Ponzu-Shoyu

A couple of the methods I've employed for storing the finished product, used soy sauce bottle and empty Sake bottle.

The most popular condiment in Japan, bar none, is Ponzu-Shoyu. A citrusy, soy based dipping sauce, it can be found commercially made by dozens of companies. It is, however, extremely easy to make yourself and the results are not only far superior to anything bought from a store shelf but also keeps almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. Simple ingredients, simple preparation, amazing flavor and versatility. In Japan it's eaten with everything from Tempura, to Shabu-Shabu, to noodles, to sushi and sashimi. Some of the ingredients I'll be listing you can only find at a Japanese grocer, but none of them are expensive and if you make it in bulk you'll not need to make the trip to one more than once a year. It's used fairly sparingly, being that it's fairly strong flavored, so a little will last you long while (unless you're like me and drink it straight outa the bottle...). The combination of flavors makes it my personal favorite condiment ever, but, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm fairly biased toward the Japanese palette of flavors. That aside, I can't recommend this enough! Make some, dammit! The ingredients (for a 2 cup batch): 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons Usukuchi Soy Sauce (regular soy sauce will work, but back off to an even cup) ¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons Unseasoned Rice Vinegar 2-3 Tablespoons mild Honey (optional) ½ cup Lemon juice, Lime juice, or combination of (lately I've been using straight Lime, but your call) If on the extremely off chance you find fresh Sudachi, or Green or Yellow Yuzu at the Japanese market, use that! One 5g packet Shaved Bonito flakes 3 inch x 3 inch square of Konbu (dried giant kelp) The procedure: Now here's where I get to talk about some of the basic concepts that run through all of Japanese cooking. There are a couple things to remember here about the handling of these ingredients, and how these ideas should be remembered whenever you use them for any reason. Boiling = Bad. You never want to boil anything containing Soy sauce or Bonito... Period. Miso also falls into the “never boil” category, but there's no Miso in this recipe so I'll leave that discussion for another post. If you boil Soy sauce it tends to give it an astringent after-taste, and if you boil Bonito you loose a lot of the depth it can bring to the table. You also never want to boil any citrus juice if you want it to be a star player in the final product. Doing so takes away a lot of the freshness of flavor, and just dulls the punch fresh citrus juice provides, which is the entire reason for using it. That said, you'll understand why I structured this recipe the way I did.

Damp cloth, not dripping wet, and don't worry about getting all of it.

Remove the Konbu from the package and wipe with a damp cloth to remove most of the powdery white coating. Don't be anal about this, you don't need to get rid of all traces. Next, place the vinegar in a non-reactive pot (meaning NOT aluminum, stainless steel or glass preferably) with the Konbu and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, dissolve the honey into the vinegar (if using) and add the Bonito flakes and turn the heat down a bit. Allow to steep, much like making tea, at just under a boil for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Adding the Bonito. I was making a much larger batch in this build than the recipe I'm providing, no difference in concept though. Don't boil it!

Pour the vinegar through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl to remove the Konbu and Bonito and discard them. Add the Soy sauce and citrus juice. TASTE! If the vinegar is too strong, add a splash more soy. Want the citrus to be more prominent? Add some more! Once you are happy with the results pour the Ponzu into an empty bottle for storage. I used the empty Usukuchi bottle, and have also been known to use empty Sake bottles to store smaller batches. So throw out that bottle of Kikkoman Ponzu, and make some yourself! Take notes on the process to remember how you tweaked it to suit your own tastes for the next time you decide to make this (and you will). The balance of soy, vinegar, and citrus with the undertones of Dashi are what make this my favorite condiment, and what makes me want to always have some on hand. Combined with it's sheer versatility, it's a must have for any aficionado of Japanese cuisine. Live well, eat better, and as Francis says, “good luck in the kitchen!” Jack

