Food in Kauai: Barbecue Inn

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After our jaunt around the north coast of the island, we stopped for dinner in Lihue at a small hole-in-the-wall place that my parents stumbled upon their first night on the island when they stayed in a hotel nearby.  The restaurant is called Barbecue Inn, an institution opened by Masaichi and Hanayo Sasaki in 1940.

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The storefront is located on Kress Street, a small alley named after what used to be a popular department store in town. 

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Specializing in affordable family cuisine, Barbecue Inn serves American and Japanese food and everything – everything, they emphasize – is made from scratch.  The interior is clean but definitely a bit of a time warp.  Service is very friendly, though.

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Tasty homemade bread

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Miso soup

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Teriyaki beef kabob with tempura.  My mother had this and it was tasty, although the sauce was a bit heavy.

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Panko crusted mahimahi served with tartar sauce.  My father had this and while it was tasty, the breading obscured the fish inside.

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My dinner, kalua pork and cabbage.  Kalua pork is traditionally cooked in an underground pit but these days refers generally to slow-cooked pork.  Really tasty with a smoky smell.  The only drawback was that there was a lot of the same (albeit tasty) flavor on the dish.  It would have benefitted from a smaller portion and something (maybe Japanese style pickles?) to contrast with the flavor.

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The stand-out of the menu was Tawn’s order, mahimahi encrusted in a combination of macadamia nuts, panko crumbs, and sesame seeds, topped with coconut cream and spinach sauce.  This was amazing.

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The real treat, though, was the macadamia nut cream pie.  I’ve made two attempts at making this pie and have encountered some problems.  So you can imagine how excited I was to find it here, perfectly fluffy and flavorful.  While they wouldn’t release the recipe, they did answer my question about what thickener they use: a combination of cornstarch and gelatine, which helps explain the chiffon-like texture.

I have to admit, though, that now that I’ve finally encountered that long-lost taste memory again, I feel less need to try and recreate it.  In short, the pie was very good but I realize that in my memory, I had built up how wonderful macadamia nut cream pie is, to a level that can never be achieved in real life.  Maybe.

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After dinner we drove around the corner to see this small local motel my parents had stayed at their first night on the island.  It is well-maintained but is definitely straight out of the 50s or 60s!