Judging from its warehouse-like appearance and lack of signage on the exterior of the building, you’d never expect just how much there is to offer once you enter what used to be 99 Ranch Market and its adjoining food court, previously known as Moanalua Ethnic Village. The blue awnings are perhaps the only indication there’s something here other than, say, an electrical parts or building supplies wholesale distributor. Which is what you’ll otherwise likely find in the busy industrial area of Mapunapuna where it’s located.
99 Ranch Market is a large asian grocery supermarket chain from the mainland that opened shop here in 1998, only to close recently last year in 2007. To be honest I’ve never been there when they were open, and this was my first time visiting this place in its current incarnation as primarily a food court.
The first impression that struck me as I entered the front door was just how HUGE the place is. At 100,000 square feet of floor space, it’s certainly large enough to accommodate most big box retailers.
Most of the food vendors are located along the front and side area of the open area of the building…
Like any other food court, as you make your way around, you’ll find quite an assortment of take-out eateries, with something for just about everyone. Japanese is covered with Imari (bento lunches, okazuya style) and Sushi Man (similar to Kozo). Get your local grinds on at 99 Local Mix Plate. Or go Vietnamese at Diem 99 Cafe. If you’re craving Korean, check out Bar B. Que 99. Chinese is also in check over at Mini Garden, which is isolated on the other side where 99 Ranch Market used to be…
Also located on this side of the place is a considerably-sized farmers market that had really nice looking produce. Folks were buying, so I assume the prices are good.
The one that really caught my eye was Kit N’ Kitchen Express, who’s had many rave about regarding their main location on University avenue. The contemporary menu looked fantastic, and I came really close to ordering the Mushroom Alfredo Fetuccini special of the day, but ended up getting something else, which I’ll get into in a bit.
There was also a gourmet hot dog stand (can’t remember the proper name) in the center, along with Scoop & Fruit.
Perfect. I’m hitting them up for dessert afterward!
If you venture towards the backside of the place, you’ll find a labyrinth of small shops, including purveyors of cellphones, RC hobbies, computer printer inks and supplies and a chinese nicknacks stand run by Lillian Hong. There was also a Hawaiian Foods take-out stand back there that I can’t give you the name, but it’s there.
Tucked away at the very end of this backside labyrinth is a full-fledged dine-in Chinese Restaurant (can’t remember the name) that was actually quite elegant in contrast to rest of the place and was PACKED. Amazing what you can find withing the inner depths of these kind of places if you really explore!
The clientele during our Friday lunch hour visit was mostly workers from around the area (many in company uniforms), as well as quite a few army service men and women in uniform from nearby Fort Shafter.
Sorry I didn’t get more pictures inside the place, as there were so many people all over, I didn’t want to offend anyone by snapping photos of them without consent.
So what you guys when grind, den?
Diner E was craving Chinese and went with Dim Sum from Mini Garden…
Guess how much for the 2 dumplings, 2 halfmoons, 1 Manapua and chow funn order? Over $12! Ouch. At least that included a large drink. Still, Diner E was sticker-shocked when the cashier rang him up. I tell you, ‘dem Pakes smart make money. lol
How did he like it? He said the baked manapua was pretty good, but he thinks the Manapua Factory in Manoa is better. The half moons and shrimp dumplings were a winner. The chow funn was OK, but deep inside we know Diner E prefers the more localized Okazuya style. Overall, regardless of the hefty price, he gave his lunch from Mini Garden in 99 Ranch Food Court a 3 Spam Musubi rating.
Diner A took over what is usually Diner E’s dish and ordered the Hamburger Steak “gauge plate” from 99 Local Mix Plate…
Like many of the food vendors here, 99 Local Mix Plate has pictures of each plate up on the menu board. The one depicting the Hamburger Steak plate showed THREE hamburger patties, so he asked the gal working if the plate did indeed include that many, to which she concurred, and with that he said, “shoots”, and ordered it.
Here he proudly showcased those hamburger patties stacked three-high…
The top one was cut into to show what it looks like within the patty. Looks like solid ground beef to me. No fillers.
How did he like it? The gravy was fairly rich and hearty, but he mentioned it being a little too thin for his liking. Just a little. The burgers were seared nicely and had good body to it. The mac salad was a little too plain for his taste. Overall, he gave it a 2 Spam Musubi rating. Oh, I also must note he polished his plate… again. lol
Last but not least, we have my order. After contemplating on getting the Mushroom Alfredo Fetuccini over at Kit N’ Kitchen Express, I made one last walk back down the vendor aisle to check back on all other options, finally deciding on Vietnamese with Diem 99 Cafe…
What helped sell me here were the actual physical dishes on display under a clear case on the counter…
Upons seeing the abundance of fresh vegetables on each plate, I was sold. Then when I seen “Stuffed Eggplant”, oh, even more so. They also had a stuffed Tofu, but the eggplant better, as part of Special #9 (shown on the top right).
Presenting my plate, “Special #9″…
This “Special #9” includes Stuffed Eggplant, Lemon Grass Chicken, chicken & vegetable spring roll, garden salad, Macaroni salad and rice. All for an easy $7.25. Good deal!
Here’s that stuffed eggplant…
The nice man running the place told me the stuffing is made fish cake, minced pork and vegetables, along with “secret” spices”. How was it. Ono! I could order just a plate of several of these with dipping sauce and be a happy camper. Anytime a menu item says “stuffed”, I’m always interested, and this one did not disappoint. It seems to be stuffed in the eggplant, then baked slowly until everything is cooked the eggplant is tender, along with a nicely browned top. Very nice.
Cross (bite) section of the springroll…
Dip this in that sweet Thai chili sauce. Very nice.
Tender and moist lemongrass chicken…
The lemongrass chicken was also very moist, with a slight hint of chili pepper on it. This is dipped in that darker brown sauce, which tasted like it had Hoisin and other things in it. Not bad. The fresh greens had a unique Vietnamese style dressing which was slightly sweet and acidic all at once. I don’t know what it is that such an ethnic plate must still include Mac’ salad, but they do (I suppose to appease the locals). The color had a noticeably yellow hew to it, but upon eating it, was suprisingly neautral (I thought it was gonna’ taste like curry). Actually a pretty darned good Mac’ sal’!
I’m giving this “Special #9” Vietnamese Stuffed Eggplant plate a solid 3 SPAM Musubi rating.
After that spicy and complex-in-a-delicious-way Vietnamese plate, I was ready for dessert to smooth my palate out, and simplified with a back-to-basics Soft Serve Ice Cream cone from Scoop & Fruit…
Scoop & Fruit – Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream, $1.49
Hit da’ spot!
Not as though the industrial Mapunapuna didn’t have enough eateries everywhere else, 99 Ranch Market Food Court condenses a whole lot more for you to choose from, all conveniently located under one big roof.
99 Ranch Market’s Food Court
1151 Mapunapuna street
• Satisfy World of Cravings at 99 Ranch food court – The Honolulu Advertiser