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Moi, Steak 'n Chops at Side Street Inn

We stopped by Side Street Inn yesterday for an NFL Sunday lunch, pupu style, which is what it’s all about here.

The place was pretty slow at the time, which was kinda’ nice (for a change), as it made service really quick and getting a table not a problem at all. Try coming here as a walk-in on a typical work day right around peak pauhana time (between 4pm and 8pm) and good luck getting a place to sit if you don’t have reservations.

As I wrote in my first write-up about this place, it amazes me how tourists find this hidden gem. Just as the name ‘Side Street Inn’ implies, they’re literally located on a very unassuming side street adjacent to Ala Moana Center, where only those “in the know” could find it. During this visit, two young Nihongin ladies walked in, as well as a group of what appeared and sounded like mainland tourists in their early 20s.

Not that Side Street Inn is really a secret anymore, as it’s had a good share of exposure in the media over the years now, with the most notable of all having two segments featured on the Travel Channel’s ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain.

In the first segment of the ‘No Reservations’ Hawaii episode, Side Street Inn owner and chef Colin Nishida meets with Bourdain at Ono Hawaiian Food on Kapahulu avenue to explain the cultural diversity in Hawaii and how that influences the cuisine in the islands. Then in a follow-up segment on the same episode, Bourdain meets Colin in “his house” at Side Street Inn, joined by local celebrity chefs and personal friends of his, including Chef Alan wong, Chef Donato Leperfido, Chef Fred D’Angelo and Chef Russell Siu, along with master Sommelier Chuck Furuya and Star Bulletin food columnist Betty Shimabukuro.

While I’ve already described where and how the place is set-up in my first write-up, we’ll do it again with a couple photos this time to share, starting with the bar…

Based on its location and layout, you can tell this space was formerly a hostess bar, in fact with one operating right next door.

It even has hostess bar style booth seating…

Of course you’re not going to be solicited with “You like buy me dolinkee?” here anytime soon. Well maybe, depending on who’s there partying at the time. lol

These attributes actually add to to its exclusive “who would have thought?!” charm, believe it or not.

There’s several separate rooms on the side that join together through doorways to make up the entire space…

Side Street Inn is more sports bar than it is a restaurant, with the requisite big screen flat panel HDTVs displayed on every wall and corner throughout the joint. With that, the menu is mostly local pupu style, served in family-sized portions for everyone to share.

To start, the server takes drink orders, then asks if our party will be ordering food. To which she immediately returns with plates, napkins and chopsticks for each person sitting at the table…

Let’s check out what get fo’ grind…

Their dessert menu is quite impressive!…

Of course there’s no shortage of beer here…

“Wines from the vines”…

Getting right to it, for our party of four on this visit, we chose the Moi, where we were given the option of it being served either steamed or pan-fried, which we chose the latter…

The whole Moi is cut in cross sections almost down to the bone on the two sides of the main filet area and dredged in a well-seasoned coating of cornstarch, then deep fried, then drizzled with a delicious Ginger and Garlic-infused oil and soy sauce.

Spoon more of the sauce over that bad boy and dig in…

OMG. Broke da’ mout! So ono! The simple salt and pepper seasoning under the delicately-light and crispy cornstarch crust was just the right amount to really punches out the flavor of the buttery-soft and flaky moi. It took  no effort at all to pick the meat off the bones in whole pieces with our chopsticks…

Really, fish just doesn’t get any better than this. Solid 5 SPAM Musubi for the Deep-Fried Moi.

Moving on to the next dish, we got the massive 26 oz. Pulehu T-Bone Steak, which like all other meats here, is cut up pupu style…

This isn’t listed on the menu, but was suggested by our server as a special of the day. Under that huge hunk’a beefy love are a generously-portioned bed of grilled caramelized onions and sauteed button mushrooms, finished with three giant spears of Asparagus,  parsley and ketchup dipping sauce. Ketchup with steak! Doesn’t get any more “local style” than that my friends.

