My rental car was due back in a couple of hours, so after my totally awesome zoo trip I headed over to a likely-looking plate lunch place for lunch.
And yeah, Hiro's Place rocked. It's a small place - the inside is completely taken up by the kitchen and an extra-long, extra-appealing steam table - but there's plenty of seating outside, especially if you're there for a late lunch.
I was excited to see neatly bundled little laulaus sitting on the steam table and ordered one. Mine was made with pork, taro leaves and (I think) butterfish, and looked just too pretty wrapped up in its ti leaves. I got it with a good side of the ubiquitous mac salad, this one very heavy on the potatoes, and a chicken and green bean stirfry. Oh yeah, and a big ol' scoop of fried rice. Big, heavy Hawaiian lunch.
The laulau was really good, moist (probably from a bunch of fat) and porky. The cooked taro leaves were totally wonderful, very much like collards. Pork and collards? Yeah, what's wrong with that?
I called Logan and told him how tasty my lunch had been, and he decided he'd stop by as well a couple of hours later. He went more Filipino with his choices, and I luckily got to try a couple bites of his leftovers at the hotel. Since he's insane, he has three types of starch, but he also has the pork adobo with peas which was yummy achiote-ness and a really good "chicken papaya". This turned out to be a soup with green papaya, nice and firm-textured with good savory/sweetness. I was a big fan of the soup.
Hiro's Place (no website) is at 50 E. Puainako, right next to the big KTA. 808.959.6665. And have no idea why they're at 57% on Urbanspoon - are people drunk? This place was really good!
After I enjoyed my lunch, I dropped my seventeen pounds of leftovers off at my car and headed into the large supermarket next door. I had a mission, to find coconut syrup, and I wanted to see a Hawaiian grocery store. It was fun! Not only did they have an aisle dedicated to saimin and a large deli poke section, they also have tasty-looking Hawaiian sweets.
Haupia is a coconut cake that I also didn't try, though I hear McDonald's has a good one in Hawaii. (No, really!) Here's a version with pumpkin.
If these were available in my local megamart, I'd weigh... well, a lot.
And... more poi! This seems like a good idea, plus, it's pretty.
I dropped off my rental car (a 2009 purple Vibe, btw) and hitched a ride back to the hotel, where I spent a couple of happy hours conked out next to the pool. When Logan finally finished up work, we went to a Thai place in town that he'd had HIGHLY recommended.
BOO, Royal Siam. Ugh and shudder and all that.
First up, a really sad stab at som tam, that delicious Thai slaw of green papaya, green beans, tomatoes, dried shrimp, peanuts and peppers that here included basically none of those things and mostly tasted like chili water. Pretty sad effort.
We also ordered their "catch of the day", which was mahimahi prepared in a peanut sauce. Even with the thick, sweet sauce, the fish was extremely fishy-tasting and mealy. I picked at it a bit.
There are supposed to be at least two other Thai restaurants in town that are better (Sombat's and Naung Mai) and I'd definitely check them out before this place.
Royal Siam (in case you're wondering) is at 70 Mamo street in Hilo. 808.961.6100. And it's higher rated than Hiro's right now? WTF?! I guess it's just a day of disagreeing with citizen reviewers. (Look not at the man behind the curtain - I know I'm a citizen reviewer too, thanks.)
After that really disappointing dinner, we drove up to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy (named for Hawaii's first astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, who died aboard the Challenger), which is 9,000 feet up the side of Mauna Kea. It's COLD up there! There were several Japanese tour groups who looked to have been provided with regulation puffy coats.
The drive up was kind of treacherous, even in the 4-wheel drive vehicle we had. It was oppressively foggy until we came close to the visitor's center, when the skies cleared out instantly. The road is really steep, too, and there are signs at the visitor's center warning of brake failure and other, less tangible dangers.
Our visit was enjoyable, but it would have been nice if someone had been available to explain what we were seeing. We did have a very welcome hot cocoa, and I got to look through a telescope at Jupiter. That was cool. And we saw the moon all big, too.
If you're an astronomy geek, it's worth a visit. If not, meh. We liked it, but only stayed for fifteen minutes or so, until Logan started to freeze.
There you go, my last day in Hilo! The next day, we begin Labor Day Weekend by heading to Volcano National Park and Kona. There is much fun and sunburns, and Logan accidentally orders a giant icy pink drink with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Hee!