Got’z Grindz Now Has Poke Bowls and Ochazuke in Kāne‘ohe
We revisit a neighborhood gem known for jam-packed musubi, garlic noodles and lemon peel gummies.
I’m always in the mood for a musubi. The handheld snack is acceptably enjoyed any time of day, whether you’re a small kid or an adult. So early on a recent weekday morning I set out to revisit one of my favorite musubi makers, Got’z Grindz in Kāne‘ohe.
The takeout shop has been going strong since February 2019. Coming from Waimānalo, I make a U-turn on Kamehameha Highway and get to the white box of a building at 8:07 a.m. Already there’s a small stack of signs on the counter—musubi flavors that have sold out since Got’z opened at 6 a.m. While I peruse the musubi samplers and bentos, simmered beef rice bowls, fried yakisoba noodles, garlic pretzels and lemon peel gummies, a lady in scrubs pops in to buy a tower of musubis and a pack of garlic noodles. The friendly cashier lets me know that if there’s anything I don’t see, they can make. But something new since my last visit catches my eye: the cold ginger ahi poke bowl ($11.80).
I ask Yumi Goto about it. She’s the head Goto in charge that day and daughter of original owners Masumi and Tetsuya Goto. She tells me to go for it, it’s so good. I follow her advice and ask what else is new. When she suggests the ochazuke made with Kyoto matcha ($3.99), I say “shoots” and order one with salmon for an additional 60 cents. I also get a bunch of musubi: ume and kombu ($2.50), spicy tuna mayo with tobiko ($3.25), and the $10 sampler pack of six half-sized musubi, each named after a member of the Goto family and filled with each one’s favorite flavors like bulgogi and kimchee (the best seller is tuna with takuan). I also get garlic noodles ($5.95) and a bag of garlic pretzel twists ($2.99) because how can I not. In a small fridge, along with colorful sauces like wasabi mayo, spicy sauce and garlic shoyu, I find my favorite canned ume soda.
If you like musubi with a relatively even ratio of filling to rice, these will make you swoon. They’re about 4 inches square with rice that’s soft and not too sticky. The sampler pack’s Daddy G (named after Tetsuya) is generously filled with bacon, cream cheese and shibazuke Japanese pickles. Multiple iterations of Spam musubi include char siu. My ume musubi with sweet and sour pulp and the konbu one with sticky strips of umami and toasted sesame seeds are blasts from the past. Got’z makes so many kinds of musubi, traditional and otherwise, that you’re sure to find your soul musubi.
Now for my cold ginger ‘ahi poke bowl. Goto reminds me that the rice is warm and asks how far I’ll be driving. Her advice: Order poke and rice separately if you’re going a long way. When it comes to poke, I can be pretty picky—it’s usually Tamashiro Market or bust, just for the texture of the fresh ‘ahi. And while I’ve had ginger scallion poke before, seafood and sauce have never come together in a way that’s really tasty. With Got’z bowl, the poke is almost like a tartare, cut small and well incorporated with the ginger scallion sauce. The ‘ahi is shiny and so fresh that the salinity of it punches up the well-seasoned sauce. The bite of fresh ginger is rounded out by the umami of toasted sesame; shards of sweet onion offer a juicy crunch. Ever since I whacked this bowl, I’ve been craving another one.
The ochazuke warms my core and makes me smile. I love the moist flakes of seasoned salmon and the floral bitterness of the steaming Kyoto matcha green tea finished with nori and crunchy bubu arare. The bouncy garlic noodles are tossed with shoyu butter and topped with strips of lup cheong. What fun—and like everything else on this winter morning, so oishii.
45-726 Kamehameha Hwy, (808) 234-0818, @gotzgrindz