Da Tiki Hut’s closure in March due to a kitchen fire has left a hole in what already was a dearth of Hawaiian food in the area.
The good news is that Da Tiki Hut will reopen, said owner Steve Lerma. That reopening date is just a guess at this point as insurance and construction approvals are still underway.
You can bet I’ll keep you posted on the return of the Sixth Avenue restaurant’s keiki plate lunch, musubi and loco moco.
Meanwhile, here’s a slice of solid Hawaiian food news, for this summer anyway.
Cooks Tavern debuted a new specialty seasonal menu in June and it comes with a delightful selection of Hawaiian favorites. I’m talking huli-huli chicken, poke, plate lunches, kalua pork and tropical cocktails.
Perhaps the most efficient and cost effective way to breeze through the restaurant’s new Hawaiian menu is the platter built for two. It’s $37.50 on the dinner menu.
Owner Peter Levy, who also operates neighboring taqueria and craft brew spot Brewers Row, is a fan of family-style eating and has listed some kind of family meal or platters-for-two on the menu since opening Cooks Tavern in 2016. Standard is the every Sunday fried chicken supper ($17 per person, served family style). The recent seasonal menu, featuring the cuisine of Spain, had a paella feast for two and when the restaurant visited Argentina and Cuba, there also were meals built for two.
“It’s a social way to eat, and it’s a fun way to eat,” said Levy. It’s also great dining-room advertising. “When somebody sees a big platter marching through the dining room, their eyes go, ‘Wow.’”
While the menu calls the platters built for two, one platter easily can become a three-person feast. I will point out here that the restaurant is kid friendly and so is Hawaiian food.
The platter is a meat bonanza, in true Hawaiian fashion, with katsu, kalua pork and tri-tip anchoring the platter.
Chicken katsu was draped in a panko-style breading with a satisfying crunch. That flavor punch I noticed came from rubbing the chicken with five-spice, said Cooks chef Brittany Erwin. She makes the dipping sauce a sweet-and-savory affair by enhancing a garlic aioli with brown sugar. Order extra. It’s tasty.
Her kalua pork was the best I’ve had in Tacoma outside Lerma’s version of the slow-cooked pork dish at Da Tiki Hut. Erwin cures the pork with Hawaiian red sea salt for 24 hours before a trip to the smoker for five hours over alder wood. It arrives on the platter as a salty mound of soft-textured pork tangled up with cooked-to-order cabbage.
The tri-tip steak was a pleasant surprise and not a cut of meat I see on restaurants much (try the barbecue tri-tip at Rib Ticklers in Gig Harbor if you’re a fan). Erwin marinates the steak for 24 hours in a hoisin-based sauce, then slices it super thin, which makes it effortless to cut with a fork, and char-grills the steak to order.
Flanking all that meat was fresh pineapple and guava, a steamy pile of well-seasoned Jasmine rice and perhaps the most ubiquitous side dish in Hawaii: Mac salad. I didn’t even realize it had Spam in it until the third or so bite, but don’t let that ingredient deter you from digging in. The bouncy macaroni noodles carried the typical creamy dressing, grated carrots and the occasional tiny cube of Spam.
The platter’s on the dinner menu through September. I still can’t believe it’s only $37.50.
More Hawaiian: Other Hawaiian specialties on the Cooks Tavern menu at dinner include appetizers such as poke lettuce wraps ($10.50), chicken katsu sliders ($9.50) and lumpia crisps ($8.50). Entrees include huli-huli chicken ($19), togarashi steamed albacore tuna ($24) and curry fish that changes with the market. There’s also a list of tropical Hawaiian-themed cocktails ($9 to $11). At lunch, check out the plate lunch with kalua pork ($10.50). The breakfast menu features Polynesian french toast ($10.75) and a loco moco plate ($14).
More Hawaiian eats across town: Other than national chain restaurant L & L with locations in Lakewood and Tacoma, head straight to downtown Tacoma for loco moco, poke and plate lunches at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max, 1716 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-4099.
Where: 3201 N. 26th St., Tacoma
Info: 253-327-1777 or cookstavern.com