Finally, we chose one of Side Street Inn’s most popular signature dishes, the Pan-Fried Island Pork Chops…

This is also served with Ketchup, which I personally think matches better with the pork chops than it did with steak. I’m just used to my A-1 for steak.

Like the Moi, the pork chops has a well-seasoned cornstarch coating that makes it delicately crispy and light.

Most important, the pork meat is super moist and tender, where when you gnaw at the included bones portion, it easily pulls right off it.Really ono, and I can see why this simple, comforting dish is so popular.

Back to the steak, notice it was done perfectly medium-rare, with parts on the end that were more medium, satisfying everyone’s preferences. Just like the Moi and Pork Chops, it was seasoned to perfection, with just the right amount of salt and pepper applied to really punch out the “Umaminess” of the excellent quality beef. While sealing the deal were them flavor-packed char-grilled edges here and there.

Shoot, next time I’m in the mood for a great steak dinner, I might come here for it! At $28 for this 26 ounce beauty, that’s quite a bargain compared to most steakhouses.

The generous helpings of onions, mushrooms and asparagus also satsisfied my need to have vegetables accompany the meal. Perfect. No need a side salad. ‘Nuff just like this.

Of course like in any local style restaurant, where there’s meat, gotta’ get rice…

While most of the dishes here are served family style, the rice is served in individually-portioned bowls. That’s nice. I like having my own rice bowl. You can opt to have Furikake sprinkled on it as you see I did here.

Next time I’d like to try the steamed clams and the lilikoi BBQ baby back ribs. I’ll also have to save room for dessert, as this time around we were all too stuffed for that.

The three pupu platters we ordered was just the right amount of food for the four of us, plus a Heineken (or two) each to wash it all down. All that totaled out to $127. That comes out to about $32 per person, not including tip, which is on the high side as far average lunch prices around town go.

Yet with that you get a diverse spread of pupus that’s absolutely broke da’ mout ono, with enough for everyone to make a meal out of it.

That, along with plenty of beer on tap and good times to be had is enough to keep both locals and visitors coming to this popular hidden gem known as Side Street Inn.

Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St.
Honolulu, Hawaii  96814
Tel. 591-0253

Tasty Island Rating:

13 thoughts on “Moi, Steak 'n Chops at Side Street Inn

  • January 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    pomai, that looks freaking ono…..and gives me an idea on what to cook this wknd!!!!! btw didn’t get a chance to say it, but happy new year’s bruddah–been reading your blog for a long time and it def makes my day whenever you get a new entry in!!!!! here’s to a great 2010 and many more entries to your blog!!!!

  • January 12, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Oh man pomai you have no idea how much this blog has helped me!! i have been trying to replicate the side street’s pork chops and you have just given me the secret! i had no idea they used corn starch! i had been using flour and it was just too heavy! do you think they do a egg wash too or just dredge in it the corn starch and fry it up? I looove their pork chops especially with ketchup, i didn’t realize that was a local thing :)

  • January 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Pomai,I try a good restaurant thatserve seafood and fine fish dish.The moi fish look mighty good from the photo. Steak I could get anywhere but fish dishes is all depend how they make it.

  • January 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I’ve posted a few times, but don’t think I’ve told you yet how much I enjoy your blog. Just wanted to say you’re doing a great job and I hope you keep up the good work!

    As for Side Street Inn, I think their food is good, but a bit overpriced for what you get. Also, I can’t get over how their steak is “market price.” What’s up with that? I admit I don’t go there very often, since it seems in the evenings, two-thirds of the tables are reserved, so getting a seat is a pretty dismal affair. From your write-up, it sounds like you know exactly what I’m talking about.

  • January 14, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Brian, I agree they’re a bit overpriced considering their “dive” location with absolutely no view or convenience whatsoever. I was especially taken aback by the $21 sticker price for a plate of three pork chops. And that’s not even Kurobuta pork. Even if that’s locally-sourced pork, still. I gave them 4 SPAM Musubi based strictly on TASTE. Had that not been up to par, it would have easily slipped to 2 or 1 due to the price structure.

