Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yes, You Can Find Good Italian Food in Hawaii

When at home in Hawaii, I never want to eat Italian food. In fact, I secretly cringed a little after I read that the restaurant I was going to with my friends was the new Italian place (sorry, Ms. K.), Prima.

I was so wrong!

Prima was one of my better food experiences in Hawaii. It bills itself as modern Italian/American, and is located in Kailua. We ate pappardalle (with curry bolognese and fried curry leaves), Brussels sprouts (with prosciutto and bordelaise), di bologna pizza (pepperoncini, mozarella, soft poached egg, rosemary and mortadella), meatball pizza, and the pistachio glace (pistachio semifredo, dried sour cherry hibiscus, semolina, grapefruit and black sesame). I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single dish. I wasn't blown away by the Brussels sprouts, but that's because every restaurant does Brussels sprouts. But the rest of it...well, like I said, this was one of my better food experiences in Hawaii. And when I say "better," I mean that I was in a very happy food coma when dinner came to an end.

The pappardalle with curry bolognese is a great fusion-type dish. The curry is more like Japanese curry than Thai or Indian curry. The flavors work really well.

The meatball pizza, is actually a spicy meatball pizza. I like spicy foods, and I thought this had a pleasant kick to it. 

Now this was an interesting combination on a pizza. Mortadella, pepperoncini and a poached egg are not my go-to pizza toppings, but it was yummy.


Our group was torn over this dessert. I think two of us really liked it, and the other two were more like, "Meh." I was one of the ones who really liked it. I enjoyed the tart, the crunch, the creaminess of the pistacho semifredo. 

Prima also happens to have OnoPops on their menu, but none of the flavors my friends said that I had to try. After a fruitless search for the fun flavors (butter mochi, crackseed lemon peel, etc.), we decided to go to Bubbies for mochi ice cream. No kidding, this the best mochi ice cream ever.

From left to right, you are looking at mochi ice cream in chocolate peanut butter, salted caramel, and green tea. Forget the salted caramel. The chocolate peanut butter and green tea are way better!

My other great food experience while at home for the holidays was at SALT. This place has been on my "list" for months, so I was very happy to go with another group of food fans. We shared the oxtail empanadas and chicken fried local rabbit, as well as all three desserts. I can't remember the exact names of the desserts, but my favorite was the apple and bacon crumble, topped with cheddar ice cream. My entree was the brown butter gnocchi.

The empanadas and the chicken fried rabbit were delicious. I especially enjoyed the empanadas, which came with a tomato and golden raisin chutney. The apple and bacon crumble was amazing. Well, amazing if you like savory in your dessert, which I do. Some of us felt like there was too much bacon, but I was not part of that "us." As for my gnocchi? It was my favorite dish. Gnocchi is not normally something I order, but I did not want fish (not a fan), duck ramen (good ramen is easy to find in Hawaii and California), or the brick pressed jidori chicken (everyone does jidori chicken). I am so glad I went with the gnocchi!

The only thing I'm bummed out about SALT is that I missed the pork belly! I was looking for a dish called "porky belly confit", but it is actually called "bacon and egg." The dish is made up of confit pork belly, space egg, kim chee miso and english muffin. I will be back SALT!

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