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Pearl Kai Eats: Off the Wall

Off the Wall Restaurant / Bar / Catering has quite an interesting concept going on. Owners Kyle Matsumoto and Grant Sadami “Sanda” Murata describe it as “Comfort food with a twist! It’s the best of the best local food, strongly rooted in Okinawan cuisine, yet infused with Japanese, Korean, Italian, and French flavors, making the dishes different than any other restaurant you’ll visit on the island.”

“Strongly rooted in Okinawan cuisine” eh? Sounds great! And the roots are planted well with traditional Okinawan dishes offered on the menu including Goya Chanpuru, Shoyu Pork (Rafute) and Yakisoba. While the “twists” are turning with dishes such as their Rafute-filled Andagi, Rafute Pasta and Fukuoka Tonkatsu – a dish prepared in the form of Choy Sum wrapped in layers of apple-smoked bacon, thin slices of pork, then breaded with panko bread crumbs. Wow, all that sounds very oishii desu!

Yesterday was the first time trying this place, where here were the specials of the day and “OTW Favorites” listed on the board…

The “5 Items at $5” selections are touted on their menu as “Our version of the Stimulus Package”. Indeed! That’s a great deal for such good food.

While not shown here, Diner E had da’ onos for a burger today, so he decided to take Off the Wall’s Hamburger for a spin, which is part of their everyday menu…


Off the Wall – Hamburger (includes a 21 oz. soft drink), with garlic cheese spread, $6.00 ($5.00 without the garlic cheese spread)

A burger just ain’t a burger without fries, so Diner E completed the meal with a side of Off the Wall’s Hapa Fries…


Off the Wall – Hapa Fries (half regular and half sweet potato), $3.00

Here’s a cross-cut view of the burger…


Off the Wall – Hamburger (& 21 oz. drink), with garlic cheese spread (and spicy aioli)), $6.00 ($5.00 without the garlic cheese spread)

Looking back to the first photo of the hamburger, notice there’s something orange-colored mixed within the white garlic cheese sauce. As it turns out upon first bite, they had apparently also added some of the spicy aioli sauce intended for their more upscaled “O Baka” Burger Jr. item.

This shot of the bun peeled off clearly shows the spicy aioli sauce slathered on…


Spicy Aioli

Yeah, we’re nitpicking here, but hey, in this day and age of a highly competitive burger market, you gots’da! Fortunately, Off the Wall NAILS it. Diner E gave me a slice of his burger to sample, and personally I must say this burger ROCKS! So good. That garlic cheese spread, along with that spicy aioli really kicks it up. Bam!

The first and foremost visual indication this burger was gonna’ “rock” is the rather unorthodox-yet-promising grill-marked bun. How awesome is that! The second indicator of greatness was the leaping FLAME shooting of f the grill in the kitchen while they were cooking it. I sat on a dining table within visual range of the kitchen watching them prepare it, saying to myself, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”. lol

The reason I made a big deal about the spicy aioli sauce is that it added an unexpected heat to the party. But not overwhelmingly. At first, based on the Japanese and Okinawan theme, we thought it was Wasabi mixed into the garlic cheese, but the red color then told us it was that spicy aioli added to it. But hey, it works!

The 1/3 lb. house-made beef patty was char-grilled to medium-well just as advertised, and was mighty, mighty tasty. I can’t emphasize “char-grilled” enough in words, as this one really carried that all-important flavor aspect through and through. The only thing we would have asked for is to form the patty a little smaller in diameter and THICKER. As it was, it was a bit too flat and “pancaked”.

Still, for any media outlet planning a future “Hawaii’s best burger” or “Honolulu’s best burger” shootout for publication, you must consider adding Off the Wall’s Hamburger to your battle roster. This one truly is a contender for “best burger in Honolulu”. Super-critical Diner E gave it a solid 3-SPAM Musubi, but I give it a solid 4. Supah’ ono!


