Culinary Creations Abound at Kahai Street Kitchen

Cover Story Features

October 27, 2013

Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Leah Friel

Rarely does the convenience and ease of procuring a plate lunch go hand in hand with partaking in gourmet quality cuisine and innovative culinary craftsmanship.

However, at Kahai Street Kitchen, preparing elegant, high-quality menu offerings served 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 on the corner of Kahai and Kalihi streets — while also keeping track of daily operations.

Kahai Street Kitchen is well-versed at cooking for up to 600 people, including corporate events, weddings and parties, and Iwata and his staff are dedicated to pleasing customers through day-to-day lunch service available Tuesday through Friday. The restaurateur counts on the expertise of head chef 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 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. “I know what (Yamamoto) is capable of doing, and he continues to amaze me.”

The Kalihi business was launched in 2006 as a catering-only kitchen and has expanded steadily while remaining just minutes away from a swath of industrial businesses, including the Honolulu Harbor piers. The eatery serves as a convenient spot to get great food at a reasonable price — no matter what one does for a living.

“Basically what I try to do is offer items to fit their budgets, and cater to the customer — we make restaurant-quality food and offer it at plate-lunch prices,” Iwata says. “David is the brains behind all the food. He’s the creative side, and his personal touch goes into every dish.”

For those looking for typical plate-lunch staples such as Loco Moco ($8.95), Garlic Chicken ($8.95) and Hamburger Steak ($9.25), Kahai Street Kitchen has diners covered. Its regular menu also features an array of sandwiches including the hearty Kahai Street Burger ($8.95) and Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($8.75).

Yamamoto is constantly tinkering with new culinary creations, including Lacquer Seared Fresh Salmon with Pickled Maui Onions ($10.50), which features fresh salmon marinated in Kahai Street Kitchen’s shoyu glaze sauce that is then torched to provide an attractive lacquered finish before being topped with fresh, flavorful Maui onions.

Another special offering is Kalua Duck Enchiladas ($9.25), as slow-roasted duck meat is rolled with shredded cheese in a flour tortilla and covered with house-made enchilada sauce. The dish is then topped with a zesty Hoisin aioli and lomi tomato salsa and served with Spanish rice.

As proof of Kahai Street Kitchen’s plentiful portions, Yamamoto also created Broiled Tuscan Chicken ($10.25), a half chicken marinated in Italian herbs and charbroiled to perfection. The juicy chicken is served atop a bed of mushroom risotto and served with fresh corn and black bean relish. Customers may also choose from potato macaroni or tossed salad as an accompaniment.

“I have leeway to explore different avenues and try new things, and if we make something and it sells really well, then we’ll make that special again,” Yamamoto explains. “I take a traditional dish and put a twist on it and take the item to a different level.”

Kahai Street Kitchen offers a wide array of unique daily specials, all of which feature Yamamoto’s signature mix of flavor and texture, and are introduced and reintroduced on a revolving basis according to the fresh ingredients available that day. Crab Cake Benedict ($10.95) incorporates scrumptious crab and a lobster cream sauce with the traditional breakfast favorite, while Panko Shrimp Stuffed Fresh Ahi Roll (market price) utilizes a wealth of fresh seafood delivered daily to the restaurant.

Talk about a catch of the day!

Kahai Street Kitchen

237 Kalihi St., Honolulu
(fax orders for 10 people or more to 842-4273)
Tuesday – Thursday, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Fridays, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Note: Catering packages are available for a wide range of events, from weddings to corporate parties. Call for more information and customized menu options.

Honolulu, HI 96819

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best