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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Follow your mood to Eastside or Chiyo's

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

From left, Randal T. Arakaki and his friends Ellen Low and John Stahler, both of San Francisco, are about to indulge at Eastside Grill.

Photos by Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Eastside Grill (its fans like to call it EG) offers a variety of hearty dishes, including fish tacos (pictured), "Da unique" teriyaki steak and fried noodles.
This month, we'll take a look at two places at opposite ends of the energetic spectrum. Depending on your mood, each of these establishments offers satisfaction and comfort — call it the gentle dance of yin and yang.

Eastside Grill
1035 University Ave.
11 a.m.-1:30 a.m., daily

OK, baby, here's a place for rollicking fun. If you're in the frame of mind for lots of action, Eastside Grill (affectionately referred to as EG) will be your mug of beer. Come as you are; no need to dress up for this casual spot across the street from the Varsity Theater.

If there are live sporting events happening anywhere in the country, EG has its TV-satellite dish pointed in the right direction. If you dig screaming, pounding on tables and dancing a jig when a touchdown is scored, then you have happened upon your own not-so-private paradise.

My friend Keira introduced me to EG a while ago. She and her buddies from work go there occasionally, late at night, for some friendly elbow-bending, karaoke, or live music. Her sister Kanani recently celebrated her birthday there with a group of well-wishers, juiced up by the jovial atmosphere of the place.

What I first came for was the food, of course. "Da unique" teriyaki steak ($9.25) is a pupu force to be reckoned with; a large plate of grilled steak, as tender, juicy and flavorful as possible, sliced into long strips and finished with a drizzling of ranch dressing.

The crab dip ($9.25) is a creamy affair served with lots of warm sliced bread and a small wedge of lemon. It's made with Maryland blue crab. Other sea treats include blackened 'ahi and poke (price varies), breaded oysters ($6.95), calamari fritti ($7.95) and oyster shooters ($1.25 each).

The food is fun here, all kinds of hearty Hawai'i-style pub grub. The pupu menu goes on and on. Fried rice ($6.75), fried noodles ($6.95), nachos ($8.95, with chicken, beef or chili), aromatic garlic fries ($4.95, share a basket with the one you love), veggie egg rolls ($6) and more. If it's battered, fried, salty or spicy, EG probably serves it.

No need to don your thinking cap; here, it's your drinking cap you'll want to wear. Big glasses of draft are only $2 a pop. I like the people, the energy and the visuals (neon lights, banners, surf imagery, electronic games) at Eastside Grill — and, of course, the food.

256 N. Beretania St.
Lunch: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays
Dinner: 4:30-8:30 p.m., daily

Chiyo's recently opened its doors across from 'A'ala Park. It is run by a young couple, Minnie and Gary Soong. She handles the dining room and he is the kitchen whiz. This is a nice, Japanese hole in the wall that you should know about.

Yakitori ($4.50) is a good starter — chunks of chicken, onion and bell pepper, skewered and grilled. Yaki ika ($3.50) is broiled cuttlefish, a pleasantly chewy experience. The poke ($4.50) is fresh and tasty. And sashimi moriawase ($4.95) is composed of raw 'ahi and the catch of the day.

The miso soup here is among the finest I have tasted. It's offered with tsukemono and rice as part of the complete meals. Tofu steak ($5.95) is done three ways — with ponzu, teriyaki or spicy. Chicken or pork can be prepared teriyaki-style ($5.95) or katsu-style ($6.50), and salmon ($5.95) is quite good either shioyaki (salt-baked) or teriyaki-style.

Several nabemono selections are on the menu. Nabemono dishes are a hearty wintertime specialty, prepared from fish, seafood, chicken, meat and/or vegetables in a bubbling cauldron right at your table. Most of them ($6.95) come with pork or chicken, along with vegetables, tofu, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms, in a tasty dashi (broth) base. Yosenabe ($9.95) is the assorted-seafood version of this dish.

Popular and familiar noodle-soup dishes (with either udon or soba noodles) are offered, along with less well-known mendon dishes (simmered creations served over noodles). My favorites are the nabeyaki ($8.50) that combines chicken, won bok, shiitake, squash, shrimp tempura, onion and egg, and the unagi (eel) shiitake tofu mendon ($8.95) combination.

Chiyo's is Zen-like in its approach; the food is fresh, the proprietors are helpful and efficient, and the atmosphere is no-frills, quiet and peaceful.

Sent your comments, questions and suggestions to Matthew Gray at mgray@honoluluadvertiser.com.