Stoked About Salmon

Columns Ono, You Know

January 19, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Something fishy is going on, but don’t fret, Ono readers, there’s no need to proceed with caution. It’s just rare to stumble upon a healthy meal that is ever so indulgent. I love to cater my diet to nutritious options, and I’m all for salads, green juices, fruits, veggies and all-natural homemade smoothies, but sometimes this girl craves some fatty, savory goodness that will leave me satiated. Mind you, I’m only human. However, the words “fatty” and “savory” don’t always have to be attributed to fast-food and beef.

Salmon is the name of the game! Say hello to this fatty fish brimming with omega-3 fats, which have been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, Alzheimer’s and rheumatoid arthritis.

This week, salmon is the foundation for an array of all-star dishes at the following Ono, You Know hot spots. Do you know what I’m stoked about the most? Well, it’s the fact that it’s OK to give in a little and splurge on the preparation and flavors that accompany this heart-healthy fish, as these factors are priority for food-minded individuals.

With that, save your appetite and reel in salmon specialties totally worth salivating over … drool!

Pagoda Floating Restaurant

For generations, Pagoda Floating Restaurant has been a mainstay in the Islands. Located on Rycroft Street, the eatery opened its doors in 1964 and quickly deemed itself a family favorite for those wanting a buffet-style meal centered around Japanese-American cuisine. In 2010, Pagoda began to offer daily sit-down service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which specifically catered to the tastes of kamaaina — local comfort food became the mass appeal.

Today, restaurant partner and executive chef Jason Takemura runs the show. He makes it his mission to support local and utilize fresh ingredients as often as he can, but it’s not always possible.

Farm-raised Scottish salmon from the waters off Iceland is delivered twice a week to Pagoda. Takemura says the fish is top-quality, sashimi grade, and it’s the main component of the popular lunchtime favorite Mochiko Salmon Belly. Priced at $13, all salmon enthusiasts will agree that this is the real deal!

“Salmon belly is really fatty, so it has a lot more flavor than other parts of the fish,” explains Takemura.

A blend of mochiko flour, shoyu, sugar and eggs coats the salmon belly, which soon becomes a deep-fried delicacy drizzled with a savory kabayaki sauce and garlic miso aioli, along with furikake seasoning. Lastly, ‘Nalo greens and your choice of white or brown rice makes this dish so melt-in-your-mouth ono to the max!

Still hungry? Stop by Pagoda for dinner and let your taste buds experience Roasted Salmon ($17) with toasted sesame and kabayaki butter. Traces of yuzu will hit your palate as it laces the fish

with an inviting citrus flair. A side of garlic wasabi mashed potatoes and a medley of Asian stir-fried vegetables round out the dish.

Pagoda Floating Restaurant
1525 Rycroft St.

Oceanarium Restaurant

Oceanarium Restaurant makes a splash with its under-the-sea dining adventure, that has lured in diners — hook, line and sinker — since its inception in 1979. Patrons bask in the glory of the restaurant’s buffet and entree selections. Yet, what’s even more jaw dropping is Oceanarium’s main attraction: A three-story, “larger-than-life” aquarium. Nearly 400 fish call this 280,000-gallon tank home — that’s more than 70 species of Indo-Pacific marine life.

This award-winning establishment in the heart of Waikiki is packed with kamaaina and visitors alike who appreciate the beauty of the exotic marine life while also filling up on the elaborate buffet selections for breakfast, brunch and dinner. Oceanarium helps guests fuel up for the day with a daily breakfast buffet ($24.95 adults, $19.95 children ages 5-11 and $14.50 seniors age 65 and over), and many anticipate Saturday and Sunday Brunch ($33.95 adults, $13.50 children and $22.95 seniors). According to restaurant manager Kelvin Nakahata, brunch buffet highlights include snow crab legs, mussels on-the-half-shell, cocktail shrimp, fresh sashimi and House Cured Northwest Pacific Salmon Gravlax served with grilled naan flatbread.

I have a thing for lox and bagels, and this superb salmon gravlax creation is a close match up.

“We utilize farm-raised salmon rather than the seasonal wild salmon because we can rely on its availability,” says sous chef Sam Somlak. “We cure the raw salmon, slice it by hand and garnish it with cream cheese, capers and red onions.”

The thin-sliced salmon just melts in your mouth, and the flavor of the garnish blends so well together with the naan bread. Surely, you’ll be back for seconds.

Dinnertime calls for a trip to Oceanarium’s coveted dinner buffet. This time around, Valentine Cedar Planked Northwest Pacific Salmon captures the spotlight, as it’s delicately coated with a blood orange balsamic glaze robust with flavor and paired with braised Lei Farm vegetables.

“We roast the salmon on a plank of cedar wood, which gives the salmon a smoky aroma and taste,” says Somlak.

Smoked salmon is amazing on its own, but when combined with the sweet-and-sour essence of the blood orange balsamic glaze, it’s like no salmon you’ve tasted.

Oceanarium Restaurant reels in quite a catch for salmon lovers, so take the bait because you’re in for a sea full of flavors.

Oceanarium Restaurant
Pacific Beach Hotel
2490 Kalakaua Ave.

Hee Hing Restaurant

A family favorite since I was born, Hee Hing Restaurant boasts a spectacular assortment of Chinese fare, as generations of diners appreciate the comfortable atmosphere and friendly service from a staff who treats you like family. Manager Michael Lee traces Hee Hing’s roots back 50 years ago to when his grandfather opened the eatery.

This Kapahulu locale is a mainstay in the lives of many, myself included. Although everything on the menu is delicious in its own right, I do have a special affinity for Hee Hing’s steamed fish. Chinese-style steamed fish was my grandparents’ specialty, but now that they don’t cook as often as before, dishes such as Steamed Fresh Salmon with Black Bean Sauce are reminiscent of my childhood and precious moments spent with them over a platter of mouthwatering Chinese-style fish.

Hee Hing’s Fresh Salmon with Black Bean Sauce ($17.95) features a fresh salmon filet marinated in a savory sauce of salted black beans, ginger, garlic cloves, chili and a tang of orange zest. Once the sauce seeps into the fish, it’s perfectly steamed and drizzled with hot oil, and topped with diced green onions and Chinese parsley. Now, all that is needed is a bowl of hot rice to absorb these abundant flavors.

So, as Chinese New Year celebrations get under way, tickle your taste buds at Hee Hing Restaurant. Call ahead for reservations.

Hee Hing Restaurant
449 Kapahulu Ave.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best