We saved up enough money this week to go out to dinner, and go out to dinner we did to this restaurant that I've wanted to try as soon as I saw the sign a few weeks ago.
Soul: Cuisine with Aloha and Spice
Sort of a blend of southern soul food and the flavors of Hawaii. I had a straight up southern dish that I can't believe I found here: shrimp and cheese grits. It was most awesome. Super creamy and TONS of shrimp. It had this fancy stream of black strap molasses going back and forth over the top. 7yo had fried chicken and cornbread a la carte, and both were the best fried chicken and cornbread that I've yet had in Hawaii. N now tells me I need to make my cornbread like THAT and not like the dry crap I make. Well, I try. Both the cornbread and the chicken (oddly to me) come with a side of honey butter.
Not everything was a hit. N chose the chicken, portuguese sausage, and sweet potato gumbo. I think it's pretty good (we have leftovers and I can try again tomorrow), but it's not like any gumbo I've ever seen. It's not just the presence of sweet potato, which is a clever fusion idea, it's just that it wasn't a soup really and had no rice. I didn't taste it in detail yet, but I'm not sure if it was roux-based. I will have to investigate further. It was heavy on the cayenne.
Another negative thing was that some of the prices are up there. My shrimp and grits were $18. I don't know if they have a choice, since there were a lot of shrimp in that puppy. The good thing is that it was as rich as all get out (we literally went walking around a mountainside afterwards to work it off), and you could easily share it with someone, add a side of cornbread, and you're good. We ended up bringing almost all the gumbo home.
Another highlight from the menu that I'm going to have to go back for one day include the vegetarian black-eyed peas chili, cornbread, and "buttermilk cilantro cole slaw" for only $8. Black-eyed peas and cornbread! That's my kind of food. They've got collard greens with ham hocks. Also they have real southern-style sweet tea, which is just iced tea where the sugar was added while the tea was still hot, making it permeate the tea like a syrup. This is special enough in Hawaii that it's the only beverage listen on the menu, though they do have other things to drink.
What's most exciting about the place to me, however, is that Chef Sean is doing what I've thought about. I've talked about creating some southern/asian dishes that I randomly call Cajun Seoul (no, not very creative). I once stuffed some mandoo (gyoza, jiaozi, pot stickers) with andouille sausage and made a cream sauce for them. Chef Sean's really doing it though. Besides the sweet potato gumbo, the special for the day was kalbi po-boys with kimchi, which sounds awesome. You can also get "Carolina Pulled Pork Adobo."
So there you go. Go split some sweet potato gumbo or shrimp and grits with a friend, or just grab the black-eyed pea chili and cornbread for yourself. Then bring some to me. I'll have the pecan pie waiting.