Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cravings, Chinatown & Chai

Mmm, pho! Every so often I have an intense craving for a bowl of rich, beefy broth filled with those wonderful rice noodles. Last Saturday was one of those days, so I hopped into the car and headed over to Honolulu’s Chinatown.

A craving day is not one when you should experiment with a new place. When your stomach's chanting for a specific food, there’s no worse disappointment than when it turns out to be just…wrong. So I parked in my favorite lot off Beretania Street and made my way to Pho 97, at the Maunakea Street entrance to the Maunakea Marketplace.

This is familiar pho. Comfort pho for me. Perhaps there are better bowls of soup out there, and I will find them soon. But there’s just something about their turquoise table cloths and the mountain of Thai basil waiting on a back table to be sorted that relaxes me. It’s no nonsense, good food.

And, of course, there’s the necessary plate of garnishes. I just felt like basil, bean sprouts and a squeeze of lemon that day and left the culantro and hot pepper slices on the plate. A couple squeezes of Sriracha and hoisin sauce for meat dipping and I was set.

The post-lunch plan was to walk over to Manifest, a café/bar/venue on the strip of Hotel Street once notorious for its scummy girly bars and creepy old guy joints. There still are a couple of less savory places in that area but they now exist alongside hipster watering holes. I suppose it’s an improvement, but I feel rather sorry for the original patrons of the area who had their space invaded by a bunch of young people.

Well, one cannot go straight from pho to café, as pho fills one’s stomach to just about capacity. A brief digestion walk was in order. Here are a few shots from that.

Okay, it was then time for Manifest. Since the place had mentioned their chai latte in an ad I saw in the Honolulu Weekly, I decided to give it a try. 

Note to people tempted to order hot drinks on an especially warm day in Hawaii: the barista will hear your order but his subconscious mind knows better. It will prevent him from steaming the milk, adding ice cubes to your drink instead. And the barista's right; hot drinks on a hot day are just plain silly. This has happened to me twice recently.

Anyway, I was happy with my iced chai. Nice and spicy, although a wee bit thick for my taste. They use Tiger Spice Chai, which is a powder, and powders tend to be that way.

It was a nice afternoon. Mellow jazz. Window seat. Chai. 

But soon it was time to go. I spotted this cute sandwich board a couple doors down on my way home. There are way too many tempting food options in this neighborhood. 

Phở 97
1120 Maunakea Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 538-0708

32 North Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 523-7575


  1. Nice photos Ani!! But what do you mean you left the culantro on the plate?! Shame on you...

  2. Thank you! And when we go to the Saigon Deli one day, I'll stick in the culantro just for you.