Finding Island Dining Deals

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - May 21, 2008
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India Cafe owner Jiva Sagaran also has a lunch wagon in Kailua six days a week
India Cafe owner Jiva Sagaran also has a lunch wagon in Kailua six days a week

I’ll admit that I live an unusual life. One minute I’m in the lap of luxury at the Four Seasons Resort on the Big Island tasting from the new menu at its signature restaurant Pahui’a and drinking velvety soft Pinot Noir, and the next I’m picking up bits of spaghetti from the floor at home and fielding cries of “more grape juice, please.”

Not that I’m complaining, and I’m ever aware and grateful to have the humbling experiences of being treated nicely at a restaurant one day and trying to teach table manners to a 3-year-old the next. And it does give me an interesting perspective on eating out. While fine dining is fabulous, I feel my job is much more about finding outstanding food that’s accessible to all. And with gas and grocery prices and electric bills the way they are, I figured now’s a good time to share some of what I know.

Aiea Bowl‘s casual restaurant/bakery and catering division The Alley serves arrestingly good food. Owner Glenn Uyeda, chef Shane Masutani and talented pastry chef Tiffani Luke worked on the menu for months before deciding which dishes were good enough to meet the public. There’s a boneless chicken - the aptly named Tasty Chicken - served with rice, mac salad or salad greens for $6.50 (bowl) or $8.50 (plate) that is so incredibly good it makes up about 40 percent of the entire restaurant sales. And at $5.25, The Alley’s handmade burger is one of the best deals and best-tasting burgers on the island. You’ll also find kicked-up plate lunches and favorites like oxtail soup, fried noodles, saimin, spicy shrimp and a loco moco with freshly made gravy. The average price of an entrée is around $7. And the bakery is in a league of its own ... When Jiva Sagaran told me a couple of months ago that he was opening a lunch wagon in Kailua, I immediately thought the idea was sure to succeed. Plate lunch-style eating lends itself perfectly to Indian food, and Jiva has created a couple of plates for around $8. “We have several entrées, like lamb, chicken and shrimp, that come with rice and bread and a side,” he says,” and we change the menu around so people can eat here a couple of times a week.” It’s really great food - filling and full of the complex, multi-layered depth of good Indian cooking. You’ll find Jiva’s lunch wagon six days a week in the Don Quijote parking lot in Kailua and more of his menu at India Café in Kilohana Square ... The ultimate neighborhood restaurant and bar Murphy’s on the corner of Merchant Street and Nuuanu Avenue is the kind of place that you can stop by for lunch and think maybe you’ll come back for dinner. There’s excellent bar service and a menu that offers comforting fare in a warm, welcoming environment. A New York strip steak served with mashed potatoes, veggies and a green peppercorn sauce is just $15.50, and the dinner menu changes weekly; recent evening specials included grilled lamb chops marinated in hoisin sauce and served with mashed potatoes and asparagus for $16.50. A similar dish in a fine dining spot would set you back twice as much.

These three are just a few of the many restaurants serving outstanding value and excellent food ... more next week.

Happy eating!


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