Off the Wall – Hamburger with Garlic Cheese and Hapa Fries

Then there’s those ‘Hapa Fries’. For you readers not from Hawaii, “Hapa” is a Hawaiian slang term which means “mixed” or half-breed, usually used in context referring to race, which is exactly what the potatoes that make up these fries are. Specifically half regular and half sweet potato. To note, the orange-colored sweet potato fries are lightly coated in a simple batter, bringing additional texture and flavor to the mix.

Summing up the fries, they were cooked to “GBD” perfection, nicely tender inside and seasoned with just the right amount of salt. Another winner. Diner E noted as a suggestion, Off the Wall should offer the fries in either “Hapa” or either or regular 100% sweet potato or regular fries. I’d certainly opt for 100% pure breed sweet potato fries.

You’re probably now saying that a garlic cheeseburger and “Hapa” fries has just about nothing to do with Okiniwan cuisine, and you’r right. That’s why they said, “with a twist”. Ha ha! Yet not to fret, as I was ono for the most defining dish of Okinawa, which here we have Off the Wall’s preparation of authentic Goya Champuru…


Off the Wall – Goya Champuru with Brown Rice and Tossed Salad with oriental dressing, $10

At least I think it’s authentic. Whoah, these Goya slices were BITTER! It didn’t taste like they macerated them with salt to remove any of that bitter taste, but threw them in the pan straight-up from cut raw form. Not that I’m complaining, as believe it or not, I actually enjoy that bitter flavor, which gives it plenty of character.

Here’s a closer look at Off the Wall’s presentation of Goya Champuru…


Goya Champuru

Compared with my first attempt at making Goya Chanpuru (notice I spell Chanpuru with an ‘n’, not ‘m’), theirs tasted pretty much the same, except I couldn’t taste as much miso in it, if any at all, yet it was hard to say for sure, as the Katsuobushi flakes on top masked/added flavors that confused my palate from coming to a conclusion.

Here’s an even closer shot…


Goya Champuru

In this shot, it must be noted that the pork in this Goya Champuru (with an ‘m’) was FORK-TENDER, having me guess they roast the pork prior to, versus how I added my strips of pork straight from raw in the pan.

Otherwise a well-executed, albeit very bitter traditional Okinawan Goya Champuru. With that a solid 3 SPAM Musubi. Oh, note I opted for the healthier brown rice and tossed salad with an light shoyu-based oriental dressing, although you can also choose white rice and mac’ sal’ if you want that extra “oomph”. lol

Here’s my “polished” Goya Champuru plate to back-up that solid 3 SPAM Musubi rating…


*Burp*

This is the first time I’ve ever polished an entire plate in one sitting. Usually I need to wait for a “second wind” to finish an entire plate. Also, usually Diner A is the “plate polishing” champ, but he wasn’t here today, so the “task” was left to me. Actually the lightness of the dish thanks in part to the brown rice and tossed salad made it easier to whack it all.

I wanted to try the Andagi Rafute that Metromix teased us about from here, but unfortunately at the time of my visit, Kyle told me they didn’t have any Andagi mix currently ready. Shucks. That’s OK, I’ll be back to try more stuff here for sure!

That’s just a nip in the bud of the progressive Okinawan-infused menu they’ve got going on here. For a look at much more they have to offer, check out The Honolulu Advertiser’s Metromix’ coverage of Off the Wall here. Also check out the Shoyu Pork (Rafute) Andagi here.

Also check out Donna’s blog coverage of Off the Wall here at Chanpuru.net.

Off the Wall Restaurant / Bar / Catering is located in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center, a bustling city-within-a-city strip mall in Aiea located on the Makai side of Kamehameha highway, right across the street from Pearlridge Shopping Center. They’re situated 2 doors over from Blazin’ Steaks, between Wang’s Garden Northern Chinese Restaurant and a All Access Wireless Communications…

The modestly-sized dining room is clean and comfortable…

Notice the Sake shelf. Everyone should have a “Sake Shelf” in their home. lol Actually, according to their menu, you get 50% off on all Takara Sakes and Sakes-by-the-glass.

On my next visit I plan on ordering the Fukuoka style Tonkatsu and of course a sample of that Shoyu Pork (Rafute) Andagi. I also want to try their Soba Soup, which must be a hit, as four patrons there during my visit waiting for our order were eating that, so it must be good.. and well priced too! Gotta’ try that Rafute Pasta as well. Not to mention getting one of them killer burgers and Hapa Fries that they certainly know how to do right.

Based on our first impression, Off the Wall fits right into the 3-SPAM Musubi club and promising even more!

Off the Wall
Restaurant / Bar / Catering
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy #B-10
Aiea, Hawaii 96701

Tel. (808) 486-9255 (WALL)
www.offthewallhawaii.com
Menu (current as of 9/13/09)

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

P.S. A few months ago in following up to my first attempt at making authentic Okinawan Goya Chanpuru, I took “Hawn Pake in Okinawa” Nate’s highly qualified advice for preparing it how they do it in Okinawa as followed: “Of note is that the goya chanpuru pork that is prepared here in Okinawa is with sliced rafute or prepared shoyu pork, the tofu is usually not sliced but broken into rough chunks by hand., the beaten egg is not cooked ahead too, but stirred into the almost completed chanpuru And usually don’t see round onions. A more simpler preparation. Is the norm as far as I can see. As far as the goya itself, there’s a different type in Okinawa. The stuff there has more sharper bumps, not sorta smooth like the stuff you got at KCC.”

That said, instead of the Chinese Bitter Melon I used in my first attempt, the second time around I bought the smaller, darker and more bitter Indian variety…


Bitter Melon (Goya) – India variety

These were quite pricey as far as fruits (it’s a fruit, not a vegetable) are concerned, running about $3.50/lb. at Don Quijote/Daiei/Holiday Mart. Notice how bumpy their skin is, like an ugly Iguana, while they’re shaped like a mouse with a tail. lol

Here’s how they look sliced and cleaned out…


Bitter Melon (Goya) – India variety

Here’s a fresh batch of Rafute (Okinawan Shoyu Pork) I made for my second attempt at Goya Chanpuru…


Pomai’s Rafute (Okinawan shoyu pork)

As instructed by Nate, I broke-up the tofu by hand and added in the pan with everything else instead of neatly slicing and pre-frying it…


Pomai’s Goya Chanpuru second attempt, featuring Rafute (shoyu pork) and hand-crumbled tofu

For flavoring, I added the same mix of miso, sake, shoyu and sugar. Once this was all browned and cooked through, I added the egg to finish it…


Pomai’s Goya Chanpuru second attempt, featuring Rafute (shoyu pork) and hand-crumbled tofu, with egg added to cook for the finish

Once the egg cooked through and evenly coated everything, it went to plate….


Pomai’s Goya Chanpuru featuring Rafute and hand-crumbled tofu, with Beni Shoga and Takuan Tsukemono

The red condiment is Beni Shoga (Japanese tart pickled ginger) and the yellow condiment is Takuan (Japanese pickled turnip).

It’s good to see Off the Wall tops their Goya Champuru (with an ‘m’) with Katsuobushi (dried bonito) flakes, so at least I know I got that part right. As for the shoyu pork and hand-crumbled tofu, it did make a big difference and it tasted even better than my first attempt, although I did miss the white onions, as I’m a huge onion fan. At least the green onion condiment was there to help. I say my take on Goya Chanpuru was comparable to the one from Off the Wall, and I’m quite confident Chef Murata, a.k.a. Sanda, would approve of my dish if he tasted it.

While we’re on the craze, here’s two packages of Goya seeds from Okinawa that “HWN Pake in Okinawa” gave to me on his last visit here (he now moved back home and resides here)…


2 Packages of Goya seeds from Okinawa, courtesy of fellow food blogger Nate

I STILL haven’t planted them, although I’m not sure even when I do whether they’ll even germinate, as they’re already over 2 years old.

I have a favor to ask of you readers here: if you can read Japanese, can you please translate the instructions on the back of the package shown above for me? I’d really appreciate it! Onegaishimasu. Nate has a fresh package of Goya seeds from Okinawa he’ll be giving to me soon, which I ‘m sure will successfully grow here.

