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This blog is about 3 things. First, eating out and telling you about it. Writing food reviews is fun and enjoyable. Second, making my own meals and sharing recipes. I'm all about simple, easy, and tasty. Third, tackling some challenges in my cookbooks. This way I learn techniques and flavors that I can add to my own cooking. And it all adds up to lots of talk about lots of food. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
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Deck On Food Seattle restaurants

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Deck on Haili's Hawaiian Foods - Hawaii Restaurant Review

This is a review that I’ve been working on for a little awhile. I wanted to make sure that I truly captured what I wanted to say because it’s a place that will always be special to me. See, three weeks ago (April 23 to be exact), I got married. When we were discussing our plans, we knew that we wanted to get married in Hawaii. When we decided that we wanted to do traditional luau food for the reception, there was only one option: Haili’s Hawaiian Food.

Haili’s is a family owned restaurant, and my wife has known the family for many years. They recently moved their restaurant to Kaimuki, and they cater events such as ours. Prior to the wedding, I had eaten Hawaiian food before, but never from Haili’s. I was assured, however, that it would be the best that I’ve ever had. And the food for the event? Well, our menu consisted of Chicken Long Rice, Lomi Salmon, Squid Luau, Ahi Poke, Kalua Pork, Sweet Potatoes, Haupia, and of course, Pineapple and Poi.

On your wedding day, there is a lot going on. There is the ceremony and pictures and talking to people that have traveled in. It’s pretty easy for the food to get overlooked, or for you to not have time to eat it. But we were determined not to let that happen. After the ceremony and a quick round of pictures, we led the way to the serving line where I filled my plate with as much as I could, knowing I would probably not be able to make it back for seconds.

I decided to start with the chicken long rice, and it was fantastic. A little salty, but still with a great texture and a very nice chicken flavor. A solid way to start the meal. I followed that up with the Lomi Salmon. I had tried to make this once a long time ago, and I can tell you it wasn’t anywhere close. The salmon was finely diced, and mixed in with the tomatoes. The flavors played off each other, balancing the whole thing out. I don’t know how else to describe it other than delicious.

It was at this point that I turned to the two things that had me the most excited, the Poke and Kalua Pork. These were things that I’d had before, so if this was going to be the best Hawaiian food ever, then these two would have to shine. And shine they did. The poke was incredible. I learned that this version of the poke is only made by one of the owners, and only she has the recipe. The fish was absolutely perfect, with a blend of seasoning and seaweed that added a very nice crunch. The flavor just explodes in your mouth and you barely finish the first bite before the next one comes racing in. My mouth starts watering just thinking back to those flavors. And the pork? I don’t know if there are words. The pork was so tender and so succulent. It just melted in my mouth. I’ve had a fair amount of Kalua pork in my trips to Hawaii, but I can’t remember anything like this.

A lot of that night is a blur, but I absolutely remember the food, and so do many of our guests. The pork is still getting rave reviews every time we talk to anyone that went to the wedding. One of my friends was describing a filet mignon and lobster macaroni that he’s planning on for his wedding and finished with “it was almost as good as the pork at your wedding”. My family who is from the great state of Wyoming, and doesn’t have access to that type of food, was blown away, excited that they decided to remove their self-imposed boycott of eating raw fish (well, most of them).

Haili's Hawaiian Foods on UrbanspoonWhile it is true that the nature of the event where I had Haili’s Hawaiian Food for the first time could skew my opinion a little, this is one area where you can trust me. Do yourself a favor next time you are in Hawaii and stop by Haili’s for lunch. Or if you are in Hawaii reading this, I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the incredible food at Haili’s. This will forever be the measuring stick for all Hawaiian food that I eat.

Final Verdict – 5 Stars (you knew it was coming)

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