For the Love of Squash

Columns Ono, You Know

November 12, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Last I recall, it was just Halloween and now we’re already well into November — time is flying by quicker than we know! Now, I don’t know about you, but my taste buds seem to be changing along with the seasons. I find myself craving certain foods that I normally wouldn’t crave any other time of the year, one of them being squash. Quite random, I know, yet squash seems like the perfect ingredient choice as of late — it’s diversity is amazing. Butternut squash, for instance, is a winter squash that can be roasted, toasted and also pureed or mashed into soups, casseroles, pies and more. Yellow summer squash is just as popular, and highly regarded for its mildly sweet and watery flesh.

So, this week, grab hold of your taste buds (thank goodness we don’t have to squish-squash our way through the snow) and get ready to feast on a plethora of options centered around this one unique holiday delight at the following Ono, You Know establishments.

JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry

  • The editor can't wait to enjoy JJ's Squash Custard with Chocolate Ganache.
  • Squash Custard with Chocolate Ganache ($5.25)
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As soon as I set foot in JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry on Waialae Avenue, I knew that I was in for a treat — literally. This well-known eatery has been enticing the appetites of many with its sinfully sweet pastries, all thanks to executive chef and owner JJ Luangkhot. This award-winning chef blends exquisite European flavors with local flair, resulting in impeccable dessert creations. And with more than 45 dessert items on the menu, ranging from the famous Chocolate Pyramid to the Chocolate Banana Confit, Chocolate Lilikoi, Banana Haupia and more, you can’t help but relish in the sweetest of fantasies.

This week, just in time for the holidays, Luangkhot surprised me with a contemporary culinary work of art, perfectly highlighting squash at its finest. Enter Squash Custard with Chocolate Ganache ($5.25).

“The holidays are a very special time of year, and I wanted to try something unique and different,” Luangkhot says. “Squash is very similar to pumpkin, so I thought it was a good substitute.”

This monthly special, made especially for Ono, You Know, is definitely worth trying, as a squash pie is hard to come by. The squash itself sits at the base of the pie, and it’s intermixed with the creamiest of custard. The dessert is then finished off with a chocolate ganache topping which adds an extra hint of zest to Luangkhot’s onolicious masterpiece.

“There are so many ways to utilize squash in your cooking or baking,” he adds. “Squash soup is very popular, but I thought, why not try something new? Customers also will be able to find the Squash Custard Pie at Le Cacao Bistro, just down the street.”

Finally, the holidays simply aren’t the same without a cup of eggnog! Luangkhot and I just can’t help but get into the spirit of the season a little early this year!

JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave.
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Max’s of Manila

  • Max's of Manila's Pinakbet ($8.95)
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Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the FAMES (Filipino American Multi-Ethnic Society) gala at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The evening was fabulous, as I spent time with wonderful friends and helped honor talented and well-deserving individuals in our community. Needless to say, I left with a severe craving for my favorite Filipino foods!

Undoubtedly, this week was the most opportune time to pay a visit to Max’s of Manila! Also known as Max’s Restaurant, this Philippines-based eatery takes pride in its renowned fried chicken and Filipino dishes, and with more than 120 branches in the Philippines, and other locations nationwide, this restaurant has it all. I couldn’t wait to treat myself to pancit, adobo, Max’s famous fried chicken and, of course, Max’s house specialty of Pinakbet.

“Pinakbet is the Ilocanos’ contribution to Filipino cuisine, and other items such as Kare-Kare originated from other parts of the Philippines,” says Elizabeth Joven, operations manager of the Dillingham location.

Pinakbet ($8.95) is a splendid serving of mixed vegetables of yellow squash, bitter melon, eggplant, ong choy and okra sauteed in shrimp paste with tender pieces of pork and/or shrimp — similar to a stew.

“We sell 20 to 25 servings a day,” Joven says of this dish which basically equates to a Filipino fiesta in your mouth. “It’s very healthy and it’s made fresh every day!”

Vegetarians also will be happy to know that Pinakbet can be served with only vegetables. And when it’s squash that you’re after, not only does it provide vibrant color to the dish, but its soft and smooth texture is one to behold, especially when accompanied by a piping hot scoop of rice. I’m hooked on Max’s Pinakbet, and a heaping portion of yellow squash is a must.

And if your Thanksgiving plans are still up in the air, why not take part in Max’s Thanksgiving Brunch Buffet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving day? And while Pinakbet is unfortunately not on the menu then, you can be thankful for the many other delicious items available, including Roasted Turkey with Stuffing, Max’s Fried Chicken, Sweet & Spicy Fish Fillet, Filipino BBQ pork on skewers and more.

It’s as if I’m in the heart of the Philippines right here at home at Max’s of Manila!

Max’s of Manila
801 Dillingham Blvd. (also located in Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
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Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

  • Steamed Whole Wintermelon Soup ($88)
  • Jade Dynasty's Steamed Whole Wintermelon Soup feeds 10 to 12 people.
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Jade Dynasty, famed for its Hong Kong-style Chinese cuisine, is wowing diners with its Steamed Whole Wintermelon Soup. Located in Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace, this 8,250-square-foot upscale restaurant always takes it to the next level with its sparkling chandeliers and top-notch family-style dishes.

“Our Wintermelon Soup is impressive,” says manager Gary Lam, referring to the 20 pound squash that had been hollowed out and converted into a gigantic soup bowl. “The soup is priced at $88 and can feed 10 to 12 people.”

You’ll have to see it to believe it, and once a drop of soup hits your lips, you’ll already be looking forward to a second helping. The soup base is made out of a clear chicken broth with a hint of Chinese wine, then Jade Dynasty’s marvelous chefs add a symphony of flavorful delicacies to the soup, including dried scallops, shrimp, crab meat, black mushrooms, pork, chicken, Virginia ham, wintermelon and crunchy vegetables, such as choy sum.

“Wintermelon is a type of squash, and it’s very tender,” Lam says. “Once we carve all the meat out of the wintermelon, we steam it for three to four hours until it’s ready to go.”

Indeed, it’s the perfect appetizer for any party! Want to treat your out-of-town guests to something extravagant? Order this interestingly unique dish that is sure to impress everyone from commoners to royalty alike. Jade Dynasty never disappoints!

Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. #4220
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