The Champion's Table
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Nori’s Saimin and Snacks making onolicious kau kau in Hilo, Hawaii

The menu items in this post were provided by Nori’s Saimin and Snacks but the opinions expressed here are my own.

BethAn Nishijima, being a Hilo resident since the 1980s, is definitely part of my ohana. She gave my dad his re-start into the culinary world back in mid-2000s. Her food is amazing and she definitely made a name for herself in Hilo. She has an omiyage shop next door where you can purchase Nori’s products and Hello Kitty items. Her food items like Instant Saimin, Nori’s Mustard Cabbage Koko, Shrimp Krackas, and Eurasia Dressings can also be found under the Mountain Apple Brand at KTA Super Stores.

Every time I come back home, BethAn feeds me like an Italian grandma. I just love her food and I think she loves to feed me.

Smoked Spicy Chicken Wings ($7.95) are chicken wings seasoned with Nori’s own naturally smoked special spice (which can be purchased in the omiyage store). The smoked flavor really came through and flavored the chicken as if it was cooked in a smoker. The mix of spices and Hawaiian salt worked well with the chicken. It’s great as an appetizer before dinner or pupu with beer or wine. Rating: 5/5

Fried Mundoo ($6.95), sometimes spelled mandu or mandoo, is a fried Korean dumpling. The Chinese have wonton, the Japanese have gyoza and the Koreans have mundoo. Nori’s version is filled with minced meat and vegetables like a meatball, pinched into a half moon shape, and deep-fried to a golden, crispy brown. The dipping sauce added a little bit more salt to bring out more of the flavors of the interior. Another dish that is great as an appetizer before dinner or as a pupu with beer or wine. Rating: 5/5

Hawaiian Chicken with Cake Noodle ($13.95) is Japanese meets Chinese in a bowl. The Hawaiian chicken reminded me of chop suey with the chopped-up chicken and vegetables with silky sauce. The noodle cake added a crispy texture along with the starch needed to sop up all the sauce. This is definitely the type of dish a person from Hawaii would create. Rating: 5/5

OM Fresh Smoked Meat Loco ($9.95) is a special loco moco made with smoked pork belly and onions. For those of you who do not know what a loco moco is, the original loco moco is Japanese rice topped with a hamburger patty, brown gravy, and a fried egg. It is one of my favorite foods and when I am in Hilo, I simply have to have one a day. The loco moco was invented here on the Big island at Café 100. But, getting back to Nori’s, BethAn should have called it the “OMG Loco” because it made me say it after I took the first bite. I am in love with pork belly. I like it braised, fried, smoked, etc. The smoked flavor just added sweetness from the wood it was smoked in and caramelized the fat. It was like pork belly candy. The caramelized onions played up the sweetness even more. But once I broke the yolk on those eggs, I was in foodie heaven! Rating: 5/5

Watch for these specials the next time you are at Nori’s Saimin and Snacks! You’ll go home in a food coma like I did. Mahalo!

Ambiance: 4 out of 5
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
688 Kinoole St. Ste. 124
Hilo, HI 96720
Reservations: First come, first serve
Hours: Closed on Mondays, Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dog-friendly: No, indoor seating only

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Nori's Saimin and Snacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 25, 2017

5 days left to try the Tempura Jalapeño Charburger at The Habit Burger Grill

The menu items in this post were provided by The Habit Burger Grill but the opinions expressed here are my own.

I love that The Habit is experimenting with different ingredients and textures for special burgers and sandwiches. I have been a loyal fan since last year after trying the Hatch Chile Burger on grilled sourdough bread. This time, we stopped by the Anaheim Hills location. The interior was bright from the floor to ceiling windows with an open layout. They even have a nice sized patio.

