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Kalihi Eats: New Violet's Grill

This past Wednesday Diner “Santa” (a.k.a. “Saimin Kaukau”) E treated us to a fantastic Christmas lunch at the New Violet’s Grill.

Their signs out front suggest they specialize in steaks and chops…

and saimin and seafood…

Yet upon looking over the menu, while for the most part  they offer these dishes, if they could update it, the sign should now say simply “Okinawan, Japanese and Local Cuisine” (is it OK to say “Local Cuisine”? lol)

According to Cindy, sister of current owner Kevin Seuhisa, Violet’s Grill started in the 1950’s, and has passed local Okinawan ownership several times, with the second owners being the Tamashiro family, then Kevin and Cindy’s aunt owned it, to which Kevin now owns and operates it. Hence the succeeded name ‘New Violet’s Grill’.

The dining room is totally retro-70’s looking,  just like Boulevard Saimin right up the street, with the same style of faux wood Formica-paneled booths throughout…

The dining room capacity is actually quite large, belying its rather inconspicuous appearance and lack of windows in front. If you look to the far side in the photo above, there’s a doorway there that leads to another lounge area, suggesting this place must fill up later at night with the drinking crowd, as the sign out front states that they serve cocktails. 

At least during the lunch hour we were there, the room was very quiet, with everyone speaking at intimate levels, making our dining experience that much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Well, let’s see what’s on the menu…

This is too funny…

The lunch and dinner menu, partitioned into local, seafood, Japanese and Okinawan categories…

Sandwiches and saimin…

Side orders and beverages…

Booze…

Bulletin…

Diner A went local, getting a mixed plate of Chicken Katsu and Teriyaki Beef…

Diner “Santa” E also went local, getting a mixed plate of Ahi Katsu and Teriyaki Beef…

And yours truly went Okinawan, getting the — drum roll please — Pig’s Feet Soup…

The Pig’s Feet Soup is served (by default) with a bowl of white rice (or you can opt for mashed potato or fries) and a dish of shredded ginger, which you add shoyu to use as a dipping sauce for the pig’s feet.

All the lunch and dinner menu items also include either Miso Soup…

Or tossed green salad…

Their “house” dressing is essentially Thousand Islands.

We didn’t realize until we were almost done with our meal that our server forgot to bring us our Tsukemono (pickled vegetables), which the menu says it’s supposed to include. We were enjoying everything so much as is, we apparently didn’t really miss it. Come to find out from Cindy (the owner’s sister), they had run out of Tsukemono, so that explains that.

The meals include drinks (with free refills), to which we all went with an old school favorite, ‘Green River’….

Green River? Man, I haven’t had that since I was a kid! This sure brings back “hanabaddah dayz” memories. I asked our server how this is made and she said it’s simply Malolo brand lemon-lime syrup and water.

So how was the food? Diner A noted the Teriyaki beef was tender and marinaded well with a well-balanced teriyaki sauce. The chicken katsu was golden-brown-delicious, but he said was just a little on the dry side. Thankfully they serve Ikari brand Tonkatsu sauce – a top 5 finisher in the ‘Great Tonkatsu Sauce Shootout – for their katsu dishes, so huge bonus point for that!

Diner E enjoyed his Ahi Katsu, noting how moist and flavorful it was…

Instead of Tonkatsu sauce, he opted for using their house-made tartar sauce…

Wow, that’s a pretty chunky lookin’ tartar sauce. Looks more like potato salad. He said it was good though.

Last but absolutely certainly not least — more like DA’ BEST! — we have my (Okinawan) Pig’s Feet Soup, where here we’ll have a closer look and taste by first taking inventory of what’s in it…

Kombu, check.

Daikon, check. Mustard cabbage, check.

Pig’s feet, CHECK! Wow, BIG CHECK! Perhaps you can tell by the scale of it in comparison to my finger and chopsticks just how huge this thing is. As you could see in the first photo, it spanned the entire diameter of the bowl.

Pig’s feet number two, CHECK! Not as big as the other one, yet still a considerably hefty cut. Plus you can see several loose chunks of pig’s feet on the sides that must have fallen off the bones into the broth as the cook dished it up.

All that was missing was Togan, which is an Okinawan winter squash. No biggie. As long as got the Daikon and Kombu, I’m happy.

Now when I said those  pig’s feet were “falling off the bone”, I literally mean FALLING OFF THE BONE…

It didn’t take any chopsticks effort at all to pull this tibia bone right out from the middle of the buttery-tender meat and skin surrounding it…

Here you see they browned the pig’s feet skin before simmering it…

Under that skin is this lusciously tender, succulent and juicy pig’s feet meat…

And more meat…

Take some pig’s feet and dip it in the grated ginger-shoyu sauce…

BAM! OMG, this ROCKS! It so rocks. While I’m not a veteran Pig’s Feet Soup eater (can that be a person’s title? lol), as far as I remember in my collective memory, this is by far the BEST Pig’s Feet Soup I’ve ever had. Possibly the best of bowl of soup in general I’ve ever had.  It certainly give’s my previous recent favorite, the Oxtail Soup from Pho Bistro 2 a run for the money.

The broth seems simple yet complex at the same time, taking on the myriad of flavors from the pig’s feet bones and marrow, with what tasted like a subtle hint of the kombu and daikon. I think it’s the daikon and/or ginger that gave the broth a little bit of “bite” if you will. It had this little “snap” to it.

You might recall a while ago I did a write-up on my first attempt at making Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup, and you know what? This broth from Violet’s actually reminded me a little of the one I made, except without that strong dashi flavor mines had. Otherwise, pretty close. I think I can make it properly, now that I’ve reacquainted my palate in how Pig’s Feet Soup SHOULD taste. There were some great recipes you readers out there shared with me in comments under that post, so I’ll go through them again and pick one to use.

