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Palama Eats: Grant's Grill Mandoo Express

Tucked away in the corner of King’s Gate Plaza on the corner of Dillingham Boulevard and North King Street in the Palama area of Kalihi, is the new Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express.

Owner Grant Hamura (no relation to Hamura Saimin on Kauai) explained that he started out volunteering with other folks at his church, New Hope Chapel, doing benefit fundraisers selling the foods he now serves at his restaurant.  He then decided to turn it into a business and opened Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express just three months ago in May 2010. In fact, they’re so new here, Grant’s Grill has yet to put up a sign of their own, where as of this writing, you see here former business operator Kang’s still has their sign up on the building over this spot….

Notable neighbors of Grant’s include Jiffy Lube and KFC, while across the street on the Diamond Head side of Dillingham Boulevard is Jack in the Box, and Mayor Wrights Housing on the mauka side of King Street. K, you can find ’em? Shoots ‘den. Go check ’em now, go.

Here we have owner Grant Hamura on the right in black shirt, along with his trusty assistant Ben…

Assistant Ben on the left (grey shirt) and owner Grant Hamura on the right (black shirt)

Grant’s previous life included cooking stints at Angelo Pietro’s for two years and Ryan’s Grill for four years. Still, he says most of the recipes are handed down from his mother, who I might add is a very nice, wonderful lady that you’ll often find helping out at the shop.

Here’s Korea-native and “Mandoo Machine Expert”, Sharon, who comes in on a weekly basis to help when they run the machine…

Now the business sub-name ‘Mandoo Express’ is there for good reason, as Grant’s Mandoo are made in-house from scratch, right down to the Wonton Pi wrapper, which come in three varieties. The ones shown here are made with Carrot Juice, imparting a golden color to the dough, while there’s also a green colored Mandoo wrapper that’s made with Sesame leaves, and a third type done in the standard plain white flour mandoo wrapper.

Most impressive and unique about their operation is this high-tech machine they have designed specifically to crank out Mandoo in volume…

If I didn’t tell you what this was, you’d probably just as well think it’s some sort of fancy shave ice maker. lol Seriously though, according to Ben, as far as they know, this “Mandoo Machine”, which I’ve given the make-believe model number “GGMEX-5000” (Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express-5000) is the only one of its kind in Hawaii. It was shipped from Korea many years ago, where now it performs regular service at Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express. What would would have been cool is if Grant named his business ‘Grant’s Mandoo Machine’. Ha? How you figgah? Catchy, eh?!!

There you see wrapped in bags are sheets of raw mandoo wrapper dough  that were used to feed the machine.

Here’s the first stage of the machine where the mandoo filling, which is a combination of ground pork, beef, glass noodles, cabbage, chives, onion, and seasoning with NO MSG, are placed in this funnel feeder…

This funnel part feeds the mandoo filling through a tube inside the machine that “magically” combines it with the mandoo wrapper dough which gets encased around it like a “Mandoo Sausage” if you will, and extrudes it out the other side where the mandoo-shaped dies are…

Yet another marvel in modern industrial engineering.

The top die is what gives the mandoo its shape as it spins and pinches the extruded dough-encased filling from the feeder in front of it onto the bottom flat die. That Mandoo die makes three pieces in one revolution, so you can imagine how fast this thing cranks out mandoo. From this it drops the finished mandoo pieces onto a conveyor belt that feeds to to a table where staff quickly pick them off and arrange them on stainless steel steamer stackers in sets of fourteen mandoo each.

From here they go to the steamer station, where they’re steamed in stacks of 4 (56 mandoo total each) and steamed for exactly 4 minutes (the rule being 1 minute per stack)…

Within minutes, out they come piping hot and ready to grind!…

After being steamed to fully cook the wrapper and filling, mandoo that aren’t served immediately are placed on restaurant pans and placed in industrial kitchen freezers that individually quick freeze (IQF) them…

This “IQF” process preserves the mandoo’s fresh taste and texture. When ready to serve, they’re re-steamed or thrown in the deep-fryer.

