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4/17/2015 Japanese BBQ

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And now for that restaurant review I didn't get to on Wednesday...

Restaurant Review: Gyu-Kaku
Type: Yakiniku
Location: Honolulu (Waikiki, Kapiolani, etc.)
The last time I got yakiniku was in Osaka. But it was only a matter of time before I tried out one of the places here on Oahu. For those not familiar with the term, yakiniku is the Japanese take on Korean BBQ. You order an assortment of meat and/or veggies and grill them at your table. As a note, if you haven't done it before, I'd recommend going with someone who has. If that's not an option, just keep a close eye on your grill to avoid burning anything.
Anyway, Gyu-Kaku is a fairly typical yakiniku place I went to the Kapiolani location, which is very nice restaurant with a clear Japanese vibe. The menu consists of a bunch of Japanese and Korean appetizers and a wide variety of veggies and thinly sliced meats to grill. They recommend 3 - 5 items per person, which sounds about right depending on the items and person in question. I got kalbi (Korean style beef ribs), harami (skirt steak), beef bacon, and some shiitake mushrooms, along with a plate of assorted kimchi. Some of the meats come already marinated, but they've got a selection of sauces on the side (with recommend pairings on the menu) as well. Both the meats and sauces were excellent. Though, as I mentioned, it's at least somewhat dependant on your own grilling skills. I was able to grill my own taiyaki for dessert too, which was a pleasant surprise.
I really have no complaints about Gyu-Kaku. Nice atmosphere, good food, and reasonable prices for yakiniku (though keep in mind that yakiniku is a little on the expensive side to begin with). Service was good too and I managed to get there are just the right time to avoid a wait (though I got lucky, it tends to get long lines during dinner time). I'm sure I'll be back again sooner or later.


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4/15/2015 Scotland in Hawaii

More travelogue.

April 12th (Sunday): Scottish Festival
The Honolulu Greek Festival last fall came as a bit of a surprise, but not nearly as much as when I heard about the Scottish Festival. Of course, I had to check it out. It was actually at the same place as the Greek Festival was, the pavilion at the far end of Ala Moana Beach Park. Personally, I think the design of the place suited Greek culture a little better, but anyway... There were a few booths selling assorted Scottish items, a room with tables for various Scottish clans (who knew there were so many people of Scottish descent in Hawaii?), and some food, of course. I was a bit disappointed to see that the majority of the food wasn't Scottish, but I did get bridie, which is a sort of puff pasty with ground beef inside. Could have bought canned haggis too, but even if it wasn't $14 a can, I kinda of doubt I would have (maybe I'd try it in a good restaurant, but not canned). Inside the pavilion they had a highland dance competition going all day (for young girls and teens, from the look of it) and plenty of Scottish music. Speaking of music, here's something a little different. It's a kind old attempt at a Scottish Hawaiian song. Kinda weird, but amusing. Right outside the pavilion they were running a series of Scottish games. They included hammer throwing, weight tossing, and the famous caber toss. They had a few events for women too, like throwing frying pans and rolling pins (on that note, I wouldn't recommend angering a Scottish woman). Is it just me, or does every traditional Scottish sport seem to involve throwing heavy objects around? That weight tossing one especially looked dangerous since the goal is to toss it almost straight up and over the bar above your head. If it were me, I'd probably take off running the moment I threw the weight... The Society for Creative Anachronism had some fighting demos too, though that's not strictly Scottish.
In the end, I spent a fun two or three hours there. It's not one of the biggest festivals, but there's some good entertainment and it's definite change of pace from the usual Hawaiian and Asian style festivals they have around here.

Got a restaurant review to write too, but that'll have to wait. See you Friday!


4/13/2015 Hiking with my new camera

Got a couple travelogue entries to write, but I'm running a bit late right now so I think I'll do the first one today and the second on Wednesday.

