The Supermarket As Restaurant

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


(page 5 of 5)

Remarkably good was the orange-sesame salmon and, especially, the grilled asparagus at Times Supermarket.

Photo: Monte Costa

Times Supermarket
1290 Beretania St.  // 532-5400 // Daily 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., hot foods 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., prepared foods 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  //

I was getting a bit tired when a friend of mine told me that Times, too, had prepared food, which he insisted was good and reasonably priced. Ah, he’s lazy and cheap, I thought.

The food counter at the Beretania Times takes a little finding, in defiance of the supermarket wisdom that says you put it as near the front as possible, à la Whole Foods.

But when I got there, I was surprised by the ambition and extent of the offerings.

The food made me popular when I got home. Let me take a moment and praise the asparagus. Sure, it’s no trick to cook asparagus. But you are unlikely to, first, marinate it in a balsamic dressing, then blanche it, then grill it. For $8.99 a pound (and a pound of asparagus is a lot; I bought half), these were excellent, nice, small, tender spears, grilled al dente, with simple salt, black pepper, olive oil. Better than mine, I’m sad to say, but now I know where to get it.

The other vegetables were good as well—crisp green peapods, barely blanched, with grilled tofu squares, sprinkled with black sesame seeds.

There were thick slices of pork tenderloin, still tender, slathered in a hoisin chipotle sauce. Perhaps the sauce was a bit too sweet.

I checked in later with Times’ director of Kitchen Operations, Matt Holmes, who’s cooked at Donato’s, C&C Pasta, Nick’s Fishmarket and Formaggio. “It’s too sweet for me, too,” he says. “But this is the way especially our older clientele likes it, so why argue?”

Sweetness aside, the tenderloin was as good a meat dish as I had encountered, at only $7.99 a pound. “We’d rather sell a lot of it,” says Holmes.

It’s the same philosophy with the grilled salmon fillet with an orange sesame sauce. This was $10.99 a pound, but you only had to buy as much as you wanted.

Even the lobster cake was, as these cakes go, palatable. It’s in panko, lots more panko than lobster, with a little Thai sweet chili sauce, red onion and bell pepper. It cost only $2.30 for one.

“Look, crab cakes, lobster cakes are meant to be served out of the pan. Cold and rewarmed, they’re never going to be what they’re supposed to be. You should taste this baby when it’s still hot,” says Holmes.

Finally, Times had great potatoes, roasted red potatoes that weren’t too tricked up, seasoned mainly with rosemary, black pepper and parsley. But the real winner was a simple potato and chive pancake, which had a wonderful, toothsome texture and a nice hint of chives. It tasted like the batter around great onion rings. This cost me 62 cents, and made me wish I’d bought half a dozen.

I tried to buy roughly the same amount of food at each place, though I may not have succeeded. Still, I spent the least at Times, $21, and I enjoyed it the most.

Cheap and lazy, I think I’ll pick up dinner on the way home.                      

John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.

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