Better than I could ever explain in words or photos, I shot an exclusive video today of Grant’s “GGMEX-5000” Mandoo Machine in action. Check it out here!…

Man, that “GGMEX-5000 Mandoo Machine” is one neat piece of hardware! A work of industrial art!

Mandoo Express’ fresh-made-from-scratch, IQF’d, no MSG, ready-to-heat and serve Mandoo are packaged in Ziploc bags of 50 each which sell for the following prices:
• 1 to 9 bags: $20/bag (40 cents each)
• 10-19 bags: $18/bag (36 cents each)
• 20 or more bags: $15/bag (30 cents each)

So next time you’ve got a party and you wanna’ add some onolicious locally-made mandoo to the spread, you know who to call!

Moving on to the takeout side of the operation, here on our first-time visit we have Grant’s posted menu items of the day…

On our return visit the following week, these were the menu items for the day…

Here’s Grant’s regular takeout and catering menu…

Speaking of takeout, that’s pretty much the only option, as there isn’t much seating here, save for a couple small table sets, mainly to sit while waiting for your order.

Getting right to it, showcasing a combination of four recent visits, here’s what landed on our table…

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Kal-bi (boneless). $8

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Kal-bi (boneless). $8

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Kal-bi (boneless). $8

Grant’s Grill – Boneless Kal-bi and Garlic Fried Chicken combo plate. $8.50

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – BBQ Spare Ribs & Garlic Fried Chicken Combo. $8.50

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – BBQ Spare Ribs & Garlic Fried Chicken Combo. $8.50

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Garlic Fried Chicken Combo. $7.50

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Aku Bone. $7.20

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Aku Bone

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – 2 Scoops white rice, Potato-Mac Salad and Kim Chee (includes with Aku Bone plate)

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Mandoo Plate. $7.50

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Steak with Onions plate. $7.50

That’s everything we tried. Note, that ‘Steak with Onions’ plate is supposed to beSteak with Onions & Mushrooms’, but it turned out Grant didn’t have mushrooms in-stock on that particular visit. No mushrooms? Ack! That’s my favorite part!

Being only three months in business, evidently Grant’s Grill is still going through some “growing pains”, yet the good far outweigh the bad as you’ll soon read about.

Now I’ll go into describing how each dish tasted starting in reverse from the last plate shown here, which happened to be the most recently consumed, the ‘Steak with Onions’ (sans mushrooms) plate.

Regardless of it NOT HAVING MUSHROOMS!, it still turned out absolutely onolicious. The first thing Grant asked was “How do you want your steak done?” which I quickly shot back, “RARE!”. Like “still mooing” rare. I usually shoot rare and hope it comes out ideally just less than medium-rare, and it usually turns out that way, as it did here at Grant’s…

Perfect. Also notice small kine “koge” (sear markings) action going on, which is always appreciated for that flame-grilled taste, which Grant’s indeed has an open flame grill, and none of this flattop griddle nonsense. As the name suggests, Grant really GRILLS!

Here, spock one ‘noddah steak slice…

Grant says he uses chuck steak, which is notoriously tough and not commonly used for quick, dry grilling methods. Yet like all the meat he serves, he applies his “tenderizing magic” to it and it turned out being just as tender as a choice ribeye or NY strip, only being slightly less flavorful than the more expensive cuts due to less fat marbling. Grant seasons his steak simply with garlic powder (again no MSG), kosher salt and pepper, where after the steak is seared on the grill, it gets a sautee in some butter, which is A-OK with me. Mo’ buttah’, mo’ bettah! In fact, I’ve been on a Steak Au Poivre kick lately, which I’ll blog about in the near future.

Grant has all the condiments you’ll need to make the meal complete, including Tobasco, Worcestershire, Shoyu, ketchup, BBQ Sauce, and my favorite steak companion, the one, the only A1 Steak Sauce…

Love A1. I can practically drink the stuff. Oh, and the sauteed onions were caramelized well, with just enough sweetness and robust flavor to compliment the beef.

