SOUTH JORDAN If you live in the southwest Salt Lake Valley and you're dying for some plate lunch, you've now got a place to go that's pretty close to home.
Lanikai Grill Hawaiian Bar-B-Que has a small but well-considered menu of Hawaiian and Polynesian favorites, plus a few unique touches of its own.
If you're among the increasingly small group of people who haven't tried the Hawaiian restaurants that seem to be popping up all over the Wasatch Front, Hawaiian food is an exuberant mix of Polynesian tradition (taro leaves, coconut milk), Asian influence (katsu-style meats and soy-based sauces), macaroni salad and Spam. In other words, there's something for practically every palate at a Hawaiian restaurant, and Lanikai Grill is no exception.
One caveat: if you have a hard time with meat that's less than lean, order the kalua pork or one of the fried meats, or go veggie. I've never eaten at a Hawaiian restaurant that paid more than scant attention to trimming its meat. I can work around that if the flavor's right, but the more squeamish among you take note.
We started with a couple of orders of lupulu, available Fridays and Saturdays only. It's hard to say what this rich, aromatic dish corned beef wrapped in steamed taro leaves and cooked in coconut milk reminded me of. Corned beef and cabbage with a tropical twist, maybe.
When it came time for our entrees, I forgot the generous Polynesian notions of portion size, resulting in lots of leftovers to take home (not a bad thing, especially at these prices).
Two of our daughters shared Lanikai's rice bowl with shoyu chicken and veggies. "Shoyu" is the Japanese word for soy sauce, but shoyu chicken recipes typically add sweeteners like sugar and honey, resulting in a sauce that retains the dark earthiness of soy with bright, sweet top notes. The veggies were a delicious mix of broccoli, snow peas, green and yellow squash, mushrooms, carrots and cauliflower, all enhanced by the sauce.
Our other daughter, who dislikes "green things" in her food, had the barbecue chicken kids' meal, a portion of cut, sauced chicken served plate lunch-style with mac salad and sticky rice.
I had the chicken curry, which had lots of straightforward curry flavor, if not a lot of subtlety, with green beans, carrots, potatoes and onions alongside the chicken over a big plate of rice. Next time I think I'll try the kalua pork salad, an enticing-sounding combination of chopped romaine, pork, scallions, cherry tomatoes and black olives with poppy-seed dressing.
My husband had the mixed barbecue plate lunch, a piled-up plate of barbecue beef and chicken plus kalua pork. The beef had deep savory flavor but was chewier than we liked, making the delicious, tender and just-sweet pork the star of the plate.
With our meals, my oldest daughter and I had otai, the Tongan drink of milk, pineapple and other fruits that's becoming one of our favorites.
For dessert, I ordered from one of the unique sectors of Lanikai's menu, the frybread. You can get it with shredded steak or chicken, but we went with the powdered-sugar option, and it was delicious: crisp outside, tender and bready inside, and nicely sweet. It was here that I committed my biggest portion-sizing blunder, ordering three big plates of frybread slices when I thought I was ordering three pieces of frybread. Oops. We'll probably still be eating frybread as you read this.Appetizers and sides 75 cents-$3, salads $6.50, rice bowls $4.99-$6.50, combination plate lunch $7.20, frybread $3-$5.95, entrees $6.50-$7.50, musubi $1.95-$2.50, otai $2.
Lanikai Grill Hawaiian Bar-B-Que
Rating: ** 1/2
Where: 1072 W. 10600 South, South Jordan
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday; Closed Sunday
Payment: Major credit cards accepted