Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: La Birria TacosRestaurant Insider
January 17, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with La Birria Tacos co-owner JUSTIN MIZUFUKA
Birria tacos gained in popularity on the West Coast, and Justin Mizufuka and chef Arturo Silva — co-owners of La Birria Tacos — have brought this much-needed food frenzy here to Oahu.
This exciting concept is actually going to expand to another location to Kakaako, which means diners will have two locations to satisfy their cravings for these delicious tacos.
AL: Who is your executive chef?
JM: Arturo Silva, who is also my business partner. We worked together at Buho Cantina. He was born and raised in Mexico so his cuisine is as authentic as you can get. When he was the chef there, we were known for our Mexican cuisine and won multiple awards.
AL: What are the items you prepared for us today?
JM: We do Birria meat, which is stewed beef. It’s marinated for 24 hours, and slow-cooked for 12 hours. That’s the base of everything. We have the Birria Tacos ($12 for three), and we have Hell Fire Tacos ($12 for two), which is a spicy version. And we have Birria Saimin (price varies). We use locally sourced noodles, from Sun Noodles.
I’m originally from Maui and Sam Sato’s saimin was one of my favorite places, so my idea was to have a saimin and add it into the consommé broth. Hell Fire Tacos come with house-pickled jalapeños, and both tacos come with consommé included. We also have 12 packs. $45 for regular, and $55 for Hell Fire Tacos. In Hell Fire Tacos, chef has a pepper blend, and the predominant pepper in there is ghost chili.
Our specialty beverages are the Horchata ($4) and Pineapple Agua Fresca ($4). Chef Arturo made those for his tacos. Pineapple Agua Fresca was created as a complement to the regular Birria Tacos. The acid is supposed to cleanse the palate from the fattiness. It’s a refresher. The Horchata is a traditional rice water mixed with cinnamon and condensed milk for sweetness to drink to calm the heat after eating Hell Fire Tacos.
We have a secret off-the-menu Horchata Espresso ($8), which is a shot and a half of espresso in Horchata. Whoever follows us on Instagram (@la_birria_hi), we put secret menu items out all the time.
AL: How did you get into the restaurant scene?
JM: I have been in the industry for the past 22 years. I have worked in all areas: serving, bartending, cooking, managing and finally as a business owner. I have always wanted to open my own restaurant, but to have a chance to do it with a friend is even more fun than I had ever imagined.
AL: What is the concept behind La Birria Tacos?
JM: Simple, straight-forward delicious tacos! For me, as a business person, I’ve been infatuated with In-N-Out Burger. I thought it was such a genius idea to serve one item on the menu and just do it really well.
But it’s difficult for a new business to open and only have one thing on the menu basically.
AL: What does La Birria Tacos bring to the Hawaii food scene?
JM: This craze of Birria tacos came up in the West Coast. We thought this would be such a cool concept.
From talking about it to opening it up was a month and a half. We wanted to have something fun and keep it simple. Tacos are the quintessential street food.
The best taco joints in Mexico, or even Los Angeles are all street vendors. There is something nostalgic about eating a delicious taco in a parking lot!
AL: Why was Pearlridge Center your location of choice?
JM: We wanted to be in a central location so the entire island can have access to us.
In addition, Pearlridge has a strong local following with a strong military presence near by as well.
AL: What are the future plans for the restaurant?
JM: We are planning to open our second truck on Feb. 6 on the corner of Cooke and Pohukaina streets, right in the heart of Kakaako. This location will add to the nostalgia of the street vibe with all of the cool artwork spread out around the area. There is lots of parking in the area.
AL: Is there anything else you want to share with Dining Out readers?
JM: We’re doing really well. We’re very thankful for the support from our friends and the community. We just want to serve good food.