Getting Savvy with Samplers

Columns Ono, You Know

July 6, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

You know those times when an impromptu, simple “catch-up” dinner with friends somehow morphs into a massive production that takes the entire day to plan? Arianna is vegetarian, Ryan loves steak, Jess had a late lunch yet still wants to join in the fun … and you? All you’re asking for is to enjoy a meal with good company. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Oh, and shall I mention indecisiveness? Well, let’s not go there (I’m guilty of going back and forth between appetizer choices, entrees, desserts — you name it!).

But just as anxiety starts to take over, samplers come to the rescue! Everyone in your dining party will be happily chomping at the bit, ready to dive into whatever meets their fancy. The wonderful thing about samplers is that they offer a taste to please every taster, and they usually feature restaurant favorites: It’s the best of both worlds. Say it’s your first time to a restaurant and you want to try a bit of everything without going broke — samplers are where it’s at!

Remember how Mother always said never to pick on your food? Well, with all due respect, Mom, eat your words — order a sampler of some sort and you’ll be picking, too!

Sharing is caring, so this week, I share with you a sampling of samplers at these delicious OYK establishments. So, now that you’ve found a solution to please everyone’s tastes, you finally can breathe a sigh of relief. All is right in the world again. Thanks to samplers, dinner with the gang will be a hit. Now, the only question remaining is, “Who’s got the bill?”

Bob’s Big Bear Diner

Earlier this year, a legendary local eatery emerged from hibernation with a new and improved facade. Formerly known as Bob’s Big Boy in Mapunapuna, Bob’s Big Bear Diner boasts a new locale (in the space previously occupied by Sizzler) in Waipahu Town Center.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily), the family-friendly hot spot seats approximately 240 people, and offers a private dining area for up to 50.

Patrons are greeted at the door by a giant, cuddly teddy bear (hence the restaurant’s name). Teddy bears serve as mascots here, representing strength, good cheer and a hearty appetite. In fact, at the center of the establishment, you’ll find an adorable teddy bear overseeing operations.

And since samplers are meant for sharing, I got a table for two and invited my new friend Teddy (the bear) to partake in the ever-popular Sampler Combination ($12.95). This appetizer (or entree, if you will) was highly recommended by Teddy — and really, who could I trust more than the mascot himself? Out came a massive oblong platter filled with samplings of spicy buffalo wings, slow-cooked ribs in honey-barbecue sauce, battered onion rings, zucchini sticks and celery sticks. And you gotta have the ranch dressing as a dipping sauce!

Teddy and I were in soul food heaven! My favorite? Everything! Teddy, of course, went straight for the ribs and wings, but I had him try an onion ring or two.

“Sampler Combination is available as early as 7 a.m. You can enjoy it anytime you like,” says culinary chef Lisa Galeon. “We offer a great beer selection as well.” So, if you’re 21 and over, enjoy an iced cold beverage of San Miguel, Lucky Buddha, Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Heineken and more.

Bob’s Big Bear Diner’s American classics and local favorites are “beary” much approved! Thanks, Teddy, for being a great date!

Bob’s Big Bear Diner
Waipahu Town Center
94-030 Farrington Hwy.

3660 on the Rise

While the menu at 3660 on the Rise is predominantly Asian inspired, chef de cuisine Lydell Leong is best known for adding underlying touches of contemporary, avant garde island flair. Patrons, myself included, are compelled by the stellar masterpieces that greet them at the table.

The award-winning restaurant, perched at the corner of Waialae Avenue and Wilhelmina Rise in Kaimuki, opened in 1992 under the direction of proprietor Gale Ogawa and executive chef/co-owner Russell Siu. And recently, Leong revamped the menu, omitting dishes that have worn out their welcome to make room for ingenious new comers, some of which are still in the works.

But much to my delight, the establishment’s signature items, such as Ahi Katsu, New York Steak Alaea and its delectable desserts, aren’t going anywhere!

After a marathon of eats, from appetizers to entrees, 3660’s Symphony of Desserts is the home stretch. Priced at $10, this trio of sweets is perfect for sharing, and presents a sampling of whimsical creations that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate. You might as well save the best for last, because — well, let’s face it — the “best” lies in this luscious selection.

3660 on the Rise's Symphony of Desserts ($10)

3660 on the Rise’s Symphony of Desserts ($10)

“Harlequin Créme Brulee and Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake are two of our signature desserts, so they’re always included in the sampler,” says Leong.

Harlequin Créme Brulee is a velvety smooth, creamy concoction of heavy cream, sugar, egg yolk and pure Tahitian vanilla beans. Once baked, left to cool and chilled, it’s smeared with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate mousse and coated with Turbinado sugar that’s torched to create a crispy, shell-like finish.

Next, get cozy with Warm Chocolate Souffle Cake. For a chocoholic, the thought of warm chocolate cake surrounding a melted chocolate center, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is surreal. The dessert oozes with mocha anglaise, and a sliver of semi-sweet Guittard chocolate rounds out this piece de resistance.

Lastly, pastry chef Lisa Yanger is inspired to create the third and final dessert, which changes daily. During my recent visit, Yanger utilized one of the season’s most versatile fruits, mango, to construct Mango Curd accented with fresh blueberries and house-candied ginger served via vol au vent, or puff pastry cup, with summer berry coulis.

“What’s exciting about this dessert sampler is that our guests always are surprised with the third selection, but appreciate the familiarity of the two other best-selling desserts,” Leong exclaims.

Those with an avid sweet tooth won’t want to miss this grand finale, as not even Beethoven or Mozart could compose a sweeter symphony than this.

3660 on the Rise
3660 Waialae Ave.

Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto

Authentic Italian fare laced with flavorful Japanese ingredients and seasonings always is on trend, especially here in the Islands, where it’s natural to blend culture and cuisine. And Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto on Kapiolani Boulevard is just the place to indulge in this dining concept.

Japanese fusion is apparent in Mimasuya’s Assorted Appetizer Platter ($28, dinner only), in which chef Toshiya Umeda highlights 10 eye-catching starters, perfect for indecisive diners and/or first-timers to the restaurant.

Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto's Assorted Appetizer Platter ($28)

Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto’s Assorted Appetizer Platter ($28)

A wooden box is separated into 10 compartments, each space reserved for a specific appetizer. “Our appetizer assortment changes daily,” says server Rob New. “But no matter what, the sampler always is delicious.”

Most recently, Chef whipped up a dazzling repertoire of Grilled Kobocha Pumpkin marinated with honey and Sherry; Sundried Tomato Grilled Zucchini; Pickled Beets in Japanese vinaigrette; Tempura-Fried Calamari; Zucchini, Onion and Red Pepper Frittata topped with pomodoro and Parmesan cheese; and Scallops in Ravi Gotte (a deconstructed Puttanesca sauce consisting of black olives, capers and tomatoes. Mimasuya’s classic Prosciutto with Melon also is in the spotlight, along with Tempura-coated Trumpet Mushrooms. Pureed Cauliflower and Beef Ribeye Tagliata with balsamic reduction complete the sampler.

Mimasuya’s Assorted Appetizer Platter easily can satisfy a party of two, but, of course, the more the merrier. Here at Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto, you don’t need a legitimate reason to pamper your palate with premier food and cocktails.

Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto
1341 Kapiolani Blvd., Ste. 101

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best