"Mom, why can't WE go to Hawaii? " moaned my 12-year-old, envious of two classmates who were missing school because of a bonus midwinter...
“Mom, why can’t WE go to Hawaii?” moaned my 12-year-old, envious of two classmates who were missing school because of a bonus midwinter break.
We can, I said, and booked a cut-rate tour to Wallingford, where we had lunch at Hawaiian Breeze. From the friendly “Aloha!” greeting, to the seating (in a tastefully tiki-fied storefront), to the eating (shave ice and plate lunches bearing scoops of steamed rice and macaroni salad), it’s a virtual island idyll.
Plates feature barbecue chicken, crosscut beef short ribs, fried shrimp or mahi-mahi. Katsu, curries and stir-fries are done with chicken, pork or tofu. You’ll find saimin noodle soup here, too, along with loco moco, that crazy Hawaiian combo of beef patty, egg and gravy served over rice. And, of course, there is Spam. Most are less than $10.
In the two-plus years since Karen Law and Junko Yamamoto opened Hawaiian Breeze, it has earned a following in the neighborhood. A steady stream of regulars picked up lunch orders to go, but there were few sit-down customers the day I was there, perhaps because the kitchen runs on island time. Food is cooked to order, and the pace is as unhurried as the hula dancers who undulated across the giant flat-screen TV above us.
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The TV is new, and so is the addition of beer and wine, which may encourage more dining in. The restaurant is certainly inviting: walls blush like the dawn behind photos of sun-drenched beaches lapped by a cerulean sea; a fresh orchid adorns each plate; and service is as warm as, well, a Hawaiian breeze.
Hawaiian Barbecue Mix: A boneless slab of tender chicken and two strips of skinny, crosscut beef short ribs are glazed with a sweet, ginger-stoked barbecue sauce. Like most plates here, this comes with two generous scoops of sticky white rice and a scoop of carrot-flecked macaroni salad, improved, to my taste, with a shake of salt.
Saimin Noodle Soup: The long, striated wheat noodles are heftier than ramen, not as rich as Chinese egg noodles, but just right for this light broth bolstered with fish sauce that contributes smoky complexity. Crunchy broccoli florets, cabbage and ribbons of carrot add color to the big steaming crockery bowl. Possible add-ins include Spam, barbecue chicken and (my choice) garlicky disks of sausage that heightened the flavor even more.
Blue Hawaii shave ice: No coconut pie today (it sells out fast) and no mango pudding either, but these frosty cups packed with syrup-saturated snow will delight the youngster in anyone. Just watching the slow grinding of ice into powder (no automatic Slurpy machines here!) is fun. Available in assorted fruit flavors, but this berry version is less sweet than some and turns your lips a garish blue that looks almost natural at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fruit juices: Mango orange, guava and passion fruit are among the canned assortment.
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