Cauliflower Comfort

This week's Chef's Night theme was to elevate a "comfort food" to a Rogue Estate level. Comfort food - warm, familiar, often simple, readily available and easily stretchable on tight budgets. It's a huge list of qualifiers to pick a single dish from, but after some inspiration from Michael Ruhlman, I settled on Roasted Cauliflower as my offering for this particular table. Roasted Cauliflower at it's most basic: a head of cauliflower is broken down into florets, oiled, seasoned and baked until golden, then served immediately. A preparation so simple that anyone can do it and the flavor and aroma so earthily wonderful that even the stubbornest anti-vegetarian will make room on the plate for it. How to improve something so perfectly wonderful as is? What could possibly be done that justifies the "it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule? I began my quest for gluttony by paging through various older cookbooks from home cooks and semi famous chefs alike and eventually did a bit of google searching on the subject as well. The evidence below is an amalgamation of influences collected from different eras, regions and even a few related only by virtue of containing cauliflower dishes which I tested the night before and prepared successfully and to much enjoyment on Chef's Night itself. The software:
  • 1 head of cauliflower, whole
  • 2 tbl lard (grapeseed oil works here if you're worried.)
  • 8-12 garden sage leaves
  • 2 springs silver thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter (more for a larger head of cauliflower)
  • nutmeg
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese
  • 1 oz asiago cheese
  • 1 oz gruyere cheese
  • 1 oz finely chopped fresh parsely
  • 2 oz freshly squeeze lemon juice
  • scant dash of tobasco sauce
Method: Rinse the cauliflower, remove leaves and cut the stem back flush with the bottom of the head, leaving enough to hold everything together. If possible, brine a mild salt water solution for an hour or so prior to the next stage. The Pre-cook: this is an interesting step I discovered during my initial research courtesy of Harold McGee: a low heat pre-cook helps some veg reinforces cell walls, which in turn keeps things in better shape during high temp cooking. Cauliflower happens to be one of those vegetables aided by this process, called Persistent Firmness. Since the intent is to keep the head whole for a stunning presentation, do this if you have the time. Put the cauliflower in a pot and fill til just covered with water. Heat until the internal temp of the cauliflower is 130-140F for 20 minutes, remove and drain. While the precook is going, preheat the oven to 425F and put your fry pan on the fire to melt the lard or heat the oil and saute' half of the total sage leaves, thyme and all of the garlic and shallot. Once the herbs are spent, remove and discard, reserving the hot flavored lube. With the cauliflower drained and dried, lube the bottom of  your baking pan and set the cauliflower in it, then spoon or brush the entire head with the remaining lube. use it all. season with salt and pepper as desired and shove the whole thing into the oven uncovered for 45 minutes, give or take. While the head is roasting, grate the cheeses and chop the parsley, then combine in a zip lock or a bowl along with black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and set aside for finishing. Check your Cauliflower around 30 minutes - it should be starting to brown by now. Fire up the fry pan again, this time with the butter, remaining herbs, a pinch of nutmeg, the lemon juice and the tobasco. Sautee the herbs as before, discarding when they're spent. Continue to heat until the butter starts to brown, than remove to a bowl or cup for basting. Pull the cauliflower from the oven and drench with the butter. Cover every surface of the thing that you can and get it back into the oven to continue roasting. Pull and re-baste after 10 minutes and then sprinkle an ounce of the cheese mixture over the head, then send it back into the hot box for the finish. When it's reach your preferred level of golden brown, pull, slice it thick and transfer to your serving dish, fan the slabs out just a bit and sprinkle more of the cheese mixture over it and serve immediately. It's considerably more effort than the traditional roasted veg, but that's the kind of indulgent bastards we are around here and everyone present for this week's Chef's Night can tell you - it is well worth the investment. Cauliflower never had it as good as this. Cook this up for you next meal and put it in your heads! -///

Cold Somen Noodle Salad with Soy Vinaigrette

The final product.

My most recent at-bat hosting our weekly food related night of debauchery I decided, as was no surprise to anyone, to take us to Japan once again. The original four course plan quickly turned into seven as I came up with further ideas, but it was the first course that seemed to be the show stealer. It was an extremely simple bowl of cold noodles tossed in a light dressing. It was the texture and balance of the dish that made everyone so enthusiastic about it. So much so that I was prodded to post the recipe, and soon! It's made with Japanese Somen noodles and a simple “vinaigrette” (in quotes because there's no actual vinegar involved). For those of you unfamiliar with Somen, it is essentially the Japanese equivalent of the Italian Angel Hair pasta, only much thinner and much more delicate. A wheat noodle, it's texture, cold or hot, is like silk. Much more befitting of the common moniker bestowed upon the Italian variation, which is, by the way, known to the natives as Capelli D'Angelo. As much as I love the Italian pastas, this is, by far, my favorite noodle. Bar none. It takes seconds to cook, it is well suited to hot or cold preparations, and, as I mentioned, the texture is like nothing else. It is widely available these days, as well. No need to seek out an Asian market. I've seen it at chains like Kroger and Meijer. If you have a hard time finding it Soba will do in a pinch, but it's texture is much rougher, so it's worth the search to find Somen. Another key ingredient was the Usukuchi soy sauce in the dressing. A generic reduced sodium soy sauce is a good substitute, but there is something magical about a Japanese Usukuchi. The company Yamasa was my source for this product, and it's a fairly common brand, so finding it shouldn't be all that difficult. This is a delicate operation, so you really need to taste your way through it. Every step, the addition of every ingredient, you need to taste the progress. So here ya go, cold Somen noodle salad with soy vinaigrette:

