Hollerin’ for hidden gems

Columns Veg'n Out

May 11, 2014

Story By: Andy Beth Miller | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

Picture this: Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, North Carolina — and one ferocious bunch of farm-raised “forty-niners.” Every spring, my school would go on a field trip to the local rock quarry, instantaneously morphing into a pack of panhandlin,’ swash bucklin,’ Gold Rushin’ goonies. I believe the “technical” terms are sluicing, creeking and digging (but minus the “g” endings if you want the locals to actually understand what you’re talking about).

Take one boisterous bus-load of lil’ Bubba-and-Betty-Lou-banshees raring to go — complete with grubby, grabby hands greedy for a glimpse of just one fleck of fortune — then add on a dangling carrot duet of excitement and adventure, and you have one priceless day spent waist-high in muddy “warter” and skin deep in smiles.

I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something about finding that hidden gem among the rubble — and not just when dealing with precious stones. In the restaurant world, there is nothing like discovering that diamond in the rough, hole-in-the-wall haven that has just that right blend of local color and flavor.

Nestled on a cozy corner in Kalihi, Kahai Street Kitchen is a locally owned and operated eatery, home to some of the best and affordably priced plate lunches and daily specials around. The establishment also specializes in gourmet catering including weddings, birthdays and graduations. So if you’re gettin’ hitched, gettin’ old or gettin’ educated — which I’d say covers just about everyone, Kahai Street Kitchen is ready to celebrate.

And one thing the eatery is celebrating this week (Tuesday-Friday) is vegetarianism! Kahai Street Kitchen and its chef Dave Yamamoto are rolling out the red carpet with this dynamic duo of savory and satisfying specials: • Fire Roasted Portabella Mushroom Wrap ($8.95). The dish features marinated and char-broiled portabella mushrooms, fire roasted bell peppers, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, carrots, cucumbers and provolone cheese drizzled with a spicy Chipotle aioli sauce bundled up tight in a tomato tortilla and served alongside choice of fries, tossed salad or potato macaroni salad. • Baked Eggplant Napoleon ($9.25). With its crispy deep fried eggplant layered with fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, vine-ripened tomatoes, ragout of button, cremini and shiitake mushrooms and house-made creamy marinara sauce, this dish is one bite after another of baked goodness. Served alongside tossed salad and garlic bread, Yamamoto describes this entree as “Classic vegetarian comfort food.”

“These vegetarian dishes are hearty, real meals,” assures Yamamoto. “With our menu, we like to make what people like to eat — what their mothers and grandmothers would make them at home, but even more hearty and (we) raise the comfort food level.”

But carnivorous fans of Kahai Street Kitchen’s classics, do not despair! The eatery will still be offering its full menu of everyday fare alongside these modified meat-free items. So head on down to Kahai Street Kitchen for eats so good they deserve both a hoot and a holler (that’s one satisfied shout-out, for those who don’t speak Southern).

Contact Andy Beth Miller at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Kahai Street Kitchen

237 Kalihi St., Honolulu
845-0320 fax orders for 10 people or more to 842-4273
Tuesday – Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96819

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best