Photo by Shannon SibayanEver wondered why Samoan football players are so freaking big? Visit Boutique Samoa, a Polynesian gift shop in Anaheim with a great selection of tropical-print shirts and a takeout buffet near the entrance. Order the $11 Island plate lunch—a regular-sized Styrofoam carton crammed with enough goodies to make an evening at the Claim Jumper seem as lean as a Jenny Craig brunch. Near the top will be some crispy brisket, slightly golden and glazed with the lightest of barbecue sauces. The brisket snuggles up against a palm-sized slab of lamb, Jell-O-esque in its tenderness and redolent with a gamy, medium-rare charm. Both the brisket and lamb top a generous scoop of Samoan curry, a slimy, ginger-heavy dollop of beef and veggies—it's not spicy so much as is it stinging. And the carbs in Boutique Samoa's Island plate lunch are a cut of sweet, bulky taro the size of a computer speaker.
There are other options on the always sweltering buffet table. Mostly meats—pale, turgid beef sausages with a lean snap; finely sliced povi masima (salted beef) ruddy in color and buttery in flavor; and a couple of styles of ufi (fish) ranging from bitter to silky to sweet. Poultry fans will delight in the turkey tails, succulent masses ringed with a layer of sweet, sweet fat inside their crunchy skin. What passes for vegetables here are the aforementioned taro, caramelized bananas and sweet chop suey—and even the chop suey contains steamed beef chunks.
Boutique Samoa might prepare hefty, filling meals, but its dessert is one of the county's culinary treasures: palusami, baked taro leaves stuffed with onions and coconut milk. They're made by shaping taro leaves into a cup within your hand, pouring the onion-laced coconut milk into the impromptu taro cup, twisting the top of the leaves shut, then wrapping the result in tinfoil and leaving it to bake. After about an hour, the coconut milk congeals into a chunky cream, the onions lose their bitterness and become little paragons of bite, and the spinach-tasting taro leaves transform into a nutty, delicate delight. Palusami is grander than the sum of its parts—and its oily, sugary essence will eventually reappear as two more rolls on your chin. Meh.
BOUTIQUE SAMOA, 1217 S. WESTERN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 220-9675.
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