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Grindz of the Day: Tatsuo’s, Chef Hardy’s Veal Burger, McD’s Saimin & Filipino Faves


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with a spread we enjoyed several “Aloha Friday’s” ago at Tatsuo’s, which is pretty much your typical plate lunch joint, albeit, kicked up notches unknown to mankind, of course, located in the heart of the industrial Sand Island area of scenic Kalihi Kai.

Here at Tatsuo’s on this visit, I ordered a combination Beef Stew and Harm Ha Pork plate…


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

What is “Harm Ha Pork”, you might ask? Well, Harm Ha is a Chinese fermented shrimp paste that has a VERY pungent odor akin to Filipino Bagaong, along with a flavor profile that must be acquired in order to be appreciated. My mother LOVES Chinese food, and with that, I grew up eating stuff like this. Like Tripe (stew), Harm Ha smells pretty nasty to the uninitiated as it’s being heated in the pan. Yet, once you TASTE the final result in a dish such as this Harm Ha Pork, you quickly >>>at least should<<< appreciate it, if not LOVE IT! I know I do!


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

In this version made by Tatsuo’s, they used ground pork, which was the only thing I didn’t care for, as I’m used to this dish using whole pieces of pork, not ground-up. Aside of that, the Ung Choy (Chinese Water Spinach) was  cooked perfectly al dente if you will, while the balance of salty “shrimpiness” from the Harm Ha was pretty much spot-on.


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

As for the Beef Stew, pretty standard fare, with a basic tomato-based taste, yet I think could have used either beef stock or simmering longer to extract more savory goodness from the cuts of actual beef cuts in it. The celery, carrots and potatoes still had al dente integrity and weren’t rendered to “mush”, so thumbs-up on that.

Rice was cooked perfectly of course. Greens were crispy-fresh, served with an also standard fare Thousand Island’s Dressing.

Off to a good start, I give Tatsuo’s Harm Ha Pork & Beef Stew Plate Lunch combo 2-SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner E’s Hamburger Steak “Gauge Plate”, by which he uses to measure every joint in this genre for their “Plate Lunch Savvy”…


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak mini plate

Sauteed onions? Check. Deep (and I mean DEEP), rich ‘n savory brown gravy? Check. Two char-grilled hand-formed beef patties? Check. Rice? Check. Game on!

Notice for the salad, for the most part, we all choose the tossed salad nowadays, as, well, we’re not getting any younger, and Mac’ Sal’ isn’t so kind in maintaining our “girlish” figure. Not that a heaping helping of hamburger smothered in gravy over white rice is so kind to that either, but hey, we gotta’ make some concessions somewhere. lol

And how is Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak? Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi, which to you and me would be FIVE!!!

Finally from Tastsuo’s on this visit, we have a combination Hamburger Steak and Smoked Chicken (yes, SMOKED CHICKEN) combo’ plate…


Tastuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

O.M.G. That smoked chicken is AWESOME! Broke da’ mout’! I was skeptical about it before tasting it, because it was an item that had been sitting in a warmer on the deli line, yet one bite and I was absolutely HOOKED! Smoked meats (whether pork, beef, poultry or seafoods) can either be on or off-putting, depending how well the smoke-infused flavor comes across on your palate. In this case, the chicken is extremely tender and juicy inside, with the just the right balance of smokiness and seasoning on the skin, while being permeated just a little within the meat fibers.


Tatsuo’s Smoked Chicken

I’m most DEFINITELY going to have to try smoking some chicken on my next “run”. While I didn’t ask, I’m guessing the “secret” is in the brine.

I also got to try a taste of the gravy from the Hamburger Steak, and WOW. Also AMAZING, and most definitely one of the best Hamburger Steak gravy I’ve had in my most recent collective memory..

That said, Diner A gives his Smoked Chicken and Hamburger Steak combo’ plate from Tatsuo’s an “I’ll be back for more!” 5 SPAM Musubi!

Next up, from KCC Farmers’ Market, we have a Gourmet Veal Burger by Michel’s Executive Chef Hardy…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Awwwe, ain’t them Hibiscus’ adorning the display model “purdy”?! lol

Here’s mine…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Witness the beautifully grill-toasted Onion Roll Bun…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Let’s do this…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

The finely-chopped red peppers laced within the veal certainly had an impact on the flavor profile, giving it a sort of south-western appeal if you will. It was surprisingly juicy, considering how lean veal is, yet can’t compare with good ole beef.


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

There was also a distinct seasoning either coating or mixed within the veal patty, yet ironically, I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what the parts of its sum were. The cucumber was certainly a welcome and refreshing, crispy touch, and something I’d certainly try doing in a home burger-making project. Winner!

Summing it up, I give Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger 2 SPAM Musubi.


