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Saying HOLA to fresh pupus

Ono, You Know

April 15, 2018

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

The editor checks out Kaimuki’s newest dining destination, The Surfing Pig, for a piquant taste of Street Tacos ($10).

Whether going for pau hana bites after work, pot lucking at the beach, or starting your night on the town with some appetizers, pupus make up a deliciously important part of dining culture, especially here in the islands.

Amid Oahu’s ever-blooming restaurant scene, an international array of culinary influences means munching on starters always brings colorful flavors along with it.

Across the board, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an appetizer or happy hour selection that’s not infused with the vibrant flavors of Mexico, whose street-food culture lends itself brilliantly to sharable pupus.

So let’s see which Honolulu eateries spice up their menus with a few Latin American inspirations you won’t be able to resist:

TAKING ON TACOS

One of the newest eateries to hit the scene, The Surfing Pig is home to an exciting small plates concept for local foodies to gobble up. At the Kaimuki hot spot, which opened at the beginning of the month, the core of the menu is a tapas-inspired selection of sharable pupus infused with island flavors and an urban twist.

The Surfing Pig’s Street Tacos

The Surfing Pig also is a dream come true for pork-lovers, as it’s what owner Stan Glander likes to call “the sexy big sister” to the popular kalua-pig takeout spot Kono’s.

No small-plates menu is complete these days without an original take on tacos, and The Surfing Pig delivers just that with its Street Tacos ($10). This duo of deliciousness presents surf-and-turf satisfaction via one lightly battered fish taco paired with a kalua-pig counterpart. The fish taco is dressed up with a citrus aioli and pickled onion, while the pork taco — yes, it’s the same beloved kalua pig recipe as Kono’s — is topped with bourbon onion sour cream and grilled onions. For some extra freshness, pico de gallo on the side goes great with both.

To pair with your tacos, director of sales and marketing Anna Piergallini recommends some other must-try menu items: Back Ribs, Flatbread Pizza, Smokey Cheesy Mac with Porchetta and Beef Tataki. This trendy full-service restaurant also pours out some cocktail showstoppers, including The Smoking Pig with bacon-infused, smoked bourbon that arrives to the table in an alluring cloud of smoke.

When checking out the new eatery, which currently is open nightly starting at 4 p.m., ask about all the developments it has in store — namely a chef’s table that seats up to six, and plans to unveil a brunch menu.

GRILLED GOODNESS

One of the best ways to enjoy pupus is on a happy hour menu, and if you have yet to try the selection at Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, make it your next stop.

The restaurant is known for its auction-fresh seafood, which makes its way onto the pau hana selections, offered at 3 p.m. daily.

Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill’s Mahi Fajita Quesadilla ($14)
LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTO

Happy hour runs until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but if you make it to Uncle’s on a Monday, you’re in for a real treat, as the special menu extends all the way to 9 p.m.

“People enjoy coming in with their friends after work, sharing and snacking on good, fresh food,” explains general manager Jenn Paulson. “They’re all really good sharable menu items.”

One of the most popular happy hour bites is Mahi Fajita Quesadilla ($14) filled generously with fresh mahimahi grilled with sweet onions, jalapenos, mushrooms, cilantro and cheddar cheese. The grilled fish gives the Mexican-style appetizer so much flavor, while Uncle’s doesn’t skimp on the oozing melted cheese. The eatery also makes its own fresh guacamole and salsa to accompany the dish.

“We were playing around in the kitchen one day, thinking about things that are fun, snack foods, so we decided to put it all together and make a mahi quesadilla — something easy, sharable and a little spicy,” says Paulson, when describing the inspiration behind the dish. “It ended up being a hit; everyone loves it.”

Paulson says diners can keep an eye out for new happy hour goodies coming soon. And if you stay a little longer to feast on any of Uncle’s regular menu items, don’t be shy about ordering Fresh Onaga with lobster sauce, Uncle’s Award Winning Garlic Ahi and, of course, the local favorite, Fresh Ahi Belly.

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