Monday, June 11, 2007

Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ

Hey Brah!


You like go grind?

Fo sure

Every time I enter a Hawaiian restaurant, pidgin English starts running through my head. It brings me back to spending a few summers during my childhood in Hawaii visiting my relatives. Even when I go back to Hawaii now, it just takes a few minutes to pick up on the familiar sing song rhythm and inflections that is pidgin English.

Unbeknownest to me upon entering, Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ is a small chain of restaurants, not nearly as well known as L&L BBQ or Zippy’s. Upon a little research, most of their restaurants are either in Central California or Northern California with a few locations sprinkled throughout the southland. The chain originated on the Big Island in the city of Waimea in 1973. They have slowly franchised into California using those same recipes.

The menu is fairly small but has all of the usual suspects: Kalua pork, Mahi Mahi, chicken katsu, spam musubi and kalbi ribs.

I can usually judge the quality and authenticity of a Hawaiian restaurant by their kalua pork. The main staple at any luau, it should be smoky and salty in flavor, juicy and fork tender in texture. Placed upon a bed of cabbage, it is a local plate icon. The look of the kalua pork is appealing as it looks juicy and shreds very nicely. The familiar scent of smoke was missing though. Tasting it was even worse. There was absolutely no salt and no hint of smoke anywhere to be found. Smokey the Bear would gladly pronounce this dish as a non-fire hazard. It tastes like it was just boiled or braised in water, shredded and served. The mac salad was drenched in mayo, although the rice was cooked well.

Another staple of Hawaiian cuisine is saimin. I ordered the chicken katsu saimin. I was pleasantly surprised when the dish came in two containers; one for the saimin, and another container for the chicken katsu. This separation of ingredients prevented the chicken katsu from becoming soggy from being immerged into the soup. Unfortuantely, the noodles were terribly overcooked and very soggy. What’s even worse, is that it tasted like packaged S&S Saimin that you can buy at Marukai. The soup base tasted like a combination of the seasoning packets of S&S Saimin and Top Ramen.

The chicken katsu was very cruncy on the outside, and the chicken was tender and moist on the inside. It was a little greasy, but right when I thought things had been salvaged my bubble burst. The oil that the katsu was deep fried in tasted very old and stale.

Hoping to bring back a childhood memory, Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ was unable to do that. Instead, it felt like I had just arrived to the islands, headed straight to the beach and got hit by Jaws in Maui landing me in the hospital for the remainder of my vacation. As I was leaving, I thought to myself this isn't "Ono" it's more like "OH-NO"!

Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ
2170 E. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 778-9889

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Comments on "Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ"

Blogger KirkK said ... (June 13, 2007 at 9:13 AM) : 

Egads! It does seem to me, that most all of these Hawaiian BBQ joints are trying to become the Starbucks of the plate lunch world. They have forsaken the "soul" of the plate lunch, to make a buck. Auwe!!!

Blogger Chubbypanda said ... (June 14, 2007 at 10:55 AM) : 

Lol. Great post. I love the conclusion. "Oh no!"

Blogger Vegasbuff said ... (June 14, 2007 at 11:57 AM) : 

Hi kirkk,

I don't necessarily agree that all Hawaiian places are trying to be like Starbucks, with the exception of L&L, which I think has mediocre food at best, but a place like this that is trying to branch out definitely has to put out better food than this. Food with absolutely no flavor, rancid oil and over cooked glop is no way to impress people. The funny thing is that there was a steady stream of people coming into this place, and I'm thinking what are these people doing???


Thanks for the comment. Hopefully the next experience will be better, I'd hate to imagine if it was worse.

Blogger ChristianZ said ... (June 19, 2007 at 1:31 AM) : 

Just barely got back from Maui. Didn't surf Jaws but I did go to a place called Jawz Tacos. And there's actually very little "Hawaiian" food that can be found on da mainland that is worth even three cents. Several of the many Hawaiian fast food chains that have cropped up have made me violently sick.

Blogger Vegasbuff said ... (June 20, 2007 at 10:24 AM) : 


Yeah, trying to find decent Hawaiian food, especially in OC, is very hard to come by. Your best bet would be to head down to the Southbay.

The only real chain here is L&L which is comparable to McDonald's, LOL.

I do want to try Ono Ono Restaurant in Rancho Santa Margarita. I have friends from Hawaii who live here now and since they live in South OC really like that place. If I'm ever down in that area, I'm sure gonna try it.

Blogger brekkie_fan said ... (July 8, 2007 at 10:41 AM) : 

hey vegasbuff,

i thought there was an Ono Ono in Tustin down off 17th, by Sevens Steakhouse? Or was that something else? Actually, maybe it's different ownership, so that might make a difference too....

I've been to the one in RSM, and it was fine. I guess i'm too loyal to Loft Hawaiian to embrace the rest.

Although, this one place on the big island (the name is escaping me) is what first inspired me to find more Hawaiian back home. I think it was Sam Choy. A front desk employee and his police officer friend brought me there for lunch. It was a memorable meal from ten years ago.

Blogger Vegasbuff said ... (July 18, 2007 at 1:28 AM) : 

Hey brekkie_fan,

There is an Ono Ono in Tustin, but it is now unrelated to the one in RSM. The owner of the RSM Ono Ono sold it a while back from what I understand. As for Sam Choy on the Big Island, that restaurant closed a while ago from what I understand. I went to the Big Island last year and didn't find it. For most Hawaiian food, you need to head to the South Bay area in order to find good food, although I hear the Loft in Cerritos is good. I've only been to the one in Torrance.

Anonymous I love island living said ... (October 6, 2008 at 5:23 PM) : 

HAHA! Nice ending!

Kalua pork is my favorite! You are definitely right about judging the quality of the restaurant by it. No smoke + no salt = Not authentic. ;-)

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