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Sand Island Eats: Tatsuo's

On yet another Puahana Friday “greasy spoon”, hole-in-the-wall  lunch hunt today (1/29/10), Diner E, A and yours truly (Diner P) wound up checkin’ out da’ grindz at Tatsuo’s. A place somewhat hidden away on Alahao street, right before American Carpet One on the Ewa (west) side of   the beginning (Mauka end) of Sand Island Access Road.

Being named ‘Tatsuo’s’, along with the menu, there’s some reference to the owner’s Japanese roots found in the decor of the place…

Here’s the wonderfully-friendly and charming owner/operator/matriarch of the place, Laurie Morita and her assistant…

According to Laurie, they’ve been in business about 4 years now, with her mom helping out in the kitchen, as all the recipes are passed down from the family. Dig that.

See da’ sign on da side that says, “Thanx eh!”. What? you no see ’em? K, spock ’em heah…

Brah, in two brief words, das’ da’ aloha ‘kine style message from hard-working local people right de’ah. Love that!

Speaking of love, since we’re heading into February, which Valentine’s Day will fall on Sunday the 14th (*note to self*), with that comes sweets, where Tatsuo’s got some signature cookies goin’ on…

Of course being located in the heart of  “Truck Driver Alley” along the busy Sand Island Access Road corridor, where most of Oahu’s shipping and commerce activity takes place (if that give you any scale of the matter), “dainty and pretty” cookies ain’t quite gonna’ cut it.

You gotta’ have a complete and thorough menu that’s fitting for your (Honolulu truck driver) demographic, starting with breakfast…

then it only gets better…

and better…

The ULTIMATE local Hawaiian Island style comfort foods should be had in a snap-shot right here within this menu list…

Still not enough? Well then, there’s these tasty options…

Then there were the specials of the day, which included:

  • Baked Ham
  • Roast Turkey with Gravy
  • Fried Chicken with Curry Sauce
  • Chicken with Chinese Peas
  • Garlic Oil Salmon
  • Beef Stew
  • Tripe Stew
  • Chili

Side dish specials of the day included Kim Chee, Takuwan, Pickle Onion, Namasu, Mandarin Orange and Chayote with Tomato and Onion.

Wow, what a spread!  Here’s a few of those specials, starting with the ‘Garlic Oil Salmon’…

Fried Chicken…

Baked Ham, Kalua Pig and Cabbage and Chicken with Chinese Peas…

Tripe Stew, Beef Stew and Chili (ooh, da’ Tripe Stew looked winnahz!)…

Hammin’ it up….

Plating up some of that baked ham, along with Pickle Onion and Toss Salad…

Then there’s this choice…

and this (although I don’t know what it is, but it looks good!)….

Like many mom ‘n pop restaurants around the island, you’ll find a few off-beat advertisement signs and posters on the walls at Tatsuo’s, including this one here that immediately grabbed my attention, as you know I’m a huge Kikaida fan!…

Ah yes, all the Japanese Tokusatsu (live action sci-fi) classics from da’ 70’s. As a little boy I had every single toy shown there, which at one point in the early 2000’s was practically worth their weight in gold on eBay. Crazy.

O.K., so you got a look around the place and the menu. Now let’s check out what we ordered on this visit. Notice each plate gets slapped with a ‘Tatsuo’s’ sticker, which I think is a very nice and SMART advertising touch…

Underneath this, we have Diner E’s Kim Chee Fried Rice and Teriyaki Pork combo…

Diner A went with a Chicken Katsu Curry combo “mini” plate…

And yours truly went with the breaded fish plate…

Sorry about the cropped-out photo of my fish plate, as for the life of me, I had taken several shots of the whole plate, but somehow some kinda’ “evil menehunes” in my camera deleted them. Damned it, I hate when they do that!

Anyway, notice on my fish plate, I substituted rice for fries, essentially turning it into Fish ‘n Chips. That’s the ‘Brit’ in me. LOVE the stuff.

Zooming in closer to the fish, you can see how super-moist and fall-apart tender the white-fleshed fish inside is…

While I forgot to ask, I’m guessing it’s either Pollock or quite possibly (farm-raised, not Ala Wai raised) Tilapia. It certainly didn’t taste like Mahimahi or Ono.

The breading was light, airy and crisp, yet I think would have benefited by having more herbs and/or seasonings in it, as, as it stood was rather plain. Especially when paired with the very mild white fleshed fish within it. Otherwise well-executed, not to mention huge in portion, with four easy-to-bite deep-fried fillet slices served over a generous bed of fries.

