Dueling Dishes: Hawaiian Plate Lunch
What is it about the Hawaiian plate lunch portion size? For a place with an entire industry based on relaxing on the beach or poolside in nothing but your skivvies, they sure stack the odds against you with the giganto-servings on their plate lunches. Finish off too many on a regular basis and you're liable to be mistaken for something Captain Ahab might spear, or worse, another Hawaiian island.
Stateside with our Hawaiian plate lunch joints, it's no different. For this Dueling Dishes we compare and contrast two similar plate lunches from two Tustin Hawaiian joints, Ono Ono and Aloha.
The Dish: I ordered the two most similar combos available to each: one that had some equal portions turf and surf. Both take-out lunches contained teriyaki BBQ chicken and fried mahi mahi. Ono Ono's had kalua pork as the third item; Aloha added shrimp.
The Price: They are comparable. Ono Ono's "Mix Plate" retailed for $8.95. Aloha's "Seafood Mix" cost $8.19.
The Quantity: Ono Ono's came with two sides, with many options available for the taking. For comparison's sake, the potato-mac salad and a scoop of rice were chosen. Aloha's sides are automatically 2 scoops of rice, and 1 scoop of mac salad that may have had bits of tuna worked into it. Though both were of a size unreasonable for one person to finish in a single sitting, Ono Ono's meal is smaller--a serving size that could conceivably be made to last two and half meals. Aloha's, on the other hand, with its excess of chicken, one slab of meat after another, after another, could easily be stretched to last three meals, maybe four. Advantage: Aloha
The Chicken: Ono Ono's had a more pronounced BBQ'ness to it, a smokiness and some crispy charring. Aloha's, however, was moister, so deeply flavored, you need not dunk it in any sort of sauce. This chicken, in fact, was so well-marinated it was practically outgassing fumes of soy, mirin, and whatever else they used. Advantage: Aloha
The Fish: Aloha's is fried from frozen, a uniformly shaped fish from lunch box to lunch box, lacking in any sort of depth or character--a stomach filler if ever there was one. You relied on the deliciously fruity pineapple-based katsu sauce for flavor. Ono Ono's mahi mahi are made from actual pieces of, what appears to be, hand-breaded fish. It's also more flavorful, crispier, and all around better. Advantage: Ono Ono.
The Wildcard: Ono Ono's moist kalua pork actually made the dish on their combo. Aloha's shrimp loops, while also good, just can't compete with the flavor of roasted and shredded pig. Advantage: Ono Ono.
The Winner: Can't decide. So I'll say it's a tie. If you want quantity, good chicken and value, Aloha. If you want a more sensible portion, good fish, and a nicely evocative dining room to enjoy your island meal, it's Ono Ono.
As far as looking good in a bathing suit if you make any of these two meals a habit: good luck.
Ono Ono Hawaiian BBQ, 17582 17th St # 104, Tustin, CA 92780-1973, (714) 505-0750
Aloha Hawaiian BBQ, 2336 Park Ave, Tustin, CA 92782, (714) 258-1888
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