LYNNWOOD — It’ll require a lot of willpower to leave enough food on a plate to take home from Kona Kitchen.
The recently opened expansion of the beloved Seattle restaurant takes Hawaiian dishes and pumps them with the “Big” in Big Island. That leads to sizable portions of delectable comfort foods that pit mind and stomach against each other. One says, “You’ve had enough,” the other, “Just another bite or two. Plus dessert.”
The restaurant offers all-day breakfast staples, such as French toast made with Hawaiian sweet bread, fried rice loco moco (gravy and eggs) and biscuits and gravy. Even a more standard dish, such as eggs and sausage, gets the island treatment with mounds of rice instead of pancakes. Its signature lunch and dinner entrees include kalua pig, Korean chicken, mochiko chicken and the aloha burger. Dessert options are an array of confections from Cakes of Paradise, Seattle-based bakery that pumps out tropical cakes in coconut, guava, mango and passion fruit flavors.
Kona Kitchen has a famous connection in its owner. Yuji Okumoto is perhaps most famous for being in “The Karate Kid Part II.” He played the antagonist to Ralph Macchio’s Danny LaRusso. Since his Hollywood days, he opened the restaurant in the Ravenna neighborhood with his wife, Angie.
My family has gathered around the Seattle location’s booths and tables for years. Eating there has become a tradition, in which we order up some Spam musubi and gyoza to share as appetizers, maybe a few cocktails from the lounge, and a range of their dishes. Then comes a lot of photo-taking by the Watanabe clan of the food, each other and the combination of those two subjects in the frame. And our shared meals always wrap up with at least one slice of guava cake to share.
Having a location closer to home is a godsend for my travels, but probably not my diet or budget.
The Lynnwood location recently opened off 196th Street SW, near the Lynnwood Convention Center and Chuck E. Cheese. Derek and Taylor Johnston, a couple of friends from Everett who miss the long-departed Kama’aina Grindz (closed) and Bobby’s Hawaiian Style Restaurant (moved to Lynnwood), were eager to try out the spot with me.
On a Thursday night, most of the tables and booths were occupied in the brightly decorated space. It has a mix of seating, with some high tables and a short bar with a handful of seats.
Offered a high table, we were happy to take it and pore over the extensive menu.
As someone acquainted with it, I started our trio off with a Spam musubi and Portuguese musubi. Think of musubi as a sushi roll, with a bed of rice and a thick slab of the spiced meat atop it, bound together by a band of seaweed. It’s delicious and salty, and yet a little sweet. It also doesn’t make for an easily knifed and shared dish, but don’t let that stop you.
The Johnstons went for full-tilt Hawaii, with orders of the kalua pig and mochiko chicken.
Taylor said she “loved mixing the rice in with the saucy kalua pig and cabbage. Reminded me of being at a sunset luau.” She also praised the design inside the restaurant as “cheery, friendly, very relaxed.”
Derek raved about his mochiko chicken, which is fried in a sweet rice flour.
“The fried chicken was perfectly seasoned and incredibly moist.”
My order of the Waimea, a combo plate of katsu pork and teri beef, was excellent. The katsu pork had a great fried breading over the delicate pork chop.
The main entrees come with rice and macaroni salad — a Hawaiian staple side.
In classic Watanabe fashion, we wrapped our Kona Kitchen experience with a hefty slice of guava cake. It’s fruity without being cloying or saccharine, and has a nice tart finish. Since his first bite, Derek said he has been hooked on it.
“I literally cannot stop thinking about that cake.”
When you go, you’ll be dreaming of cake and kalua, too. Just try to leave some for leftovers.
If you go
What: Hawaiian and Asian cuisine and a bar with limited seating.
Where: 3805 196th St. SW, Lynnwood
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.