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Dining out: Mo' Bettah Steaks

Published: Friday, Jan. 15 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Mo' Bettah Steaks has shave ice year round!

There are other good things to say about this purveyor of Hawaiian-style plate lunches. The meat is freshly cooked and generously portioned. The sauces are tasty. The service is enthusiastic.

And also, Mo' Bettah Steaks has shave ice year round!

The annual September shuttering of my favorite shave-ice stands always makes me sad, and not just because it means summer is over. I love shave ice. Love, love, love it.

But more about that in a minute. First, I'd better devote some space to our family dinner at Mo' Bettah on a recent weeknight.

The place has the usual Hawaiian-restaurant vibe. Polynesian music on the stereo, check. Surfboards on the walls, check. It's also spacious, many-windowed and clean.

The menu isn't complicated. You can get chicken, steak, kalua "pig" (as it's amusingly called here) or combinations of the three, served plate-lunch style with rice, macaroni salad or tossed salad.

However, there are a few decisions to make.

Should I get the chicken or steak with teriyaki sauce or "pulehu" style, with garlic and pepper? Should I have a combination or stick with one thing? Should I take a chance on the mac salad?

Despite my love of kalua "pig," I went with a plate of steak and … steak, one portion of teriyaki and one of pulehu. The place is called Mo' Bettah Steaks, after all.

I wasn't sorry, either.

The first encouraging sign was watching the cooks slap down fresh, whole pieces of meat on the grill as soon as we ordered. You'll wait a bit longer for food done that way, but the difference in taste from something that's been sitting in a chafing dish is night and day.

The teriyaki sauce at Mo' Bettah was delicious, just-sweet and a little spicy.

The meat was quite lean (especially by the fat-loving standards of Hawaiian restaurants), juicy and of surprising quality considering the price.

The pulehu seasoning was a dark and peppery contrast with the mellower teriyaki, and I surprised myself with how much I ate.

I also took a chance and went with the mac salad, and it was a cut above the usual, with mellow, creamy dressing and lots of pepper and matchstick carrots.

My husband didn't have to ponder much before going with the "Ekolu Special" plate that included kalua pig and teriyaki steak and chicken, plus rice and (in his case) a monumental portion of green salad.

Speaking of monumental, I haven't mentioned that the portions at Mo' Bettah are right in line with the usual size at Polynesian restaurants; that is to say, huge.

My husband had two big pieces of teriyaki chicken covering a pile of steak, plus a fist-size mound of kalua pig and all that rice and salad.

It was all very good.

The chicken I especially liked, with its slick glaze of teriyaki and a fresh, chewy sear. But I don't want to discount the kalua, which was lean and gently seasoned, with the rich flavor of long, slow cooking.

Our kids had both chicken and steak plates, which Mo' Bettah offers in a "mini" size that's just right for keiki.

Once we were filled with meaty goodness, it was shave-ice time.

The good news is, Mo' Bettah Steaks has shave ice year round!

The better news is, you'll hardly find better shave ice anywhere.

There are all the usual favorites plus some more exotic ones (lilikoi or lychee, anyone?). And the add-ons include vanilla ice cream, sweet Japanese azuki beans, Japanese li hing mui flavoring and the "snow cap," which means they drizzle sweetened condensed milk over the top of your shave ice.

The kids had combinations of mango, blue raspberry, lemon, lime, guava and cherry, while I went with guava, lilikoi and li hing mui with a snow cap.

Li hing mui, a salted dried plum, has a very unique flavor, which translates in shave-ice syrup into a funky, sour-fruity taste that went great with the lilikoi (passion fruit) and guava, and, of course, the sweetened condensed milk.

I mean, what doesn't taste good with sweetened condensed milk on it?

And I can get it year round!

Plate lunches $5.50-$17.50, sides 99 cents-$1.75, shave ice $2.50-$3.

Mo' Bettah Steaks

Rating: ★★★

Where: 335 W. 1830 South (also in Bountiful)

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 801-466-3886

Wheelchair access: Easy

Web: www.mobettahsteaks.com

Also: Catering available

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.

e-mail: skratz@desnews.com