ELV note: Here is the link to this article as it appears today (in somewhat truncated/adulterated/less colorful form) in the Las Vegas Weekly. Or read on if you want to make things easier (and funnier) on yourselves.
Hawaiian people eat so much white food, it’s a wonder their bowels ever move.
It’s almost as if white were the state color for victuals of all kinds.
Macaroni salad comes with everything. Ditto white rice. Kaluha pig is nothing more than a heap o’ white shredded pork sitting atop, you guessed it, a pile of white cabbage; the state “sushi” (something called musubi) is a giant slab of spam on a giant slab of firmly compacted white rice; and a favorite dessert is ….wait for it…a white (no surprise there) slab of practically tasteless coconut jello/pudding called haupia.
If you didn’t know better, you would swear Hawaiian food is a bad joke the natives foist upon haolies as a way of keeping the islands to themselves. But if you make the trek to a second floor corner of the California Hotel, you will see a line out the door for almost every minute Aloha Specialties is open. Regardless of what one might think of its kaleidoscopic palette, the food here seems to satisfy every islander’s palate for the eats of the 50th State.
If you want to go completely native from the first bite, tuck into a loco moco – the classic Hawaiian dish of a ground beef patty with a fried egg on top, smothered in brown gravy and sitting upon — what else? – white rice. This guilty-pleasure of a carbo-bomb is probably the best hangover remedy ever invented, and a good introduction into the lack of finesse that defines this food.
What the spicy Korean chicken thighs lack in subtlety (and spice) they make up for in crispy, juicy goodness. Equally good are the bento-box meals called Ocha-Zuke (each containing various acquired tastes (grilled mackerel, pickled vegetables, more spam), but everything carefully cooked and arranged. As barbecued pork goes, the kalua variety will never challenge North Carolina for pulled pig supremacy – it being possessed of neither smoke nor crunch – but it is mighty tender, as are the char sui (barbecued pork) slices that adorn the fried saimin (dried wheat-egg noodles) tossed with slices of celery – (apparently) the closest you’ll ever come to a green vegetable in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Cash only. Ocha-Zuke $9.75; Loco Moco $5.75; Korean chicken $7.50; Haupia $1.25
In the California Hotel
12 East Ogden St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101