For a limited time (until May 30, 2017), the Tempura Jalapeño Charburger ($4.99) is back. It was first introduced in late 2015 and adds a blend of crunch and spice to The Habit’s Charburger line-up. This Charburger starts with a flame-grilled beef patty and topped with tempura battered jalapeños, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, spicy jalapeño ranch mustard, and pickles served on a toasted bun. As always, I substitute grilled sourdough bread and add an extra patty (+$1.29) so the burger can be experienced from end to end. I loved the flavors of the sourdough with the spicy jalapeño. The burger was juicy as always along with the sauce and gooey cheese. The burger got spicier with each bite but was still tasty. The tempura battered jalapeños gave the burger a crunchy texture along with the crisp lettuce. Rating: 4.5/5

With the new year, The Habit also permanently added three items to their menu. These were also once specials just like the Tempura Jalapeño Charburger.

From my review from November 2016:

“The Golden Chicken Sandwich ($6.50) is made with a fresh, filleted chicken breast that is hand-dipped into house-made seasoned flour and buttermilk twice before being fried and topped with a new spicy red pepper sauce, fresh sliced tomato, lettuce, and tangy pickles on a soft toasted bun (I chose grilled sourdough). I also added Swiss cheese (+ $0.60). The double dip in the seasoned flour and buttermilk provides a crispy, blistered, and flavorful coating to the juicy chicken breast inside. The red pepper sauce is a tad spicy but provides a lively flavor kick for your taste buds. The Swiss cheese adds a cheesy, nutty, and bitter bite to the sandwich. The Habit absolutely needs to add this permanently to the regular menu! Rating: 5/5”

Portabella Charburger ($4.75) is a single Charburger crafted with 100% ground beef and layered with garlic sautéed portabella mushrooms, melted cheese, roasted garlic aioli, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickles served on a toasted sesame seed bun. When I first saw this on the menu board, I thought it might be a vegetarian “burger” since portabella mushrooms have been used as a “patty”. But when I read further that it was sautéed portabella mushrooms on top of a juicy burger, they had me hooked. This burger was amazing and my new favorite burger at The Habit. As usual, I subbed the bun for grilled sourdough. The garlic aioli was amazing with creamy and zingy flavor. The portabella mushrooms added an earthy flavor and texture to the burger. Rating: 5/5

Super Food Salad ($7.99) starts with a chargrilled, hand-filleted chicken breast that is served over quinoa, baby kale, crispy garden lettuce, Craisins®, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and feta cheese tossed in The Habit’s house-made kale pesto vinaigrette. This was a good portion of salad (healthy size for lunch or lighter fare for dinner). It tasted fresh yet some of the flavors like the craisins and feta were subdued. The chicken was very flavorful and tender. The dressing also needed a little more punch in flavor and acidity. Rating: 3.8/5

You can also try these other menu items:

Albacore Tuna Filet Sandwich ($7.25) starts with line-caught, sushi-grade tuna steak topped with a teriyaki glaze, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and homemade tartar sauce served on your choice of toasted French roll, grilled sourdough, seeded or wheat bun. My mom loves tuna sandwiches but also loves it sushi-grade tuna as well. She didn’t get the tartar sauce but asked for more teriyaki glaze on the side and chose the seeded bun. The teriyaki glaze added a nice savory and sweet flavor which paired nicely with the tuna, not overwhelming and didn’t cover up the flavor of the tuna. The tomatoes and lettuce added a refreshing flavor and crisp texture to each bite. Rating: 5/5

French Fries ($2.05) are made with Idaho potatoes. Who can have a burger without a side of fries? The fries were crisp and lightly golden brown on the outside. The interior was fluffy and tender on the inside. My 2-year old nephew loved them and gave them a thumbs up! Rating: 4.5/5

From my review from November 2016:

“Tempura Green Beans ($2.95) are fresh-cut green beans lightly battered and flashed fried to perfection. I love fries with burgers and sandwiches, but these Tempura Green Beans are just too delicious to pass up. I paired them with my Golden Chicken Sandwich and they went together quite nicely. The crispy, golden brown tempura on the outside contrasts the juicy, slightly sweet green bean inside. I’m so happy they are part of the regular menu! Rating: 5/5”

Whatever you are craving, The Habit Burger Grill has you covered! Don’t forget to stop in and try the Tempura Jalapeño Charburger before it is gone!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
The Habit Burger Grill
8182 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd.
Anaheim Hills, CA 92808
Hours: Daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Parking: Free shopping center parking lot

The Habit Burger Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Miguel’s Jr. in Redlands, California is now open

The menu items in this post were provided by Miguel’s Jr. but the opinions expressed here are my own.

