Island Freeze – Honolulu, HI


Island Freeze
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel: (808) 971-2080
Open Daily 10:00am-10:30pm

Smack dab in the middle of the tourist and hotel district of Waikiki, is an outdoor shopping centre called the International Market Place that has its own little food court area.

It is a reprieve price-wise, from all of the other eateries and restaurants that market to out-of-towners milling around on the nearby streets.  This eating area is no different in setup from any standard food court you find in a North American mall – only that the food tenants are all mom-and-pop and represent a wide variety of cultures.  Surprisingly, no commercialized McDonald’s or Starbucks inside.  Just rattling a few off from memory, I recall seeing food offerings that were Chinese, Korean, Greek, Mexican, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Hawaiian, and a few others.

As reported earlier, I was already in the area and wanted something cool and refreshing as the summer heat was still bearing down hard and I needed to rehydrate some more after my quick meal at Ono. The photo above was taken after the sun went down, facing the main entrance of the International Market Place.

Now I’d heard of Hawaiian-style Shave Ice before coming to the islands (and got some recommendations from my Honolulu-based friends of some of the best ones to try during my stay – look for future posts), and I headed straight to the Island Freeze.  I wanted to get a quick introduction to the various types and flavours that are part of this ice cold treat.

Here is a bare bones shave ice, undecorated by any other ingredients aside from some liquid flavourings.  Island Freeze allows you to choose up to three flavours to add, and I went with strawberry, lychee and pineapple.  As you can see, it came served in this flower-shaped, light plastic cup container, with a spoon and straw to help you eat it.

Now I realize its just ice, but the texture of it was different from say a 7-11 Slurpee or if you were to slash off fine layers of ice with a sharp blade.  Its neither too flaky so the flavourings aren’t absorbed, or too soft such as in a Slurpee where the liquid dominates.  I think its a combination of the way its shaved and the temperature of the ice that keeps it just so.  The trio of tastes made eating this interesting, as you could just shuffle the cup around to another section and scoop up a new flavour sensation.

All in all, a very refreshing treat!

Island Freeze on Urbanspoon

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Rice Bar – Vancouver, BC


Update – February 11, 2009

I passed by and noticed the signage had been replaced by a new one: Sun Sushi (Eat In and Take Out).  This makes it the fourth sushi place within a three block radius along this section of 10th Ave.

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Original post – January 27, 2009

Rice Bar
4512 West 10th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 222 8868

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon

Housed in a space that used to be a cozy, free Wi-Fi cafe known as Think!, the Rice Bar emerged in its place and is what could best be described as a Hong Kong-style cafeteria… minus the constant flow of customers and a packed room.  When I first saw the nameplate go up outside, there was a small part of me that was hoping that this would perhaps be something refreshing for this neighborhood – such as a specialty Japanese sake drinking establishment – given the ‘rice’ plus ‘bar’ naming.  But alas, it was not to be.

On the occasions that I’ve passed by this past year, I’ve rarely ever seen people inside, either eating in or ordering takeout.  I thought it would not be long before the place was re-invented by another business on this relatively secluded, very west side shopping street.  Surprisingly, I believe its been many months now since it opened, and recently I thought I would give it a chance to see what it had to offer but I was not expecting much…

“Order Here”, the sign on the counter clearly states.  Too bad there’s no human to take my order.  All I can hear is the sounds coming from the small tv screen on the back wall, I think it was some Chinese television drama, as well as the C-pop coming out from the wall speakers.  A shame that’s the only source of noise to be found.  If not for that, I think I could have heard crickets.

After a few minutes, a person appeared and I was able to place my order.  I had hoped to get the Pork Ribs that I had heard a little about, but alas they were out.  Strange, it was still the early evening and had already run out.  In its place, I decided to go with what I thought would be a fairly safe bet in the BBQ Pork.  I know there are those who like it to be fattier, or perhaps a mix of lean and fat, but I prefer the healthier variety and find that the BBQ flavor is retained better in the leaner cuts.   I was asked for my decision on the sauce I wanted with it, and opted for a soy-based one thinking it was the most natural fit with the flavor of the pork.  As you might be able to tell from the image above, it was a simple few spoonfuls that was put on the rice, which the pork covered up.  It did nothing for amping up the taste profile.

The Chicken Wings I ordered thinking that I would easily get sick of the BBQ Pork after a few slices.  And at these prices (both under six dollars), I thought having a double dip wouldn’t be hard on the wallet.  The wings were really crispy, and had a nice salty and textured coating that I enjoyed.  I’m not sure exactly what else was in the breading but it did have some other flavor properties that you don’t get in western-style chicken wings.  I could have easily gone for another batch of three, and they could have deleted the rice.  I preferred these less greasy wings, compared to the ones I had at Wo Fung.  I’d come back for these.

Speaking of the rice, in both containers, it was pretty bland and really dried out.  I know this is more Chinese style, but I find it so lacking in flavor that I hardly eat any of it as I think its more suited for fried rice.  And the minuscule drops of “sauce” with the BBQ Pork didn’t help in this regard.  Each “main” came with the choice of a soup, salad or dessert.  I elected the bamboo shoot soup with both, as the salad would have been a boring mixed greens and I am not a big fan of Asian desserts.  The soup upon opening the lid, I thought would have a sour element, but it had none at all.  It was nothing more than average and very lukewarm by the time I got back home.

The Rice Bar has dedicated so much of its area to seating.  Tables with chairs, a counter with stools that lines one wall, another seating area by the front window, etc.  Its sad that there is no one to use them.  I am not sure what else they could do with all this space however, as their counters are already a pretty good size, and its not equipped to handle the actual cooking stations (which are in the back room).  I wouldn’t want to be the owner of this problem…

Any of you turn right around out the door after entering a restaurant that is dead empty?

And do really quiet places make you always choose to take out when you could just as easily eat-in?

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon

Murph’s Pub and Eatery – Calgary, AB


Murph’s Pub
630 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB  T2P 1G6
Open 7 days a week

There are days when there is nothing more satisfying than a good greasy burger and fries. However, with  the large number of mediocre burger chains using frozen beef, mechanically-shaped patties, lousy buns, and limp, flavourless toppings, society’s expectations for what constitutes a good burger have diminished. Correspondingly, what most places feel they can get away with serving has decreased proportionately in quality. Institutions like In N Out burger, creating what i consider to be the ideal quality fast-food burger, are definitely the exception and not the norm.

Some have made efforts to upscale the burger, with Daniel Boulud’s gourmet Burger Royale @ DB Bistro Moderne, topping the pile at $99.  These are not burgers. They are gourmet-inspired versions of an American classic. Even upscale chains like Earl’s and Joey’s have fluffied up their burgers so they can charge $15 a pop, to keep pace with their other upscale offerings. This is not the burger of my childhood. To me, burgers are easy, approachable, affordable food.

After our final basketball game of the year, we hit our watering hole of choice,  Murph’s Pub on 8th Avenue. This establishment has provided us with the venue for many post-game discussions. I would like to say we go for the quality of food, but let’s be honest: Monday is cheap burger night, and when you’re talking athletes and refreshments, sadly, price is king. Fortunately, price and quality are not mutually exclusive.

Murph’s burger is what a good pub burger should be – large, and cheap. Starting at $7.95 ($6.95 on Monday’s) you get a basic burger and fries. Additional toppings, bacon, cheese, and mushrooms, come in at $1 a piece. What you get is a large, hand formed patty, cooked well done but still juicy. A fresh toasted bun that is firm enough to hold the mountain of toppings, while soft enough not to cut the inside of your mouth like toasted ciabatta does. A large dill pickle, fresh tomato, red onion, lettuce, and mayo round out the basic burger. With a big pile of decent fries (crisp, with a slightly too-soft centre, usually a bit over-seasoned), this is a filling, and satisfying meal. While this will not be competing with Buchanan’s nor the Burger Royale, it won’t be setting you back $20-$100 dollars either.

Murph’s is a location that really is come as you are, even if you’re sweaty, tired, and obnoxiously thirsty. They won’t win any awards for their decor, food, or service, but they don’t need to. They make good greasy food. They serve cold beer. They do so at affordable prices.  Compared to many other choices we have today, that should be more than enough to warrant a visit.

Murph's Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon