Beat the Heat With Cool Treats

Columns Ono, You Know

August 4, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Earlier this week, Tropical Storm Flossie spun through the Islands and put on a bit of a thunder-and-lightning show. Accompanying the storm’s sights and sounds were the customary rain and heavy winds, which knocked out power in some parts of the state.

While I won’t complain about the rain showers and gray skies, I will voice my displeasure about the humidity. Man, was that heat unbearable or what?! I felt as if I was in San Francisco, the fog-filled city by the bay, while simultaneously experiencing the monsoon season in Thailand. The lesson? Mother Nature really is a force to be reckoned with.

To beat the heat, I decided to appease my growling stomach and make my way to the following Ono, You Know establishments for refreshing fare that soothes the taste buds. These hot spots really know how to cool you off on those days when you’re feeling a bit weighed down by the weather.

Cafe Julia

Charming European-style cafes are a dime a dozen around romantic cities such as Paris, Rome and Seville. Yet, tucked away in the thriving metropolis of downtown Honolulu is Cafe Julia, located in the historic YWCA Laniakea building, which offers an essence of European culture here at home.

On my most recent visit to this quaint eatery, it was nice to step out of the rain and humidity for a few moments and cool off with Cafe Julia’s best-selling Ahi Poke Tacos ($8 for two tacos, $14 for four).

“I was on vacation in California, and I happened upon this restaurant in Newport Beach. Everyone there was ordering Tuna Poke Tacos, so I tried them and they were really good,” says Cafe Julia owner and president Emerson Ribao. “I decided to create my own version of these tacos and add more of an Asian flair.”

The restaurant, which is named after YWCA Laniakea architect Julia Morgan, specializes in Mediterranean fare that also encompasses Pacific Rim and Eurasian influences. And much to my delight, these characteristics were also apparent in the onolicious tacos, as each bite was jam-packed with flavor.

Nestled within each taco shell is a bed of homemade cole slaw topped with morsels of fresh melt-in-your-mouth ahi bathed in a yuzu and wasabi dressing. A drizzle of aioli with hints of zesty Sriracha sauce dress up the fish and kaiware sprouts add a finishing touch.

“Most people like to order this dish as an appetizer for lunch and dinner,” says Ribao, pointing out several seated patrons who, like us, were enjoying this fantastic starter.

Believe me, if you’re crazy about poke or if you are a taco lover in general, Ahi Poke Tacos are a definite must at Cafe Julia!

Cafe Julia
1040 Richards St.

Fairwood & Pho 27

Mother Nature has brought the heat this summer and it’s time to cool off at Fairwood & Pho 27 in Kaimuki Shopping Center. Owner Tiffany Ko is originally from Zhongshan, China, and is a pro at cooking up Chinese-style comfort food that kamaaina love, including favorites such as Beef Chow Funn, Braised Steak with Potatoes and Honey Garlic Chicken Combo. Yum! But when you’re looking to quench your thirst, do it the right way with Honey Lemon Drink ($2.95), Iced Salty Plum & Lemon Drink ($3.75) and Milk Tea ($3.50).

According to Ko, Milk Tea is the most requested drink of the bunch.

“Our Milk Tea is very popular because of the tea that we use,” she says. “The tea comes from Hong Kong and is comprised of a variety of tea leaves mixed together. We add condensed milk to the tea, and our customers love it!”

Fairwood & Pho 27's Honey Lemon Drink ($2.95), Iced Salty Plum & Lemon Drink ($3.75) and Milk Tea ($3.50)

Fairwood & Pho 27’s Honey Lemon Drink ($2.95), Iced Salty Plum & Lemon Drink ($3.75) and Milk Tea ($3.50)

Then, Honey Lemon Drink presents a sweet escape with the marriage of fresh lemon juice and honey. Simple, yet pleasing, this drink packs a punch of sweet-and-sour glory.

Finally, treat your palate to sips of liquid decadence with Fairwood’s Iced Salty Plum & Lemon Drink. Some may say this drink is an acquired taste, but if you were raised on authentic Chinese li hing mui like I was, then you’re in for a real treat. It’s happiness in a cup that takes me back to my childhood. This drink is best described as li hing mui in liquid form, but much more sour than sweet.

“It consists of salted plum, salted lemon, fresh lemon and honey,” Ko confirms. “I salt the lemon for a long time in a jar.”

Feel refreshed at Fairwood & Pho 27.

Fairwood & Pho 27 Kaimuki Shopping Center
3221 Waialae Ave.

The Mandalay

While the areas surrounding The Mandalay on Alakea Street may be a lot cooler than what The Mandalay in Las Vegas has to put up with this time of year, that’s not to say that Hawaii’s humid weather can’t be a drag.

But once you step through the doors of The Mandalay, located in the heart of downtown, you’re met with air conditioned comfort and tempting Hong Kong-style cuisine. Owners and husband-and-wife team Larry and Linda Chan know the best way to cool off this summer is with Cold Ginger Chicken and Cold Jellyfish.

Cold Ginger Chicken ($30 for whole chicken, $16.50 for half) is a traditional Chinese entree that’s perfect for summer. And make no bones about it, this dish is to die for.

“We boil a pot of water and soak the chicken in it three times, which helps makes the skin crispy,” Linda says. “Then, we let the chicken boil for 45 more minutes and run it through ice cold water.

“It’s best to serve it with ginger onion sauce on the side. It’s very good,” she adds.

I can attest to that, but Cold Jellyfish ($8.95 per order) also draws in those seeking relief from the heat. The jellyfish is marinated in salt, rinsed, and seasoned with sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper, Chinese five spice and a touch of vinegar.

“When you bite into the jellyfish, it’s crunchy,” Linda explains. “The slight taste of vinegar also really comes through.”

Both dishes are party pleasers, so fulfill all your cravings with The Mandalay’s top-notch Chinese fare.

The Mandalay
1055 Alakea St.

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