The players of an alternate build I did steeping konbu and bonito into the soy sauce before building the vinaigrette. Can be omitted.

3 bundles dry Somen noodles 1 bunch thinly sliced Scallion Half cup of Usukuchi Soy Sauce 3 Tblsp. Lime juice 3 small cloves Garlic 5-6 one inch round thin slices peeled fresh Ginger 2 cups dark Sesame Oil 1 Tblsp. Dijon Mustard 1-2 Tblsp. Chili/Garlic paste Kosher salt Black and white Sesame seeds for garnish

They always come with this little band of paper holding them together.

Begin by filling a large pot with water. Set on the stove over high heat and add enough kosher salt to make the water taste just a little less salty than sea-water (TASTE-TASTE-TASTE!). When at a boil, unbind the Somen and let it fall from your hand like a cascade into the pot, turning your hand as they fall (this helps prevent the noodles sticking together). Stir the pot every 10-20 seconds. Take a noodle out every 30 seconds after the first 2 minutes and bite into it. If it's cooked drain immediately and run under cold water, if not, continue until you've reached that point. Once cooked and cooled, place in a mixing bowl, toss with a splash of sesame oil (a ounce or so, about 2 tablespoons to prevent clumping), and set aside.

Slowly drizzling in the sesame oil.

In a blender, place the garlic, ginger Usukuchi soy sauce, and lime juice. Turn on high or liquify, whatever the settings say on your blender. The goal is to reduce the garlic and ginger down to a smooth texture. It will probably only take 1 minute. At this point, blender still running, add the Dijon and slowly drizzle in 1 cup of the sesame oil. Now taste. The goal here is to be able to taste every ingredient at the same time. Is the Lime being drowned out? Add a splash more. Is the soy still too strong? Add more Sesame oil. You probably won't need the full 2 cups of oil, if you managed to get your hands on the Usukuchi soy I'm guessing you'll need just under that amount of oil to balance the party out. Balance is the key to this dish. Bear in mind that the flavors will be very strong, but it's going on a starch, and noodles can take a punch. Just be sure the flavors are balanced. If you can't taste the mustard very strongly though, that's ok. It's really only there for backbone and to keep the dressing emulsified. Once you've tasted your way through the dressing, and all components are in harmony, all that's left is assembly.

Tossing them well, and gently!

Add your dressing to the noodles, toss in the scallions, and mix well. The measurements I gave should be just about perfect, but don't add all the dressing at once. Reserve a little to make sure you don't over-dress and end up with noodles floating in sauce. Again, I stress, add a little at a time and taste your way through it. Once you're satisfied with the dressing/noodle balance, add he chili/garlic paste. This is purely a point of discretion. Add as much as you like to suit your personally preferred heat index. I only used about 1 tablespoon, just enough to taste it, and not enough to melt anybodies face. Garnish with a small sprinkling of the mixed sesame seeds. This dish exemplifies the Japanese philosophy of simplicity. The inspiration for it was found one night at work. I was, early in the night, experimenting with a new menu item concept. The first half of the night was slow, so I started by cooking the noodles. After they were cooked and tossed in a little sesame oil we started to get busy, so I didn't have time to finish the project. At the end of the night, cleaned up, and ready to leave, my co-worker and I had not had time to eat yet that day. He asked what I did with the Somen, and dressed it with some chili oil to slurp them down quickly before we left. That was the “ah-ha!” moment for me. I took a small bowl full and dressed the noodles with scallion, chili oil, chili/garlic paste and a splash of soy sauce. After slurping that down I thought, “I can make that better... fuck... I can make that awesome!”. I hope you, the reader, have access to a local Asian or Japanese market to faithfully recreate this astoundingly simple and equally astoundingly good dish. It would suit any picnic, boxed lunch, or first course of any intricate Japanese themed meal. If you don't have such access, the substitutions listed will do well enough. My next post will be another recipe I loved from that evening of camaraderie with the boys here at the Estate (none of the girls could make it that night, sux to be them!) a home made Ponzu-Shoyu. I have decided that it is my favorite condiment and favorite flavor in the world.... So I must share the recipe... Throw out that bottle of store-bought crap, this will put it to shame... Until then, live well and eat better! Jack...

