Image swiped from Noreetuh.com. Bigeye tuna poke, aka DA BOMB!
When Baydog first told me about Noreetuh over on Facebook, with a link to a Grubstreet.com article whose title included the word "Hawaiian", I was pretty excited. Then, I read the menu, at which point I instantly switched to pretty disappointed.
The article called Noreetuh Hawaiian, but the menu was more Asian fusion with a Hawaiian spin. The idea of a Hawaiian restaurant within easy walking distance of my office had me absolutely over the moon (Onomea is FABULOUS, but the fact is that they're not really convenient to anywhere I ever am, it's always a special trip to go there, and they're worth the occasional special trip but that's why I've only been there twice so far). Hawaiian-spun Asian fusion is nice but just not the same.
To give the owners credit, I do see that the description on their own website is "Hawaiian inspired" and also recognizes Korean, Japanese, and Filipino cuisines as highly influential -- if the article Baydog had sent had used that sort of phrasing instead of "NEW HAWAIIAN RESTAURANT" (#$@!!!), the letdown-driven crankiness would have been much less, possibly even non-existent.
Not surprising for East Coast restaurant reviewers to miss that fine point, though, and even with the disappointment the menu still looked pretty good, with 3 particularly Island-inspired items on the menu that I did want to go try at some point. I did that tonight, in honor of this weekend's Hokule'a events.
I sat at the bar and ordered from the bartender. I started with 2 items from the appetizer menu; he asked if he could bring them in the order in which they were ready, I said fine and that worked out great.
First one out was the bigeye tuna poke, and this totally got me off on the right foot. So so so so good! Tender fresh tuna, a pleasantly salty dressing, a couple of kinds of veggies (either 2 kinds of seaweed or seaweed and something in the cabbage family, whatever the 2nd one was it was rufflier and added a really nice texture), buttery crunchy crushed macadamia nuts, and pickled jalapeno slices adding just the perfect little touch of heat. Funny, the poke is one of my favorites at Onomea too - maybe it's just that I really love poke, but Noreetuh's poke, along with their proximity to the Dempsey's Irish Traditional Music Session, was good enough for me to decide that yes, this might be one to add to my list of places for pre-session dinners. Onolicious, da poke.
The kalua pork croquettes turned up just as I was chasing the last shred of seaweed around the poke plate. These, I didn't find quite as exciting. Funny thing was that my reaction to the real thing was exactly the same as my reaction when I saw them on the menu, namely: when you have something as delicious as kalua pig, why on earth would you want to go and fritter it away in a croquette?
The croquettes were served with pickled cabbage (nice nod to how kalua pig is usually served with cabbage) and katsu sauce, and when I cut into the first one I got a delicious whiff of smoke, mmm, - but then I took my first bite and the pork WAS delicious and tender and smoky - but it was all mushed in with a bunch of silly potatoes, which diluted the flavor to the point where the katsu sauce helped. Really wish they'd given an option for having the kalua pig as a standalone dish - that wouldn't have needed ANY sauce. Chili peppah watah optional, but not necessary.
S'alright though, that does at least leave me the option of coming back for the poke and something else - I can sometimes be a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to ordering, always have a certain favorite and never try anything else.
Both servings were nicely sized but fortunately, I was left with enough room for the dessert that I'd already picked as the third thing I had to try - the King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread Pudding. Holy cow. I love love love King's Hawaiian. I love love love bread pudding. Bread pudding made out of King's Hawaiian?
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE????
And OMG. It looked so good that the couple sitting to my left asked me what it was and decided they had to order it too, and it just every bit as insanely delicious as I expected it to be - like French toast that had died and gone to heaven and then specifically returned to earth to do heavenly good deeds for undeserving mortals.
A minute after mine appeared, the young lady to my other side got her dessert - crispy mochi waffles, which also looked pretty good. You know what, though? I think I am going to indulge my inner stick-in-the-mud when it comes to dessert. King's Hawaiian bread pudding would be very hard to beat.
So, yes, technically it was a two out of three situation - but the miss wasn't horrible, just disappointing in that one of the components would have been so splendid on its own, and the two hits? Over the wall and out into the bay where the kayakers are waiting for the ball type home runs.
I will definitely be back. www.noreetuh.com