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Hawaii Hawaiian musings plate lunch reviews

Reinventing Loco Moco

Loco Moco is a classic Hawaiian plate lunch offering that’s made up of hamburger patties smothered with gravy, topped with two eggs and served with rice and mac salad. If you’ve never seen it before, it looks like this:

We had dinner at Alan Wong’s Restaurant last week, and one of the menu items that jumped out at us was the “Mini Loco Moco” appetizer. The menu describes it as “mochi-crusted unagi meatloaf, sunny-side quail egg, wasabi kabayaki sauce,” and we just had to try it.

Mini Loco MocoAlan Wong’s “Mini Loco Moco”

Breaking it down, the mochi crust takes the place of the rice, the unagi meatloaf is the hamburger, quail egg replaces the hen egg and the wasabi kabayaki sauce replaces the gravy. It’s a perfect way to bring the loco moco concept into a fine dining setting, and it was excellent.

On the other end of the spectrum is Beard Papa and their Loco Moco Puff. It’s part of the Japanese cream puff chain’s localized Hawaii menu that also includes Breakfast Puffs, Creme Brulee Puffs, eclairs and pita sandwiches. Beard Papa describes their Loco Moco Puff as “two slices of oven-baked meat loaf, a fresh egg, sunny side up, onion-mushroom gravy with a dash of furikake on our signature puff shell,” which is more straightforward than Alan Wong’s. Basically, it’s an open-faced sandwich with the puff serving as the bread.

Loco Moco PuffBeard Papa’s Loco Moco Puff

The finished product looked good and tasted like loco moco, but the puff really didn’t contribute anything to the dish and would have been fine without it. What was a bit disturbing was watching them assemble it. Without a proper kitchen, all of the cooked elements were microwaved right in front of us, and even then, I’m still not sure how they cooked the egg properly. I guess if you were on the run, this might be decent alternative, but I’d still rather have an Egg McMuffin.

Nothing could ever replace the traditional preparation of loco moco, especially since I love the side benefit of mixing the warm gravy with the cold mac salad. However, I always like to see if classic dishes can be modernized or deconstructed without diluting its essence. While Alan Wong’s radical take on loco moco might look foreign to traditionalists, the end result was delicious, refined, and reminded me of the original.

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Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 1: Local Favorites

Trips to Oahu are annual since we’ve got to visit the family, and this also means good and CHEAP eats. If you’re planning on going to visit Oahu, here’s some places where you can eat like a local.

Ono Hawaiian Foods

If Kapahulu Avenue was a baseball team comprised of restaurants and their lineup included Leonard’s Bakery, Waiola Shave Ice, and Rainbow Drive-In batting in the 1,2, and 3 spots, Ono Hawaiian Foods would be the clean up hitter waiting to drive them all in. There’s a reason Ono is an all the tourist books, and you know the place is good because the locals will put up with all the tourists to eat there.


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Ono is THE place to get authentic Hawaiian food in Oahu. They’re known for their kalua pig and their enormous, almost plate-sized lau laus. And it’s not all taro leaves either…it’s a generous amount of pork, enough for two or three people to split. The pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky) is also excellent and something I’ll be ordering from now on. The ahi poke is fresh and wonderful and the butterfish luau was also really good.

INFORMATION
Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 map
808.737.2275

Gina’s Bar-B-Q

Gina’s serves local-style Korean food, and it is one of my favorite places to eat in Hawaii because I love meat jun, which is almost impossible to find in this form on the mainland. Meat Jun is basically a really thin steak that’s dipped in egg batter and then fried. It’s kind of like a thin egg pancake with a sliver of steak in the middle. They serve it with a sweet dipping sauce that takes this humble dish to a whole other level.

On this trip, I paired my meat jun with some spicy fried chicken wings that were excellent. The crunchy, slightly spicy skin really hit the spot.


Meat Jun and Spicy Fried Chicken Combo

In addition to rice, you get your choice of four sides, which include basic Korean banchan offerings such as taegu, kim chee and pickled daikon, as well as local favorites like mac salad.

It’s small inside, so most of their business is take out, which is what we did. Best of all, Gina’s is cheap and the portions are extremely generous, so you get a lot of food for the money.

INFORMATION
Gina’s Bar-B-Q
2919 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826 map
808.735.7964