All I gotta’ say is if you’re in search of a truly amazing bowl of (Okinawan) Pig’s Feet Soup, head straight for Violet’s Grill. Ichi ban desu! This gets a very, very, very oishii 5 SPAM Musubi. Awesome.

Violet’s lunch and dinner menu also includes dessert, to which Diner E chose Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream…

While Diner A and Diner P (me) got the Green Tea Ice Cream…

The green tea ice cream was ono! Very creamy, with a very subtle robust element from the green tea and just the right amount of sweetness  to balance it out. I asked our server where they get it from, and she said Meadow Gold by special order only. Well, Meadow Gold should be selling this Green Tea Ice Cream in the stores, as I give it a very solid 4 SPAM Musubi.

The speed of service was OK, but could have faster considering how slow it was at the time of our visit. Other than that, our server was very friendly and went out of her way to get information I asked about the food from the cook, so points made up on that.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal here, and once again I can’t say enough about their STELLAR Pig’s Feet Soup.

Big Mahalo to Diner “Santa” (a.k.a. “Saimin Kaukau) E for the EXCELLENT Christmas lunch at the New Violet’s Grill!

New Violet’s Grill
Kapalama Shopping Center (across the street from City Square)
1210 Dillingham Blvd.
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. 841-8535

www.NewVioletsGrill.com

Business hours:
Open daily 6am to 10pm

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
Munch your way through Kapalama mini-mall – Honolulu Advertiser
New Violet’s Grill – Yelp user reviews
The Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup Project – The Tasty Island

P.S. I did some last-minute gift shopping yesterday on Christmas Eve at Ala Moana Center, where I came upon their ‘Candy Cane Train’ for the kiddies. Since had some cool food props on it, I thought it would be aptly interesting to share here. Check it out…

It looked like they had just finished their last “hop” when I got there, which was around 2pm.

This sure is one big mango and papaya!…

Matsumoto’s should get a massive shave ice prop like this and put it on their roof or out front by the roadside…

Hope Santa got you everything you wanted for Christmas this year.

Once again, Mele Kalikimaka!

9 thoughts on “Kalihi Eats: New Violet's Grill

  • December 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm
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    Pomai, look like I got to try the pig feet soup and the special dish of the place. The full meal is for me with green tea ice cream sound pretty good and green river drink.

    Reply
  • December 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm
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    wow, green river. I haven’t seen that since my grandma used to work at Valley drive-in. Another great Kalihi-is-the-center-of-the-food-universe post.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. :)

    Reply
  • December 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm
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    How was the skin and fat on the pig’s feet? That’s how I judge if it’s cooked enough and oishii! To tell you the truth, all the best tebichi I ate in Okinawa were made with smaller foreleg pieces. never the big pieces as Violet’s has, down to the toenails.

    Reply
  • December 25, 2009 at 10:18 pm
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    My goodness, this place has been around since forever! Since I used to work pretty close by, I’ve eaten quite a few times. The Pig’s Feet soup looks a bit different, but not in a bad way. It’s good to know they are still around.

    Reply
  • December 26, 2009 at 11:15 am
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    Kirk, Cindy said the recipes and menu evolved a bit from from the original owner to what they are now as the 4th-generation owner. She said their Pig’s Feet Soup recipe is a little more “localized” than what you might find in Okinawa, also noting that Pig’s Feet Soup is sometimes made using Miso. Good to know.

    Nate, the skin was almost melt-apart tender. I could practically cut it using just my chopsticks, and all it took was a light bite to get through it. I think the smaller cut I had was from the lower shin section, not the actual feet itself, while I’m not really sure where that massive one is from. Perhaps the  upper shin? Hopefully you get to try Violet’s PFS one day so you can let us know how it compares to the best ones you’ve had in Okinawa.

    Jodi, I dig your “Kalihi-is-the-center-of-the-food-universe” catch phrase. Good one! Surely some of the oldest and greatest eateries of Hawaii are (or were) based in “God’s Country”.

    Aaron, considering you get a 3-course meal, including drink with free refills, the prices are fairly reasonable at Violet’s. I was certainly stuffed from my meal, not even able to finish the entire bowl  of PFS. Shucks!

    Reply
  • December 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm
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    Been going to Violet’s for decades. My favorite is the Nabera Chanpuru. Once I found this one, I hardly ever eat anything else. The pork tofu is great too.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm
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    Ann, I considered trying their Goya Chanpuru (one of my favorites), but since it’s winter (if you can call it that here in Hawaii), I decided on going with a hot soup.

    Don’t recall trying Hechima Squash before. Sounds interesting. Does it have a distinctive flavor or texture?

    Reply
  • December 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm
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    Hi Pomai- Wow, my mom worked at Violet’s grill in the 1960’s. I don’t know for how long, but she and the other servers wore kimono on special occasions and they took photos in front of the place with the Violet’s Grill sign above. The sign looks the same as I remember it.
    Cool to see it again.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • January 9, 2010 at 5:50 am
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    I used to go to Violets with my parents, quite often if we were in “town” we used to live in Pearl City, so it was always a treat to go there. Of course my parents could drink their beer while me and bradda used to eat, i liked the veal cutlet w/ gravy, rice veggie and i don’t remember the green tea?? but we would stay for hours, have our dessert and play the music. and yes, sometimes the waitresses would wear kimono. The good ol daze back in the 60’s. so happy to see they’re still around. When i get back home i going definetly go there.

    Reply

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