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Dining out: Moki's Hawaiian Grill

Published: Friday, Oct. 28 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

TAYLORSVILLE — I don't know if it was the air of the islands working on me or just the fun atmosphere, good service and tasty food. But a recent early dinner at Moki's Hawaiian Grill left me feeling very mellow and hauoli.*

First there's the ambience, with such traditional Polynesian touches as kapa cloth on the walls, Asian touches like chopsticks and condiments neatly lined up on mats, plus all the fun Hawaiian kitsch you could ever want, from shell chimes to ukuleles.

The service is open and friendly, and the food appealed to everyone in our family. Moki's menu is fairly large, concentrating on "mixed plates" (also known as "plate lunch" to many Hawaiians; that is, there's an entree or two or three served with white rice and choice of macaroni, green, spinach or Hawaiian salad). There also are a few "signature dishes," soups and salads.

We started with a plate of fried rice and Spam musubi. We all enjoyed the fried rice, which is lighter than the traditional Chinese kind, with plenty of egg, green onion and bits of chewy bacon. I have a weakness for Spam musubi, one of those winningly weird Hawaiian foods that's such a cultural blend, featuring as it does a slab of Spam wrapped in tender sticky rice and kelp, served warm at Moki's.

The kids shared meals of chewy, dark teriyaki beef and moist and savory chicken katsu, a crisply breaded chicken breast sliced Japanese-style. They loved sprinkling their food with plenty of the sweetish "rice sauce" at our table.

My husband, at my request, tried the Loco Moco, a unique dish consisting of a lean patty of ground sirloin on a bed of rice, covered by two plump, competently fried eggs and smothered in mellow brown gravy. Even if you've never had it before, this is the kind of meal that screams "comfort food." Even someone with a traditional sort of palate would enjoy the Loco Moco.

For my part, I devoured one of the daily specials, the chicken curry. This is a great, Japanese-style green curry, spicy and full of complex flavor, with big chunks of lean chicken and carrots, peppers and potatoes. Like a stew, it's even better the second day, when the flavors have matured and deepened.

When it was time for dessert, Moki's didn't let us down. The kids had ice cream cones, going the traditional route with good-quality chocolate, strawberry and Oreo varieties, though Moki's own varieties of tropical flavors, such as pineapple, guri-guri and papaya are available as well.

My husband had Grandma's Caramel Chocolate Cake, a dark and spongy chocolate slice that was as moist as if it had been dipped in liquid caramel. It was frosted and topped with macadamia nuts and toffee, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

I had a banana shake made with one of those tropical ice creams, and it was a real refresher, not too sweet and full of bananas.

As you leave Moki's, be sure to stop and beat out a little tribute on the log drum by the door if you liked the service. The staff will reward you with a cheery, "Mahalo!" — as if the experience itself isn't reward enough.

Signature dishes $6.50-$8.95; salads, soups and sides $1.50-$7.50; mixed plates $6.75-$9.95; kids' meals $4.95; desserts 99 cents-$5.95.

* happy

Rating: ***

Where: 4836 S. Redwood Rd., Taylorsville

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: No checks accepted

Phone: 965-6654

Web: www.mokis.com


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com

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