I’d love to hear other favorite recipes you have using bitter melon. Also share your favorite Goya Chanpuru and Pinakbet recipes, too! Especially if get da’ “secret ingrediment”. lol

Bitter Melon is another one of those wonder foods with many acclaimed health benefits, including aiding in digestion, to being an effective anti-oxidant, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, to prevention and treatment of diabetes and cancer. Native Okinawans statistically have the longest lifespan in the world, and surely their diet, which consists of Goya, is a contributing factor to that. So here’s to eating more Goya!


21 thoughts on “Pearl Kai Eats: Off the Wall

  • August 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm
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    Pomai – I know Sanda from his cooking at Hanagasa Lounge on River St.

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  • August 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm
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    I used to dislike bitter melon as a child. Now love it very much with stir fried pork.

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  • August 14, 2009 at 2:56 pm
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    I’m on the same page as Amy! My Mom and Dad cooked bittermelon often when I was a child. I tried it but never enjoy eating it until I became an adult. Now I eat it in Filipino, Chinese and Okinawan dishes. My favorite way to prepare it is Chinese style – w/beef and blackbean sauce.

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  • August 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm
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    This place has been on my “to try” list ever since I saw the episode on Hawaiian Grown TV re: their soba noodles. Now with your burger review, it’s got to be a “must visit”! Have a terrific weekend, Pomai!

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  • August 14, 2009 at 8:43 pm
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    My grandpa used to make stuff with bitter melon. Ick. I still haven’t acquired a taste for it.

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  • August 15, 2009 at 1:37 am
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    I won’t say “Belch, horrible!” about bitter melon (I hate to rag on any food that way! And the foods I do have that reaction to tend to rub me the wrong way because of texture, no flavor), but it’s no favorite of mine!

    My mother loves it, though. She says she used to hate it, too, but she got used to it. We’ve never tried to mask the bitterness, though–we simply chop it and stirfry it with salt and a bit of sugar.

    Maybe I should try de-bitterizing (new word!) it, haha

    Takat
    Writing away about my latest 3 week adventure through China at http://katacomb.blogspot.com

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  • August 15, 2009 at 7:18 am
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    Interesting to hear all your stories about having an aversion for Bitter Melon as a child, then end up really enjoying it as an adult. I was also the same way with Chinese Parsley, a.ka. Cilantro. As a kid you couldn’t get me near the stuff. Now I buy it on a regular basis to add as garnish for my home-cooked meals. For the health benefits too, of course, just like bitter melon.

    I must say, the maceration process (letting it sit with salt, then rinsing it thoroughly with water) really helps remove that super-bitter “bite” some Goya have. The smaller, dark green India variety I bought certainly was more bitter than the lighter green and larger Chinese variety of Bitter Melon.

    CAB, that episode of Hawaiian Grown TV with Grant Kawasaki is quite entertaining. I like his “Dr. Cardiologist” shtick in the beginning.

    Deanna, I found a couple recipes on the web that make Stuffed Bitter Melon Chinese style with the black bean sauce. I think I’ll go with that one on a future project. I can taste it already. Yum!

    Nate, Hanagasa on River Street eh? What were you doing hangin’ around River street? lol

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  • August 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm
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    Pomai – In the building, Hanagasa is at the Mauka end and Uptown Cafe at the Makai end on street level. Both known for their Okinawan food. Bad place outside at night but good places for lunch and dinner. You gotta try.

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  • August 16, 2009 at 6:23 am
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    Nate, there’s some photos of food at Hanagasa Inn on River street here…

    http://808blog.com/id27.html

    Being in downtown, my guess is they’re more reasonably-priced than Utage or Violets (two other restaurants that feature Okinawan cuisine), which may sound odd, but is often the case!

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  • August 16, 2009 at 6:50 am
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    I remember my mom stir-frying bittermelon often when I was a kid and I refused to eat it. I think I had a bite once and the bitterness made me gag. However, I also refused to eat most fruits and vegetables and seafoods as a child (all the things I love now) so you’re inspired me to give bittermelon another try.

