The Supermarket As Restaurant

Market-prepared foods are giving restaurants a run for their money.


(page 3 of 5)

The salmon cake with tofu and ogo was about the size of a premade burger patty. It looked good, but it was dry and we couldn’t discern any ogo or, for that matter, any tofu, though it may have been hiding somewhere.

Recently Reviewed

Here are some things John Heckathorn had to say in past months. Visit our Dining page to read more reviews!

• Kyoto Ohsho
Hookipa Terrace,
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Kyoto Ohsho approaches the concept of buffet dining with a little less buffet style and a little more Japanese style. For example, “the long line of largely Japanese dishes … is all in individual portions on an appropriate little tray or in a bowl, so they look like Japanese food,” writes Heckathorn. Just remember, when eating the sushi, eat the whole thing. They charge you more if you eat the fish but leave the rice.

Reviewed in our November 2007 issue.


• 21 Degrees North
Turtle Bay Resort,
57091 Kamehameha Hwy,
Nestled in the North Shore country—known more for its shave ice and shrimp trucks—is 21 Degrees North at the Turtle Bay Resort. Receiving its name for the latitude of the Hawaiian Islands, 21 Degrees North offers a great ocean view. Heckathorn recommends the single scallop. “Ours arrived hot, perfectly done and seasoned, as it were, with a dollop of salty Osetra caviar,” complete with leeks and sliced, poached Asian pears.
Reviewed in our June 2008 issue.

The ahi cakes at $1.99 apiece were small, heavily breaded and dense. They didn’t work cold, so we warmed them, which released all sorts of fishy odors. These were not saved by the small cup of “Asian remoulade,” in other words, tarted-up mayo.

The $3.89 chicken breast with ginger scallion pesto was pretty much the classic Chinese restaurant dish, cold ginger chicken. The differences: a better cut of chicken, not enough ginger and not as much oil. Though it was no doubt healthier, and certainly edible, it made us miss Chinese takeout.

The “ultimate potato salad” had everything in the world in it—imitation crab, bacon, peas, green onion, hard-boiled eggs. But like the “Best Foods Macaroni Salad,” it tasted almost exclusively of mayo and salt.

The winner here was the meat loaf—by far the best of the many I was soon to sample. Under a sweet glaze of barbecue sauce, the loaf was dotted with Portuguese sausage and kernels of Kahuku corn. This we fought over.

The vegetables looked fantastic, vibrant and green. The problem was the preparation. The asparagus—quite good in itself—came with mushrooms and olives. But the olives were canned “ripe” olives, cured in lye, which deprives them of both flavor and texture. And the mushrooms—well, if we searched hard, we could find them. The asparagus was dotted with sesame seeds, which didn’t add much.

Similarly good-looking—and promising from its description—was the broccoli rabe, in olive oil with “toasted” garlic. I don’t know how you toast garlic, but the process deprived it entirely of its flavor. This left the predominant note of the dish the bitterness of the broccoli rabe—not a brilliant strategy.

I spent more than $40 on all this, except I’d ordered one more item, a fancy brochette of grilled seafood, a strip of salmon serpentined around scallops and topped with shrimp.

Unfortunately, the young woman bagging our order was busy ranting about a co-worker to the checkout clerk. When we got home with the bag she handed us, it lacked the brochette. Foodland, you owe me $9.99 plus tax.

900 Kapahulu Ave.  // 733-2600 // Open 24 hours, prepared food 10 a.m. to 9 a.m.  //

I enjoy the new Kapahulu Safeway—an acre and a half of American abundance. Mylar balloons at the checkout! Roses for $12.99 a dozen! Fresh ground cashew butter! A half-dozen kinds of salami! A sushi bar! Aisles of wine! A bakery! A bank! Starbucks! Wi-Fi! Add a bookstore, and I’d move in.

I have a bachelor friend who loves the store for a different reason: “They have lots of food you don’t have to cook.” This is a person who once bought pots and pans because they were shiny and on sale at Macy’s. They’re still shiny.

When I finally surveyed the prepared food offerings, however, I was disappointed. They seem extensive, but they consist of a quick-serve sushi bar, where they pump out rolls filled with imitation crab and not particularly spicy spicy ahi. A deli/sandwich bar, which has customers standing in line.
But not much in the prepared foods case, served up, in my case, by one of the last surly Safeway clerks.

So few were the choices that I was forced to supplement them from the steam table of hot entrées. There, you can pile up a clamshell full of stuff and pay $6.99 a pound. The Chinese food looked, well, like Chinese food on a steam table.

There were, however, plenty of proteins. “What’s this?” a gentleman asked me as I piled some on my clamshell. “Barbecued beef,” I said, having read the placard. “Looks good,” he enthused.

I drove it all home, and, you know, he was right. The barbecued beef was good, proof that if you are going to put something on a steam table, make sure it’s covered in sauce. Even if the sauce is slightly sweet.

Similarly good were the slices of white-meat turkey and the mashed potatoes. The meatloaf, stolid and slathered in dried-out tomato sauce, was a non-starter. This wasn’t stunning food, but it was adequate, a notch above college dorm food.

The cold food from the prepared counter was uneven: a classic quiche Lorraine; some orzo salad with a nasty vinegar and less than optimum cheese; a caprese in which no one had bothered to slice the tomatoes, instead adding grape tomatoes; a tofu-watercress salad which is a long-standing Safeway item. Normally, it comes with dressing, but the clerk skipped that step.

The best thing in the prepared food case was the cold vegetable “torte rustica.” In other words, layers of vegetables wrapped in pastry. This wasn’t great cold, but microwaved briefly, it unlocked wonderful tomato, red bell pepper, spinach, cheesy flavors. It cost $3.49 a slice and was worth it.

I dropped $30 buying prepared food at Safeway—and guess what, I’m back to buying only groceries.

Subscribe to Honolulu