Limon Rotisserie just opened at Ka Makana Alii last month and it is already my favorite dinner spot in West Oahu. With all the new competition in Honolulu's smoldering dining scene, Limon's mix of solid family-style plates, tapas-sized appetizers and fantastic cocktails makes this Peruvian-inspired chain a good bet for becoming a fixture in Kapolei – something the west side needs more of.
To start off, cruise over to the cocktail list where pisco, the national spirit of Peru, is featured prominently. The pisco sour ($12), made with egg whites, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters is perhaps one of the most drinkable cocktails, tart with a sweet and frothy finish. I usually gravitate towards them if they're on the menu. Also worth noting is the excellent house sangria ($6 per glass, $35 for a pitcher). Other drinks include nine beers ($6-$7) and 13 wines ($10-$48) which can all be had by the glass or bottle.
Happy hour just launched in December and takes place weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. with $8 selected cocktails including the pisco sour, and $5 draft beers and wines. There are seven appetizers under $10, including an empanada trio and polli papas. Although it's rare for me to leave town before 7 p.m., the prospect of this pau hana close to home is welcome.
If you thought Peruvian food was for the adventurous eater, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how familiar it all tastes. A mashup of Japanese, Chinese, Greek and Spanish cuisine, modern Peruvian cuisine fuses the best parts of each culture in one delicious menu.
Start with the cheese or chicken empanadas (two for $8.95) served with a nuclear yellow aji (pronounced "ahi") huacatay sauce made with black mint and aji amarillo chiles. The cheese empanadas, which come recommended by the general manager, are deep-fried pockets of gooey Oaxacan cheese – what's not to love about that? The pollo empanadas are satisfying as well, but you should get your fill of chicken with other dishes.
The chicharron de pollo (fried chicken) is a close cousin to our local favorite mochiko chicken, except the ubiquitous sweetness has been replaced with a twangy soy and chile overtone. For, $12.95 you get a decent amount of boneless chicken morsels and crispy bits paired with an equally addicting salsa criolla made with red onions, aji rocoto peppers, cilantro and lots of lime juice. Marked to try on my next visit is the polli papas ($11.95), which takes fried chicken and mixes it with french fries, creamy huacatay sauce and parmesan cheese – it sounds like a flavor bomb anyone would enjoy.
You'd be kicking yourself if you failed to get Limon's signature open flame rotisserie chicken – from what I've tried so far, it's the best thing on the menu. Offered in dark ($13.95) and white ($12.95) meat quarters as well as half ($18.95) and full chickens ($28.95), the platters all come with two sides and lots of the creamy, herbaceous aji amarillo huacatay sauce. Of the sides, the wok stir-fried green beans and fried yuca fries are excellent and abundant on the platter. Other sides include french fries, rice, beans, salad and Peruvian sauteed beans and rice.
The chicken, marinated or brined in Limon's secret mix of spices and herbs, is juicy and practically falls off the bone. The skin is golden brown and has this incredible layer of melting fat that makes you rethink how delicious chicken can really be. The half chicken is easily shared among two to three people and with other dishes, you may even take leftovers home.
Despite the focus on chicken, the menu is full of other options including a 12-ounce pan-fried pork chop ($21.95), grilled octopus ($16.95) and a whole list of ceviche and seafood options. The seco de costillas or braised boneless short ribs ($18.95) are served with rice and potatoes in a beefy gravy that has pops of black mint and cilantro. You'll want to be hungry to eat this hearty plate.
On my next visit, I'm digging into my favorite Peruvian specialty, lomo saltado ($19.95). I was introduced to this dish at Mario's Peruvian & Seafood restaurant in Los Angeles and have been looking for it ever since. Think shaking beef tenderloin (Vietnamese bo luc lac) tossed with crispy french fries. It's just about the most filling meal you'll ever have, so plan to share it.
With four locations in the Bay Area and another opening in the San Francisco Airport, the Limon team has experience opening restaurants in one of the toughest dining markets in the country. The food and drinks do a great job of introducing multiethnic Peruvian culture with its many parallels to Hawaii. This familiarity, and good value, will keep us coming back.
Ka Makana Alii
91-5431 Kapolei Pkwy
Sun - Thur 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri - Sat 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Happy hour Mon - Fri 3 - 6 p.m.