Not Your Ordinary Plate Lunch Place

Features Inside Feature

May 9, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Rarely does the convenience and ease of picking up a plate lunch go hand in hand with fresh, quality ingredients and innovative dishes.

  • Crab Cake Benedict ($9.50)
  • Pipikaula and Watercress Salad ($8.25)
  • Ahi Mousse Roll and Nori Wrapped Soft Shell Crab Katsu ($8.95)
  • Kahai Street Kitchen is conveniently located on the corner of Kahai and Kalihi streets.
  • Bubu Arare Crusted Opakapaka ($10.95)
  • Chef David Yamamoto putting on a show while sauteing scallops and shrimps.
  • Kahai creations
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But at Kahai Street Kitchen, preparing gourmet quality food and serving it with the speed and portability of a plate lunch is right up the restaurant’s alley. Owner Nao Iwata can often be found in the kitchen helping prepare meals at the restaurant — which is nestled at the corner of Kahai and Kalihi streets — while also keeping track of the daily operation.

“It’s not your ordinary plate lunch place,” remarks employee Ryan Leong as a customer looks at the extensive menu in awe. “The goal was to be different from everyone else.”

While the day-to-day lunch service is important to Iwata and his staff, the owner’s goal is to continue expanding his catering business. “We would like to do lots more catering, so people can call and ask about everything from weddings to corporate events,” Iwata says. “We’re capable of serving up to 1,000 people, and the biggest event we’ve done is 1,200 people.”

Iwata counts on the help of executive chef and soon-to-be part owner David Yamamoto for help with everything — from adding to and altering the menu to coordinating and tailoring catering opportunities. Iwata finds that his clientele represents a wide range of Oahu’s diverse population, and they all have one thing in common: They enjoy what Yamamoto calls Kahai Street Kitchen’s “paradise comfort food.”

“I find that I have a lot of business owners, executives, lawyers, dentists and doctors, and downtown office (workers) come down to pick up lunch,” Iwata says. The Kalihi business, which launched in 2006 as a catering-only kitchen and has since expanded steadily, is located minutes away from a swath of industrial businesses including the Honolulu Harbor piers, and serves as a convenient spot to get great food at a reasonable price — no matter what you do for a living.

“Basically what I try to do is offer items to fit their budgets, and cater to the customer,” Iwata says. “David is the brains behind all the food. He’s the creative side.”

For those looking for typical plate lunch staples such as Loco Moco ($7.75), Garlic Chicken ($7.95) and Hamburger Steak ($8.75), Kahai Street Kitchen has you covered. Its regular menu also features an array of sandwiches including the hearty Kahai St. Hamburger ($7.50) and the Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($6.50). Additionally, the eatery also features a vast array of constantly rotating daily specials dreamed up by Yamamoto. Some of the culinary creations include: the Maui Potato Chip Crusted Mahi Mahi ($8.75); Seafood Pasta ($8.95) complete with fresh shrimp, scallops, fish and mussels tossed with linguine in a white wine cream sauce; Crab Cake Benedict ($9.50) that incorporates scrumptious crab and a lobster cream sauce with the traditional breakfast favorite; and a Pipikaula and Watercress Salad ($8.25) that merges the distinctive salty flavor of the meat with a homemade sweet Maui onion dressing atop a bed of fresh greens.

On a recent visit by Dining Out, Kahai Street Kitchen offered a pair of unique seafood specials both with their own mixture of flavor and texture. The Bubu Arare Crusted Opakapaka ($10.95) featured fresh fish coated in a layer of tiny arare balls, which create a distinctive crunch and seasoning combination when enjoyed. The Ahi Mousse Roll and Nori Wrapped Soft Shell Crab Katsu ($8.95) also put a new twist on the sea fare, and came served with yuzu aioli and ponzu dipping sauces. Talk about a catch of the day!

Kahai Street Kitchen

  • Where
    • 237 Kalihi Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96819
  • Call
    • (808) 845-0320
    • Fax orders for 10 people or more to 842-4273.
  • Hours
    • 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    • Tuesday – Thursday
    • 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    • Fridays
  • Notes
    • Catering packages are available for a wide range of events – from weddings to corporate parties. Call for more information and customized menu options.