Over the past couple of months the food scene in Chinatown has exploded with amazing eateries, pop-ups and new restaurants. One place I want to highlight is a restaurant that took me way too long to experience since it opened just over one year ago.
Kan Zaman is located on Nuuanu Avenue closer to King Street and is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu. When you first walk into the quaint little restaurant you are greeted with smiles and friendly greetings from the staff. The tables are small and the air conditioning is nice. The decor isn't anything special, but what you may not know is they offer seating outside in the back behind the kitchen. The outside seating is a beautiful courtyard with gorgeous exotic lanterns and delicately placed middle eastern highlights.
It is funny to note that I grew up on Kauai and literally ate Chinese food for every special occasion and the most ethnic thing I remember eating once in a while was Thai food. Now that special Thai restaurant is a Mexican restaurant in Kapaa, but what I am trying to get at is that it wasn't until I moved to Honolulu that I got to experience food from Greece, the Middle East and other flavors that tantalize the taste buds. I was excited when I went to Niagara Falls with my husband for our honeymoon and got to try a shwarma for the first time. And since then I have been craving good, authentic mediterranean food.
Kan Zaman serves up some delicious dishes. There is nothing so far that I didn't like, well I take that back the Katayef banana pancake dessert with orange blossom cream was like eating a flower, but everything else is so good and the portions are very generous.
Thus far I have had the Mezza Sampler- a sampling of hummus, babaganoush (the best I have ever had, and my husband agrees too), taktouka (tomato and green pepper salad), warak inab (stuffed grape leaves). I am salivating as I am writing this. This comes with a side of fresh, thin, light naan bread. The portions are nice, a heaping scoop of the hummus and babaganoush and there are 2 mini grape leaves which is perfect for 2 people to share. The hummus is a little different form the pre made stuff you find in the stores as it has a nice smokey paprika flavor and hints of citrus. The babaganoush from other places can be mush and have a weird texture, this one is creamy and very similar to hummus but with a lighter flavor that is really pleasant. The tomato and bell pepper salad is refreshing and contains some nice thinly sliced cloves or garlic for kick. My husband said the grape leaves were the best he's ever had, the leaves were tender and the stuffing light and seasoned well. Twice I have had this appetizer sampling now and I would order it every time, especially if you are hungry ($16.95).
The thing I love about mediterranean food is the meat. It's always seasoned well, tender and melts in your mouth. The lamb at Kan Zaman is delicious. There is no gamey taste and the seasoning is spot on. I have had the lamb kebab sandwich and the lamb tajine and both are amazing. The portions are so large and generous its refreshing to see nowadays. I usually take home the leftover or if I am really hungry I eat it all and feel bad about overeating afterwards.
The kofta sandwich is grilled seasoned beef, cheese, smoked paprika oil pressed on a baguette. It's almost like an amazing hamburger in a panini sandwich. Crisp on the outside and gooey from the cheese on the inside this sandwich is comforting and hearty ($11.95).
The lamb kebab sandwich is grilled shaved lamb chunks on a pita bread with a little tahini hummus spread, feta crumbles and black olives. They are pretty generous with the olives, of which I think I picked half of them out. The pita sandwich is so big you need to eat the filling before you can pick it up and eat it with your hands. So good though! The lamb is like little sausages and seasoned so well ($11.95).
Both plates came with a mixed green salad, that came in a heaping mound of greens, onions and tomato. The dressing is a slightly sweet vinaigrette. I found myself oooooing and awing as I ate it. Nice, refreshing and makes you feel good about eating such flavorful food when you have a huge salad next to it.
There's so much more I need to try and so many reasons to go back. I have only been there twice now so stay tuned to my Twitter for more eating adventures to come. And honestly, compared to other restaurants in town serving something similar the prices are better, the portions are way bigger and the quality is incredible. I love this place!
Kan Zaman 1028 Nuuanu Avenue serves lunch from 11am-5pm everyday except Sundays. Open until 9:30pm Monday - Thursday and open until 10:30pm Fridays and Saturdays.