HONOLULU -- A
business associate came to Honolulu last week bent on getting my
signature on a contract.
Where would you
like to go for lunch, Matthew? he asked. Its on the corporate
account, so moneys no object.
(dining) grandeur danced upon my taste buds. Would it be La Mer,
Alan Wongs, the Bistro?
No. We would
power it up at Pineland Chinese Restaurant, where the menu is so
inexpensive you dont need a corporate account.
And if you cant
close the business deal over kung pao and spicy eggplant, you dont
belong in this town.
I decided that if
he couldnt handle chopsticks -- and the spices -- he wouldnt get my
signature. Call it corporate posturing.
dingy, drab and delicious.
It sits on upper
Keeaumoku Street, like a lonely Buddha, waiting to share its joy
and magic. The mom and pop proprietors toil away in this enterprise
seven days a week, nurturing our appetites and feeding our
We started with
something on the mild and sweet side, mushu shrimp, manageable and
confidence-building. I had him right where I wanted him. Advantage,
Next, I thought
Id accelerate the pace by ordering something with attitude -- kung
pao chicken -- to see how my dining companion would handle the
combination of flavors and textures is one of my favorite things;
the best kung pao in Hawaii, bar none.
With nary a
glisten upon his brow, he remained focused and clear.
Chalk up one for
the city slicker.
Sensing a shift
in the momentum, he zeroed in for the kill. But Id have nothing to
do with that.
It was time to
call in the big guns. The spicy eggplant was on its way.
Id see what he
was really made of.
power play was now fully engaged. The owners of this unlikely
deal-making dreamland smiled graciously, unaware of their role as
my culinary accomplices.
fleshy, nuclear, wok-a-doodle-doo eggplant dish stopped him in his
tracks with its sneaky heat.
His upper lip
trembled and his eyes got teary.
He was losing his
punch arrived when he got up to locate the pitcher of ice water. I
delighted at this sight and almost began my victory jig.
This was a true
Pineland wins for
down-and-dirty, delicious dining.
associate won my signature on his dotted line, and I won because I
realized that I am the architect of my own power lunch
Game, set, match
and check, please.
owner of Hawaii Food Tours (800) 715-2468, is a former food writer
and restaurant reviewer for Hawaiis largest daily newspaper, the
Honolulu Advertiser, and is considered one of Hawaiis top food and