April 11th (Saturday): Pu'u o Hulu Hike with My New Camera
I've driven past the start of this trail many times when going to services on Saturdays. Well, this Saturday afternoon I had some free time so I looked it up in a hiking book and decided to give it a try. I figured it would also give me a chance to start playing with my new camera. Speaking of which...
So, since late 2012 I've been using a Canon Powershot sx260. Which was a replacement for my Powershot sx100, which was in turn a replacement for my original digital camera (another Canon). Unfortunately, my sx260 got a bit banged up while I was in China last summer (never was quite sure how it happened though). It's been a bit glitchy since then, with the largest problem being the way the lens periodically skips up and down. When taking photos it's mostly just an annoyance (though I have missed a few shots as a result), but it really screws with video, as you likely noticed if you've watched any of the videos I've posted since then.
I thought about replacing it last fall with a new Powershot but decided to put up with my damaged camera for a little while longer and wait for the 2015 model in hopes it would make a couple improvements and add a feature or two I'd be wanting. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to see that, not only did the newest Powershot lack the features I'd been wanting, the general consensus was that it was actually inferior to the 2014 model (though still a good camera overall). So, as much as I've loved my Canons, I decided to look at some different brands.
In the end, I decided to try the new Nikon Coolpix S9900. It's a super zoom, like my last two Canons, which means that you get a good bit of power and a really long zoom in a pocket sized camera. That said, the S9900 is a decent bit thicker than my sx260 so it's a little tight in my pocket. Not nearly as bad as my old sx100 though. And the reason for the S9900's extra size and weight is its neat fold out display screen, which makes it much easier to compose shots when holding the camera at an odd angle or to take selfies (which I've never been especially fond of, but still). It's also got a 30x zoom (standard now, but up from the 20x on my sx260), a true panorama mode (Canon used to include a pseudo version which relied on computer software and tended to leave visible seams, but eventually dropped it entirely), and some other nifty features (like a photo pre-cache mode). On the down side, some of those special shooting modes only operate at lower image quality settings, which kinda discourages me from using them. And Nikon's menu system, while functional, really isn't very good. Too many common features are buried in screen covering menus. It also lacks some features I've gotten really used to in my Canons, such as the ability to set the time limit and display settings for image review after I take a shot. The flash, which lacks multiple strengths and requires manual release and return, isn't especially great either. As for image quality... I'll have to use it for a bit longer before I have a definitive opinion there. On that note, I'm still figuring out the best way to set up different types of photos on tit, so some of my photos in the next few travelogue entries may be a bit off in one way or another.
But anyway, on to the hike. Pu'u o Hulu is in Wai'anae out on the Leeward (West) side of the island. The trailhead is right across the street from a housing development. It isn't marked, but it's obvious enough if you're looking and, at least on weekends, there will usually be a few cars parked nearby by other hikers. While it's not an area of the island I'd want to live on, they have some great mountain views and the trail zigzags right up the side of one of those mountains. As such, it's only about a mile each way. But, since it zigzags, it's not as steep or strenuous as those "staircase straight up the mountain" hikes like Koko Head. Heck, I'd say it's easier than Diamond Head. At least if you stick to the zigzag path. There's one point where the trail splits for a while. One path zigzags and the other goes pretty much straight up. It's shorter, but requires climbing over a bunch of loose rock. I tried it on my way up. The rocks aren't that bad, but it requires decent balance and foot and is extremely overgrown so I don't recommend it. Though I did run across this bird on the way, which was cool. Whatever path you take, you'll end up at a few old military bunkers at the top of the mountain which offer excellent views. Now this isn't one of my best ocean rock photos, but would you believe I took this from the exactly same place as the last photo? Yay for 30x zoom! And remember that panorama mode I mentioned? That's just about a 360 view. Really makes it clear that this is an island, huh?
So, still figuring out the camera, but I'm pretty happy with some of the photos I took (much less so with others, but I'll work all the settings out sooner or later). As for the hike, it's not very long or difficult and the views are great, though it's also really short so don't expect to spend all that much time on it. Not sure if it's worth driving all the way across the island for if you're in Honolulu, but if you're in the area and have an hour to kill (30 or 40 minutes if you're quick and don't spend too much time admiring the view) it's worth a stop.


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