b Happy Sumo Food Journal: November 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

CASABLANCA - Chivay, Peru

This is the first of three reviews from my trip to Peru in July, 2006. I had a lot more pictures, but due to an unfortunate camera "malfunction" I no longer have them. If I can digress for a moment to write about travel, the purpose of our trip was to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We used Peru Treks and it was the highlight of the trip. You can read about the trek, as told by a fellow hiker here. After the trek, we went to visit the city of Arequipa and the town of Chivay, the "Gateway to Colca Canyon."

So should you ever find yourself on the way to Colca Canyon (which IMO was not worth the effort), you will surely find yourself spending the night in Chivay, a 2.5 hour (give or take) bus trip from Arequipa.

Casablanca is located in the ubiquitous Plaza de Armas, the address is 705. It's a small plaza, so you can't miss it.

This being my second trip to South America, I've found that you can find good, cheap and tasty pizzerias pretty much everywhere. In fact, some of the best pizza I've tasted has been at these small, mom-and-pop restaurants. No frozen ingredients, freshly made dough, wood-fired ovens, all for around 4 bucks.

I got a medium pizza with cheese, ham, garlic and onions, and a mixed salad. In Peru, the salads often consisted of a mixture of raw greens and cooked vegetables in a vinaigrette dressing, all for a couple of bucks. Everything tasted great.

Overall rating - 3.5 sumos.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

FAR EAST CAFE (now Chop Suey Cafe) - Los Angeles

The Far East Cafe is an institution for any Japanese-American who lived in LA from the 30's and after WWII, up until the place closed due to damage after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Birthdays, weddings, funerals, any occasion to eat the uniquely Chinese food tailored for the Japanese palate. Almond Duck, Sweet and Sour Pork, and Hom Yu were always part of our order. I remember many occasions as a kid eating there with the extended family (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins), sometimes getting to eat upstairs in the balcony which I thought was particularly cool.

And when I worked at Hayashi Automotive on 8th and Central, we would often make a food run on Friday nights to pickup our favorites to take home. Part of this was necessity, as even way back in 1983, it was impossible to get parking in front of the restaurant.

After the '94 quake, the building was red-tagged. Many stories developed about how the restaurant was going to be reopened, either by the original family, or some new owner who was going to keep the old recipes. Even after I moved to Denver, I would google "Far EastCafe" in the hope that I would find out that it was open and could revisit the place on my trips back to LA.

Well, 12 years later, it's finally reopened as the Chop Suey Cafe & Lounge. Hmm, "& Lounge" should have been my first warning. I was so excited about it, I told my family and friends to check it out and give me a review. I carved out time during my trip home at Xmas to go there.

My cousin was the first to visit. I anxiously awaited his email report. His first two words, "DON'T BOTHER!" I felt sick. What a damn shame. As I trust his sense of taste, I became the town crier and notified everyone I know. But, my friend's father wanted to go there for his birthday. Even after he told him about my cousin's experience.

So, the second opinion? "This place SUCKS!" It's funny that both my cousin and my friend's son said that they'd eat at Panda Express before they would ever eat here again...and believe me, that's the bottom of the barrel. So, there you have it, from two trusted guest reviewers. Do not eat here, period.

Overall rating - .5 a sumo, because if I gave it a no sumo rating, readers may think I forgot to rate it.

MANAGO HOTEL - Captain Cook, HI

We stopped at the Manago Hotel on the way back from visiting Hilo and Volcano National Park. It is written up in all of the guidebooks, for good reason. Even if the food wasn't an attraction, the hotel itself is worth a look.
It was started in the early 1900's and has a very unique, old-style character. It reminds me of the old Far East Cafe in L.A. and a low-budget version of the Fujiya Hotel in Japan.

Their dining room is open to all, in addition to hotel guests. Their signature dish is the pork chops, and all dinners come with three sides, served family style.

I believe the sides change periodically. The night we went, the sides were cooked cabbage, black beans and potato salad.

I think we all got the pork chops, except for my nephew, who tried the mahi-mahi. My feeling is, if the place specializes in that wonderful, magical animal, the pig, then that's what I'm gonna get.

I wasn't disappointed. Meaty, flavorful, good-sized, with just enough fat on the edge. Mmmm, pork chops. Overall rating - 3.5 sumos


Two Ladies is a small shop that sells manju. It's located at 274 Kilauea Ave.

I'm not a big fan, so I can't comment on the taste compared to any other place and won't assign a sumo rating. But if you like manju, this is the place on the Big Island to try.


Ken's is located at 1730 Kamehameha Ave. and is open 24 hours a day. It gets pretty busy and we first tried to go here the evening after the Merrie Monarch Festival exhibition...couldn't even get into the parking lot.

So we made it a point to get there at 8 the next morning and were seated right away. They have an extensive menu and I wanted to try just about everything.

The portions are big, not quite as large as the Hawaiian Style Cafe. My brother-in-law had the #33, Rough Night Chili Cheese Omelette. There was nothing left on the plate.

My sister had the #5 Strawberry Pancakes. She liked it and thought the food quality was better than the Hawaiian Style Cafe.

I, of course had my usual, Portuguese Sausage, Eggs (over easy) and Rice. Yeah, the breakfast of champions! I could eat this everyday for breakfast, and I think I did the whole time I was in Hawaii. Thank goodness for Lipitor.

The service was good and quick. When we left at around 9, the place was packed. So go there early or off-hours. Overall rating - 4 sumos.


Okay, Mike is catching up to me in reviews, so I need to clear my backlog of Big Island posts.

Itsu's is a plate lunch, shave ice and fishing tackle (not kidding) store in Hilo. It's on 810 Piilani St., across from the Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium, which as I'm sure you're all aware is where the annual Merrie Monarch Festival is held.

You apparently can't take food into the festival (though I didn't see any signs), so while we had time before the exhibition started, I walked across the street to Itsu's and had the beef stew (sorry, didn't get a picture) and a shave ice for dessert.

I don't know why, but they did not have my favorite flavor, cherry. That's inexcuseable in my book. Not that it kept me from getting something, I think I ended up with strawberry, which is a totally different red food coloring.

Still, I've never had a shave ice I didn't like. Overall rating - 3 sumos.