Catch a Whiff of Mouthwatering Local Favorites
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If you find yourself driving down Kalihi Street — windows down, feeling the breeze — you’ll notice an amazing aroma start to swirl around your car as you approach Kahai Street. The irresistible whiff of fresh loco moco gravy and guava barbecue sauce will be so enticing that next thing you know, you’re making a hard left and pulling into Kahai Street Kitchen for some of the best plate lunch around.
As owner Nao Hisa Iwata will tell you, this scenario is not uncommon. In fact, it’s how his 7-year-old catering business blossomed into a stellar lunch spot. “Well in the beginning, all we did was catering,” says Iwata. “What happened was people were walking around, knocking on the door (saying), ‘Hey, it smells good, why don’t you open up for lunch.’ And that’s what we did — we opened up, then the plate lunch just took off.”
Kahai Street’s unique brand of plate lunch features gourmet touches influenced by the catering side of the business. At its core, though, it maintains a generous serving of local comfort food thanks to chef David Yamamoto’s contributions to the menu. “He tweaked our recipes, so they developed into what we have now,” explains Iwata.
If it’s your first time, dive right in with Braised Boneless Short-rib Loco Moco ($9.25). The short rib is braised for up to three hours to achieve ultimate tenderness. It’s also cooked in an aromatic vegetable demi sauce and served loco moco-style with over-easy eggs, making it impossible not to fall in love with this take on a local classic.
Seafood Casserole Alaska ($10.50) showcases the versatility of Kahai Street’s menu, as it presents sautéed shrimp, bay scallops and fish simmered in a chardonnay cream sauce. The masterpiece bears a striking resemblance to Shepard’s Pie as soon as it’s placed in an individual loaf pan and topped with a velvety layer of garlic mashed potatoes. Chef Yamamoto adds the finishing touch by torching the garlic mash, a trick inspired by traditional Baked Alaska desserts that feature torched meringue.
Another dish you can’t go wrong with is Kahai Street Guava BBQ Pork Ribs ($9.50). You won’t believe how hefty, juicy and soft these enormous ribs are. They are extremely sumptuous thanks to a braising and charbroiling cooking process. And once the dish is smothered in guava-filled barbecue sauce, it has maximized its flavor potential.
Each plate lunch is served with a choice of white or brown rice and mac or tossed salad. When you follow the savory aroma to Kahai Street Kitchen, your taste buds will most definitely thank you.
Kahai Street Kitchen
237 Kalihi St., Honolulu
Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Fridays, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Catering available daily, call for details.
Note: Four parking stalls are available on Kahai Street on the side of the eatery.