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Ono, You Know

Oh, Wow, Lau Lau!

By Alana Folen
February 3, 2013

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In the eyes of a devout food enthusiast, nothing says “Hawaii” more than a festive spread of “ono kine grindz,” including a bowl of sticky poi with a lot of texture, lomi salmon bursting with refreshing flavor, hearty kalua pig and, of course, you gotta have the lau lau! Imagine earthy and rich luau leaves wrapped snugly around morsels of savory pork (on some occasions, seafood) and then steamed to perfection. Lau lau is the most precise definition of “ono, you know.”

And when you have good lau lau, you really don’t need all the bells and whistles of certain side dishes to go along with it. But hey, I’m not complaining — bring on another helping of squid luau, chicken long rice and haupia — that’s all just icing on the cake.

So, because I’m in deep love with lau lau, this week, it was time to satisfy this craving of mine and delve in to these luscious local creations at the following Ono, You Know establishments. Oh, wow, lau lau … This is the perfect time to unwrap layers of goodness!

Ocean House

Envision a dining experience like no other, one of peace and serenity nestled within exquisite beachfront surroundings. Then, immerse your palate into a world of decadence with incredible fare. Believe me, all this and more is yours at Ocean House in Outrigger Reef Hotel, located directly in the heart of Waikiki.

The restaurant, which offers breathtaking views of Diamond Head, exudes a casual elegance that is all its own. The staff treats all patrons like guests in their own home, and executive chef Aurelio Garcia takes charge in the kitchen.

As I perused the menu during my most recent visit to Ocean House, general manager David Nagaishi pointed out an entree on the menu that I had never set sights on before. For a unique taste of Hawaii, he highly recommended Seafood Lau Lau.

Priced at $33.50, Ocean House’s Seafood Lau Lau is a true testament to the eclectic flavors of the sea — an evolution of lau lau is how I would best describe it.

“Lau lau is typically served with pork, but our Seafood Lau Lau is unique, as it consists of fresh mahi mahi, shrimp, seared scallops, purple sweet potato grown on Molokai and authentic luau leaf,” Nagaishi explains. “We saute our lau lau in a soy sake garlic butter sauce, and this sauce is so tasty — it really brings the dish together.”

For the experimentalist, Seafood Lau Lau receives top honor. Finally, the main entree is wrapped nicely in ti leaf and served on a bed of jasmine rice.

“Both locals and tourists love this dish,” Nagaishi exclaims. “You have to try it. It’s really good. We serve about 25 orders a night. It’s definitely a specialty here.”

Ocean House
Outrigger Reef Hotel
2169 Kalia Road
923.2277

People’s Cafe

People’s Cafe brings power to the people with its onolicious local Hawaiian and Filipino cuisine. This renowned eatery, which has been in the Islands for 80 years, is filled with bright decor, fresh-cut flowers on each table and a friendly staff to boot. Its simple menu makes the task of ordering an easy one, and better yet, the food is the truest form of comfort food unique to our island home.

In love with lau lau? Then you’ll be pleased with the many entree selections dedicated to this local favorite. Regarded as a popular item on the menu, Pork Lau Lau ($6.50 apiece) presents a homemade must-have that features morsels of pork belly and pork butt wrapped in fresh luau leaf. Then, for People’s Cafe’s take on the typical Hawaiian Plate ($12.50), get your appetite ready to go, as you are presented with pork lau lau, kalua pig, your choice of chicken long rice or squid luau, poi or rice and a slice of haupia for dessert.

The long list of meals with lau lau on the roster continues with the Lau Lau Plate. Priced at ($11.50), have your fill of pork lau lau, lomi salmon, pipikaula and slice of haupia. Also, once again, choose from chicken long rice or squid luau and a bowl of poi or rice to complete your meal. And at last, a hot commodity lies in the Lava Rock Plate ($8.50) — a smaller plate for the not so big appetite — which features pork lau lau and stew gravy with rice, a nice portion of lomi salmon and a slice of haupia.

Open daily and located on Pali Highway, a taste of home is what you’ll find here at People’s Cafe.

People’s Cafe
1310 Pali Hwy.
521.5552

Shiro’s Saimin Haven

A saimin sanctuary of sorts, Shiro’s Saimin Haven holds the secret to some of the tastiest noodles I’ve ever tasted, which makes the quality of life just that much better. With more than 60 saimin options to select from, the noodles are made from scratch and the broth is, of course, a secret recipe. Yet, do realize that there are actually close to 200 local creations on the menu, meaning there’s a whole lot more than simply saimin at this Aiea dining establishment.

Yes, even lau lau is a given here, and according to manager Bryce Fujimoto, it ranks high among the list of diners’ favorites.

“Lau lau started off only as a special, but customers loved it so much that now we make it a point to have it available every day,” he says.

Lau Lau with Beef Stew ($9.25) seems to be the most highly requested item, yet Lau Lau with Lomi Salmon ($8.50) and Lau Lau with Kalua Pork ($9.65) don’t fall far behind, and they all are served with hot vegetables and your choice of starch, be it white/brown rice, french fries or mashed potatoes.

And the specials for which lau lau first made a name for itself are still on the menu. If you dine here on Fridays or Saturdays, treat yourself to the Hawaiian Plate with Rice ($9.30) or the Hawaiian Plate with Poi ($10.40). Both Hawaiian Plates boast a slew of local classics, including pork lau lau, chicken long rice, lomi salmon and two scoops of rice or one scoop of rice and poi.

I asked Fujimoto what exactly makes Shiro’s lau lau unique and oh, so flavorful, and he eagerly dished the specifics about the top-notch lau lau flair.

“What really brings a great taste to our lau lau is the combination of pork butt, pork belly and butterfish. Not many people serve butterfish in their lau lau. Also, the wetland taro brings a nice flavor to the luau leaf,” he shares.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy.
488.8824