reservations about Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii
Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations is one of my all-time favorite televisions shows. He writes, he travels, he eats and he’s hungry for more! I can’t get enough of this guy. So when Anasarca from Asita Recordings posted up in the QuadMag forums about his December visit to film in Honolulu, I was geeked!
The Hawaii episode aired last week and I have to say, I’m disappointed. I guess that’s somewhat inevitable when you have such high expectations. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how much I disliked this episode of No Reservations. I watched it twice just to make sure I wasn’t trippin.
The whole episode is available on youtube–for now–so watch while you can.
Below is a loose play-by-play of the episode with my commentary.
Tony (can I call him that?) starts off at Bailey’s on Kapahulu where he is duped(?) into buying a $3,000 aloha shirt. Eek! Learned something new about aloha shirts being invented as kimono in shirt form… He doesn’t touch on the mu’umu’u, but this episode unfortunately does not touch on a lot of things.
First eatery: Puka Dog. I have no idea what that is, but given my appreciation for things Bourdain, I kind of want one. It is def not “real Hawaiian” as the store owner claims and the place is clearly Waikiki schtick, but okay, it looks alright. I’m not a huge fan of fruit salsas served from beer taps(??) but maybe there is something spicy and good there. At the very least, the toasting spike for the tubular buns was a good setup for the Romania episode.
At Ono’s Bourdain gets a full dose of Hawaiian food. But in the voice-over during the eating he says that it’s “a true fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino influences.” Huh? Is it really? I dont equate laulau, lomi salmon, poke or poi with any of those cultures. If that is indeed the case, TELL ME MORE. Tell me why. He’s getting a real deal type tour from the guy that owns Side Street Inn, so I’m not inclined to doubt, but but but….. okay maybe pipikaula and watercress aren’t indigenous… but what about the other stuff? Thought that was Hawaiian? I want Tony to enlighten me here but just end up feeling confused. And hungry.
Next up: Side Street Inn… that’s the realness for local mashup grinds. Clearly Bourdain loves “the Asian dimension.” Opihi = baby abalone? First I ever heard of that; now I know. His facetious comment about Hawaii–”and by the way, it’s a state, you don’t need a passport!”–leaves me wanting political commentary!! Let’s talk about statehood and the overthrow of a sovereign monarchy. No? No. Boooo!
Being taken out on the North Shore on a jet ski looked amazing! I’ve never seen Waimea Valley from the water… just beautiful.
Sa-sheh-me?! I know you can say it better. Sa-she-me!! (yum)
I suppose I’m nit-picking here, but Spam is not “what’s for dinner”… it’s a side dish, homes! He also conflates Hawaiians with locals as in, “Hawaiians are head over heels in love with that salty cube of mystery meat miscellany.” He and his host feast on Spam-enhanced dishes. There were fat slabs of Spam that didn’t look familiar to me, but I’m a pseudo vegetarian so I know my opinion is not valid. Can’t lie tho, that fried rice Spam musubi could get it… Spam is not really meat anyway, right?
Even tho I’m not very familiar with “tiki drink” kitsch, I did like the La Mariana segment. That place is fun. The Kalihi BBQ on the other hand seemed contrived (sorry bruddahs)… the luau “in the everyday driveway sense of the word” leaves me wanting to see the beloved pig pulled out of a backyard imu. That luau stew looked good; I prefer squid to beef but hell yea to that. The “indigenous dance” –hula–was nice but we all know that girl (Oshen’s ex?) was invited for the cameras.
The Big Isle trip was underwhelming. I was more impressed after googling one of the tour guides, R.J Hillhouse, but really, does she have something to do with Hawaii? I’m sorry but, Lois Ann Yamanaka’s Hilo tour would have been WAY better. I think. The whole interaction with the crazy haole living in the lava field felt forced to me. Obvs the food wasn’t the draw. i just didn’t get it. “Terrible and beautiful” I guess. I think they were drinking Kona beer.
This bit from Bourdain’s blog supports the theory that his head wasn’t really in the Hawaii episode. He writes of nearly spitting up his maitai after receiving word that the Food Network is rebroadcasting his first tv series, A Cook’s Tour.
I finished my Hawaii shoot in a state of agitation, dreading the FN promos to come, figuring it’ll be like being publicly identified as a Milwaukee Brewer long after having moved to the Yankees.The rest of the week, I rode the wild, North Shore surf at Banzai Pipeline and Sunset (in a jet ski), hovered over boiling magma on the Big Island, was offered every variety of unexpectedly wonderful local food – but my mind was elsewhere.
Towards the Paradise Cove luau ending, A.B. admits he’s in “a more forgiving mood than is usual” and I think that’s cool. Maybe he was possessed by the aloha spirit. But with regards to “mass produced fun for middle America on holiday,” well, I couldn’t help but want to see him in his snarkologist helmet! Tho really I suppose, the footage speaks for itself LoL.
I liked the monster cockroach and wave sounds in the title segments/parental warnings.
But compared to the Jamaica episode where he says up front “trust me, I will try real hard to make the other Jamaica show,” Hawaii looks trite and the Jamaica show, shows. Loved the visits with Jamaican poets and musicians.
So why no Hawaiian music or food markets or disenfranchised folk? You got suckered by HVCB or just couldn’t be bothered?
Picture instead, starting the episode with foods brought by early Polynesian voyagers: poi (kalo), coconut, pork. A visit to Hawaiian sovereign lands. Knee deep in a lo’i. That side of Hawaii that is there to be found but maybe doesn’t care if you do. Plus charter schools, slide guitar, ‘awa and nalo greens. There would still be room for the Asian dimension, kitsch and all that… but something was seriously missing.