It’s Good and Healthy Café Introduces New Mediterranean and Japanese Menu
And almost every item on the menu is less than $10.
The teriyaki Saba is one of the new japanese dishes now served at It's Good & Healthy Cafe.
photoS: Jennifer Mennella Fields
If you’ve ever wanted a place where you can order authentic ramen with a side of hummus and pita, we found it. The tiny Merchant Street restaurant, It’s Good & Healthy Café, has been serving Middle Eastern plates to a mostly takeout crowd since 2009. But earlier this year, a new owner took over, adding casual Japanese fare to the Mediterranean menu.
The restaurant’s original owner was Lebanese—he became known for gyros, baba ghanoush, tabouli (or tabbouleh), grape leaves, kebobs, hummus and falafel. When new owner Nobuhiro Miyazaki moved to Hawai‘i after cooking in Italian and Japanese restaurants for years in Tokyo, he didn’t want to eliminate customers’ favorites from the menu. So he took on the challenge of learning the techniques and spice balances of the dishes. The results are varied.
One of the favorite items that is done well is the falafel ($5.75 for the pita, $8.50 for a plate). Often, when I order fried chickpea patties, I taste mainly herbs, generally parsley, but in Miyazaki’s the spices take center stage. The falafel is salty and crisp and pairs perfectly with a side of tahini. Another menu staple that has made it through the transition is the gyro. Made from a combination of beef and lamb, the meat is cooked on a rotisserie and then cut into slices and served in a pita as a sandwich ($6.50) or on a plate with rice, tzatziki, hummus, a side salad and a piece of pita ($7.50-$9.50). The texture is nice but the meat lacks flavor.
The chicken tarna—sliced chicken served with rice—spinach pie and Greek salad also are still available. But the new menu Miyazaki created incorporates several Japanese dishes similar to the type of food he cooked at Kitchen Himawari in Japan.
One of those items is teriyaki saba ($9). The fish-to-sauce ratio is just right, the teriyaki is well-balanced and the saba is cooked well. Another added option is the Japanese-style hamburger steak ($10-$12) served with a lemon garlic sauce. The steak is good but the sauce that accompanies it is great. Garlic and fresh lemon add brightness to the shoyu-based mixture.
For the first time, customers can order a selection of ramen ($8.50). I tried three options, chicken and shoyu, vegetable miso and spare rib with tomato broth. My favorite of the three is the tomato, purely because it's unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The broth is reminiscent of a light tomato soup. You can mix and match the ramen options—for example, you can get vegetable shoyu or chicken miso, or even add gyro to your ramen.
falafel plate and keema curry.
The restaurant’s menu is small but manages to also incorporate a dish with Indian influences—keema curry ($7.50-$9). I had never had the dish, which Ritsuko Kukonu, who does public relations for It’s Good & Healthy Café, told me is an Indian recipe that’s so popular in Japan that’s it’s basically become a part of Japanese cuisine. Keema curry is generally prepared using ground meat, vegetables and curry. Miyazaki uses ground pork, onion, garlic, tomato sauce and spices and tops his with a potato puree. The curry stands out, bold and sweet, against the creaminess of the puree.
Only one item on the menu is above $10. (The big japanese-style hamburger steak plate)
Diners can also choose from pita sandwiches, a grilled chicken or spare rib plate, chicken tarna, spinach pie, beef pie, fried chicken, and a selection of three salads—Greek, chicken tarna and gyro. You might want to order to go through the website, there is only enough space for about 10 to sit, semi-comfortably, at tables inside and in the hallway.
Oh, and did I mention that almost everything on the menu is under $10?
It’s Good & Healthy, 212 Merchant St. Suite 3. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., (808) 800-6563, goodandhealthycafe.com