Kahai Street Kitchen, a favorite gourmet plate lunch spot that used to be three minutes from my workplace in Kalihi, just moved across town to Moiliili. The name is the same — it’s still Kahai Street Kitchen — but what about the food? I headed over to check it out on Day One, Friday, July 8.
I was curious to see how the new location would compare with the old, especially since the Kahai Street location across Ethel’s Grill had almost no parking. You basically had to phone in your order and have someone wait in the car while you ran in to pay and pick up your food.
While you have to hunt for street parking in Moiliili and there isn’t an adjacent lot, at least you have all of Coolidge and the surrounding streets to try and grab a spot. And there are tables for dine-in. Whether you dine in or take out, you place your order at one window and wait until it’s called at another window. In the meantime, you can sit and wait at one of the tables. It’s nice that there’s a space for customers to enjoy their food. Better yet, there’s indoor seating with AC.
And the menu? Kahai Street Kitchen is known for its gourmet plate lunches and a ton of daily specials (about 10 a day). You used to have to check the website daily to see the day’s specials.
The new Kahai Street Kitchen’s lunch menu is similar to the original, but many of the daily specials are now on the regular menu. You still have to check the website daily for new specials, and there aren’t as many. Long story short, they did this to satisfy customers who wanted to be able to order their favorites any time. “Gourmet selection” dishes on the menu used to be specials, so I’m told.
With that in mind, we narrow down our choices. I get the garlic chicken salad in an attempt to be healthy … and because I have a weakness for garlic chicken.
The chicken is love at first bite. Each morsel has a lot of that slightly sweet house sauce, making the chicken dangerously addictive. The exterior is delectably crunchy, but the meat is tender and chewy without being rubbery. While the salad makes me feel less guilty about the fried part, I would recommend indulging in a garlic chicken plate ($9.25) — the chicken alone is definitely worth it.
The crab-crusted mahimahi ($13.95) sounds delicious and is also a best seller, but the one with the potato chip crust sounds too intriguing to pass up.
This is a game changer. The mahi is tender, flaky and fresh, but it’s the potato chip crust that gives new meaning to fish and chips. It’s not overly crunchy — you don’t have to worry about poking the inside of your mouth — and the salty aftertaste enhances the fish’s flavor. That, paired with the sweeter passion fruit salsa or green aioli, results in a reel winner. I’m a purist and like the mahi sans dipping sauces, but if I had to pick one, I prefer the aioli.
Kahai Street’s famous boneless short ribs are noteworthy not just because of the meat’s tenderness — definitely melt-in-your-mouth — but also because of the aromatic vegetable demi-glace. It’s so thick, rich and flavorful that I almost forget it’s made with veggies. While I enjoy every bite of the succulent ribs, it’s the demi-glace that’s more memorable.
So now that the commute from work is 20 minutes and not three, will I be back? You bet — and the crab-crusted mahimahi’s at the top of my list.
Kahai Street Kitchen
946 Coolidge St.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Catering available everyday