Summing up Grant’s Steak with Onions, for what it’s worth (just $7.50 for a good-sized portion), I give it a perfectly-cooked (rare/medium-rare), very tender, char-grilled ‘n buttery onolicous 3-SPAM Musubi, anticipating it would easily get a 4 had there been ‘SHROOMS in the mix. Next time.

While we’re on beef, by far my favorite dish by Grant so far is the boneless Kal-bi, which here you see how generous the portion is…

Like the steak, there’s distinguishable sear markings or “koge action” goin’ on. while also like the steak, these slices of boneless Kal-bi shortribs were as tender as ever.

Here you see how he cooks the Kal-bi around rare/medium-rare so it’s super moist inside…

What’s very noticeable is how deeply-penetrated the Kal-bi marinade is into the meat fibers, which I must point out tastes more like a hybrid Teriyaki-Kalbi than straight-up Korean style Kalbi. I think this is due it not having a noticeable accent of sesame and hot pepper in its flavor profile, but more just shoyu-sugar and perhaps garlic and just a little ginger.

Usually I don’t care for meats that are over-saturated with marinade, as it often drowns out the flavor of the meat itself. Yet somehow Grant pulls it off well with this one. Really well. As in 4-SPAM Musubi well, which is what I give Grant’s absolutely oishii, “worth the drive into town for it” Boneless Kal-bi.

Now let’s sample the OTHER star of the show, the Fried Mandoo…

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Mandoo

Again, the mandoo filling is a combination of ground pork, ground beef, glass noodles, cabbage, chives, onion, and seasoning, sans MSG. I like the texture of the fried mandoo, as it has a crunchy outer crust, along with a slightly chewy layer beneath it. Thickness-wise, the wrapper is not too thick nor too thin. The filling tastes well balanced while also having a complexity that separates it from Japanese style Gyoza or Chinese wontons. Delicious, really. Further kicking it up a notch is the mandoo sauce that comes with it, which is your standard shoyu, sugar and vinegar combination. That’s always a winner with potstickers in any form.

While I’m not a veteran mandoo “eater”/expert by any means, as far as personal tastes, the texture and flavor of the wrapper and filling of this fried mandoo is right on point for me, where I’d give it an “I’d order a whole plate of the stuff” 3 SPAM Musubi.

On a subsequent visit, Grant hit me up with a sampler plate of his Steamed Mandoo…

This came hot-off-the-press from his “GGMEX-5000 Mandoo Machine” (actually more directly from the steamer pot), and you know what? I like the steamed version much more than the fried version. In the steamed version you can taste the actual flavor of the dough more, as it’s not masked by the oil from the deep-frying process, while for that same reason you can also taste the complex flavor of the filling more.

There you can see the glass noodles intermixed with the ground pork and beef, along with the chives. Dip that buggah in the sauce and it’s all good. So good, I’d highly recommend you try the steamed Mandoo before settling on the usual Fried version and compare them, as I give Grant’s Steamed Mandoo 4 SPAM Musubi. Ono stuff!

While we’re rollin’ on all good things Korean, let’s try the Kim Chee…

On a good note, the Won Bok cabbage is well-saturated with the Kim Chee marinade, while on a low note, texture-wise, it’s a little softer/soggier than I like (I like Kim Chee that has some crunch) and also a little too mild, spice-wise. Still a decent and satisfying Kim Chee that I wouldn’t do without on any Kal-bi plate, which overall I’ll give it 2 SPAM Musubi.

Along with Kim Chee, also included is Potato-Mac Salad, so now let’s sample that…

In that photo above I spread it out to hopefully show what’s in it, to not much avail. What is in it are cut red potatoes with the skin on, three types of parsley and relish. Yes, relish. That relish part may sound like it would resemble tartar sauce in flavor and overall off-putting to the “Mac Salad Purist” like we consider ourselves, but you know what? I kinda’ like it in this application! It adds a subtle and quite interesting “zippity-twang” to it that, after a few plates of the stuff, you get used to and appreciate this slight deviance. On top of that, overall it’s fresh, cool and creamy, which is what matters most in any good mac’ salad. With that, I give Grant’s Potato-Mac Sal’ an “I’ve grown to admire it”, very tasty 3 SPAM Musubi.