Michel’s Chef Hardy cooks up gourmet Veal Burgers at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market

Learn more about Hawaiian Ranchers free range grass-fed Veal here…

Next, we stop by McDonald’s Waikiki location on Kalakaua avenue, right across Duke’s Statue, where I attempted to confirm whether their Saimin recipe truly needs help or not…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

That’s a cool ‘Hawaiianized” logo design with the polynesian canoe, although I think they should add the name “Saimin” in a script font going across the yellow double arches to boldly identify what exactly this is.

Let’s see what’s in the “bowl”…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

All the right stuff’s in there, including Kamaboko, Charsiu, Sliced Egg Omelet and Nori, except for one other standard garnish that must noted as absent is Green Onion. Ack!

Now, before I take a bite of this bowl from the Waikiki Kalakaua avenue location, you may remember about a year ago I reviewed McDonald’s Saimin from their Hawaii Kai Shopping Center location, which I was sadly disappointed by.

So let’s see if that was just a blunder, or an ongoing problem that needs fixing. Let’s do this…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

Meh. Still the same extremely BLAND broth, as if I’m eating “Hot Saimin Water”.  Like SERIOUSLY. The noodles are also “pasty”, while not entirely soggy, leaning more towards that end of the cooked doneness spectrum.


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

The best part about this saimin was the single slice of Charsiu, which was very tender and packed with authentic Charsiu flavor on the edge.

Summing it up, I give McDonald’s Saimin on this second try -1 SPAM Musubi, which is a first on this blog. Bottom line, FIX the BROTH! Go visit Palace Saimin in Kalihi for the REAL SAIMIN DEAL!

Finally, hot on the heels of my previous review of Jollibee in Waipahu, we have some REAL Filipino grindz from an “unknown” vendor in the Maunakea Marketplace Food Court in Honolulu Chinatown…


(clockwise from top left) Dinuguan, Tinola, Pork Adobo and Pinakbet

A closer look, starting with the Pork Adobo (Pork simmered in Shoyu, Vinegar, Peppercorns and Bayleaf)…

Pinakbet (Bitter Melon, Eggplant, String Beans, Tomato, Pork and Shrimp)…

Dinuguan (Pig’s Blood Stew)…

Tinola (Chicken, Green Papaya, Malungay and Ginger soup)…

The Tinola could use more Malungay leaves IMO, but still, the broth ROCKED. Laced heavily with ginger, while throwing out a subtle-yet-distinguishable “chicken-ee” punch. Rounding it out, the green papaya chunks were cooked perfectly al dente, along with the malungay leaves adding that added dimension of texture and flavor to this soup that it could never do without.

The Dinuguan, Pinakbet and Pork Adobo were also all AWESOME, and as good as I’ve had from anywhere else, giving this “no name” filipino food vendor in Chinatown Honolulu’s food court a “Masarap-sarap” (really delicious) 5-SPAM Musubi!

Speaking of favorite Filipino dishes, for today’s BONUS ‘Grindz of the Day’ feature, I also recently made Chicken Tinola using my handy-dandy new Pressure Cooker, where here’s how it turned out…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

Diner C got me the Malungay leaves from Pu’uhale Market, located in that little blue building on the corner of Pu’uhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard, where Wild Bean Espresso was located, across the street from OCCC.


Malungay from Pu’uhale Market. $1.50/bunch

I got the green Papaya from Don Quijote, which ran $1.49/lb., while for the chicken I used drumsticks that I carefully deboned and cut into chunks (Diner C recommends using a whole roasting chicken for this dish). For the broth, I first made a basic chicken stock using a miripoix (onion, celery and carrots), along with the chicken drumsticks bones. This took 45 minutes in the pressure cooker, which yielded FANTASTIC results, and tasted as if I had been simmering it for HOURS. Of course I could have just as easily used canned chicken stock, but I wanted to test my new pressure cooker out, so decided to make the entire dish from scratch.

Then to make the Tinola, to the strained chicken stock, I simply added CHOKE (plenty) ginger, along with the chicken, cubed green papaya and malungay leaves and let it cook under pressure for a speedy 5 minutes, finishing it off using the natural pressure release, after which yielded the final result you see here…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

It turned out FANTASTIC. The chicken pieces were tender and cooked all the way through, while the green papaya was cooked perfectly al dente, leaning a little towards the firm side, which is good, as when I heat it up for leftovers, it will still have some firmness. But what REALLY separates this from any other chicken soup are the malungay leaves, which really do impart a flavor that’s difficult to describe, but you know it’s there, and it would certainly be lacking that “somethin’-somethin’ without it.

I LOVE Tinola! It’s so comforting, medicinal (think Chicken Noodle Soup), delicious, and best of all, so easy to make! Chicken, Ginger, Green Papaya, Chicken Stock and Malungay leaves and that’s it. Try it!