On May 12, 2017, Miguel’s Jr. officially opened its 16th location in Redlands, CA. This new 3,000 square foot location is among the first to serve Miguel’s Jr.’s new fresh-squeezed, all-natural lemonade and house made horchata. This legendary chain of restaurants started in 1973 when Mike and Mary Vasquez took over an existing restaurant in Corona, CA and renamed it “Miguel’s” in honor of Mike’s grandfather. By 1975, they expanded with a fast food concept and named it “Miguel’s Jr.” and became an instant favorite. The home-style Mexican food is inspired by Mary’s childhood in Central Mexico.

Family recipes that have not been changed for more than 40 years:

  • 100% stone ground tortillas and tortilla chips
  • Fresh hand-stretched flour tortillas with no preservatives
  • Premium pinto beans that are presorted, hand washed, and slow-cooked twice daily in small batches
  • Fresh hot sauce and salsa made every morning
  • Premium rice cooked twice a day and 100% trans-fat free
  • 100% Longhorn cheddar cheese grated daily
  • Premium pasture raised, all natural, hormone free Midwest corn fed beef
  • All natural and hormone-free chicken cooked on the bone and hand shredded every morning
  • Premium Hass avocados delivered every other day in refrigerated trucks
  • Farm fresh cracked eggs, not from a carton

The interior of this Miguel’s Jr. is fresh and bright. The employees are happy and friendly with a “Mi Casa Su Casa” hospitality. If you have never been to a Miguel’s Jr. before, don’t hesitate to ask for a recommendation on what to order.

Hot Sauce and Other Fresh Stuff: Miguel’s Jr. Famous Hot Sauce, Escabeche (marinated mix of jalapenos, carrots, and onions), jalapenos, cilantro, onions, and Chile de Arbol.

Homemade Horchata ($2.19, refills $.80) is made with 100% all natural pure cane sugar. The house made horchata is a recipe that Mary developed. I love horchata! It should be creamy, slightly sweet, and have cinnamon notes. Mary’s version hit all my expectations. I even got a refill for the road. Rating: 5/5

Orange Bang ($2.19, refills $.80) is one of my childhood favorites. They have it constantly churning in one of those old-style drink mixers. You know what I’m talking about, it kind of looks like a water fountain inside a clear, rectangular tank. My brother and I would get this drink after school at the local AM/PM mini mart. It tastes like a 50/50 bar in liquid form.

Chile Verde Pork Dinner ($8.89) is marinated chile verde pork served with rice, beans, and flour or corn tortillas. The pork was tender and the chile verde complemented the pork without being overly spicy. I am very picky about Spanish rice. Most restaurants do not flavor it correctly (sometimes not at all) so I usually end up getting double frijoles. I have to say that Miguel’s Jr.’s version is very tasty. The refried beans were rich and creamy. The longhorn cheese added nice gooey texture and flavor. Rating: 4.9/5

Machaca Breakfast Plate ($6.49) served with Spanish rice, refried beans, and tortillas. The machaca had a strong beef flavor and was quite tender. It worked well with the eggs, tomatoes, and onions. It reminded me of a breakfast scramble. Rating: 5/5

Taco Salad ($9.89 with carne asada) is made with refried beans, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, homemade creamy guacamole, house dressing, and choice of meat on top of crisp tortilla chips. This salad was fresh, tasty, and visually striking with vibrant colors. The carne asada was perfectly cooked to a medium rare. There was so much flavor going on from the marinated carne asada to the cheese and creamy guacamole, the dressing was not necessary. Rating: 5/5

With 16 locations in Orange and Riverside Counties, Miguel’s Jr. is in reach for any SoCaler.

Ambiance: 5 out of 5
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
27521 San Bernardino Ave.
Redlands, CA 92374
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Miguel's Jr Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato