Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lunching @ Kealani's - A Several Year Retrospect... (Visual Food Coma Warning)

I must have been inspired reading Kirk's most recent loco moco adventure to finally gather all my images of meals I had at Kealani's and share. Kealani's was my first Hawaiian spot I visited after moving down to SD and so the place evokes warm fuzzy memories. At the time the place was quite cozy only a third or less its current size where you were almost able to view all the gift shop offerings while you were sitting at your table having your meal. ;) Anyhow not sure why it took so long for me to put this together.. Maybe I was annoyed by the consistently mushy rice, haha.. but more on that later. I do admit (IMHO) the plate lunches here may not be the best examples you might find in town (I have since found Island Style, Home Style and Leilani's to name a few) but I feel the prices are right and as my number of visits over the years would prove to show I've always enjoyed the friendly staff and atmosphere. The very close proximity to the beach certainly never hurts especially during the days when I would feel the need to venture out a bit and decompress during my precious lunch hour.

Before I forget, Kealani's full menu here with updated breakfast (Mon. & Sat. only). Prices have gone up by 50-cents across the board but I'll be listing what I paid at the time. Also a warning that viewing the entire set of images on this post will most likely cause visual food coma. So have a pillow ready in the case you're induced into a nice afternoon nap.. ;)

So for starters their Loco Moco (mini, $5.75). Was pretty straight forward but the pic below used to be one of my favorite photos for the longest time. Was taken during one of the early visits roughly four years ago (my first actual visit around 2001).

The beef patty had a nice crust if not cooked a bit overdone, but the brown gravy and grilled onions seemed to compensate well as most loco moco's do. Recently I've started to prefer the egg with crispier edges but the single sunny side had nice runny yolks.

I remember being really intrigued by the Aloha brand Soy Sauce.. I've since seen them sold at Marukai Market.

The Kalua Pig (also a mini, $4.95) would actually be my first documented meal photo here. Sorry for being all nerdy and pointing that out, haha.

Not an expert by far of kalua pig but I thought it was decently moist and smokey. Despite the mini size this most always proves to be more than a good fill for me where here the generous pork serving started to feel a bit monotonous near the end and I had a hard time finishing. Never craved a bowl of miso soup so much. In fact like Vietnamese com tam dishes I always felt a small cup of any soup would be a great complement to plate lunches.. But that's just me.

The Chicken Curry ($5.95) which is a Wednesday special.

Was a home style version similar to what my mother would make, more watery/stew-y than the viscous thick rue based "restaurant" variety. Still pretty satisfying with ample amount of tender chicken and large potatoes and carrots.

It seems I tried the Lumpia this day (2 for $1.75). Remember these coming out piping hot.

A sweet dipping sauce is not provided so you'll have to make do with other condiments. I just had it plain. The filling had a fair amount of ground meat though I couldn't quite make out what kind. Probably pork. I also remember it having a lot of fresh grated carrot flavor. I thought it gave it some character.

A few sandwiches in row.. You can read about my nerdy thoughts on Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches here which includes Kealani's version. Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich ($3.95 with fries).

Despite it being a thigh portion the meat was a bit dry but it had some nice char.

Personally could've used more teri sauce (though there's a bottle of it on every table) and maybe some raw onion slices but the price which includes the fries makes it hard to complain. Felt the same about the Katsu Sandwich (chicken, also $3.95). The fried katsu's interior could've also been more moist but the exterior was nice and crunchy.

The katsu sauce here is island style which is a more tangy ketchup based. I personally prefer mine drenched in the trusty all purpose Japanese chunou sauce with some fine shredded cabbage but then again, that's pressing my personal katsu sandwich preference and probably not how it's done on the island at all.

I tried the Saimin (small, $2.75) partly because as I mentioned I would crave a light soup of some sort to go with my meals.

Now I know the people who have tried or grew up with the fresh scratch made is going to say how much I'm missing out but I actually enjoyed this, even despite the overcooked noodles.

The soup with its subtle bonito stock flavor reminded me a little of Okinawa Soba, albeit the inexpensive packaged stuff. But it was a nice surprise and I even liked how the spam gave the broth some extra flavor (Spa-mami if you will, ha). :)

The Teri Beef Sandwich. The beef was well seasoned but also a little on the tough side. I planned ahead this time and ordered it with a fried egg ($3.95 + $0.50).

The egg helped, though not in maintaining my chiseled fashion runway figure, he he.
The Spam Musubi ($1.75) again could've benefited from less mushy rice. The spam slice was on the thin side as well. Despite this, spam musubi's seem to never fail at being a quick satisfying snack.

The Mochiko Chicken a Friday special ($5.95) was quite tasty. Probably my favorite of the bunch.

A sweet/savory from I'd guess a sugar and soy sauce marinade. The mochiko rice flour coating also gave it a nice light mildly sweet starchy crust. The chicken was well flavored and didn't need any of the teri sauce dip. With some fine shredded cabbage, scallions and maybe sesame seeds, I imagined this could be a great donburi. :)

The Pork Adobo is offered as a special on Tuesdays..

Had some subtle bay leaf and peppercorn seasonings. A bit muted in flavor where I thought it could use a sharper soy sauce flavor (in my humble opinion) but still pretty tasty nonetheless.

The Mahi Mahi Musubi ($1.75) didn't really do it for me and I'll be sticking to fried spam next time. So much for elevating my gourmet status the spam lover that I am, haha. ;)

Da Roast Pork is a Thursday special.

The tasty pork with the addition of fork tender cabbage, carrots and potatoes, fared much easier to finish than the Kalua Pig. I wish they offered this in a mini though because the portion still proved to be a challenge for me (specials aren't offered in the mini size).

Finally the last is the Tutu's Plate which I recently had after a long dry spell of visiting. I thought I'd check the place out again to wrap up the post. I was seriously craving fried spam this day and was glad to see the Tutu's Plate (spam, Portuguese sausage and egg) up on the specials board (Monday).

Very filling for $6.50 but I would've happily traded one of the eggs and a scoop of rice for more of that salty pork luncheon meat. The Portuguese sausage had a nice spice heat but surprisingly was a bit dry.

But yes, the side of gravy I had asked for earlier came to the rescue... ;)

Glad cause it's hard to finish all that rice even with the mac salad. The small Saimin which I tried again was the same as last (except for the slight mark up). I wonder if there is any place here or in L.A. that serves up a more serious rendition.. Although I have to say I even liked the version at L&L so it's not too hard to impress me with a Saimin.. :)

Well hope you enjoyed these. As usual a more entertainment based personal visual retrospective if anything but I really do feel better now that these are finally out seeing the light of day.

By the way, fries with teriyaki sauce aren't such a bad combo.. Ok, now I'm completely out.. [(--)]ZZzzz...

Kealani's (Encinitas), 137 West D Street, Encinitas, CA 92024


K and S said...

we usually eat lumpia with shoyu and kochujang mixture, though I think Filipinos must eat it differently.

Dennis K. said...

That actually sounds really good! I forgot you're in Hawaii at the moment.. I've been enjoying your posts!

KirkK said...

Holy Smokes Dennis..... talk about bring on a "Kanak attack"......Do they still have the Sweet and Sour Spareribs? I thought that was pretty good.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Kirk, you know the sweet sour spare ribs and the kalbi ribs are two I've been meaning to check out. Wish the rice was better here though. Anyhow I had a nice Sunday nap after posting, haha.

OkiHwn said...

Seems very reasonable!

Dennis K. said...

Hi OkiHwn! Definitely reasonable. I felt a bit skimped on spam on the last Tutu's plate though.. like is there a nationwide spam shortage that I'm unaware of?.. haha. But yeah, the mini is usually more than enough food for me. Looking forward in seeing what you've been eating! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis! I have to admit after all these years, I still haven't tried Kealani's. Does Kealani's sell guava cakes? For some reason I thought it was them who had them.

Dennis K. said...

Hi CAB! I never noticed a dessert section but they might since I know they have shaved ice. Mmm, guava cakes sound good.. :)

Sawyer said...

so ono!!!!!!! what does saimin taste like btw? i've been curious to try it....time to visit my local hawaiian joint. is this your favorite spot for the loco moco? man i still need to try that...maybe i'll go tomorrow

Dennis K. said...

Hey Sawyer, there's little to be left to your imagination about a loco moco so you should try it if it sounds appetizing. I know some people that don't care for it at all. But yeah since I know you surf maybe after a long morning set for you, unlike me who's been sitting on my butt in the office, haha.
Anyway that's probably one of my favorite photos of a loco moco. But my favorite loco moco to eat would be at Island Style Cafe.