 
 

14 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Tatsuo’s, Chef Hardy’s Veal Burger, McD’s Saimin & Filipino Faves

  • June 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm
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    $2.85 for the McD’s saimin?

    $2.75 for a regular (small) saimin at Zippy’s. More tasty, little cheaper…and get green onions!

    Reply
  • June 23, 2011 at 6:13 am
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    Thanks for turning me on to the Harm Ha Pork. I had no idea that it even existed. Will keep my eyes peeled…..or you can show us all how to make it in your brand new kitchen!!!

    ;-)

    Reply
  • June 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm
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    Saimin mo’ bettah anyplace else but SuckDonald’s! I only tried it once just so’s I can say I had McSaimin in Honolulu! At least we finally got Surfway (our commissary here on Kwajalein) to start stocking kamaboko… though the haoles wouldn’t have a clue!

    Reply
  • June 24, 2011 at 7:33 am
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    That beef stew and harm ha plate looks great. I gauge a plate lunch place by its beef stew.
    Pomai, when you plan a Kauai trip let us know. I can suggest some fun places to check out the kaukau.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2011 at 12:59 am
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    Great review……especially like the smoked chicken comments. You are so right, smoking meat toes a fine line…….can’t over-smoke or winnahz turn to losers quickly.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2011 at 2:43 am
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    Pomai, my cousins in San Francisco envy me when back to Honolulu. They see in your web all kind food at these places and cost so reasonable to them.
    Saimin at McDonald is something they would love to have but McDonald in San Francisco did at one time soups which did well but stop.

    They like the Hawaiian style breakfast of eggs and sausages and rice when they were in the islands and other things will come back soon again.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2011 at 7:24 am
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    Where exactly is Tatsuo’s and what’s the address?

    Reply
  • June 25, 2011 at 10:14 am
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    Pomai: for tinola I strongly suggest you try using sayote!! I think it soaks up the flavor a lot more than green papaya. But in a perfect world I’d use both :)

    Reply
  • June 25, 2011 at 7:32 pm
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    Pomai, malungay is yummy in tinola, I have a tree in my yard so I put tons of it in. But one day do try putting sili leaves (hot pepper leaves)…you will love it!

    Reply
  • June 26, 2011 at 11:19 am
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    Susan, one of my Filipino coworkers recommended I use Sili leaves as well. Next time I go to Pacific Supermarket in Waipa-HOO!, I’ll pick some up.

    MillVilleFlip (cool screen name lol), funny you mention Sayote, as the same coworker who recommended Sili leaves for Tinola had just brought some Sayote to share at work, which grows in her yard. I’ll ask her for a couple, as I wasn’t aware that can be used in Tinola. Salamat po for the tip!

    Brian, Tatsuo’s is in the Sand Island area near Nimitz. I did a complete review of Tatsuo’s here:
    http://tastyislandhawaii.com/blog/2010/01/30/sand-island-eats-tatsuos/

    Amy, I’m curious what “regional” items they have at the San Fran’ McD’s. Hawaii’s exclusive regional items at our local McD’s are: Saimin, Portuguese Sausage, Eggs and Rice, Teriyaki Burgers and Haupia ‘n Taro Pies. They SERIOUSLY need to fix that saimin “water” recipe.

    Crash, I have my post on this past Father’s Day weekend smoked meat competition in the works on the backburnger. It’s a long one due to all the photos I took. Was nice chatting with you there!

    Pat, ha! Diner E’s “gauge plate” is Hamburger Steak. But I can see how Beef Stew would be good gauge as well, because you can easily mess it by letting the potatoes and carrots overcook and turn to mush, not to mention the flavor and thickness of the tomato-based stew gravy.

    Nate, I believe Chuck is a drafter on Kwaj. I remember him mentioning that in a past post here.

    Chuck, the Kamaboko at Surfway, is that the local Okuhara brand?

    Arny B, my grandma used to make Harm Ha Pork all the time, except, as I mentioned, it’s usually made with sliced pork, not ground up like it was in this example. The Harm Ha (fermented shrimp paste) smells “potent” when being cooked, but the final result is so ono!

    Nate, I still say Zippy’s Zipmin (the one served in the restaurant, not the takeout side) is one of, if not, the BEST Saimin on the island.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2011 at 8:15 am
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    Ho brah, tried tatsuo’s yesterday, winnaz. The hamburger steak was killaz ESP. With da gravy. Their tripe stew was Ono as well. Next time I gotta try their kimchee fried rice and the Lau Lau, hmm Lau Lau tripe stew sounds good. Definitely my new favorite place.
    My favorite Filipino place is Sam -n- Syds on king st. Good dinuguan, excellent squid guisado, and killaz lechon kawali.

    Reply

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