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Apr 30, 2012 11:14 AM

Pa'ina - Japantown [San Francisco]

Went to this place on Saturday evening with my family. It didn't really sound like a good place when I read about it (it's like Hawaiian-inspired fusion food), but we had one of those indecisive where-to-eat? moments that resulted in us selecting a place almost at random. Hence, Pa'ina.

Just don't go there.

That's probably all I need to write, I don't even know where to begin. But if you need details,

How about with the menu. Despite being early on a Saturday night, the restaurant had already run out of five or six menu items. How could a restaurant have provisioned THAT badly that they ran out of that many menu items at the beginning of the night?

The food: We had nearly a third of the menu. None of it was tasty, and some of it was sort of disgusting. There were gyoza, which was more like subpar potstickers, there was a macaroni salad that inexplicably had potato in it (tasting note: it was macaroni salad with potato in it), there was some fried chicken thing that arrived ice-cold ("No Mom, I don't think Hawaiians eat their chicken cold"), the Spam musubi things that were more like leftovers from my cooking.

And then there was the "famous Kalua pig cheese fries." Calling a dish "famous" on your menu when your restaurant is only weeks-old takes quite a bit of chutzpah, but we tried it, and you know what, I can see why they might be famous. You will not hear my opinion of them unless my future therapist decides to break his/her professional silence and relate my terror-filled experience to others.

Let's see, what good can I say about the place. The server was very friendly, very polite. Unfortunately she wasn't a very skilled server. At one point, my sister waited almost half an hour for her drink. Finally she went to the bar to retrieve it, only to find that the bartender had prepared it forever ago. "Oh, did she forget you?", asked the bartender, chuckling. My sister did not chuckle along.


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  1. How could they be out of things early on a Saturday night? First-time restaurant owner, they've been open only a little over a week, the place seats 271, and they probably got slammed all day by the crowd from the film festival next door.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I can understand that new restaurants have kinks, and I was aware that it was new before we went there. But as we spent the afternoon in Japantown, I can safely say that there was likely not a festival-related rush, or at least not so significant that it should have had THAT much of an impact on their sales. It's not like there were thousands of people milling about.

      Additionally, there is no WAY that place seats 271. By my rough estimate, that place seats well less than 100. 271 must be the capacity of the venue when there is music going on and there are people standing. (The place is also a music venue.)

      Moreover, it's not like the restaurant was full, either. We got there around 7.30, and we walked right in and were seated without a reservation.

      Anyway, primary point is that the food stinks.

    2. "...macaroni salad that inexplicably had potato in it..."

      Potato-mac salad is a staple of Hawaiian regional cuisine.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Pius Avocado III

        Well it wasn't good, or at least their version of it wasn't.

        1. re: Pius Avocado III

          +1 on the potato/mac. Mo bettah then plain macaroni IMO.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Last month I had some take-out from Pa'ina and found all three items quite good for the genre and especially as a late night option.

            Kalua pig gravy fries, $8 - French fries were mostly soggy by the time we ate this, but that's to be expected. But some were still crisp and were good fries. A generous amount of buttery kalua pig and tasty gravy that did not taste metallic on top. Mozzarella bocconcini, softened by the heat, stood in for poutine's cheese curd and made this the better for it. The best touch was addition of fresh jalapeño slices for the "bam!"

            Pa'ina wings, $8 - Six pieces including both flats and drummettes made for a generous serving for the price. The crunchy batter held up during transport. Juicy meat was probably brined or marinated. The sticky chili glaze was a bit too pineapple-tasting, but had some sour notes and decent heat to keep the sweetness in balance.

            Green papaya salad (without shrimp), $8 - Overuse of pineapple again, but otherwise a Vietnamese-y style with a tart and spicy vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, fried shallots, and micro basil greens. Light and refreshing as a counterweight to the two heavier dishes.

            I'd order any of these again though certainly the pig fries would be better on site. The fries and the wings are on the happy hour (3-6pm daily) menu for $5. If they're the same size portion, those would be even better bargains.

            Pa’ina Lounge and Restaurant
            1865 Post St
            (between Webster St & Fillmore St)
            San Francisco, CA 94115
            (415) 829-2642

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I haven't been back, but I regret my original review. It was far harsher than necessary, considering how young the restaurant was at the time. Not that my experience wasn't bad, it was memorably infuriating, but in hindsight I should have been more patient. I'm a little embarrassed by my review's scathing nature now.

              1. re: dunstable

                I saw photos of the early version of kalua pig fries, then called cheese fries rather than gravy fries, that were doused with nacho sauce. That would be put me off my feed, for sure. ;)