Before I begin the review proper of this marvelous new find in the wilds of Greater Lewisville, I must admit I was bemused in the last few weeks by the behavior of my most esteemed colleagues in the ranks of paperdom, magazinedom, and blogdom. I was delighted that most of said colleagues journeyed northward to try L & L and, often to their surprise, most seemed to quite enjoy it. What I was puzzled by was the lack of knowledge throughout the Dallas food community concerning the intricacies of Hawaiian local cuisine. Many of these same colleagues have visited Paris, London, and other foreign capital cities and know their foods intimately and could describe a dizzying array of Asian cuisines. Yet, most proved surprising novices when it came to food from the fiftieth state. For instance, many seemed to have never heard of loco moco, fried spam, or chicken katsu, and seemed to think that all island food must be very fattening. Truth is, Hawaiian cuisine is like any other, with comfort foods nestled snugly alongside more healthy ones, and like any other cuisine, merits respect. Our own Texas cuisine contains chicken-fried steak as one of its hallowed offerings, a steady diet of which would be guaranteed to inflate the waistline of anyone as surely as a diet of nothing but fried spam, mac & cheese, and white rice. Moderation, as always, is the key.
Honestly, I cannot consider myself an expert in island cuisine, as I have only been to Hawaii on half-a-dozen occasions. Fortunately, I have my own in-house expert to draw upon: My lovely wife the Rock Star has been to the islands and dined with the locals on many occasions, so it was with high hopes (as JFK would have it) and keen anticipation that we set off to our local branch of L & L one recent Friday evening, located hard by Vista Ridge Mall.
Can a classic strip-mall shopping center box be authentic? Believe it, Brah! Surf boards and other instruments of Hawaiian fun adorn the walls. Two flat-panel TV's show scenes from the islands. Most important, the correct Hawaiian music was playing. Don Ho? Shove those tiny bubbles where the sun don't shine! No, the sound system was playing the Big Three: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Masters, Na Leo Pilimehana, and most important of all, Bruddah Iz. (Bruddah Iz was the 700-pound Native Hawaiian master of song so beloved by the locals that when he died, his body lay in state in the Honolulu capitol building much like those of the ancient Kamehameha chiefs.) After receiving a little help with the front doors from the ever-gracious staff, we went in an ordered at the counter.
Genuine locals cuisine indeed. The Rock Star absolutely loves Lau Lau and Kahlua pig, and when she saw both were offered on a combo plate, she wasted no time in ordering it. Lau Lau is pork chuck wrapped in taro leaf and steamed. She loved it, I honestly thought it could have used more seasoning. Both of us, however, absolutely adored the Kahlua pork, with its smoky imu-oven barbecue flavor. (Kahlua in this case refers to the traditional in-ground-oven smoking process, not the coffee liqueur.) For myself, I selected the breakfast favorite Loco Moco: Two smoky, grilled hamburger patties topped with fried eggs and warm brown gravy served over rice. Quite delicious, leaving your tummy with the same warm feeling a Texan gets when he eats a chicken-fried steak. Since we wanted to try several things, we also ordered spam and chicken Katsu musubi. A block of rice and grilled or fried meat was wrapped in seaweed, both of which were quite toothsome and tasty, particularly the chicken Katsu. We had plenty of leftovers for lunches next week. For the record, L & L also serves a number of healthy plate lunches, featuring grilled meat or fish, brown rice and salad, assuring us that we will be back for future visits.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
L & L's servers and counter people were very eager to please, and the smiling owner was on-hand to help with the intricacies of the menu. Website is http://www.hawaiianbarbecue.com/ if you wish to check out the menu, and there are also a number of sites if you wish to brush up on your island knowledge. The Hawaii Convention & Visitors Bureau website, http://www.gohawaii.com/, is as good a place as any to start.
Whether you've never been to Hawaii, or are a returned visitor or native, rest assured you will find authentic island cuisine at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue. Visit soon and often, and don't forget:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!