Moving on to another entree, we have Grant’s BBQ Spare Ribs…

Needless to say, it’s fall-off-the-bone tender, with again, good “koge action” (seared edges) goin’ on, while the sauce tastes like a localized version of your typical American tomato-based BBQ Sauce. The tomato in this case coming from Ketchup (very “local), along with other stuff, which I’m guessing one of is shoyu.

This plate was ordered by both Diner A and “Saimin Kaukau” E, who both unanimously gave Grant’s BBQ Spare Ribs a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

Next we have Grant’s Garlic Fried Chicken…

As you see, the chicken meat is glistening with moisture, while really the best part is the batter, which has this light and crispy, yet sort glutenous texture to it. Underlying that battered crust are undertones of sweet and spicy going on, along with just the right amount of garlic kick. Diner E noted that this Garlic Fried Chicken BLOWS AWAY both Sugoi’s and Mitsuken. Wow.

That said, both Diner A, who was the main “eater” of this entree gives Grant’s Garlic Fried Chicken another very solid 3 SPAM Musubi. Not a 4 or 5? No, and I’ll explain why shortly.

Next up we have Diner E’s Aku Bones…

According to Grant, this one is also seasoned simply with Garlic Salt and pepper, then char-grilled. Here inside you see the meat easily pulls right off the Aku Bones…

I’ll admit, personally I’m sooo not an Aku fan, not so hot for its fishy, “dark meat” flavor, so I can’t be a fair judge on what’s a good or not good Aku Bone. I do know what good seasoning tastes like and think this one lack in that department. I really think this should be “Teriyakified”, reaping the benefits of “Umami” from the shoyu and sugar. As it stands, after trying one of the MANY Aku Bones PILED HIGH on this $7.25 plate, flavor-wise I’m giving 1 SPAM Musubi, while portion wise I give it 5!

Now one thing that was, ehem, a “sticking” issue at Grant’s Grill was his rice…

On all but the most recent visit, the rice was kinda hardened and dried out like it had been sitting out uncovered in the pot the whole day, and as good as fodder for fried rice. Just really bad rice. Either his rice cooker doesn’t have a good “keep warm” function or something, but we complained to him about it and he promised to fix it. Well, thankfully he’s followed-up on that promise, actually going out and buying a new rice cooker, and after having it with my grilled steak, I can now say his rice is VERY GOOD! Before it was negative 3 SPAM Musubi. Now it’s positive 3 SPAM Musubi. Just had to point that out, because you know how us locals take our rice very seriously. lol

Once again, if there’s one plate you MUST TRY at Grant’s is his boneless, super-tender, well-marinaded grilled Kal-bi. I ordered it twice and went crazy for it on both occasions. Between Grant’s Grill, Dean’s Drive Inn in Kaneohe and Kahai Street Kitchen in Kalihi Kai, I’m torn between who of the three makes DA’ BES’ Teriyaki/Kalbi style beef.

Grant’s Grill – Boneless Kal-bi and Fried Mandoo

Grant’s Grill – Hot-off-the-GGMEX-5000-Press Steamed Mandoo

I do know Grant has that amazing “GGMEX-5000 Mandoo Machine”, which alone is fascinating. He also fixed his “rice issues”, so thank God for that. He believes in using only the freshest ingredients and using no MSG in any of his cooking. Portions are very generous, the price is certainly right.

All that in consideration, overall the entrees that come out of Grant’s kitchen are done very well and right. plus on top of that, Grant is one heck of a nice guy. Go check him out! Highly recommended!

Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express
555 N. King Street #110
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 354-7776 or (808) 330-2557

Business Hours:
Tuesday ~ Friday: 10am to 4:30pm

Takeout Menu (<–download 2-page PDF document)

The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi rating:

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

Related links:
Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express – Yelp user reviews


23 thoughts on “Palama Eats: Grant's Grill Mandoo Express

  • August 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for the great review, Pomai. I’ll have to get down there soon for the kal-bi plate.

    I love steamed/boiled mandoo much more than the fried variety, much like you. In that respect, I have to ask – does Grant’s offer steamed as an option for their mandoo plate?

  • August 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Pomai, I see portions really good deal and so prices. Mandoo in fried and steam sound and looked good to me so try it out tomorow and get some extra for weekend. The meat dishes big size too order it also.

  • August 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    You’re not just a very good food blogger, but a good food critic also. ;)

  • August 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Great read Pomai. I remember the day when aku bone was something you couldnt give away because it was so plentiful. Nowadays, get ready to pay a pretty price for it. BTW, looking for a good mac salad recipe. Care to throw one this way? Mahalo plenty Pomai!

  • August 6, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Paki, my favorite Mac’ Salad Recipe is one from Waianae Drive Inn that I found at AlohaWorld.com. Check out that site and look up that recipe. It’s da’ BES’! The “creamy” secret is MILK!

    Gwyn, um, thanks!

    Michael, keep in mind that Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express isn’t open on weekends, as that’s when he does his fundraising events for New Hope.

    Brian T., by all means, Grant will prepare the Mandoo any way you want with your plate. In fact, I think he’d rather steam it, as that’s less grease flyin’ around in his kitchen. lol Even better if you get there right after they just finished making the mandoo when it comes right out of the steamer piping hot and fresh before being “IQF’d”.

  • August 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Found it! Thanks so much! Looking forward to trying it out this weekend (minus the dreaded peas of course). Will let you know Pomai. Mahalo plenty!

  • August 7, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Paki, Diner E gave me a good tip on that Waianae Drive Inn Mac’ Sal’ recipe. The deal is, you add the milk directly to the hot, freshly-cooked Macaroni Noodles IMMEDIATELY after they’re drained of water. You add just enough milk (eyeball it) to coat the noodles and toss thoroughly. You then let the milk absorb into the macaroni and cool off a couple minutes before adding the BEST FOODS Mayonnaise. Add some black peppah, den’ pau! Oh, and of course add some finely-sliced cabbage and carrot, but nothing more than that! Simple is best!

    Still, I must say, Grant’s take on Potato-Mac is darned good.

  • August 7, 2010 at 6:49 am

    this was an epic review, and now with video!!! pomai it’s official, you’re the best!!!!! if only i could reach into those photos and pull me back a plate lunch…..haha :) keep up the good work !!!!!!

  • August 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Raph’, I must admit, I was always hesitant to incorporate videos due to the “hassles” of post-processing, but the combination of Movie Maker editing software and YouTube’s online admin’ interface is so user-friendly now, it’s a snap, and the quality turned out pretty darned good, even though my still camera doesn’t do HD.

    In this case, video was really the only way to provide the viewer a complete understanding of how that Mandoo Machine works.

    That said, look forward to more video clips on my blog where applicable and most effective, although don’t fret, as I’ll still and always will keep the same format that’s heavy on photos and text.

  • August 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Hard to believe you don’t like aku bones! Put em on the hibachi and enjoy with beer on a lazy afternoon!

  • August 8, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Pomai, there a dim sum shop in San Francisco Chinatown called Dick Lee Pastry and they use a dim sum machine and crank out a lot of dim sum in mins. for steaming and baking. They use to have lot workers making it but not any more. Kome Buffet in Daly City have a sushi making machine also crank out fast so many sushis now a one man operation.

  • August 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I beleive this is the same machine and people at the mandoo express when it was up on Vineyard. Was wondering what happened to them.

    thanks for the update

  • August 8, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Perfect Mac Salad Pomai! Thank you so much and thank Diner E for the extra tip. I followed it and it came out perfect. My macaroni noodles came out a little on the “chewy” side which I can correct on the next batch. Just added a little chopped celery, grated carrot, salt and pepper and that was it. Mahalo plenty for the recipe! It’s what mac salad is supposed to taste like. Da best!

