soaking fries.

It wouldn't be unusual to find your table blanketed with carbs because pastas, pizzas and sandwiches dominate the menu.

Volcano Joe's general manager, Jana Park-Okuna, shows their Louie Summer Roll Salad which is made with bean sprouts, carrots, spring mix lettuce, spinach and tofu with a spicy Thai sauce. The popular dish sells for $5.95, or $7.95 with shrimp.

Salads are accompanied by a large helping of foccaccia, and even the Louie Summer Roll Salad ($5.95) of baby greens, bean sprouts, tofu, carrots and peanuts, comes wrapped in a transparent round of rice paper. It's ono, even without a dip in accompanying Thai chili sauce. You can have that topped with a handful of bay shrimp for an extra $2, but for shrimp this negligible it's not worth it, unless you happen to have won the weekend's poker game.

There are many vegetarian choices, including hummus ($5.25) served with the fresh-baked house pita bread, and one of my favorites, a portabella and roasted eggplant sandwich ($6.75) with fresh basil and a spread of kalamata tapenade on toasted focaccia.

Meat eaters can satisfy their appetites with roast beef ($6.75), turkey bacon club ($6.55) or chicken parmesan ($6.55) sandwiches.

When it comes to pizzas, you can get basic "Niner" for $6.55 with up to three ingredients. Choose from a list that includes all the usual suspects. These will feed two, or three small eaters, or one hungry man.

You can also avoid such decisions by choosing one of five gourmet pizzas on a thin, cracker-crisp crust. I loved La Mamasota ($7.25) with its coating of cilantro pesto, paper-thin sliced tomatoes, avocado, olives and cheddar. If it's Western flavor you like, then opt for the BBQ chicken, bacon and garlic combo ($7.95) which would be great to bring home to kids.

The one thing that wasn't appealing was a basil cream lasagna ($6.55) with more cream than basil, spinach or tomatoes advertised, although I imagine some people would prefer less veggies. You know who you are.

If you always save room for dessert, it's best to get there as early as possible for housemade cookies, brownies and scones. By evening, all that's left is cheesecake.

Volcano Joe's Island Bistro

1810 University Ave. at Metcalf / 941-8449

Food Star Star Star

Service Star Star Half-star

Ambience Star Star

Value Star Star Star Half-star

Hours: Island Bistro open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; coffee house hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends

Cost: Less than $10 per person for lunch or dinner

Nadine Kam's restaurant 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 nkam@starbulletin.com

See some past restaurant reviews in the Columnists section.

| | |
E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com