1405 Sulphur Spring Road, Arbutus, (410) 501-3030, taste-of-aloha.com
On a recent rainy day we drove to Arbutus to try out the area’s newest Hawaiian eatery. With the gray skies and drizzling rain, we couldn’t think of anywhere further than the island paradise for a place like Taste of Aloha. How does this place fit in to the Arbutus aesthetic? Our question was answered almost immediately upon entering the place. Casual and relaxed would be the best way to describe it, which is the Arbutian way. This place specializes in Hawaiian “comfort food.” Its menu is small, but it doesn’t lack a single homestyle Hawaiian staple: There was Spam musubi ($5), a kind of Spam onigiri; kalua pua’a ($7.25 bowl/$10.25 plate), roasted pork shoulder; loco moco ($6.95 bowl/$12.95 plate), rice topped with hamburger, eggs, and gravy; and saimin ($6.50), a noodle soup dish. We decided on the saimin. On the island, it’s so popular it’s served at McDonalds and ballgames. Here, it is served with a shiitake mushroom broth, shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, snap peas, bean sprouts, and soft wheat noodles (gluten-free are available). Several toppings are available—more Spam ($1), shrimp ($2), chicken katsu ($2.50), tofu ($.75), fish cake ($1.50), kimchi dumpling ($2.50), and boiled egg ($1.50). We chose the tofu. The broth was salty but flavorful. We hankered for some Sriracha sauce, though. It also was seriously lacking in bean sprouts, and the noodles were a bit too soft for our liking. But it was very filling and finishing the entire bowl was a challenge.
Taste of Aloha is fairly cheap and extremely friendly—a nice lunchtime retreat. It is currently expanding the space to include a dining area decked out with island memorabilia and surf posters. This place isn’t fancy, but neither is Arbutus and neither are most of the best places to eat on the island.