Mitten Whiskey

Past articles on The Rogue Estate have covered both Michigan Wines and Michigan beers from all over the upper and lower peninsulas - it's my great pleasure to present our first Michigan Whiskey review. I wandered past my favorite (read: second home) party store this evening (The 9 & Hilton Market in Ferndale, MI) and found a wonderful surprise on the new arrivals section: Zeppelin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey from New Holland Artisan Spirits, a subsidiary of the New Holland Brewing Company located in Holland, Michigan. I'll leave the telling of the back story to the New Holland website. Let's get to the drinking. The color, as you can see from the photo, is a pleasing gold, like any good whiskey should be after spending time in Oak. The nose is solid vanilla - as soon as the bottle is uncorked, there is no missing it.  Sipping this whiskey straight, it's candy sweet, lots of vanilla notes and a very harsh burn thanks to it being a high octane 90 proof. The drink immediately mellows out with the addition of a splash of cold water. The harsh burn disappears, the vanilla smooths out and the cloying sweetness gives way to a very smooth, very pleasing whiskey that can stand up to top shelf bourbons. At $37 per 375ML bottle, this is not a daily drinker for most. A real good special occasion sipper to have on the shelf and a point of pride for Michigan folks who have been following the growing spirits market in the state. New Holland also lists Rums, Vodkas, Gin and a "Hopquila" on their distillery site, so you can expect to see reviews on those products in the future as they become available to us here at The Rogue Estate.     -///

Heaven and Hell…

View from our hotel room balcony

Waikiki. I was there for a week recently for my girlfriends sisters wedding. While I got no pictures of the restaurants and food out there (sadly, but I'm not the “shutterbug” type, and I wanted very much not to look like a “tourist”) I want to impart some wisdom I gleaned from the area. If you are the tourist type... it's heaven. If you are the “traveler” type, it's a tourist hell. The true travelers in the audience need no definition of terms. The locals can and will, at any opportunity, bilk the tourists of all the money they can, and shamelessly. Bottom line, if you come from a big city and expect to “get away from it all”, don't let your guard down just because you're on vacation. I know it's paradise, the ideal of the tropical getaway, (No bugs, no humidity, little rain, and 80 degrees all-the-fucking-time? Really?!!!) but don't let the dream that seems to be realized upon touchdown fool you... they WILL try to scam you. Wear your game face. Especially if you plan on doing any shopping anywhere near dusk. Treat it like any other “downtown” area... eyes open, aware of what's going on around you, plan escape routes... Beware of chicks “giving out” lei's, treat people tryin to bum a smoke like you would any homeless person, and be wary of the ever present to-good-to-be-true offer. It is. It's bullshit. Just another scheme to dupe tourists of their money. They live on the creed, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” If you go to Hawaii, and Oahu specifically, visit Waikiki during the daylight hours, do your shopping and eating, and get the hell out! Not that I'm trying to bash the place, but it serves itself up for such treatment, in my limited experience. Those of you who are experienced “travelers” know to ask the locals where to go to avoid the crowds and general bullshit show any destination puts on for the tourists. My experience in Waikiki might be an isolated one mind you, but the locals don't seem to like anyone they might see as “tourists”. The reasons are pretty clear to me, being the tourist hub of Hawaii, they've seen far too many rich assholes that have money to burn on their schemes that they don't seem to like an eyes-forward, alert and intelligent traveler. Ready to call them on their bullshit at the drop of a hat, as my girlfriend, who's from Chicago, did a few times, resulting in... well... “entertainment”... We found this out the hard way when we visited a bar recommended to us by a local. A little dive bar called Arnold's. A “blink-and-you'll-miss-it” type o place located next to an alley that could be easily mistaken for an extension thereof. The door guy was quite courteous, and upon entering the open air seating area Sara and I immediately noticed that every person there was a local. We found a seat at the bar and got the cold shoulder from the bartender. Right before we decided on a seat we saw a heavily tattooed, dyed red haired young woman we'd seen at the hotel hawking flowers and lei's. I tried to be polite, but she turned to the bartender after we met eyes, pounded what was left of her drink, said something to him, and left. After we were seated he asked, “you guys know the flower girl?” My response was (admittedly a poorly thought out one considering the circumstances), “yeah, we saw her at the hotel.” Mind you, never a word was exchanged between us and the “flower girl”, so any ill-will was not expected. We placed our order, and he took his sweet ass time filling it. Bullshitting with the other customers, and generally putzing around before he delivered our drinks. We got the hint. Drinks finished, paid, tipped, out the door. We ended up at a bar in the lobby of the hotel that had nightly karaoke and a beachfront view. The Shore Bird also offered a decent (but far from spectacular) breakfast buffet. They were also the only local bar that seemed to stay open past 11, so most of our nights in town ended there. Sara was still a bit miffed about the cold shoulder treatment we received at Arnold's so she asked our bartender what the deal was. His immediate and quite comical response was, “What the hell did you guys do to get kicked out of Arnold's?!!!” After we related the full story, flower girl variable included, he was at a loss for words, and added that he doesn't see how she would have the pull to blacklist us anywhere, so he dismissed that hypothesis out of hand. I guess the locals just want their dive bars to be tourist free. Can't say I really blame 'em, to be honest, but we're working class fucks that just happened to be lucky enough to save enough to make it out there. Whatever... I'm over it, and was from the time we found our seats at the Shore Bird, but it still seems to burn a hole in Sara's panties... Please don't let me discourage you, though. If you EVER get the chance, fucking GO! Just don't let your guard down because you're on vacation, is all I'm saying. All that aside. All the bullshit. All the tourist traps. All the shameless and total commercialization of native culture to the point of nearly losing itself... the food is good. Not just good, it's fucking AMAZING! Every foodie knows what poke is, or poi, or Ahi. I don't really feel the need to define these terms, but for all it's faults, Waikiki seems to be the hub of not only tourism in Hawaii, but restaurants as well! The North Shore of Oahu is much more rustic. If you want true local fare and local color, that seems to be the place to go. However, if fine dining is your thing, and you have the cash to blow (everything is more expensive in Waikiki) I strongly recommend a trip there.

