Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hawai'i Day Five: Reuben's, Beer Tai, Dragonfruit, and Ono

I started my fifth day in paradise - my first waking up at The Falls - with a bowl of Golden Grahams. Not exactly exotic Island cuisine, but when you're on vacation for three weeks, you have to save money where you can. Plus, I get grouchy, followed by headachey, if I don't eat first thing in the morning, so having cereal and milk around was a bit of an insurance policy.

After checking out some of the exhibits at the Lyman Museum, and enjoying the Hawai`i-ana Live show at the Palace Theater, we headed to Reuben's for some Mexican food. The place had mixed reviews in guide books we read, and we never tried it - but Spencer & Scott checked it out last year while visiting Hilo for our wedding, and recommended it highly.

I'm glad they did, because they serve a great Lilikoi margarita (I stole a sip of Dan's), the service was quick, and the food was good at a good price. I ordered the Torta with fish, thinking it would be a light, economic option. At under $9, it was definitely the latter, but with a pile of avocado and a basket of seasoned waffle fries as an accompaniment, light will have to wait.

In addition to his lilikoi margarita, Dan ordered the Chicken Flauta, another budget menu item, which also turned out to be a heaping plate of food.

Considering how much we enjoyed the meal, and the good review our friends gave it, I suspect that even in Hawai`i, Mexican restaurants are subject to same strange attitudes that frustrate me in Seattle. Almost weekly I hear people complain that you can't get good Mexican food in Seattle - which baffles me, since I've had so many different varieties of good Mexican food in Seattle... and now in Hilo!

After so many meals out, I was eager to get in the kitchen again - and with the freshest ingredients at my fingertips, I was particularly excited to do some cooking. We swung by the Hilo Farmers Market after lunch and picked up mango, dragonfruit, lilikoi pulp, avocado, and okinawan sweet potatoes, then hit Suisan for some fresh caught Ono. Suisan is a fish market right on Hilo Bay, and is unlike any I've been to. Looking in the tubs of fresh catch around the room, I realized I recognized many of the fishes from my snorkeling books. I'd never seen so many colors of fish for sale, outside a pet store. Anna & Jason recommended it to us last year, when they came home with a huge chunk of Ono to share with us and Dan's folks.

Neither Dan nor I had eaten dragonfruit before, so we were interested in what it tastes like. It's not featured in The Hawai`i Farmers Market Cookbook we brought with us, so I turned to the web to figure out how to prepare it. Turns out, you just cut it in half and eat the insides, seeds and all. In many ways, it's similar to a kiwi fruit, both in form and flavor. It's very mild, but would make a good sorbet or cocktail garnish, I think. It's also beautiful fuschia.

As a little afternoon treat, I decided to keep exploring my obsession with the flavors in a Mai Tai by mixing one up with beer instead of dark rum, and light on the other ingredients. It actually turned out pretty good. I just can't decide if it should be called a Beer Tai, or a Mai Beer.

For dinner, I peeled and boiled the purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, then mashed them with a little soy milk and avocado. The Ono I pan seared on medium at first, then dropped down to low and let cook through, which took maybe 15 minutes or so. I topped the potatoes with the fish, then topped that with sliced avocado (drizzled in a little lime juice, to retain it's color) and some crushed mac nuts (a gift from the owners of The Falls). The colors were bright and the flavors went well together. I'd forgotten how much Ono tastes like chicken!

(Dan's writing all about our trip over at our other blog, The Dans In Hawai`i, so I'll just stick to writing what I know: food.)

Reuben's Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

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