TWIN FALLS — “Hawaiian food.”
That was Nick Hansen’s straightforward answer last week when I asked the owner of Blue Island Grill what his restaurant’s specialty is.
It’s that easy, really. The restaurant that opened in August on Falls Avenue specializes in Hawaiian food, particularly the classic Hawaiian plate lunch that features rice, macaroni salad and your choice of meat.
Kalua pig is the most traditional choice for the plate lunch, and many people trying Hawaiian food for the first time go with the safe choice of teriyaki chicken, Hansen said. But the owner suggests those who are unfamiliar with Hawaiian food try the three-meat mixed plate so they can taste an array of his grilled meats.
On prior visits, I’ve had the teriyaki steak, kalua pig, chicken katsu and short ribs. They’re all excellent, especially the kalua pig and chicken katsu paired with a hefty serving of katsu sauce.
But last week, I was on assignment, and I had one goal: I wanted to try Blue Island Grill’s specialty, or its most authentic Hawaiian dish. And it doesn’t get more authentically Hawaiian than the Loco Moco, an island version of comfort food.
At Blue Island Grill, the Loco Moco is served in a large wooden bowl packed with a huge serving of rice. On top of the rice are two teriyaki hamburger patties, each topped with a fried egg. And it’s all smothered in brown gravy.
The combination seems strange at first, but it works. Though I’m no stranger to Hawaiian food, this was my first time trying the Loco Moco, and I wasn’t disappointed. I could imagine it really hitting the spot on a snowy winter day, after a long hike or as a hangover cure.
For those eaters looking for something a bit lighter than the Loco Moco, Hansen has been experimenting.
“Twin Falls is really missing out on some good food,” Hansen said.
But the native of Salt Lake City — Hansen grew up with Hawaiians and Polynesians, but has never actually been to Hawaii — is trying to change that. And he’s trying to introduce new foods to locals who might not have the most refined palate.
To that end, he’s created several Hawaiian-inspired burgers and other Asian-fusion dishes, including Asian taquitos. The “little tacos” are actually egg roll wrappers filled with two types of pork — kalua pig and Char Siu — and deep fried.
Served with an avocado and cilantro dip, the Asian taquitos are definitely one of Hansen’s successful experiments.