Let’s make this clear from the get-go: Malama Pono is just not a cliché vacationer delicacies Hawaiian restaurant, the kind of place you go to for dishes like loco moco, teriyaki hen, hen katsu, plate lunch — and for those who’re livin’ massive, Spam musubi, so you possibly can inform the neighbors again in Dubuque about how they make sushi with Spam. And, in fact, a luau. Which may all be fairly good chow.
Don’t get me incorrect; I like kalua pork as a lot as the following man in saggy shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. However this isn’t what Malama Pono is about.
Malama Pono — the title means “Take excellent care of your self” in a single translation, but additionally “to stay with a aware determination to do what’s morally proper when it comes to self, others and the land…” — describes itself as “a seafood-inspired restaurant…that includes regional fusion delicacies with a Pacific affect…” Which is to say, the stuff a number of us have been consuming right here in SoCal for a very long time, courting again to nice locations like Roy’s and even, on one stage, the previous Dealer Vic’s. We’re on the sting of the Pacific. The culinary influences are many. And so they make consuming right here a number of enjoyable.
And so, at Malama Pono, which is an informal café on Ventura Boulevard, a distance from the sushi-heavy restaurant row of Studio Metropolis, you’ll find loco moco. However it’s not the mess on a plate that it’s at most Hawaiian-themed eateries. On this case, it’s constructed round a really tasty, richly herbed and spiced house-made pork patty, topped with unexpectedly edible porcini mushroom gravy — and, in fact, the inevitable fried egg.
There’s a “combine plate.” However it’s not the same old mishmash — the combo right here is of mochiko hen in a ponzu shoyu and tomato ginger sauce, with filet mignon, fish, Spam nearly as good because it ever will get, and a “local-style” mac salad, made with cheese that’s price consuming. Even when it does mess up your ldl cholesterol. Additionally, there are kalua pork lettuce wraps, made distinctive with pickled crimson cabbage and maple-scented Japanese mustard.
However then…what’s this? Within the midst of this reimagined Hawaiiana, we discover grilled shrimp and parmesan grits — a dish with roots extra within the American South than the South Pacific. The home-made garlic naan caprese is a singular mixture of Indian and Italian meals. The Chinese language prawn salad is made with frisée and our personal much-loved (for the second), fiber-heavy inexperienced, child kale. And the duck confit with inexperienced papaya slaw, cashews and Thai dressing owes its existence to Southeast Asia.
And is there sushi? Properly…in fact there may be! And, it comes with a twist. Crispy rice, which is often topped with spicy tuna, on this case is a supply system for fried Spam, flavored with candy soy, nori aioli and togarashi — seven-flavor chili powder. Yellowfin tuna does seem on a second crispy rice dish, on this case with pickled shallots and ikura — crimson caviar. There’s a 3rd crispy rice possibility as effectively, this saddled with Santa Barbara uni, together with truffle ponzu, truffle oil and black tobiko caviar. Critically indulgent. And good too!
The menu is a tasty jumble of dishes, often staying close by of its Pacific roots, however wandering far afield when the flavors are adequate. As within the seafood risotto dumplings, that are principally Italian, however much more Malama Pono. The steamed mussels, an exquisite dish, are virtually French. However there’s mango and chili within the garlic butter, and it comes with house-made naan. Which isn’t the way you eat your moules marinières in Marseilles. And the way concerning the Maryland crabcakes? They wouldn’t increase an eyebrow in Baltimore, not a one.
Bottomline: It is a joyful restaurant, with a menu crammed with tasty temptations for these of us of pescatarian leanings.
And for many who need to stick nearer to the style of Kona, there are two beers served from Kona Brewing — Longboard Island Lager and Massive Wave Golden Ale. From Maui Brewing, there’s Massive Swell IPA, Pineapple Mana Wheat and Coconut Hiwa Porter. There are additionally cocktails made with each wine, and with Japanese shochu, with names like Guava Woman, The Weekend and, inevitably, Hawaiian Punch. There’s no pineapple wine. Allow us to give thanks.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Email email@example.com.
- Score: 3 stars
- Deal with: 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
- Info: 747-264-1995, www.malamaponorestaurant.com
- Delicacies: Fashionable Pacific Fusion
- When: Dinner, Tuesday by Saturday
- Particulars: Beer and wine; reservations essential
- Environment: A visit to Maui, proper on Ventura Boulevard, with facet journeys to Japan, China, Italy, India and proper right here within the US of A.
- Costs: About $35 per individual
- Recommended dishes: 12 Smaller Plates ($6-$18), 4 Salads ($15-$18), 13 Seafood Entrees ($15-$34), 7 Meat Entrees ($15-$28), 10 Blissful Hour Bites ($5-$12)
- Bank cards: MC, V
- What the celebs imply: 4 (World class! Price a visit from wherever!), 3 (Most glorious, even distinctive. Price a visit from wherever in Southern California.), 2 (A great place to go for a meal. Price a visit from wherever within the neighborhood.) 1 (If you happen to’re hungry, and it’s close by, however don’t get caught in visitors going.) 0 (Truthfully, not price writing about.)