San Francisco has its fair share of the latest Hawaiian craze sweeping through our cities, and I am all for this. Hawaiian cuisine has a lot of flavors that I love – island food (e.g. seafood, fresh fruits, etc.) with an overlay of Japanese influence. What’s great about āina is that they’ve taken their love of Hawaiian cuisine – with its attitude and welcoming aurora – and made it oh-so-very-SF by using seasonal ingredients to match.
Let’s dive in by talking about their spam masubi “ssam style”, using Stone Valley Farms whole hog spam, boston bibb lettuce, house-made kimchi, and short grain rice with egg yolk furikake (the seaweed sesame topping you see above). This delicious bite – or in my case, few bites worth – is delicious and awfully satisfying. The spam is unlike anything you get out of that can.
Let us not forget about one of the most important brunch time items – their Bloody Mary – made with lemongrass infused soju, charred tomato mix, fresh horseradish, pink peppercorn, and tabasco sauce. Fairly spicy and lightly tart, this drink finished with a savory taste that satisfies any hungry stomach as it waits for the next dish.
Then there’s the Malasadas, which was the epitome of you could imagine to be a Hawaiian doughnut. These three Portuguese style doughnuts coated in coconut sugar and filled with guava custard were fairly dense. It’s a great dish to share with friends given how easy it is to get full off of this; gotta make room for more later!
Here’s a dish where it’s obvious where the Hawaiian comes from – French toast made from taro bread served with apple wood smoked bacon, macadamia nut crumble, salted coconut caramel, fresh strawberries, and vanilla whipped cream. This dish is basically giving you hugs and kisses every time you take a bite, it is that good and comforting to your soul.
There’s their take on the loco moco, which became the kalbi version – braised kalbi short rib, smoked honshimeji mushroom jus, sunny side up eggs, hearts of palm pico de gallo, cilantro, short grain rice, and pea tendrils. The short rib is very tender, and salty which is nicely paired with some rice and egg to balance it all out.
Lastly, but not least, the Chicken katsu made of mary’s chicken, rolled omelet, vadouvan carrot purée, udon noodles, aïoli, katsu jelly, and grilled seasonal greens. This “bento set” blew my mind away, mostly due to their version of the Japanese potato salad; instead they used udon noodles and made it taste like how the potato salad would be but lighter! The omelet also incorporated furikake, added the umami element to the mix. I wish I could have this everyday.
I find myself wanting to head over to āina as often as I can, even if there is a wait (my personal limit is 45 minutes; I’ve generally been seated quicker than that here). With their love of using the land around them aka local ingredients, they fit right into the SF food scene and all the while, making sure you feel right at home in Hawaii.
900 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
No online reservations