Head To Kau kau For Ono GrindsCover Story
June 3, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Akamai locals know that one does not visit Kau Kau Grill for the luxurious atmosphere, although the dozen or so seats are quite cozy, air conditioning was recently installed, and the service is friendly as can be. At Kau Kau Grill, it’s all about the food.
The menu here has stayed pretty much the same since Kau Kau’s humble beginnings five years ago, when it was just a little food truck with a big reputation — established almost immediately — for fantastic plates at reasonable prices. When it moved to a brick-and-mortar storefront, its reputation followed.
This place is the real deal when it comes to local food, perhaps because owners Miles Oyasato and Ty Takishita are local boys, from Wahiawa and Kaneohe respectively, with an intimate understanding of local flavors as they’re supposed to taste. The men launched their enterprise in 2013 with a simple food truck, which found devoted regulars right away. No matter where it parked — on Kapahulu or Kapiolani or around Ala Moana or at Fisherman’s Wharf — there were always long lines of hungry people waiting for their plates.
“Me and my partner always liked cooking, and a friend gave us an offer to use his food truck to see how we liked it,” says Oyasato. “We took that opportunity … and here we are now, in Mapunapuna with a storefront!”
These days folks beat a path to Mapunapuna for Kau Kau’s standbys, like delectable Garlic Shrimp ($9 mini; $12 regular). “We saute it with our special garlic sauce, made in-house,” Oyasato explains. “It’s shell on, but it’s butterfly shrimp so it’s easy to peel.” As with all of the plates here, you get rice and your choice of Kau Kau’s unique spaghetti mac salad or baby spinach greens with house dressing.
Kau Kau’s Pulehu Beef Short Ribs ($9 mini; $12 regular) are seasoned with Hawaiian salt and black pepper, grilled to juicy, smoky, tender perfection. And the Barbecue Baby Back Ribs ($9 mini; $12 regular) include a homemade sauce, sweet to please island palates, that has become the stuff of legend. “We worked on it for a while,” remembers Oyasato. “When we first started we worked on all our recipes for a while, and through trial and error we figured out what we wanted.”
The spectacular Fried Saimin Combo ($14) is a much-visited item on Kau Kau’s efficient island menu.
This beautifully balanced bounty begins with a scoop of rice and green or mac salad, continues with a generous serving of fried saimin made with local noodles, veggies, and Spam, and is made complete with the protein of your choosing — “anything on the menu,” Oyasato says.
One last tip: If you’d like to try Oyasato’s own favorite meal – what he calls his “go-to” – try order the Fried Saimin Combo with Pulehu Beef Ribs and a side of Poke. Oh, so ono!