Saturday, June 21, 2014

My love of Loco Moco

A confession.  I love, love, love, eating a Loco Moco.  It doesn't matter what time of day or how many times of the week I have it, I love this dish.  For the uninitiated, a Loco Moco is a dish unique to the Hawaiian Islands and, for me, is the ultimate comfort food.  You start with a scoop (or two) of white rice, top with a properly grilled hamburger, blanket with a perfectly cooked over-easy egg (or two), and finish it with a gigantic hug of brown gravy (not demi-glace, don't be pretentious).

Due to my actual job, I'm  lucky enough to travel to all of the commercial islands in Hawaii and indulge myself throughly in all things Loco Moco.  This begs the question, what Loco Moco is my favorite.  Leading up to it, here are my top 3:

#3 (Ishihara Market - Waimea, Kauai) 

Pro:  Comes in 3 different sizes.  This is the "Regular" size which comes with 2 griddled hamburgers, 2 eggs, mac salad, and whatever additional side they have for the day.  This day, it was Kimchi cucumbers.  While most places rush the cook of the burger, Ishihara's takes their time to get a proper crust on the burger which gives this dish the respect it deserves.  It should be noted that Ishihara's uses locally raised cattle for their burgers, so extra points for them. 

Con: Ishihara's uses breading in their burgers which give them an almost meatloaf quality to it (presumably to keep the cost down from using local cattle).  Also, the addition of the side dishes almost always take away from the flavor of the overall dish rather than enhance.  

#2 (Koji's Bento Corner - Hilo)

Pro:  Koji's gives a lot of food for a very reasonable price. For $6.95, you get two Teriyaki hamburgers, one fried egg, two slices of Portugese Sausage, mac salad, and Cabbage Kimchi.  Unlike Ishihara's, the sides actually do enhance the overall flavor of the dish. 

Con:  Koji's uses a very loose, thin, gravy on their dish that appears to be utilized more like a condiment than an actual gravy (think shoyu on rice).  

#1 (Liliha Bakery - Honolulu)

Pro:  Simple and unpretentious, this dish features two all-beef fire grilled hamburger patties, two fried eggs, and an old school gravy that can only be described as "Brown Gravy".  There are no side dishes to be a distraction so the Loco Moco gets the whole stage to itself..  ***Bonus*** this place is located a short 5 minute drive from my home so extra points for that.  

Con:  Because Liliha Bakery is such a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, there is often a line and the wait can be as long as 30 minutes if you have a party of 3 or more (they only have 14 counter seats to choose from.  The gravy is kept warm, throughout the day, in a large stock pot on the griddle and refilled as needed.  When it's very busy, the gravy can be poured on the dish at a temperature slightly below that of the entire dish.  While this doesn't happen often, it is a little bit of an inconsistency that you'll overlook after that first bite of grilled hamburger hits your taste buds.  

Damn, I'm hungry again.  Thanks for stopping by.