Sweet Home Cafe (Honolulu, HI)


sweet-home-cafe
Sweet Home Cafe is another restaurant that specializes in one thing, and one thing only–Taiwanese hot pot. There is no shortage of patrons. By the time we arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, there was already a waiting list. We didn’t get seated until after 6:30, and I’ll say it right now, the wait was worth it.

If the visit is your first, you will be given detailed instructions on how the operation works. First, you select a broth from among many. Then, you choose one or more meats (beef, pork, lamb, or beef tongue). If you’re on the waiting list, the maitre d’ will ask you to make your selections right away so that when you get seated, the broth and meat(s) will immediately be brought to your table. You may be told that the three most popular are the house special, spicy and healthy herb broths. Every patron is not required to order a meat (we selected a single serving of beef). If you want two broths (to try different ones), you will be charged for two broths, which will be served in a divided vessel. The container is placed on top of an electric hot plate. We selected the spicy and house special broths.

Once you get seated, you then select however many wrapped plates of ingredients as you wish from the coolers along the back wall. Each plate is color-coded: $2.75 for white or green; $3.75 for yellow or orange; $4.75 for blue. There is a bewildering selection of vegetables, seafood, organ meats, noodles, and several kinds of tofu from which to choose. I can’t even provide a complete list. We chose soft tofu, watercress, sliced squashes, nappa, lobster balls, and fresh shiitake.

Extras

Extras

As if selecting ingredients weren’t enough, you can choose one or more of fourteen different dipping sauces: homemade*, sesame, Chinese-style shabu shabu, hoisin, sweet honey mustard, Chinese-style steamed soy sauce with chili pepper, chili garlic, oyster chili*, homemade spicy, miso*, Thai-style sweet and sour, black bean*, tomato chili* and hot bean curd*, all of them prepared in-house. Every single one we tried (asterisked above) was delicious.

Dipping sauces

Dipping sauces

At first, you may be intimidated by this whole process, aggravated by the tight spaces, mostly community-shared tables, and human traffic to and from the coolers, but you’ll quickly get settled and concentrate on the task at hand.

Steamed white rice is also provided.

Once the meal is over, you will be given a dessert gratis. Finely crushed ice (not as fine as shave ice) was surrounded by scoops of green tea and pineapple tapioca pearls, coffee mochi cubes, soft tofu, with the whole works drizzled with condensed milk and almond cream, and topped with an espresso mousse. Despite the fact that the tapioca flavors were artificial and the ice clumped in several places, the mousse, mochi balls and almond flavor were absolutely delicious. If you stuffed yourself with the main meal, you’ll still find the room to (mostly) finish this stellar dessert. It’s possible that the dessert might change periodically.

From start to finish, the dining experience was extraordinary. Not only was the meal fantastic, the entire wait staff was very friendly. Sweet Home Cafe aims to make you feel at home and is on our list of must-return places.

Sweet Home Cafe
2334 S. King St (McCully/Moiliili)
808.947.3707
 

Honolulu Saturday Market


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The Honolulu Saturday Market is, without doubt, one of the best farmers markets in the country for foodies. It has its share of produce stalls; they mainly benefit the locals who come here for fresh fruits and vegetables. But, I’ll wager that the vast majority of visitors come here for the incredible selection of prepared foods. We’re talking about food beloved on the islands. The merging of cooking influences (mostly from Asia) is reflected in the offerings. While the food may not be the best examples, it is still good. The variety alone in an open-air market setting is exciting.

After contemplating for a while, at approximately 10:15 am (45 minutes before the market closed) we decided on a salmon fried rice and grilled kasu cod, grilled corn flavored with shoyu butter and furikake, and a mango and ginger drink. Our plan was also to get grilled abalone that were selling for $5 a small pair, but they had all sold out. It was amazing that this hard-to-get shellfish was being sold at all. We almost lost out on the corn; I managed to get one of the last ones. I did get the last fried rice combination, too. The moral of the story is that it’s best to get what you want early, even if it isn’t quite the lunch hour.

As for the food itself, the kasu cod was delicious, though somewhat overly charred. The salmon fried rice tasted less interesting than it sounded, though it wasn’t bad. The corn was over-grilled to the point of getting dried out and the furikake made it too salty. Any drink from the PacifiCool booth is always refreshing, although the large amounts of ice cubes tend to dilute the drink if left too long. The ginger syrup they sell is really good stuff. For dessert, we snagged a couple of shave ices, one topped with lilikoi syrup, the other with ginger syrup which was also sprinkled with dried ginger flakes.

Kasu cod

Kasu cod

Furikake corn

Furikake corn

PacifiKool ginger drink with mango

PacifiKool ginger drink with mango

Shave ice

Shave ice

Saturday Farmers Market
Kapiolani Community College
Hours: Saturdays, 7:30-11am