Plate Lunch HeavenCover Story
May 13, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
For a dozen years, Kahai Street Kitchen (KSK) has been a satisfying source of gustatory pleasure for those lucky enough to discover it.
This small but diverse restaurant has offered an intriguing menu of local favorites, international flavors and fusion cuisine since it opened in Kalihi in 2006.
Furikake catfish … Bi Bim Bap Loco Moco … Calamari Parmesan … Kalbi Tacos… At various times, all these creative twists on island favorites have found their way on to the menu here. True to form, the dishes on this week’s menu of Daily Specials are reasonably priced, generously portioned and filled with flavor.
If you’re in the mood for something rustic and hearty, KSK Corned Beef Hash Egg Bomb ($10.25) starts with two seven-minute hardboiled eggs. “I wrap them with corned-beef hash,” explains head chef David Yamamoto, who co-owns the eatery with Nao Iwata. “And then I bread them with panko and deep-fry them.” The golden-brown eggs are plated, smothered with mushroom gravy and garnished with crispy onions.
The intersection of island and south-of-the border flavors is a delicious place to visit via Tex-Mex-inspired Chicken and Sausage Fajitas ($10.95). The chicken is seasoned and marinated, sauteed with red and green bell peppers, onions, and Portuguese sausage, heaped on a charbroiled flour tortilla, and served with a side of Spanish rice.
Coming from a chef who has worked at places like Roy’s, Kakaako Kitchen, and the late, lamented Yakiniku Hiroshi, KSK’s menu represents a wonderful creative opportunity. Yamamoto has risen to the challenge with dishes that are at once familiar and excitingly new. Certainly, there are plenty of classic plates on the menu — sweet and sour spare ribs, stews, curries. “But for most of my menu, I try to put twists and turns in the dishes to make them a little different,” says the chef.
His Steamed Jade-Crusted Opakapaka En Papillote ($13.95) is a gorgeous piece of fish coated with onions and cilantro that form a verdant crust, like a pesto. “I wrap it in parchment paper and throw it in the oven, and it steams in its own broth,” Yamamoto describes. The fish is accompanied by a ginger and garlic jus, and served with white or brown rice, and potato mac or tossed salad.
The Soft Shell Crab Salad ($14.25) consists of furikake-crusted deep-fried crab served on a bed of house-made salad with Japanese-style masago coleslaw and wasabi aioli drizzle. And Yamamoto’s Hoisin Barbecue Baby Back Pork Ribs ($12.95) start with a seasoned rack, baked until fork-tender, then glazed with a sweet hoisin barbecue sauce charbroiled till perfect. They’re paired with house-made Southwestern coleslaw: a tangy rainbow of corn, black beans, cilantro, jalapenos and diced cabbage in several colors.
These special dishes will be available all week long, and Yamamoto says they’ll appear periodically after that. A word to the wise: Patience is a virtue, and at Kahai Street Kitchen you’ll be amply (and deliciously) rewarded for your patience. “Everything is freshly made,” says the chef. “Some people have the image that we’re fast food, but everything is made to order.”
If you want to try something new, here are some of Chef David’s personal favorites from KSK’s regular menu:
• Crab-Crusted Mahi-Mahi: Sauteed and crusted with real crab mix, lusciously finished with a white wine cream sauce
• Korean Cobb Salad: Chopped kalbi ribs and kimchee make this classic, complex Cobb salad a work of art.
• Guava Barbecue Braised Brisket: Absolutely ono with smoky, savory-sweet guava sauce and jalapeno coleslaw
On the Map
In case you missed it: Kahai Street Kitchen’s Moiliili location is at the corner of South King and Coolidge streets. Since 2016, the location has been centralized and convenient for its bustling catering business. The long, creative catering menu offers a mouthwatering list of options that will tempt you to find a reason to host a party! Weddings, graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, meetings, workshops … whatever you’re planning, Kahai Street Kitchen can help.