As for the “chips”, unfortunately as shipped they didn’t have ANY salt on it. Thankfully they were cooked to a nice golden-brown-delicious state, so all it took to save them were for me to add my own salt, which I did, then it was all-good.

The accompanying tartar sauce tasted house-made and was very, very chunky and crunchy. While I prefer cocktail sauce with my Fish ‘n Chips, this worked out just fine. I also requested some lemon wedges, which they forgot to include. But that’s OK, was still good.

Then again, I’m probably a very rare customer who asks to substitute rice for fries here, let alone lemon with it, as Laurie was a little taken aback when I requested that. She must have been thinking “Whoah brah, what ‘kine haole you?” lol

Moving on to the sides, we have their “Mac” salad, which is actually a very nice blend of macaroni, potatoes and boiled egg…

Oh yeah. Very nice. Cool, creamy and simple, with just a light sprinkle of pepper. Certainly Best Foods Mayo’. The finely chopped boiled egg added a nice “oomph” to it, while the combination of textures between the al dente macaroni and fork-tender potato small potato chunks was wonderful. Diggin’ it.

Along with Macaroni (or Tossed Green) Salad, you also get to choose one other “side”, which on this day was either Kim Chee, Takuwan, Pickle Onion, Mandarin Orange and Chayote with Tomato and Onion, or what I chose, Namasu…

Diggin’ the Namasu too. Very oishii, with a great balance of sweet and acidic going on, while being thoroughly “pickled” in depth and crisp texture. Plus had choke Daikon (my favorite) cut into eye-pleasing floral shapes. Cute eh? lol Highly recommend side. I’d buy a bottle of this stuff if they sold it.

Since we’re on sides, I’ll jump to Diner E’s choice, where along with the Mac’ Sal’, he chose the Pickle Onion…

Just a quick lesson on Hawaii’s pidgin English, notice I say ‘Pickle Onion’ and not ‘Pickled Onions’, as most nouns in pidgin are singular, not plural, and present tense, not past.

So in Hawaii, it’s never ‘Shaved Ice’, it’s ‘SHAVE ICE’. God forbid you should call it a ‘Snow Cone’, or you going catch cracks (or you’ll get a slap). lol

Yet when it comes to a location or business, sometimes there’s a twist to the singular and plural, as we often say, “Costcos” for Costco. Or “Ala Moanas” for Ala Moana. Or better yet, we like to abbreviate, saying “Ala Mo’s”. Or “Cosco’s”. Or “Waikz” for Waikiki.

But anyway, as for Tatsuo’s, ehem, ‘Pickle Onion’, EXCELLENT! Noteworthy were the wonderful complimentary flavors of the red and yellow bell peppers mixed in with it. Nice! It has the same great balance of acidic and sweet going on like da’ Namasu, and again, another side I’d happily buy in a jar if they sold it. Another highly recommended side here.

Moving on to sampling the next dish, we have Diner E’s Kim Chee Fried Rice and Teriyaki Pork Combo, where here it looks like some scene from the movie ‘Alien’…

Removing the teriyaki pork, notice the kim chee fried rice is enveloped by an egg omelette…

Then peeking inside, you see the Kim Chee Fried Rice itself, which is thoroughly coated with Gochujang sauce, along with generous chunks of Kim Chee Won Bok…

Then you got the omelette wrapped around that? Common! You know this thing is power-packed with flavah!

As if that weren’t enough, you have this thoroughly-marinaded Teriyaki Pork slices accompanying it…

It almost tasted like Teriyaki Beef, as the marinade was deeply penetrated into the thin slices of pork. Tender and delicious, which I tried a piece and can attest to that.

Finally for the main entree part of the tasting session, we have Diner A’s Chicken Katsu Curry…

Well, what can I say? It’s basically Chicken Katsu covered in curry sauce, not stew. With that, it’s really ono! The panko is still somewhat crunchy, while absorbing that robust curry sauce, while the chicken within was very moist and tender. The curry sauce itself being pretty much standard fare, yet in harmony with the chicken katsu, where you know the saying!… Winnah, winnah, Chicken Katsu Curry Dinnah! Err, lunch that is.

Diner A enjoyed his, ehem, “mini” plate so much that he once again lived up to his reputation and “polished” it!…

We all unanimously give Tatsuo’s a solid 3 SPAM Musubi, eager to return to try more dishes on the menu.

