Downtown Arbutus is not the obvious place for a new Hawaiian restaurant, but regardless, a “Taste of Aloha” opened recently there and we just had to try it. It’s a small, very casual place – you walk into a small room with a big white board with the menu, a couple of soft drink refrigerators (one with the standard american stuff, the other with cans of exotic Hawaiian fruit and tea beverages and there’s the counter where you order in front of the little kitchen. Next to this is a dining room with 8 tables and pumpkin colored walls and a large window looking out to the street (but with a window sill with pictures and remembrances of Hawaii)
On the menu board, you’ll find a half dozen appetizers ($3 – $6). Our guess that Hawaiian cuisine would include a lot of pineapple and poi proved wrong! Perhaps the most exotic appetizer was Spam Musubi (What’s that? “Spam® marinated in our house teriyaki & pan seared sushi style with rice and nori wrap, drizzled with our house Spicy Hawaiian sauce & sprinkled with sesame seeds” ), 4 combo plates (available as “bowl”/small size mostly for $7 and “plate”/large size for $9-$12, Saimin (a Polynesian noodle soup – $7; protein add-ons are $2-$4) and half a dozen “Hand Helds” (otherwise known around Baltimore as “Sandwiches” including a burger with fries or macaroni salad for $5.45).
Did you know that Spam canned meat is extraordinarily popular in Hawaii? If you’re curious why that is, you might want to check out this Huffington Post article that explains the answer!
Tom ordered the Saimin ($7) with kimchi dumplings ($2) and shrimp ($1). John splurged ordering a small bowl of Kalau Pig with Cabbage ($7) and the Saimin with added tofu ($ .75) and Paul ordered a Kalau Hoagies ($7 – a slow cook pulled pork sub)
John Kalau pork had lots of slow cooked meat; it was mild tasting (which the chef indicated was the norm in Hawaii!) so John added some hot sauce and came up with a winning taste. The Mac salad was tasty and complemented the pork.
Tom’s “Saimin” noodle soup was reminiscent of Vietnamese Pho – the extra shrimp and dumplings complemented the spicy broth which had pieces of mushrooms and snap peas in it. In contrast to the mild, unspicy port we sampled, the Saimin broth, very unlike the standard Pho broths, was very tasty with a bit of a kick to it that we welcomed.,
Paul’s “hand held” was huge and stuffed with Pork; he decided to by-pass optional fries and go with a double scoop of mac salad. To our surprise, he finished off everything on his plate and declared that his first experience with Polynesian food to be a success!
On the wall of the dining room was a large poster sign with the words “EDDIE WOULD GO“.
Owner and chef Robert Alcain related that Eddie was a renown surfer in Hawaii who never found a wave too big to ride – in the islands, the phrase “Eddie would go” summed up his “Can Do!” attitude.
Though we were quite happy and satisfied with our meals, we were still in the mood for a little dessert. We found that the special dessert of the day was made-here special maple cupcakes topped with bits of bacon! We bought two ($2.50 a piece but well worth it!) and they were awesomely good! A define “Thumbs Up!” small dessert!
Our “Taste of Aloha” opened our eyes to what Hawaiian food is all about. We so enjoyed our taste of dishes like Saimin and the Maple Bacon cupcakes that we’re probably going to have come back to try more of the items (and hopefully some of the tastier, ones that are spicier and more complex than the pork dishes which were not very interesting) that we missed out on our first visit!
FACTS: A Taste of Aloha, Arbutus, http://www.taste-of-aloha.com; 410.501.3030; Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm (but don’t open until 1 pm on Sundays!); there’s on street and off street parking; no alcohol; virtually no veggie options. (DiningOUT Visit: 3/30/14)