lunch at sam choy's.

a couple of days ago, we went to sam choy's restaurant in tumon. sam choy is a chef from hawaii, with several restaurants in honolulu and in kona, a weekly television show, and cookbooks galore; he is occasionally a guest on that emeril lagasse guy's show, and is a spokesperson for, of all things, pizza hut. (not that that should put you off)

sam has two restaurants in honolulu, one in diamond head, and one closer to downtown in iwilei; the diamond head restaurant is a little more formal, only open for dinner, and the iwilei spot is casual, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also a brewpub. the guam spot is a mix of both--lunch is more casual than dinner, although the menu has items from both locations. the food is pacific regional cuisine, with a contemporary flair. the guam location also features chamorro and pan-asian cuisine specials that change monthly.

we decided to work our way through the monthly specials (aka "the left side of the menu"). we started with a tofu salad, done poke (póh-keh) style:

poke is a hawaiian version of ceviche, raw fish marinated in soy sauce, seaweed, and chili peppers. sam, who is a big guy, likes to fry things, so he fries his poke. the tofu was dipped in a light tempura batter and deep-fried, drizzled with a soy-sesame oil dressing, then placed on a bed of greens and served with (a rather unnecessary) creamy wasabi dressing. we were given extra because we were sharing, but neither of us used it, as the marinade dressed the greens well.

julius ordered the bento platter, which is an homage to a hawaiian fast food staple, known as a zip pack (post to follow sometime soon): a slice of teriyaki-marinated ribeye steak, pork katsu (breaded and deep fried pork loin), grilled mahi with a cream sauce, a bit of omelette, and a slice of luncheon meat (possibly spam, but we think it was tulip--hey! when you live on an island, you get to know these things). all served with a mountain of rice, restrained by a sheet of nori (roasted seaweed):

i had the soft-shelled crab sarnies, with a side of sweet potato fries:

we are aliens and we have come to invade your pla--heyyy! don't eat us!

nene, oh my goodness, i have to tell you. i don't remember anything about this meal except for that those sweet potato fries were the BEST i've ever had--dense, substantial, but snappy crisp and ungreasy, with the distinct taste of sweet potato, along with a light dusting of kosher salt. so completely onolicious. i have to say, for however uncomplicated the menu is, the cooks really know what they are doing--the ribeye was tender, the fish cooked perfectly, the pork had a good balance of breading to meat, the soft-shell crabs were fresh, and fried expertly. this is why we keep going back.

oh yeah, there were desserts--haupia (hau-pí-ah)--coconut pudding--filled profiteroles, with vanilla ice cream, and a strawberry shortcake. desserts are their forte so it was tasty, as always. didn't take photos, sorry. too busy digging in.

sam choy's
next to underwater world


Hi Santos,

Can I tell you that I went to Sam Choy's BLC and Sam Choy's Diamond Head once each and wasn't really that impressed with the food. Perhaps it's changed since the last time I was there (about 4 years ago) cuz the food looks really good (your pics)! Perhaps I need to go again! =)

hi reid,

can i tell you when i'm in hawaii, i don't ever think about going to sam choy's? i felt the same way about the honolulu restaurants, and the guam one, as you did. only within the past couple of years has the quality gone up dramatically. i can only vouch for the guam restaurant, though. maybe you should come here :-)

Would you believe I've never had softshell crab before? I've been wanting to try it; the closest I got was a scary over-battered, over-fried specimen my friend ordered in a dodgy seafood restaurant. Not too appetizing to look at, really. I've heard foodies rave about the taste and ease of preparation. Here in California, I don't come across them very often, so, tell me: what do they taste like? Do they leave the tamales inside, and if so, does that change the flavor at all?

hi avatar

oh oh oh, i am so not going to recommend eating them, as i've done it before and like, the people i recommend them to don't ever eat anything i recommend again. i don't know if it's because i pick particularly bad examples or if it's just too weird.

i like them mainly for texture--crunchy on the outside, sweet, slightly crabby, slightly earthy, and creamy on the inside. short of being a contestant on "fear factor", it's the closest i'm ever going to get to eating a giant spider. mmmmmmm! arachno-tastic!

ok, if that wasn't completely unappetizing, i would suggest going to a good sushi bar that's not too traditional, and order a spider roll; usually you just get the good, crunchy bits and not so much of the squishy middle, so if you decide you can deal, it's all portioned out nicely. and if you hate it you can just pull it out.

can you recommend any good sushi bars in OC?

Hi Santos,

Actually, I was in Guam several times about 8 years ago. The company I worked for at the time had an office there and I used to travel there with my boss. I thought that the weather in Guam was a lot like Hawaii except maybe it's a bit more humid.

I found out about Poke salad at the Tofu festival in Los Angeles last month. The people that made it used a combo of unfried tofu and Yellow Tail and green onions. It was soo delicious. Your photos are making me hungry.

hi reid

i always think of guam as a suburb to hawaii :-)

hi fire monkey fish

there's hundreds of poke combinations, i'll have to post some of my favourites. that tofu yellowtail combo sounds tasty!