Food blogging in Hawaii

My nephew’s dinner from Zippy’s, a Hawaiian institution. Fairly fast, casual food. This is their chili (hold the beans), with a hotdog, a scoop of macaroni salad and two scoops of short-grain white rice.

Two weeks in Oahu and it was fun to do some food reviewing here. My mother’s side of the family is from Hawaii and she was born here, so I have visited many times, and have a long food history here. So it was interesting to see how my tastes have changed too. In past trips, the childhood nostalgia and familiar flavours won out over objectivity.

But this time, more conscious of my health and spoiled by the great restaurants and cafes in Sydney, I found the carb-heavy island diet a bit overwhelming (two scoops of rice with most dishes, or at least lots of carbohydrate). There are so many casual and fast-food restaurants around, and the uniform use of throwaway plates and cutlery, in a state which I believe has limited recycling, added that dash of guilt to every meal.

In fact, the best food that we had was at home. My brother is a meat broker, so for a family gathering, we had the most amazing rib eye roast. He also went out fishing a few times, and we had the freshest possible mahi mahi and the small tuna which goes by the local name shibi. And the family would also bring home treats from elsewhere that they knew were the best: some great laulau (meat wrapped in taro leaves, traditionally cooked in an underground oven) or custard pie from Deluxe Bakery.

Roasting a whole turkey is not so common in Australia, so what a treat for my brother to make a perfect, brined version.

It felt that with some research and diligence, there are some interesting new American (Hawaiian) restaurants and some great new Asian places, and there are also local favourite fast-food-type treats (I regret not trying the taiyaki, the Japanese waffle in a shape of a fish, that is filled with soft-served ice cream). But the food is not so refined, and will pack pounds on you if you’re not careful. I can’t believe I put on 4 kilos from the holidays! On the other hand, I did drink everyday and never said no to desserts or a scoop of macaroni salad (which in Hawaii, from Zippy’s, is a taste sensation).

A fancy version of an Island specialty, the locomoco: an egg, a beef patty, rice and gravy.

While for another location, I might list highlights in terms of meals and restaurants, I honestly can’t say I went to enough great places to recommend them. Perhaps next time.

In the meantime, it feels to me that Zomato, my preferred food reviewing site, may just be failing in most markets outside of its headquarters in India. It’s pretty steady in Australia (where Yelp isn’t as popular) but in the USA and Canada, there are only a handful of people using it. I find that Yelp is SO popular, that it’s hard to sort through the reviews to figure out what the verdict is.

I love Japanese curry, and Waikiki is one of those places that has Japanese curry house chains!

It’s amusing for me in a way that Zomato is not so popular, since, like I did in Rome in 2018, a few reviews put me on the top of the leaderboard. In two weeks of reviews, I was able, with only two blogs, to be the number three blogger, and focusing on reviews instead, I jumped into the number one spot for reviews position, and will be the number three photographer.

Sadly, the majority of the restaurants I wanted to review didn’t even have a listing up on Zomato, even many which are well established. While Zomato allows users to send them info to put up new listings, I sent info for all the new listings and an address change for another restaurant, and had to send multiple emails and wait around two weeks for any movement (and even then, the listings are incomplete. Their team that takes care of Australia will surf a restaurant website, put up menus and full information).

Loved Fête, a modern American restaurant in Chinatown. Elegant and interesting food.

It highlights to me that it’s all a bit of a game, this food reviewing business, and whether you get ranked on a site, or are a ‘top’ or ‘popular’ reviewer and even if anyone reads the reviews! I do still find it amusing but perhaps not for much longer. I mainly do food reviews to share advice with others, and if no one is actually using Zomato, partly because their listings aren’t up to date, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

Zomato only allows points over a six-month period, so I’ll fall off the leaderboards in six months. I told them that it looks bad for them and is less amusing for reviewers when so few people are using the site in a locations were there is, for example, only four bloggers IN TOTAL, listed for Hawaii. I think they should extend their six months to a longer period in locations where they don’t have enough traction.

Northern Thai sausage from the superb Opal’s Thai restaurant.

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