    Funny you mention the reserved tables, as, as empty as the place was when we walked in, they had ‘Reserved’ signs on EVERY table. Huh? The waitress walked us straight to one of these “reserved” tables, and when I asked, “Isn’t this table reserved?”, she smiled and shot back, “Yes… for you!”. Oh—kay.

    Michael, the Moi was definitely a good choice.

    Chiemi, good question about the egg wash. I doubt they’ll give out their recipe, so best I can suggest is to try it yourself in the kitchen and see which way (with or without the egg wash) replicates it more accurately. We are quite positive it’s cornstarch. You might also wanna’ try experiment with Mochiko flour and see how that turns out.

    Raph, so which one are you planning on cooking: the pan-fried whole fish, pork chops, grilled steak, or all of the above? I choose All of the Above!

  • January 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

    haha pomai prob the steaks & pork chops!!!! actually i’ll be traveling to orange county to be with the wifey (it’s complicated) hahaha but there is a place in OC that deep fries a whole halibut-like fish (it has the 2 eyes on the same side). it is batterred, and comes with the requisite soy sauce, scallions dipping sauce, along with a vn’mese style fish sauce too. do ya remember your take on home made pastrami???? i might have a go at langer’s deli in LA for some hand cut pastrami too…..:D

  • January 15, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Yes it’s a bit high priced for sure. Food is great though. Nice pics and review Pomai!

    So hard to make it in Hawaii without high prices…

  • January 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Tony, true that.

    Raph’, I love Halibut, especially in the form of Fish ‘n Chips. I do indeed remember my homemade pastrami. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner (3/17), so that’ll give me an opportunity to make more when the corned beef goes on sale. This time I wanna’ try it with this smoker contraption my sister got me for Christmas.

  • January 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

    wow awesome….i might try some myself…..Orchard Supply Hardware has this basic smoker for 100 bucks…. i may buy one :D if i do end up trying to make pastrami–will def look to your past blog post for help!

  • February 5, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I actually called them and asked whether the pork chops were flour, egg, flour, or just flour. They said just flour and the key is the get the peanut oil screamin hot. Will try this time with cornstarch instead. Can’t wait to get back there in May.

  • February 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Traci, very interesting. Our gang could have sworn it was cornstarch. But now that you say it’s simply flour, then deep-fried in HOT Peanut Oil, I can understand how that plays into the texture and flavor of their pork chops.

    I’ll have to buy some pork chops and peanut oil and put it to the test in my kitchen!

    Raph, let me know how your homemade Pastrami turns out when/if you make some. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, when the corned beef goes on sale. Watch the video link I provided in that post.

  • August 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Things change! No Mas! Recently went there for a belated birthday party. Several of us were looking forward to grinding on the Deep Fried Moi, including my son who flew in with his family of four from the Big Island. We made early reservations (5:30pm) to beat the crowd. There were several empty tables (large and small). However, when we sat down to order, we were told that we could not order anything on the “Special Menu”. The waitress said it was because they had a party of 25 and they were too busy. My son explained to the manager and pleaded with the cook. We would be happy if they could just make “one” order of the Moi. Flat out told “No can do!” We’ve been there when it was packed with people and people standing inside and outside the door waiting for a chair! They had no such restrictions then! Attitudes and service priorities change when you’re supposedly too popular for your own good. Well, we won’t bother them anymore.

  • August 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Gary, sorry to hear about the bad service. That’s why I would never plan to come here on a busy pauhana afternoon. Way too crowded for its own good. Not only that, while some items are a good or reasonable value (like the steak), others (like the pork chops and moi) are overpriced in my opinion. Granted the food’s great, but for the location? In an an industrial backroad inside a barely converted Korean bar? I mean, sure, I’d be more than happy to pay premium prices if there was an ocean view or something better to look at in my surroundings. The 4-SPAM rating I gave was strictly on the taste of the food, not factoring in value, service or ambiance. Our service was good naturally, as we got there at a non-peak time.

    On another note, did you know Side Street Inn opened a second location on Kapahulu avenue? My coworker went and she said this new SSI location has a more upscale and modern feel to it.


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