First of all, you may be asking “What or where the heck is Moanalua 99?” Well, it so happens to be primarily this MASSIVE food court hidden within the industrial depths of Honolulu known as Mapunapuna, just a highway across from Honolulu International Airport (HNL).
I mean, common, where have you been? Don’t you ALWAYS drive around and visit Mapunapuna? lol Seriously though, there’s TONS of needed, as well as hidden gems in this industrial district, from speciality repair shops, to home, commercial and industrial equipment, electrical, hardware, plumbing and automotive suppliers, to eateries in their given forte that can wager against the best this island has to offer.
So here we are at Moanalua 99’s Food Court, formerly known as 99 Ranch, which was essentially a Korean/Asian Market on steroids. Now’s it’s an international food court on steroids, especially if you consider the mammoth size of the warehouse it’s in.
I’ve actually blogged this place way back October ’08, way before they named themselves ‘Moanalua 99′. That time — I supposed being named “Da’ Kine 99″ (there really was no name) — having visited Diem 99 Cafe, a Vietnamese eatery, while my partner in culinary crime, Diner E, grabbed some grub from 99 Local Mixed Plate; both of which are still there.
Pictures don’t do this place justice, as you really have to be IN here to fully experience the cozy-in-an-ENORMOUS-way Moanalua 99 is. Not only do you have the main food court area as shown in the photo above, but as you see in the directory map, there’s also this labyrinth of small retail shops, as well as this quite elegant-looking Chinese restaurant called Wah Kung located at the back side of this partitioned warehouse building in a separate area.
Enough about the venue. We’re hungry, which we came here intently to sample the grindz at Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen…
Mary’s Mediterranean menu…
The Baklava was pretty much the ONLY thing on the menu that was pre-prepared…
Everything else is made to order, which of course is always a good thing.
With that, Diner E went with Mary’s Gyro combo’…
I went vegetarian, opting to sample Mary’s take on the mediterranean classic, Falafel…
Put it all together…
And? Delicious. Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine is still relatively far and few between here in Honolulu, so anytime I get to try a new place in town that serves it, it’s always a refreshing, exotic novelty. And Mary’s doesn’t disappoint, doing at least what I think the cuisine proud.
Mary is actually Chinese, while her husband, chef owner Varouj Artinjian is Armenian, born and raised in Lebanon; both of whom were there on the day of this visit preparing our order. Nice.
Back to my Falafel plate, I’ll have to admit, Da’ Falafel King in the Waikiki Trade Center has them beat, mainly because DFK uses a wider variety of fresh and pickled vegetables that go into the sandwich, along with of course being certified Kosher, which is VERY rare to find in Honolulu restaurants.
Still, Mary’s Falafel delivers the goods quite well, having an almost “meaty” characteristic to it with its complex blend of spices and herbs mixed with the ground chickpeas and onions. My only complaint is that they were slightly overcooked in the deep-fryer, with the crust being a bit darker in color and flavor than “GBD”. Not really a problem though, as the absolutely PERFECT Hummus and more mild Tahini Sauce picked up any slack in that regard, giving this Falafel Pita sandwich a truly exotic flare, packed with spices and herbs, rounded out being creamy, earthy, and ultimately very refreshing.
Best of all, being meatless, you feel so light, vibrant and full of energy after eating it. Which has me pondering whether to go on a vegetarian diet once again. I’ve done it before long ago for about 6 months when I used to body build, and let me tell you, I was super RIPPED. I swear my body fat percentage was somewhere near or at 4%. Now it’s more like 40%, and I seriously need to do something about it. Well, not that bad, but enough where I need to make some dietary changes, as well as get back on my exercising regimen to whip back my metabolism (or at least try).
Back to meat (I mean,hey it IS Superbowl Sunday!), Diner E raved about his Gyro, noting how nicely spiced, moist and tender the thinly-sliced beef and lamb was, while the Tzatziki sauce gave it that always-appreciated snappy, cool and creamy finishing touch. Bam!
As for the Garlic Fries, they were served pipin’ hot and perfectly cooked, having a nice-sized cut and great texture. However, calling it “Garlic Fries” when it’s just bottled Garlic Salt is always a disappointment, if not an insult. Learn from Gordon Biersch and use real MINCED GARLIC and parsley, please, thank you very much.
Summing it up, we both give Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen a very solid 3-SPAM Musubi. If I decide to go vegetarian, I may change the rating system here to 3 Ume Musubi. lol
Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen
1151 Mapunapuna Street #8 (in the Moanalua 99 Food Court)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
Tel. (808) 839-7777
The Tasty Island rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)
P.S. Right across the area where Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen is located, is Watanabe Bakery. Here for “dessert” I picked up this Azuki Bean Honu (turtle) Bread…
And? OISHII! Way, way, WAY better than I expected of what looked like basically a whimsically-shaped, yet otherwise plain ole’ bread bun. The bread turned out being sort of sweet on its own, while also being very delicate, fluffy and moist. FANTASTIC texture!
I’m not particularly an Azuki Bean fan, but in this case, the already slightly sweet, soft ‘n supple bread surrounding the also mildly sweet Azuki Bean paste made for a perfect marriage of the two.
4 SPAM Musubi for Watanabe Bakery’s Azuki Bean Honu Bread. Sugoi!