Experience island flavors at ‘Pa’ina Café’Numerous Hawaiian foods from poi to fresh tuna
Bringing Hawaiian flavors to the ninth island, Pa'ina Café serves fresh poké bowls and plate lunches to anyone looking for a simple meal. The establishment also serves dessert items that rotate flavors on a daily basis. Rating: A Photo Credit: Kyle Bayudan
Born in Hawaii, I grew up eating the islands’ local foods and flavors. Ranging from tropical fish to the paste-like taro dish called poi and anything in between, I enjoyed consuming the unique items that the islands had to offer. Since moving from Hawaii, I have been on a search for those similar items here in Las Vegas. There are numerous places here that serve Hawaiian dishes; however, I came across Pa’ina Café and their items closely resembled what I used to eat back home.
As I walked into the café, I was met with the smell of freshly-baked pastries and numerous paintings that highlight the Hawaiian culture. The wooden tables and trim along the wall made it seem like I walked straight into a beach house. The Hawaiian music playing on the speakers also added to the tropical vibes of the establishment making me feel as if I were back home. I had a few questions about the items on the menu, and without any hesitation, the cashier was able to answer all of them. After ordering my food, one of the workers brought it out to my table in no less than five minutes.
Wanting to try their poké, I decided to order the Pa’ina bowl ($9.95) which consisted of white rice and spicy ahi tuna. When ordering any bowls from the menu, customers are able to choose from brown or white rice. After taking my first bite of the fish and rice, I was immediately brought back to my childhood in Hawaii. The fresh raw tuna melted in my mouth along with the spicy mayonnaise. I noticed that the dish was topped with furikake and masago; the crunch from both garnishes added another layer of texture which made for an enjoyable bite. By utilizing the creaminess and the salt from the raw ahi tuna, the dish tasted simple yet, well balanced.
After I finished the Pa’ina bowl, I tried the Hawaiian Style bowl ($9.95). It contained brown rice, kalua pork, ahi poké, lomi lomi salmon and was also topped with furikake. I took a bite of the kalua pork and it fell apart in my mouth. The tenderness of the meat combined with its natural juices gave it a prominent pork flavor which did not need any additional seasoning. The raw ahi tuna was similar to the spicy ahi in the Pa’ina in terms of texture; however, the flavor was much more subtle. It was seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce and green onions, reminding of the ahi I used to eat back home in Hawai’i. On the other hand, the lomi lomi salmon was acidic from the onion, balancing out the rich flavor from the kalua pork.
For dessert, I ordered two mochi doughnuts, one that was poi flavored and another that was guava flavored each costing $1.95. I tasted the poi doughnut first and was able to taste its bitter-sweet flavor immediately. The glaze was not overly sweet which is something I admired since I am not a fan of sugary desserts. Known for its pale purple color, the interior of the doughnut contained the same shade as poi leading me to believe that it was created with the actual taro paste. The guava doughnut tasted exactly like the fruit—a cross between a strawberry and a pear. It was somewhat sweet, but still had a slight tart flavor making my mouth water.
Although there is only one location here in the valley, I suggest individuals should try some of their dishes to taste the simple flavors from the islands. The poké bowls may not be for everyone as the fish is served raw; however, the café does have several other cooked options for those who do not eat uncooked items. To offer more choices to their customers, Pa’ina Café changes the flavors of their doughnuts and tarts on a daily basis. If individuals are looking for a place to eat local Hawaiian food in a somewhat tropical environment, Pa’ina Café is the place to go.