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Sweet Surprise

Ono, You Know

August 12, 2018

Story By: Ellise Kakazu |

Dining Out editor Ellise Kakazu can’t help but get excited when she sees Max’s Giant Halo Halo ($25).

When the sun’s rays are beaming bright and you are craving something cool, what do you usually reach for? Most locals will say shave ice or an ice cream cone.

While I am a fan of both, I decided to play tourist and explore the island for not-so-typical, eye-catching treats that can be enjoyed on a hot summer day.

So let’s go beat the heat with exciting desserts — don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and appetite!

SAY HELLO TO HALO HALO!

The Philippines boasts year-round tropical weather much like Hawaii, so naturally Filipino desserts are quite refreshing to help islanders keep cool. With this in mind, I decided to take you to one of the most popular Filipino restaurants around — Max’s of Manila.

Max’s of Manila’s Halo Halo ($6.25)

“(Max’s of Manila provides) authentic Filipino food in a friendly, clean atmosphere that people feel comfortable in,” notes Maly San Luis, Max’s of Manila general manager. “It’s a good representation of the Philippines abroad.”

According to San Luis, an invigorating dessert that perfectly embodies the country is halo halo, a dessert that typically consists of ice, ice cream, milk, and a mixture of sweetened beans and fruits.

“That’s the most popular Filipino dessert,” says San Luis. “It’s a good way to taste all the different (native) foods that are not normally available or offered (like palm fruit and jackfruit).”

Since halo halo is extremely popular, one can find many variations of the sweet treat around the globe. But one that I believe is among the best is Max’s Halo Halo ($6.25), which features red and white beans, coconut strips, coconut jelly, palm fruit, jackfruit, tapioca balls, gelatin, house-made leche flan, cooked apple bananas, rice crispy flakes, ube ice cream, milk and ice.

The name halo halo literally translates to mix mix in English, notes San Luis. “Normally, the best way to eat it is to mix everything up,” she adds.

Halo halo truly is a fun dish to look at and enjoy, as it is colorful, and filled with various textures and flavors. It’s the perfect dish to make one’s day better and brighter.

Now through Labor Day, customers can dive into an astonishingly massive bowl of halo halo with friends and family, as the restaurant is offfering Max’s Giant Halo Halo ($25) for the summer. The mountain of goodness, which typically serves four to five people, features the same luscious ingredients found in an individual-size halo halo, but of course at a much larger scale and also adds chocolate wafer sticks and a sprinkle of cheese to the mix.

Although Max’s Giant Halo Halo only is slated to run until September (it may be added to the menu permanently based on its current demand), one can get a hold of Max’s regular portioned halo halo anytime of the year.

CREAM OF THE CROP

Next on our itinerary is Japanese Restaurant Aki in Kaimuki, a top-notch dining hot spot that serves kamaaina fresh, authentic Japanese dishes.

Japanese Restaurant Aki’s Green Tea Creme Brulee ($9) LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTO

General manager Eric Rogers notes the restaurant uses many ingredients from the Land of the Rising Sun to create Aki’s menu items like Hirame Sashimi, Shimaaji Sushi and Negitoro Roll.

While there are many oishii (delicious in Japanese) options at hand, you definitely cannot forget to order dessert, specifically Green Tea Creme Brulee ($9). This item typically is not found at Japanese restaurants as creme brulee is known to be a French dish, but it surprisingly complements the traditional fare at the restaurant quite seamlessly.

According to Rogers, the chef calls upon cream, sugar, eggs and Japanese matcha powder to create Aki’s Green Tea Creme Brulee. The simple yet heavenly mixture is poured in individual-size ramekins and baked in the oven for more than one hour. Once the bowls filled with the creamy concoction are cooked to perfection, they are cooled off. Before serving, chef adds a layer of sugar on top of the custard and torches it, creating the crisp, snappy layer of caramelized sugar everyone looks forward to when ordering creme brulee. And to top it off, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is placed smack dab in the middle of the dessert like a cherry on top a banana split — customers can request to have green tea ice cream instead of vanilla.

Before indulging in the yummy dessert, enjoy items like chicken karaage, tonkatsu, agedashi tofu and a variety of yakitori (skewers lined with either chicken, beef, pork or vegetables). The bite-size pieces are cooked atop a grill that is powered by Binchotan charcoal, which is Japanese charcoal that is often used to purify water.

Ending our sugary venture with a stomach full of treats, I hope your eyes are opened to a whole new world of cool desserts.

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