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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beyond Hawaiian Pizza

What did I know about Hawaiian food before I went to Aloha Cafe? Not much. I've had mediocre kalua pork before and the super-soft and fluffy Hawaiian bread. So it was with some trepidation that I walked into this Hawaiian joint smack in the middle of Little Tokyo at Honda Plaza next to Sushi Gen (the long lines here are always a mystery to me but that's another post) and Kagaya (ditto unless you are on an expense account).

I'm no Hawaiian food expert but I liked what I ate. I had the char siu pork, which is barbecued pork slow-baked and basked in a salty and slightly sweet marinade. The pork slices were tender and went well with the two scoops of white rice. It's the strangest mix but I actually liked the macaroni salad and coleslaw that accompanied the dish. Another plus: those everyday low prices! Specialties that come with rice and salad range from $6.25 to $9. Breakfasts are under $6. Most bowls are under $5.

The lau lau pork was fairly tender and had absorbed smoky aromas from the taro leaf it had been steamed in. Not having had the real deal, I can only comment on this one, which was good for a quick lunch but not revolutionary.

My eating companion, however, was significantly more exuberant, declaring this place a new find.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Aloha Cafe offers dishes with: 1) fried eggs, 2) corned beef hash (or choice of vienna sausage or of course, spam), 3) meat patties (loco moco) and 4) plenty of gravy. The corned beef hash was very popular with some but not so much with me. The meat patties were tasty if not a bit greasy. And I'm not a huge gravy fan so you won't see me ordering the loco moco anytime soon. But gravy lovers may indulge in some serious gravy-fest (see below).

I wouldn't recommend trying the tofu dish or the soup, which were uneventful. I would stick to the classic Hawaiian dishes and you'll be sold. The ahi poke was ok but I'm a sushi/sashimi snob so the quality of the fish didn't do it for me.

Service was laid-back, a-la-Hawaiian, although only the cook is apparently from there. This place recently relocated from its original Alhambra location. Validated parking available in the mini-mall.

Aloha Cafe
410 East 2nd Street (Honda Plaza across from Office Depot)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 346-9930


phasmatidae said...

It might be a good thing not to get too authentic with Hawaiian food -- about 25 years ago I remember going to an "authentic" Hawaiian restaurant and it was intense. The menu was mostly "delicacies" -- read various internal organs -- packed in an urn and buried for days with hot rocks. Perhaps the flavor was amazing (I can't remember), but I think I might still be a little too sqeamish for most of the dishes. I ended up trying to subsist on two-finger poi, which was also pretty intense...

I wish we could try this place with you -- it sounds like a find.

omurice said...

the cornbeef was awesome. why? because it's made fresh. the loco moco (the dish with the gravy in the photo) was also great. highly recommend both dishes.

Mary said...

Wow, I never heard of this place when I went to little Tokyo. I'm actually from Hawaii, so this would be a fantastic place to find when I move there.