Matthew Gray to its Web site. Gray 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
wine experts. His column will appear occasionally in the Hawaii
Update of TravelWeekly.com.
Here in Honolulu the food scene is awash
in ethnic flavors and food gems on almost every corner. In one
recent week I enjoyed Mexican, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, Thai
and Italian food.
One of my
favorite places is a little spot called Sugoi. In the Japanese
language, sugoi means awesome, cool or
take-out restaurant that serves a blend of local-style bento and
Hawaiian plate lunch, Sugoi has become a favorite of downtown
Honolulu office workers.
I first tried
their garlic mochiko chicken ($4.85 for the mini and $6.95 for the
regular) about four years ago, and I was hooked. It possesses a
crunchy, juicy, tender and chewy mouthful to which I have become
Let me share with
you the secret of how they make this dish.
chicken is soaked overnight in a batter made from mochiko (rice)
flour. When cooked to order, the chicken is deep-fried until golden
brown, drained, then immersed in a garlic sauce bath that allows
the flavors to permeate the chicken. The sauce tends to be a bit on
the sweet side, with soy sauce, sugar and garlic leading the way on
the ingredients list.
They also do a
spicy version of the garlic chicken called karai (meaning hot) --
not to be confused with the Hindi word karai, which refers to a
chicken curry dish, or a South Asian cooking utensil resembling a
In this dish,
Sugoi uses dried habanero chilies, the worlds hottest pepper, said
to be 50 times hotter than the jalapeno. The flavor is better than
most dried chili peppers, if you can handle the heat, that
plates include two scoops of white or brown rice; teri beef; a
rolled, Japanese-style omelet; a hot dog; potato-macaroni salad;
and a small, pickled plum called ume. Portions are huge and
difficult to finish in one sitting, even for diners with big
appetites such as mine.
offerings include salmon, mahi mahi and garlic ahi ($5 and $7).
Sugoi also make two different fried-noodle dishes ($5): Yakisoba
are thin noodles; udon are thick and slippery noodles. Sauteed with
mixed veggies, fish cake and other flavorings, these noodle dishes
combine many different Asian flavors.
One aspect of
Sugoi I enjoy so much is the people running the place. The owners
are two brothers, Zack and Robb Lee, who work alongside a friendly
staff. They all have big smiles and offer up a big dose of the
aloha spirit to anyone who walks through the door.
simple foods (recipes are handed-down family favorites), cooks them
up fast (in a spotless kitchen, by the way) and offers abundant
portions at affordable prices. A few tables and stools are
available if you want to eat inside.
Sugoi is located
in the City Square Building, 1286 Kalani St., No. 106. Its open
Mondays through Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Fridays and
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For reservations, call (808)
Honolulu-based Hawaii Food Tours (www.hawaiifoodtours.com), which offers guided
restaurant tours. He markets his tours through travel agents.
Phone: (800) 715-2468.