Devouring the Crisp and Crunch of Calamari

Columns Ono, You Know

March 24, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Squid. It doesn’t sound so appealing right off the bat, now does it? But what if I told you it was breaded and deep-fried? Don’t tell me that doesn’t spark your interest, because we all know everything tastes better that way! Well, the proof is in the pudding. Calamari has been a favorite among diners for decades, and for good reason! It consists of batter-coated, deep-fried squid (usually fried for less than two minutes to prevent toughness) served plain, with salt and lemon, or with a special dipping sauce for seasoning.

The word calamari is the plural form of the Italian word for squid, calamaro, and calamari itself is quite popular in Mediterranean cuisine. However, over the years it’s crossed cultural boundaries as well, and today you can find calamari at the forefront of many restaurant menus.

Therefore, this week, craving all things calamari, I decided to pay a visit to a few of my favorite Ono, You Know establishments eager to take a bite out of simple calamari goodness! It doesn’t get much better than this!

Eggs ‘n Things

  • The editor loves Eggs ‘n Things Cajun-style Calamari Steak ($13.95).
  • Eggs ‘n Things Calamari Steak options include Sauteed, Cajun-style or Furikake-style.
  • Eggs ‘n Things nighttime kitchen manager Peter Kauleinamoku with Cajun-style Calamari Steak and Furikake-style Calamari Steak ($13.95 each)
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Eggs ‘n Things makes waking up before the crack of dawn a walk in the park — because, really, who can resist everything from pancakes to crepes, omelets, waffles and more? No foodie I know of, and certainly not me! But don’t think this breakfast lover’s paradise only caters to early birds, because here at Eggs ‘n Things, you’ll find many alluring dinner specials (available from 5 to 10 p.m.) as well. And being a self-proclaimed food enthusiast, I will admit that I have an undying affection for the eatery’s Calamari Steak ($13.95). If you haven’t tried it yet, you must! It’s superb!

General manager Michael Skedeleski presented me with not one, but three styles in which this most sought-after steak can be prepared: Sauteed, Cajun-style or Furikake-style.

“Cajun Calamari Steak is most requested by our customers,” Skedeleski says, noting that the Cajun seasoning undoubtedly provides a bit of a kick.

“Locals love Furikake Calamari Steak because it has a nice Asian flair to it,” adds nighttime kitchen manager Peter Kauleinamoku.

So, whatever your choice, do know that Eggs ‘n Things Calamari Steak is bound to stir up an appetite, as the steak itself is pan-seared and ever-so tender, and served with potatoes, pancakes or rice, and your choice of potato or tossed salad.

“We not only serve Calamari Steak here at our Saratoga restaurant, but also at Waikiki Beach Eggspress on Kalakaua Avenue,” Skedeleski explains. Eggs ‘n Things Waikiki Beach Eggspress is perfect for those on the go who want to grab a quick bite to eat, and in an effort to help the environment, everything is served in eco-friendly takeout containers.

Eggs ‘n Things
343 Saratoga Road
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Keo’s Thai Cuisine

  • Keo's Thai Cuisine's Crispy Calamari Salad ($14.95)
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Continuing on my trek through Waikiki, I decided to pay a visit to Keo’s Thai Cuisine on Kuhio Avenue. You can’t miss this divine establishment as it welcomes all patrons with its open-air atmosphere and garden setting, which features a lush array of fresh floral arrangements, and Thai statues and decor.

Keo Sananikone owns the restaurant, which has been named as a kamaaina favorite for years and prides itself on serving the best in authentic Thai cuisine. My favorites on the menu run the gamut, however, a few that stand out include Evil Jungle Prince (Keo’s signature dish), Sa-Teh Chicken, Garlic Shrimp with Mushrooms and none other than Crispy Calamari Salad ($14.95).

A refreshing take on a classic food, Keo’s Crispy Calamari Salad is something definitely worth tasting, as it features a bed of fresh greens sprinkled with hints of cucumber, celery, red onion, lemon grass and mint topped with morsels of crispy calamari mixed in a roasted chili sauce. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Believe me, this is the best way to kick off any dining experience here at Keo’s Thai Cuisine. And what many don’t know about Keo is that he also operates a farm in the Mokuleia area, where he grows the majority of the vegetables found in his cuisine. So, expect nothing but the freshest of ingredients here — in fact everything grown on the farm is organic and free of pesticides.

And finally, for those in the mood for nothing but calamari, start your meal off with Crispy Calamari. This most popular appetizer is priced at $12.95 and is a meal in itself. Calling all calamari lovers, Keo’s Thai cuisine is open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. and will reel you in with its exquisite selection of onolicious options.

Keo’s Thai Cuisine
2028 Kuhio Ave.
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Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant

  • Pho My Lien is located at Westridge Shopping Center in Aiea.
  • Pho My Lien's Crispy Calamari ($7.95)
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Lastly, my taste buds brought me to Pho My Lien in Westridge Shopping Center in Aiea, where husband-and-wife duo Tommy Dang and Lien Bui serve up delectable Vietnamese cuisine.

Prices are reasonable and the pho is absolutely delicious as its homemade from Bui’s personal recipe. Each order is served with mint leaves, bean sprouts, herbs, chili pepper and a special blend of sauces. However, if you’re craving calamari, Pho My Lien whips up an incredible Crispy Calamari (Muc Chien Don). Priced at $7.95, this house specialty features a plateful of lightly-battered squid that is fried to a crisp with hints of shoyu and chili pepper for taste. It’s then enhanced with a sweet and sour dipping sauce that will surely place this dish at the top of your list.

“The correct preparation for this dish is essential,” says Walter James, a close friend and business partner of Dang and Bui. “You want the squid to be crispy, yet tender.”

You don’t have to travel far to experience a taste of Vietnam — you can have it all right here at home at Pho My Lien.

Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Suite B213-B
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