Thursday, August 21, 2008
Big City Diner Hana Hou
Cousins Kekoa and Sheleigh
I'm back once again at the Big City Diner. This time it's to meet up with my hanai niece Kristine, her sister Stephanie and their children.
Children??? Good Lord, I must be getting old.
When I first met Kristine, she was seven years old and one of the dancers in the halau I belonged. In time, I would rise to teach the keiki girls class and would grow close to Kristine and her family and eventually trained her for hula competitions. That was such a long time ago. Now, they've grown up, gotten married and have kids of their own who are ready for hula classes. Wow.
Kristine picks at her Teriyaki Cheeseburger without the cheese.
Once upon a time, Big City Diner started in a small location in Kaimuki serving good quality food and excellent Kim Chee Fried Rice. In fact, I'm convinced they built their empire (now with five locations on O'ahu) solely on their Kim Chee Fried Rice.
I remember the first time I went there sometime around 1999 and after the first season of The Sopranos. The Bob and I had just finished a five episode morning marathon of Tony Soprano when we decided to eat at Big City Diner. In addition to my amazement of the Kim Chee Fried Rice Loco Moco, I was in a different state of mind because of The Sopranos when I spotted some guy across the restaurant who looked like he was staring at me.
My first reaction was to stand up, put on a Jersey accent and yell at the guy "What the fuck are you looking at?" Good thing my sensible side immediately took over, reminding me that: this is not The Sopranos and no, that guy is not staring at you. Thank goodness sensible minds prevailed, I forgot to pack heat that day.
Stephanie and her daughter Syriah.
But that's neither here nor there. Since those days, Big City Diner has done pretty well for themselves, spreading their love of Kim Chee and meatloaf all over the island. It's where Kristine wanted to meet.
And a good choice too because it's kid friendly and a bit easier to find something for children to eat than Mariposa at Nieman-Marcus.
For the kids, it's hot dogs and french fries all the way around. For mom, it's a teriyaki cheeseburger with out the cheese and without the mayo. Kristine is oddly picky about her food - no cheeses. I could never fathom it. No cheese? Seems like a horrible way to live, if you ask me.
Calamari Tempura Strips - panko breaded with Spicy Garlic-Wasabi Aioli & Lemon
For me, it's another round of the Calamari Tempura Strips with the ever-present-in-Hawaii aioli of some sort or another. I've come to love these calamari strips. They done just right with a proper crisp and just the right amount of resistance in the meat. Lovely. I just wish I had something other than fancy named mayonnaise to dip it in.
In addition, I ordered the pulehu steak. After many years of living in Hawaii, I still don't get what "pulehu" means. I think it means grilled because that's the only option left. It's a simple New York stip sirloin grilled and slathered with onions. Scrape off the onions, add a bit more salt and pepper and you've got something to work with - if commercial frozen beef is something to really work with.
But it's not all bad. There's rice to go along with the steak and, in my book, that's something worthwhile. Living on the mainland means you have to live without rice. Luckily, it's plentiful in Hawaii. Make it fried and with Kim Chee and you can keep it coming.
Pulehu Steak with grilled onions, mushrooms and Kim Chee Fried Rice
The rest of the afternoon passed by pleasantly. It's good to catch up again since I hadn't seen Kristine in four years and I'm absolutely terrible at "keeping in touch." She's got two boys. Stephanie has two girls. They've grown up and I've gotten older.
At least I can make Kim Chee Fried Rice at home now...
Big City Diner Pearlridge
98-211 Pali Momi Street
Aiea, Hawaii 96701