    Regarding your hamburger poll, may I suggest adding A-1 steak sauce as a condiment? As the A-1 commercials used to state: “What is hamburger? Chopped ham? No, it’s steak.” (Or something like that.) My husband got me onto the A-1 train and now it’s a mix of A-1 and ketchup for me.

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  • August 16, 2009 at 7:26 am
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    Jenny, the hamburger poll currently includes a selection that fits A-1 under ‘special sauce’. Indeed A-1 is a special sauce and the only one I insist on whenever eating steak, no matter how expensive the cut! I MUST HAVE A-1 with my steak. Must…. and a fully-loaded baked potato on the side, of course!

    Regarding Bitter Melon, I’m gonna’ try making Goya Chanpuru (with an ‘n’) using Portuguese sausage on the next run. That’ll be interesting. When/if you go shopping for Bitter Melon, start with the Chinese variety, which is larger and lighter green, with a smoother, albeit still bumpy skin. It’s not as bitter and a little cheaper than the India variety. Make sure to macerate the Bitter Melon (Goya) slices with iodized salt for at least 20 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly under running water in a colander. This really helps remove that bitter bite via the salt sweating it out.

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  • August 16, 2009 at 9:46 am
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    Pomai – Chanpuru with Portuguese sausage is oishii.

    Growing up my mother used to par-boil the bitter melon to remove some of the bitterness. One of m friends once said that as we grow up, we lose sensitivity in our tastes buds and we then tend to like stuff now that has more sharp tastes.

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  • August 17, 2009 at 1:52 am
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    Gotta’ have a nice slice of pork roll (Taylor Ham) with some white American cheese and yellow mustard! That’s about the best beach eat ever! Now, granted, I’m from the east coast, so I’m talking Jersey Shore here.

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  • August 17, 2009 at 9:33 am
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    Liz, you haven’t had a pork roll until you’ve had Maui Mom’s Pork Roll!…

    http://tastyisland.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/maui-moms-specialties/

    ‘Okinawa’, glad to hear there’s someone else out there who loves it. The poll as it currently stands indicates there’s more folks out there who vote it as “bleck! It tastes horrible!”. lol

    Nate, I have Portuguese Sausage Goya Chanpuru on my backburner for a post here. It will feature Portuguese Sausage from Ah Fook’s Market in Maui!

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  • August 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm
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    oohh “hapa” fries? look ono!

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  • September 1, 2009 at 4:17 pm
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    Off the Wall has been on my list to try ever since I first heard about it. I told a friend about it, and she and her husband went with some relatives on their visit a few months ago. Everyone thought it was really good. She said that they make their rafute a little different — something like they don’t use shoyu in the preparation.

    From the pictures, everything looks great. I would really like to hit it this trip, but it’s quite a bus ride from Waikiki. Have to see how things go.

    Champuru 2.0 looks good! You’ll also have to try it with Spam/Tulip sometime.

    At my urging, my Dad planted the rest of the goya seeds he brought back from Okinawa a few years ago. But the results were the same as the first time — nice vine, plenty of blooms, no fruit. :(

    Did you get the clip of the goya-eating chimp I sent you?

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  • November 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm
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    I bought the exact same seeds when I went to Okinawa last year and my dad just planted them a few months ago here in Hilo. It’s very easy to grow! Just moisten the soil with water, place the seeds on top the soil (don’t dig a hole) and lightly cover the seeds with some soil but don’t pack it down. Make sure the sprouts have something to climb on as it grows, such as a fence or trellis. Make sure you place it somewhere that receives a lot of sunlight. Make sure it gets lots of water too. Our goya vine has been doing well ever since. The first few goya are just about ready to harvest and they’re very plump; some of the fattest goya I’ve seen.

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  • November 26, 2010 at 7:53 am
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    Troy, great tips! Domo arigato gozaimasu. I still have those same seeds in the packet stashed away. Hopefully they’ll grow as you said yours has. I’ll use your technique. Gotta’ love me some good ole Goya Champuru comfort food. Definite cancer fighter!

    Reply

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