In the lower right hand part of the image you'll see umbrellaed tables on a patio just above street level, that's Roy's patio and the last table is where we sat.

The dining options range widely and wildly. Our first meal in town was dinner at Roy's right across the street from our hotel (I could see the table we sat at from our balcony). A fine dining, fish centric restaurant from chef Roy Yamaguchi, on the other side of the street was a Denny's... Another block in that direction is a restaurant from yet another titan of the culinary world, Nobu. My focus while I was there was on the middle-of-the-road and up places, having admitted from the get-go that my stated purpose in Waikiki was to eat my way across the city, but there is something for everyone and every price range, and it's all within a ½ mile stretch of downtown. If, like me, you truly appreciate authentic Japanese food, there are more places in Waikiki that have menus in Kanji, Romanized Japanese, and broken English than I've seen anywhere. There are so many Japanese tourists in Waikiki that there's an entire transit system dedicated to them. San Francisco style trolley cars covered in Knaji with Japanese speaking tour guides. I dragged my girlfriend (the aforementioned Sara), her two sisters, and the one sisters new husband (who is decidedly NOT a foodie) to a hole-in-the-wall place less than a block from our hotel called “Tonkatsu” (Japanese food fanatics need no explanation of that term) and despite the fact that I had to decipher the menu for everyone, nobody left disappointed. Pair that with the fact that there was another place next door and another across the street with similarly worded menus, and a few blocks north of that there were whole streets covered with Kanji and the little colored paper lamps that, in Japan, are the neon signs advertising an eatery, and you begin to see my dilemma... too many options to explore within a week for a foodie with a Japanese bent...

Look at the pretty fishy!

