Mama Squirrel and Squirrelly, Jr., spent two and a half weeks in paradise. I visited for a few days. We dined at good restaurants at the resort. We went to Roy Yamaguchi’s and to Spago at the Four Seasons. We were in a world of fresh ingredients and great cooking. None of it, though, stands up to Da Kitchen.
Da Kitchen is a local joint, a true hole-in-the-wall place. The specialties of the house are traditional Hawaiian and surfer dishes. A trip to the Grand Wailea Resort’s fancy (and expensive) luau didn’t provide food nearly this good. And for a high-energy surfer, the dishes are hearty enough to keep you riding the waves all day and cheap enough to leave with you money in your pocket for later.
I finally had a dish I have long wanted to try, the loco moco. Created to feed hungry surfers, the loco moco is a large grilled burger topped with fried eggs, brown gravy and grilled onions. This is served on two scoops of white rice and accompanied by a scoop of potato-macaroni salad. Tropical flowers, sunsets over the ocean, even hula girls, the loco moco is the thing I miss most about Hawaii. A perfectly grilled burger with rice soaking up the rich brown gravy is essentially soul food. The fried egg on top is just plain good. Any hesitation at this new idea fades with the first bite. Even Teh Boy, who is not a big egg fan, appreciated the addition of the egg. The salad is a creamy marriage of pasta salad and potato salad. Never quite knowing what texture to expect from bite to bite, makes the perfect blend of the two ingredients fun.
Mama went for more traditional Hawaiian dishes. On our first visit, she had da “Lau Lau” plate, tender steamed pork wrapped in taro leaves. Mama loved the pork, but I didn’t quite like the flavor the taro leaves imparted. Once again, this was essentially soul food – pork chops and greens. Our Southern taste buds were very well sated.
Along with da “Lau Lau”, Mama tried poi. Poi is the epitome of an acquired taste and there’s nothing in our Southern food repertoire to compare it to. I honestly couldn’t get past the pasty texture. The taste had a nice hint of sweetness that might be very good once you pick up on the nuances. I just didn’t have the patience to get beyond the texture. Shame on me. I’ll have to try again one day.
On our second visit, Mama went all out with the Hawaiian plate, a sampler of Lau Lau pork, Kalua pork, chicken long rice, and Lomi salmon. Teh Boy had a big plate of Kalua pork that he thought was comparable to Granddaddy’s BBQ pork. I went for the loco moco again and never looked back.
Da Kitchen is becoming something of an empire with two locations on Maui and a new place in Mountain View, California. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit while we were in the area. Still, it’s nice to know that the next time I want loco moco, I won’t have to swim for it.
425 Koloa St., #104
Kahului, Hawaii, 96732