Tatsuo’s
Local Breakfast, Lunch and Catering
2224 Alahao place (make a right, just before American Carpet One on Sand Island Access Road heading makai (towards the ocean)
Honolulu, Hawaii  96819
Tel. 841-2044
Fax. 841-9991
www.tastuos.com (site under construction)

Menu (<—click to download PDF document; current as of  January 2010)

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

Related links:
Tatsuo’s – Yelp user reviews
Hawaiian Grown Kitchen TV features Tatsuo’s – YouTube (see follow-up segments at links provided on YouTube)

P.S. I was wondering whether I should change the name of this blog to ‘The Sandy Island’? Nah, doesn’t sound right. lol

12 thoughts on “Sand Island Eats: Tatsuo's

  • January 30, 2010 at 9:23 am
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    Tatsuo is named after the son. His middle name is Tatsuo. I met him at craft fair and asked him if he had permission to use my name. He said, “Tatsuo is my name too!”. LOL…….

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 9:32 am
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    Roy K., thanks for clarifying that. I forgot to ask Laurie where the name ‘Tatsuo’ comes from, as that sounds like a name for males.

    I know she used to work at Y. Hata across the street, which you’ll learn more about if you click on that YouTube link I provided.

    Y. Hata is another place I need to blog. Some good, very unique stuff you can buy there at their retail outlet on Sand Island Access Road.

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 11:47 am
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    Oh man how I miss those old TV shows! Remember the commercial for Dai’ei? “Hey Kikiaida, where are you going today?” “I going to Dai’ei!”. Still remember Kodomo No Jikan and Checkers and Pogo. Dang, I’m gettin’ old. LOLl!

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm
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    katsu curry!!! man i love that stuff–and wondered why i didn’t try it sooner. the marukai at gardena in SoCal has a basic little food court that serves up super oishii katsu curry. hmmm that sounds like something i should find for tonight’s dinner :) awesome pics as usual pomai!

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm
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    Dang, those are some reasonable prices. You know, here near Seattle, we can find plate lunch, but it’ll cost you. The low prices on the Tatsuo menu board made this pake want to cry.

    Love da flashback to the Japanese action heros from the ’70s! But what, no interest in Kikaida 01? Guess he’ll always take a back seat to his brother, huh? :)

    Reply
  • January 31, 2010 at 8:17 am
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    Jenny, JN Productions DBA ‘Generation Kikaida’ released an entire remastered DVD line of every episode of both Kikaida (a.k.a. “Kikaider”) and Kikaida 01. Also DVD sets of Kamen Rider V3 and Inazuman. You can purchase them, plus other related merchandise at http://www.GenerationKikaida.com. Fun stuff to watch as adult, seeing how “cheesy” yet advanced and ahead of its time those shows were. Kikaida is truly timeless, with the keiki even today into it, regardless of its lack in CGI. I truly think Kikaida is and probably will always be the best “superhero” ever designed and conceptualized. Hats off to creator Shotaro Ishinomori for this lifetime achievement!

    Raph’, there’s a popular Japanese chain with locations here on Oahu called Curry House Coco Ichibanya, who specialized in Katsu Curry. Oishii stuff! I’ll have to blog them some time soon.

    Syndrax, shucks, I don’t remember that “Kikaida going to Daiei” commercial. You must be WAY older than me. lol
     
     

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  • February 1, 2010 at 6:58 pm
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    awesome pomai–am looking forward to that review of curry katsu from curry house coco ichibanya!!!! i went and looked at the link you provided…and i might have to try downloading that 15mb PDF of their menu!

    Reply
  • February 4, 2010 at 4:29 am
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    You are right! Their menu has all the classics. If a visitor wanted to know what locals regularly enjoy, all they have to do is look at this menu. I like the choice of sides too. Just great!

    Reply
  • February 6, 2010 at 10:39 am
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    Raph, tell me about it! I didn’t realize that menu PDF was so huge until I FINALLY finished downloading the whole thing. Man, make a “movie” out of it, why don’t they? lol

    Alan, yup. All you have to do is frame that menu board on the wall in your kitchen and put, “To Do List:” on top. lol

    Reply
  • March 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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    I finally ate the “famous” hambuger steak this week. I bought the mini version and it was terrific !!!. So tender and tasty “homemade” paty. It is just enough for lunch. Regular size would be too much. Laurie remembered me as soon as I walked in the door. Tatsuo’s is certainly going to be a regular for me. Great food and prices.

    Reply
  • March 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm
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    Roy, that’s good to hear. Other places I can certainly recommend for a GREAT Hamburger Steak is Asahi Grill on Ward Avenue, and The Alley Restaurant in Aiea Bowl. I’ll be reviewing The Alley Restaurant on this blog next.

    Reply
  • December 30, 2014 at 10:30 am
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    Their pastele stew is my go to favorite…along with their Japanese pork long rice, their chicken long rice and nishime, etc. etc.  Everything is delish!

    Reply

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