Aloha Hawaiian BBQ - Costa Mesa
I've not yet been to our 50th state, but through the recent rampant proliferation of Hawaiian eateries in O.C. and education from fellow bloggers Kirk, Reid, and Kathy, I'm already in love with one island staple: the plate lunch.
This is a meal borne out of the cultural mish-mash that is modern Hawaii. In a plate lunch, you'll find the flavors of Polynesia, China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, The Philippines, and Hormel. All designed to feed and fill. This is the kind of food that will stick-to-your-ribs and stay there as belly fat.
It begins innocently with two scoops of sticky rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. But then comes the limitless varieties and quantities of protein -- like grilled short ribs and breaded chicken thighs -- heaped on in portions suited for a Sumo wrestler.
Which leads me to this question: Why aren't there more fat hula dancers in Hawaii?
Knowing how large the portions usually are at these places, when I followed up on fellow Chowhound JB's tip on Aloha Hawaiian BBQ in Costa Mesa, I opted for a Chicken Katsu Mini Meal ($4.59).
It ticks a few bucks below the cost of their full blown plates. But any hope of eating light was immediately lost when I opened the styrofoam package back at the office.
This was not the Mini Me of Mini Meals. Instead, it would satisfy Fat Bastard himself.
There was enough chicken to easily make three super-sized sandwiches, although there was only one scoop of rice, not two.
The slabs of dark meat chicken were simply rolled in egg and breadcrumbs, fried to a golden brown, and chopped into strips. Unfortunately, the travel time and the steam from the hot rice dampened and dulled what probably began as a crackling coat of crunchy breaded crust.
It needed a good dunk in Aloha's katsu sauce to bring it back to life. The warm elixir did the job with an assertive vinegary tang and a subtle chili bite that could wake the dead.
On a second visit, I decided to eat in-store, ordering the Kalua Pork Mini Meal ($4.59). Being new to Kalua Pork, I didn't know what to expect, but the smell that snaked up from my container was familiar. It was an aroma that could only be pork.
Piled on top of steamed cabbage, the mound of shredded meat tasted like soggy carnitas or pulled pork after a soak in salty broth. The moist strands spread the unadulterated flavor of pork around my mouth like a mop.
After finishing each of these so-called Mini Meals, I was in for a "major" food coma.
Aloha Hawaiian BBQ
3001 Bristol St. Suite E
Costa Mesa, CA 92626