Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Kau Kau GrillRestaurant Insider
June 5, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with Kau Kau Grill owners MILES OYASATO and TY TAKISHITA and head chef RYAN SOUZA
I’m not exactly sure how to describe Kau Kau Grill: industrial bougie or hidden epicurean plate lunch? It’s located in industrial Mapunapuna, but locals have been coming here forever, and I understand why. This is not your typical plate lunch place, this is gourmet.
When talking to the owners Miles Oyasato and Ty Takishita, I wanted to know how this eatery made such gourmet food at affordable prices. Miles and Ty started the concept cooking in their backyard for friends and family and added to the team head chef and local fisherman Ryan Souza. With this blend of talent and passion, the end result is the highest quality of kau kau at affordable prices.
AL: What’s the history of Kau Kau Grill?
MO: The name came from eating and drinking with family and friends. I have always wanted to open a restaurant. I actually worked at Shige’s Saimin in Wahiawa and then went on to the first Ruby Tuesday in Mililani. Ty has many years of experience running food trucks and working in restaurants beginning in high school, and Ryan is a great fisherman. The fish that he prepares is flawless; no white lines on the ahi poke. The food that we make is food that we want to eat. We make what our friends and family have shared with us for many years, so we know you will enjoy what we prepare.
We started as a food truck, then eventually moved to a brick-and-mortar and are constantly growing — you will see us in a new location in 2023.
AL: Everyone raves about your Crazy Rice. How did you come up with this?
MO: It’s a spicy barbecue fried rice. This was an experiment at first. How you traditionally make fried rice is adding all your leftovers and then mixing it all together. Back when we had our food truck, a customer really liked to try random things. Since we always had barbecue left over, we added that in with some hot sauce and mixed it up. The response was, “Wow, this stuff is crazy!”
AL: What are some popular items?
MO:We have the Ora King Salmon ($20), which is rare to find at a plate lunch place. The Sashimi Bowl ($22) is only available Wednesdays-Saturdays and is a combination of ora king salmon, hamachi flown in from Japan, and local ahi.
Our most popular is the BBQ Ribs ($15 mini; $18 regular). We slow-cook the ribs then grill each one before adding our special barbecue sauce. You can preorder a half pan ($90), which feeds eight to 10. Take it home with our reheating instructions to enjoy at your celebration/event.
The Pulehu Beef Short Ribs with Garlic Shrimp ($25) is our version of surf and turf. It’s kalbi bone-in short ribs made with Hawaiian sea salt and pepper, grilled with a slight char. We do not add butter to our garlic shrimp, it’s our own secret blend.
There are many different ways to make smoked meat. Since this is a plate lunch served with rice, we wanted it to be juicier.We marinate pork, then smoke it in our smoker for about eight hours, cut it up and finish it in a pan with onions ($12 mini; $15 regular).
Regular plate lunches come with two scoops of rice (substitute Crazy Rice for an additional $2 per scoop) and spaghetti mac salad. Minis come with one-and-a-half scoops of rice and a 1/4 less of the entrée. You can substitute spinach salad in place of mac salad or rice for a healthier alternative.
AL: Kau Kau Grill has amazing beef jerky made in-house. Tell me more about it.
MO: We make eight different flavors ($15 a bag). The options vary based on ingredients. We try to always have teriyaki, ponzu, garlic, the works and a spicy option. This is thin, crispy and melts in your mouth.
AL: As the head chef, tell me more about your background.
RS: I have been here for seven years, right out of high school. Sometimes I bring the fish I catch to the restaurant, but most of the time we go to the fish auction and get the best fish for our customers. I met Miles and Ty at my dad’s store, Containerland, where I worked in high school. We used to talk story all the time, and they asked me to join their team. I love to cook and have a passion for fish. We wanted to elevate our sushi rice, add more flavor to our rice, Ginza-style. Miles and Ty are the meat, I’m the fish (laughs).
AL: I’m curious about what’s next for Kau Kau Grill.
MO:We are moving our location at the end of the year. We envision having a glass case where we can showcase our poke and maybe desserts, as well as having grab-and-go options.
AL: Anything happening for Father’s Day?
MO: We have the barbecue half pans that we encourage you to order for pops to make sure he doesn’t have to grill on his day — just enjoy. We also have catering options. We can customize the menu and will work with you on any budget.
AL: Anything else you want to share?
MO: To avoid the line, we encourage phone orders. For big orders, we ask you order a day before. If you know you are going to walk in and don’t want to wait, you can call 30 minutes ahead and we will have it waiting for you. If you walk in to order, we will take care of you.