  • August 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Paki, glad to hear that AlohaWorld.com/Waianae Drive Inn Mac Sal’ recipe worked out well. The first time I tried it, I knew that was “da one”. Da’ secret really is da’ milk! Buggah make ’em creamy and provides an overall “smoother” flavor.

    da kine, according to Grant, they used to have just a small hole-in-the-wall kitchen (no storefront) on Liliha street before moving here as Grant’s Grill Mandoo Express.

    Kelike, we found the website of this company named ‘ANKO’ in Taiwan, who manufactures a number of different automated food production equipment, including this HLT-700 model, which you can change the form mold die for different types of things, including dumplings, potstickers, fruit bars, samosas, empanadas, wontons, tortellini, ravioli postel, egg roll, etc.. Click on this link and watch the video:


    That model works almost identical to the machine at Grant’s shop.

    Nate, nah, Aku’s not my thing; especially the dark meat around the bones. I’ll take Hamachi Kama. Now THAT’s what you call some broke da’ mout’ oishii fish bone meat!

  • August 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Everything looks DELICIOUS!

    Obviously, as a Korean, I tend to have a soft-spot for anything related. I’m impressed with how the seasoning for the mandoo has absolutely no MSG, that’s not as common as people would like to think. I definitely want to try this place out!

  • August 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Grant’s Mandoo 50 pc. for $20 was wiped-out by everyone at our BBQ this past Saturday and there was only 9 of us! They all raved how good it was, and it was gone by dinnertime. I think I gotta buy 2 bags next time…LOL!

  • August 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I used to pass by the mandoo express all the time, it was located on the corner of liliha and vineyard, it had that same picture on the front with the large plate of mandoos and were open for business :) They were featured on a morning news show; I believe it was with Manolo Morales about two years ago promoting the store and their mandoos :) Its just awesome that its not out of business. They also did the Korean festival. It just sold mandoos and nothing else.

  • August 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I regret reading this post: now I have a serious kalbi craving! T_____T

  • August 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Midge, a few months ago I bumped into a reader of my blog, who of all places, is also from Australia. There I was taking a photo of the shopfront at HT Burger in front of Don Quijote, when suddenly this young asian gal (apparently there’s lots of Chinese living ‘Down Undah’) comes up to me and asks, “Are you Pomai of the Tasty Island?” Just the idea of meeting a reader from all the way across the pacific by chance like that was almost surreal for me. She was trippin’ out as well. Turns out she was on Oahu for a 2 week vacation.

    da kine, interesting. I guess I misunderstood Grant’s explanation of their former location, taking it that they used that place only as a kitchen and not a shopfront.

    Lyle and Russell of KHNL’s ‘Cheap Eats’ should consider paying a visit to Grant’s so they can show everyone that very cool Mandoo Machine.

    Simon Kau Kau, did you steam or fry the mandoo? If was me, I’d do both.

    Haein, MSG is a common ingredient found in many processed foods today, including American products. Yet in recent years, many manufacturers are beginning to purposely exclude it and aren’t shy about telling the consumer on the label that their product has ‘No MSG’.

  • August 9, 2010 at 9:47 am

    It would be great exposure for your friend if it were featured again on tv. They showed the machine in action live on tv on khon :)

  • August 9, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    That was the plan at first, but everyone was eating it so fast after the first pan,
    just decided to fry it all! Canola oil gave the mandoo a golden brown crust. + plus Les had a bottle of Mandoo dipping sauce which made it complete!

  • August 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    tried it today spareribs good and garlic chicken da best grant is so friendly great service mom so nice no other words to describe soooo ono

  • August 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Omg, my mouth is watering! Thanks for a great review, so thorough! I don’t venture down that side of town much, but I think I’m going to have to make an exception =) That machine is nuts!


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