However... On my second to last night on the island, coming back from the only “touristy” thing I did while I was there (shark cage excursion three miles out to sea), the bus driver, upon hearing I was a chef that specialized in Japanese, told me that the Man himself, Masaharu Morimoto, had recently opened a restaurant on the island, AND it was within walking distance from my hotel! Suffice it to say, I dropped any dinner plans I might have had for that evening like a hot rock... I've been waiting to be in close proximity of one of his venues for a VERY long time, I was NOT gonna pass this up! I'll spare you the hyperbole and adjectives, just go if you get the chance! Casual feel, open and airy dining room, sleek minimalistic décor, and professional waitstaff all made for an ideal experience. Cocktail suggestion: Morimo-tai. A twist on the Hawaiian mainstay, the Mai Tai, made with the usual ingredients, but with added Kaffir Lime leaf and mint. One appetizer on the menu I absolutely could not resist (I waved off the tasting menu because this item was not on it) was a lightly steamed oyster topped with seared foie gras, uni, and a slightly sweet soy glaze... the most decadent thing I've ever put in my face... Sara liked it too, and she's not big on oysters (I need to work on that, I know...). The other appetizer we got was Wagu Beef carpaccio. Paper thin slices splashed with hot oil and dressed with light soy and fresh Yuzu juice. For my entree I opted for their take on the classic French bouillabaisse. Half of a lobster (tail, claw and guts included), 2 whole head-on fresh shrimp, manilla clams, mussels, scallop, spicy red miso broth, served with toasted baguette slices to mop up the remnants of the carnage. Easily one of the best meals of my life. Expensive, to be sure, but I'm not one to shy away from that if I feel it's worth it. And it was. It was research, you see. Putting a yardstick to my peers, as it were. Just as much to see how I measure up as to taste their work. I was both inspired and encouraged by the experience. Being currently located in South-Eastern Michigan there aren't any Japanese restaurants of that caliber to judge myself against. There are few places of that caliber around here at all, to be honest. My only complaint was that there was no beer on the menu. Wine list, sake list, cocktail list, no beer. This struck me as very odd. Morimoto has collaborated with breweries in the past, so why those brews at least weren't on the menu was puzzling. Compounded by the very seafood centricity of the menu, I found it strange. Fish loves beer, and shellfish in particular, and there was (as I've described) no shortage of aquatic arthropods on offer. There was also a sushi bar on premises that I surprisingly did not partake of. Call it mood, call it focus, call it psychotic... I was more interested in the hot menu on this particular evening it seems.

The view of Kani Ka Pilla from our balcony.

Accessible from the lobby of our hotel was another little gem. Kani Ka Pilla bar and grill. Open air bar, nothing but outdoor seating and it was poolside. While with these factors going for it they very well could skimp a little on the food, they don't. The Poke and Quesadillas would be my first recommendation. Served in a large fried won ton cup, the Poke was local Ahi cubed and tossed with just the right amount of soy sauce and a little wasabi for bite. The Quesadillas were pretty much what you would expect, and served with the usual sides of salsa and guac, but they used smoked pork as the protein in them, and they did not suck... The cocktails at this bar were some of the best we had on the island, as well. Another thing that surprised me were the number of breweries on Oahu. I found offerings from at least 4 different local breweries at bars, restaurants and convenience stores in the area. Every bar we went to had at least one of them on tap. The most prevalent was the Kona Brewing company, and the most common of their offerings found on tap everywhere were the Longboard lager and the Fire Rock IPA. Both of which are great, and both of which are on tap at Kani Ka Pilla. They also have a nightly rotating line-up of local musicians for entertainment. Most of which were pretty damn good. There was also a tap-house right around the corner from the hotel called the Yard House that had a multipage on-tap beer menu and a pretty solid food menu. I ordered Jambalaya, and as picky and hard to please as I am about that dish, and Cajun food in general, it was pretty damn good! They're Ahi Poke was pretty spot on as well, but as long as you use absolutely fresh Tuna, it's hard to fuck it up, and every place that offered this dish used local fish, so you won't get a bad Poke in Waikiki. As well, that's the way it should be! In summary, I could have easily spent two or three more weeks in Waikiki just checking out the restaurants if money and time were no object. If you can only make it out there once in your lifetime it's worth the experience. If you're the tourist type, there's more than enough to do, more than enough sights to see, and a lot of history in the area since it's only a few miles from Pearl Harbor and there are more than a couple military museums. If you are the foodie traveler type, I can't think of another reason I haven't already outlined that might convince you to go. I am NOT the beach-going type, I don't give a shit about tanning, I could care less about surfing, just not my thing. I avoid tourist traps, I loathe the idea of anyone thinking of me as such, but I had a lot of fun there. We met some interesting people (all the folks we met from Australia were funny as hell!) we ate some stellar food, and the weather is just as perfect as the travel guides tell you. Just bring a good sunscreen. The sun in Waikiki, like the locals, seems to hate visitors... Jack_