Ask Jen: Missing Hawaii…

Refreshing strawberry guava nectar drink served in a cosy

Dear Jen,

My husband loves Hawaiian food, and has been jonesin’ for some good pig ever since our recent trip to the Big Island.

Any tips on some good grub that will take him back to the sun, sand, and surf?


- k

Dear k -

I recently hit up Wallingford’s unassuming-looking Hawaiian Breeze.  From the minute I walked through the door, the hollowed bamboo chimes, hula competition playing on the flat screen and traditional Hawaiian music triggered a Pavlovian response bringing me back to endless days spent in flip- flops and breathing in Pacific Ocean air.

Try not to be discouraged by the unimpressive weather-aged peeling sign that marks the entrance across the street from the Wallingford QFC.  The owners clearly put more emphasis on the inside of the place and the interior is really a cute little gem with its bamboo walls, ukuleles, and other Hawaiian trinkets mounted on the wall.  Hawaiian Breeze has a calming casual feel and is also kid friendly.

I start with one of the 8 Hawaiian non-alcoholic juice drinks -  strawberry guava nectar.  The juice is from a can, but they serve it in a tall glass encompassed with a vibrant orange wicker cosy.  I like this little starter detail.

This 6-year old restaurant, owned by two sweet ladies – Karen Law and Junko Yamamoto- has a diverse menu with items such as the Hawaiian Saimin noodle soup and kara-age chicken (ginger boneless fried chicken) , but the BBQ short ribs ($11.95) and your man’s island dish of choice – kahlua pork ($10.95) - are the specialty items.

The short ribs are marinated in a homemade specialty sauce for hours so it’s tender.  The sauce is wickedly good.  I generally prefer less fatty cuts of meat, but my eating companion disagrees and ate every single bite.  The ribs are served atop cabbage and accompanied with two scoops of rice on the side and mac salad.  The mac salad is palatable, but nothing memorable.

I, on the other hand, prefer the kahlua pork which had a hint of smoke and retained some of its salty juice.  The portion size of both dishes is large so we probably could have shared one entree to fulfill the USDA’s newly rolled out myplate food allotment (which just replaced the food pyramid), but hey, sometimes overeating is fun!

Kahlua pork - I love the orchid on the side

This place won me over with their 10 flavor varieties of shave ice (small – $2.95;  large – $3.95) with the added optional bonus of adding either condensed milk or azuki beans.

I inquire about the origins of the memorable BBQ marinade sauce and Yamamoto recounts her childhood days in Oahu, learning everything she knows about Hawaiian and pan-Asian cooking through her Japanese aunt and native-Hawaiian uncle.  In addition to shave ice, Law and Yamamoto round out their large menu with Auntie Louise’s (aka – their friend) homemade coconut cake.

Is the place as good as the eats your man is coveting from Hawaii?  I wasn’t so sure, until a customer next to us convinced me otherwise.  This customer just moved to Seattle after living in Kauai for 30 years.  When visiting Seattle last year to scope out places to live, she came upon this restaurant and after eating here, felt comforted in her decision to leave paradise for Sea-town, knowing Hawaiian Breeze was there for her every time she needed a Hawaiian fix.  She conveniently picked a place two blocks from the restaurant.

They are opening up a sushi counter in the next few weeks so I will definitely be back to check out that action.

Happy Eating, k!

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4 Responses to “Ask Jen: Missing Hawaii…”

  1. kristin costello
    June 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    hey jen! what a great place to know about. do you think the sushi place will have spam musubi too?

    • Jen (roll with jen)
      June 6, 2011 at 7:02 am #

      The two owners are currently putting the finishing touches on their sushi menu. They currently have a spam fried rice on their menu so fingers crossed they plan on cranking out some spam rolls:-)

  2. June 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    My favorite (and only dish i have tried) dish from Hawaiian Breeze is Kalua pig. Just Kalua pig on steam rice and a scoop or two of macaroni salad.

    One place to never get Kalua pig is Aloha Plates in the Uwajimaya village. Worst Kalua pig EVER.

  3. Jen (roll with jen)
    June 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Changren! I am happy to hear you also enjoyed the kahlua pork at Hawaiian Breeze.

    Thanks for the heads-up about Aloha Plates;-)

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