Lousy Lau Lau at Petaluma’s Ohana Hawaiian
A few weeks ago I made a stop at Staples for pen refills, and decided to grab a bite at Ohana Grill next door. Said to be one of the better Hawaiian plate chains, this was my first time at any location of this local restaurant group.
I was quite excited to see lau lau on the menu and asked the manager, Jeffrey, if he recommended it. He suggested the combo with kalua pork. Well, bad mistake. This lau lau is on the top 10 list of worst things that I've ever been served to eat. Then I found out that it's made in Hawaii and sent here frozen. The taro leaves were tough and inedible, the piece of butterfish was less than 1 cm2, and the bits of chicken were completely dessicated and fibrous. The kalua pork tasted like artificial smoke and too much salt. Oh, and the macaroni salad was bad too.
Watching me push around the lau lau looking for the alleged butterfish and witnessing my obvious distaste, the manager offered me a free plate of BBQ chicken, the most popular item here. Made with marinated, boneless thigh meat, it was quite juicy and seemed cooked to order. Certainly too salty with a processed fast food taste, but a couple bites of it made up dinner. I appreciated the gesture.
The best thing here was the scoops of rice that I topped with the self-serve gingery soy sauce condiment.
Ohana Hawaiian Barbecue
205 S McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954
At first blush, one is tempted to speculate that the lau lau wasn’t steamed long enough. Taro leaves, properly done in a lau lau should be soft, like cooked spinach. Kalua pork, an oven baked representation of /or simple substitute for real Kalua pig, is easy to do and difficult to ruin (go easy on liquid smoke!). In an authentic luau, they bury a whole kalua pig in the traditional imu pit in the ground. But, gosh, what you had was apparently not just a lousey lau lau, it was altogether a lousey lau lau plate lunch if rice was the highlight!
Takahashi Market in downtown San Mateo has frozen lau laus flown in from Honolulu along with lots of other goodies each Thurday – fresh poi, limu, poki, lomi salmon, etc., etc.. My dear wife feeds her frequent Hawaiian food cravings by visiting Takahashi. Have not had a bad lau lau…..yet! They even do some plate lunch dishes.
I've had lau lau, and taro leaves in filipino preps, and this is the first tough example i've run across.
Thanks for mentioning Takahashi. It is the answer to most things Hawaiian in this area and it's been too long since my last visit.
221 S Claremont St, San Mateo, CA 94401
Good Lau Lau is surprisingly hard to find in Honolulu... all the supermarkets sell packaged stuff of all Hawaiian foods that are pretty terrible.. Kalua Pig, Poi, Lau Lau etc., and this is the stuff most non specialized restaurants seem to serve... I don't understand why people buy them. The difference between the typical Lau Lau and homemade or roadside is huge.