642 Ramona St., Palo Alto
Hukilau would be a fun place to come for drinks with a group of friends. There's a laid-back vibe, even on a slow weeknight, and it's one of the few places in downtown PA with patio seating. The reggae music is infectious, and who can resist sipping some fruity concoction under a thatched umbrella?
The problem here -- correct me if I'm wrong, as I'm willing to admit that my exposure to traditional Hawaiian foods has been limited -- is that the classic Hawaiian "plate lunch" is not haute cuisine.
Loco moco is a uniquely Hawaiian creation. It's fast food, a dish you find in the mom-and-pop restaurants, not the resort hotels. There's a hamburger patty and an egg sunny-side-up with brown gravy over all, plus a scoop of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. Hukilau's version substitutes mahimahi for the ground beef, and the gravy is lighter than you'd think, but it's still a little much for me.
The ahi poke (marinated chunks of sushi-grade tuna) was a better choice, although a little strong on the sesame oil. The steamed, salted edamame (the only bar nibble I've ever encountered that's both good-tasting AND good for you) was fine. Kalua pork was flavorful, but the shredded meat and cabbage (plus the ubiquitous scoops of macaroni salad and rice) wasn't all that attractive.
On another night, with the right group of people, this place could be a good hang-out. I've read positive things about the sushi; next time, I'll stick to the raw fish and skip the comfort food.