Thai Cuisine With A Twist At Plumeria

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 16, 2011
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Thongmani and Rodney Fujisaki, owners of Plumeria Thai Cafe

It’s not often I find a dish on a menu that I think the owners of our most esteemed fine-dining restaurants should try, but that was the case last week when I happened upon the delightful Plumeria Thai Café.

A mom-and-pop restaurant of the simplest kind, the Wahiawa eatery is run with an almost effortless sense of calm and kindness by owners Rodney and Thongmani Fujisaki.

By no means a traditional Thai restaurant, Plumeria Thai Café spins its own influence on local food, and from breakfast through dinner serves up dishes with varying degrees of heat and Thai flavors. Therefore, on the menu right next to Lemongrass Pad Thai ($6.75) you’ll find Crunchy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli ($6.75) and Garlic Ahi with Tamarind ($7), and at breakfast you can order loco moco, corned beef hash or Spam. There’s a gorgeous house-made juice that uses the fragrant okra flower, and the result is a sweet, rose-colored, fabulously refreshing iced drink that goes well with almost anything on the menu.

The dish that wowed me was Fried Tofu Salad ($6.75) in which pieces of okara (the curds created during the process of extracting milk from tofu) are cubed and fried. The result is a tiny crouton-like morsel with marvelous texture. It’s served atop a salad of fresh greens and vegetables, and is drizzled with a Thai dressing that’s made in-house. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s worth the drive to Wahiawa for this dish alone.

And if you’re one of the inspired cooks at any of Oahu’s many fine-dining restaurants, take a drive up to Wahiawa to check it out. As an alternative to bread, locally made “okaroutons” might just be the next big thing ...

It’s last call for Valentine’s dining (if you’re reading this on Monday or Tuesday), and if you’re in a panic because everywhere you’ve called is sold out, I have some good news. There is most likely a table for you and your date at both Murphy’s Bar and Grill and Side Street Inn. Despite a menu of stuffed salmon, lobster and filet mignon, Don Murphy is still taking reservations at his popular downtown Irish bar and grill.

“We have roses, candlelight and a wonderful atmosphere,” says Murph with a smile “We just don’t happen to have customers who think of us as being romantic!” Having spent a number of very romantic evenings at Murphy’s, I beg to differ with popular opinion. Pair a Lobster Salad with a pint or two of Guinness and I defy anyone to resist the spirit of romance. And let’s face it, where else can you end the evening with a quick look at Sports Center and a slice of homemade blueberry pie?

The story is the same at Side Street Inn, where despite Herb-crusted Rib Eye and an utterly irresistible Seafood Bag (fresh catch of the day, shrimp and scallops steamed in white wine, lemon, herbs and spices), the valet parking lot is a little quieter than usual on Valentine’s night.

“Maybe it’s because we show sports that people don’t think of us for romance,” says owner Colin Nishida, “but that’s OK.” In fact, a quieter Feb. 14 might be the only breathing room Nishida gets this year. His recently opened Side Street on Da Strip on Kapahulu has become the busiest restaurant in town.

Happy eating!

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