Multiple locations, including 4745 South Maryland Parkway and 2605 South Decatur Boulevard (last visit: September 2005).
There's Hawaiian food, and then there's Hawaiian food. My introduction to such fare was in Hawaii, many years ago. First was the inevitable luau which, although touristy, nonetheless introduced me to such foods as kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, and taro. Next came the "traditional" restaurant. "Traditional" is in quotes because I'm not quite sure what tradition was being followed, but it was an attempt to offer some of the foods eaten by Hawaiians in the not too distant past, and even into the present. I got my first taste of poi, which by the way is actually pretty good as a foil to the salty foods often served. I then moved to a locals restaurant that served many of the same dishes, and fell in love with haupia, which when properly prepared is coconut heaven and when poorly prepared is coconut jello. Lastly, I was introduced to the then new Pacific Rim (aka Asian fusion) cuisine.
Aloha Kitchen isn't like any of those places.
The menu is representative of what is sometimes called local Hawaiian food, and caters to the large local Hawaiian community that has taken root in Las Vegas. The food is an amalgam of Pacific Rim cuisines. It is cheap and filling. A typical meal is the mix plate, consisting of two scoops of white rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and one or more items such as kalua pork, chicken katsu, and pork lau lau. Spam is also a mainstay (spam sushi!), or try the loco moco (bed of rice, hamburger patty, eggs sunny side up, and a big ladle of brown gravy). Health food lovers need not apply.
Like most such restaurants, Aloha Kitchen is very plain, and very inexpensive. The Maryland Parkway location is near UNLV, and feels like a typical university hole-in-the-wall place. The Decatur Boulevard location is slightly fancier, but still very informal. Order at the counter, take a seat, and your meal will be brought to you.
Meal #1: I had never had a loco moco before, and decided to give it a try. Loco Moco is a bowl of steamed rice, with a fried hamburger patty on top, followed by a generous portion of brown gravy, and a couple of sunny side up eggs. The rice was bland, the gravy was bland, the hamburger was bland. Once is enough!
Meal #2: I decided to try a typical meal - one of the many mix plate combinations. In this case it consisted of kalua pork, chicken katsu, and of course rice and macaroni salad. The kalua pork was salty but flavorful, good in combination with the bland rice. The real winner was chicken katsu, a kind of Japanese fried chicken with a sweet barbecue sauce on top.
Meal #3: I got the local plate: chicken, beef, Spam musubi, macaroni salad, and rice, all for the bargain price of $6.99. The beef consisted of thin small slices of beef with a sweet barbecue sauce, on top of sprouts of some sort. On top of the beef was a thin piece of chicken, skin on, sautéed until the skin was crisp. Both were very good.
Next, Spam musubi; I had to try it. There were two pieces. Each pieced consisted of a thin slice of Spam (about 3" x 1.5" x 1/8"), fried until crisp, on top of a thick layer of warm rice with barbecue sauce, wrapped in a large sheet of seaweed. It wasn't as weird as I expected, although the seaweed was too chewy. I'd give it a mild thumbs up.
Clockwise from left: chicken and beef, Spam musubi, macaroni salad (bowl of rice barely visible at upper left):
This kind of food isn't fancy; it's heavy on the fat, heavy on the carbs. I love it! Aloha Kitchen serves a decent representation of the stuff. I have a feeling there must be better versions out there, but this one is pretty good.
A meal will run around $10, plus drink, tax and tip.
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