Multiculti Hawaii

The Loft Hawaiian Grill, a bright-yellow jewel in the midst of Cypress' international-business corridor, is the only local Hawaiian restaurant that features cuisines from each of the Aloha State's immigrant cultures. To wit:

JAPANESE: Japanese grilling techniques have influenced Hawaiian cooking more than any other foreign cuisine, and Loft features a couple of these cooking styles. The chicken katsu is as delicate as lace, the bread crumbs that encapsulate the hen fillet showering into your mouth like snow. Better is the beef katsu, where those same bread crumbs mesh well with the sweet beef and some of Loft's prickly tonkatsu sauce. All the teriyaki meats—whether salmon, beef or pork—are succulent, if standard, but save room for the bastardized, terrifying sushi block known as Spam musubi.

CHINESE: Though the Chinese chicken salad is light and tasteful, the only thing Sinocentric about this appetizer are the crunchy won ton skins poking through the greenery. Order instead the sweet, smoky char siu chicken, which arrives with a side of sinus-clearing hot mustard.

KOREAN: The popularity of Korean entrées in Hawaiian restaurant menus continues to increase, and the limited Korean offerings at Loft show why. The bulgogi (thin meat strips) at Loft are as delicious and savory as the ones they grill over on Garden Grove Boulevard, and the pepper sauce on the chicken bulgogi is spicy enough for a Mexican. Most folks gorge themselves on the kalbi bowl: beef short ribs over rice, with a sweet sauce oozing toward the bottom in a race to give your taste buds maximum sweetness.

Few Hawaiian restaurants include Filipino cuisine, and Loft only has one snack. But what a snack—Kalua lumpia, egg rolls containing sweet, shredded Kalua pork tempered by steamed-but-crispy cabbage.

PORTUGUESE: Even fewer Hawaiian restaurants include Portuguese cuisine, and Loft again offers only one snack—the linguiça and eggs platter, a generous helping of eggs cooked any style, rice and massive slices of fluffy Portuguese sausage, one of the lightest, sweetest sausages you will ever knife through. Douse the dish in the Hawaiian barbecue sauce, a dusky condiment halfway between ketchup and Tabasco in thickness and tartness.

Very little is indigenous in Loft's menu, but one of those items is the lau lau, pork and butterfish wrapped in taro leaves and then steamed so that the nutty flavor of taro penetrates the meat through the other side.

Loft also offers the intimidating loco moco, a mound of rice topped by a hamburger patty topped by two over-easy eggs slathered with a thick, choking gravy. If you know of a better way to get fat, I'd like to hear it.

AND IT ALL STEWS TOGETHER IN THE: Saimin soup, a bowl of egg noodles that references all the above cuisines—Portuguese heft, Filipino sourness, Japanese fish cakes, Chinese chicken and Korean oomph. Our country's best melting pot.


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