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When I heard there was a Hawaiian food place in Waikiki I must admit my eyes rolled a bit and visions of tiki statues and pineapple on everything filled my thoughts.
Kalo Hawaiian Food by Chai’s is nothing like that, it is also nothing like the Hawaiian food I grew up with.
About Chef Chai Chaowasaree
Chef Chai Chaowasaree is a famous chef from Thailand who moved to Hawaii and opened several successful restaurants, like Sing-ha Thai Cuisine and Kalo Hawaiian Food. He also had a restaurant in Aloha Tower whose name eludes me, it was may favorite by far and I have several fun memories dining there.
He has won many awards, such as the Hale Aina Award for Outstanding Chef in 2003 and the Hawaii’s Finest Award for Best Chef in 2011. Chef Chai is known for his unique mix of Hawaiian and Asian food, using fresh local ingredients to make colorful, tasty dishes. He has also written cookbooks, hosted a cooking show, and worked hard to promote Hawaiian food to more people.
Overall, Chef Chai has played a big role in making Hawaiian cuisine popular and respected around the world.
What I Ordered
I dined here twice during my stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach and got to indulge in both breakfast and dinner. Let’s start with breakfast.
So I actually had dinner first and asked the waiter if the loco moco here was any good, he said without a pause that it was the best he ever had. Done. This loco moco made my list of the best in Waikiki.
Like I have mentioned a hundred times before in articles and videos the gravy is the key and this one is probably one of the most unique I have had on O’ahu. I tried to ply both the dinner server and breakfast server for what was in it but both laughed and said they had no idea. One mentioned it was cream based and the other mentioned 5 spice seasoning, maybe something to start with.
Not only was the gravy tasty and unique but the beef patty also had a light seasoning, not just a slab of ground beef. Rice and eggs were cooked perfectly. This will make my top 10 list for sure.
Now on to dinner and the Hawaiian sampler platter that just seemed perfectly made for me. Let’s look at each item on the platter starting with the chicken long rice.
I noticed something different about the noodles right away, firmer and opaque vs. clear and soft like I am used to. I asked the server and he said they were Thai style noodles, I knew it.
The Pipi Kaula spare ribs were just too fatty for me and comparing them to what I am used too, much more beef jerky style, I don’t think I prefer this style.
The Kalua pork was incredible, the smokey flavor was delicate but present throughout the dish. Pretty close to just out of the imu and the consistency in flavor made it even better.
I think the lomi salmon dish had some lime juice added which was quite unique among the other dishes and probably something I may try at home. Fresh tomatoes and crunchy onions just the way it should be.
I am not a poke expert by any stretch of the imagination but the small cubed fish was a no-go for me. Maybe as a topping on something else, otherwise I just don’t think poke should be served this way. Taniokas and Tamuras has conditioned me I guess.
The Local Style Margarita had a nice dusting of li hing mui powder along the rim although a bit light on flavor, overall a great end of day cocktail.
The bartender recommended the Coffee Pot de Creme which was excellent. If you like creme brulee and coffee-flavored sweets you will thoroughly enjoy this one.
I visited early for breakfast and early for dinner so didn’t really get to see the staff perform under pressure but they were friendly and seemed knowledgeable about the menu.
The seating inside had a nice relazed atmoshpere and if you like to people watch you can see everyone passing by on Kuhio Ave. while sipping on a cocktail.
Outside is towards the back and faces the parking entrance for the hotel. It doesn’t get too busy in this area so if you want to let loose a bit more and enjoy the evening breezes this would be a perfect spot. A great spot to meet up with friends or have a fun first date while trying some unique dishes.
Parking for Kalo Hawaiian Food by Chai’s
Kalo Hawaiian Food by Chai offers valet parking for $6 for four hours with validation. There is also street parking available, but it can be limited.
Here are some other parking options near Kalo Hawaiian Food by Chai:
Ohana Waikiki Malia: 2211 Kūhiō Ave., 2 blocks away. This is a public parking lot with hourly rates.
PARKLINQ™ Waikīkī – paid parking: Lauula St., 1 block away. This is a paid parking lot with hourly rates.
Location & Contact Info
Website and reservations for Kalo Hawaiian Food by Chai’s.
Definitely a unique take on Hawaiian food and the traditional way it is prepared, not something you will find easily in Hawai’i. I will definitely be back for the loco moco and maybe try something new once again.