Eating Well On A Budget
Wednesday - May 28, 2008
I’m figuring that most people are beginning to make budget concessions now that it’s obvious there’s nothing we can really do to fight escalating gas prices and electric bills. Of course it’s easy to find cheap food and huge portions, but sometimes it barely qualifies as food. Nourishing food enables us to grow healthier, and live better. Some cheap food has the entirely opposite effect. Food has to feed our souls, not simply satisfy a hunger pang. Nourishing food, I believe, is cooked by people who care about what they do. Finding these kinds of restaurants on a budget is the key, in my opinion, to great dining.
Which leads me to Downtown at the Hawaii State Art Museum. It’s no secret to anyone who reads this column that I am a huge fan of Ed Kenney and David Caldiero and their passionate, honest and devout commitment to serving great food at reasonable prices. Fortunately the two also are talented chefs concerned about their own carbon footprints. That’s why you’ll find recyclable takeout containers at Downtown @HSAM (and the express counter Downtown ASAP!) along with the freshest, farm-grown, local ingredients Kenney and Caldiero can get their hands on. Sandwiches, fabulous salads and entrées that range in price from about $9 to $16 make this an affordable and excellent stop. Budget dining it might be, but it feels first class ...
At Pier 38, Nico Chaize has been coping with a permanent lunchtime rush since he opened the doors to Nico’s a few steps from the Honolulu fish auction. There’s no fish on the island fresher than Nico’s - and you can sample it for breakfast as fish and eggs ($6.95) or in an excellent fish omelet ($6.65). By lunchtime, the catch of the day is served with Nalo Greens and rice, and other fresh entrees include pan-seared furikake ahi with ginger and cilantro sauce ($8.80) and a truly tasty burger. There’s even a fresh, luxuriously fatty fried ahi belly topped with lomi tomato salsa ($8.40). Everything on the menu is less than $9 and, yes, it’s made with passion and a commitment to local farmers and fishermen ...
In recent weeks I’ve had more than a few people - including several prominent food and beverage guys - admit that one of their favorite spots for family dining is Pasta Basta, Donato Loperfido‘s Italian place at Restaurant Row. It’s casual, with counter service and no wait staff. That’s how Donato manages to put out incredible food at about half the price you’d pay in a fine dining restaurant. Lunchtime can be crowded because of the exquisite Italian food (and the fact that there’s often enough to take home for dinner), so go early or late to avoid the rush. Donato makes food I crave. Fresh sauces made from tomato and basil; fat pappardele noodles with olive oil, asparagus and smoked salmon, and perfectly wonderful Orecchiette Pugliesi (shell pasta with broccoli, sausage, chicken, fresh tomato, garlic and olive oil), as well as the best Risotto Con Funghi in town.
Pasta Basta really offers incredible value with a menu that gives everyone the opportunity to eat great food without paying a fortune. Bring your kids and introduce them to the wonders of a real plate of pasta with a simple tomato sauce. Every time I sit down and eat here I marvel that, in times when restaurants are struggling with escalating costs, Doanto still has the desire to produce plates of handmade pasta topped with fresh ingredients for as little as $11.
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