The Weekly Eater: Noodles brighten menu at Adela’s Country Eatery in Kaneohe
Going to a new restaurant is always a gamble. You never know whether it’ll be a hit or miss.
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Going to a new restaurant is always a gamble. You never know whether it’ll be a hit or miss, and a miss becomes a triple whammy when considering you not only ate a bad meal, but wasted time and dollars that could have been spent elsewhere.
That’s why it can be a pleasant surprise to see a familiar face behind the counter, because then you know what to expect. So it was a relief to see Millie Chan at the register taking orders at Adela’s Country Eatery.
All I knew about the place beforehand was that it had a plate-lunch menu with pastas made with such local produce as taro, moringa (malunggay), ulu and avocado, that I imagined could either be really good or really weird.
On spying Millie, I connected Adela’s to her and husband Richard Chan’s other longtime eatery, I Love Country Cafe, known for its ample and satisfying plate lunches. With a 32-year track record, they know what they’re doing, though they’re here strictly as mentors to owner Adela Visitacion, their longtime cook and friend.
WHILE MEAT and seafood items reflect the original cafe’s menu, the pastas give it it’s own identity. Millie said they had been looking for a way to incorporate more flavors of Hawaii in the menu and found it through making their own pastas, chow mein-style noodles with varying flavors and consistencies depending on the fresh local produce blended in.
Adela’s is essentially a takeout operation, with only three small tables for those with lucky timing. Diners can build their own $12 plates fast-food style, by picking a pasta, then a sauce — Alfredo, marinara, tomato cream, coconut cream, cacciatore or garlic butter. For an additional cost, one of six toppings can be added, from slices of grilled portobello mushrooms ($3.99) to braised short ribs ($6.99).
If decision-making is not your forte, they’ve got some suggested favorites, such as taro pasta with shrimp, mushrooms and Hawaiian accents of luau leaves and coconut cream sauce ($16.99); and garlic ulu pasta with portobello ($15.99). The dry-fried garlic ulu pasta was one of my favorite dishes here, but the garlic made it difficult to get a sense of the ulu in the pasta, save for a slightly stickier texture that gave it more moisture than typical chow mein.
The flavor of the star ingredient came through most with the taro pasta. Otherwise, save for color, I didn’t get much of a sense of avocado or Okinawan sweet potato in others. There was a slight bitterness to the moringa noodles that was tempered by the savory and tart flavors of the recommended topping of lechon kawali ($16.99 together) with adobong sauce (adobo minus the soy) that is also my favorite dish at I Love Country Cafe.
You can also get housemade Hokkaido-style ramen noodles in a bowl of lechon ramen in what is described as tonkotsu soup ($13.99), but it’s a far cry from Japan-style tonkotsu. The soup is way too bland and I would say it’s a work-in-progress, but the toppings deliver value. In addition to the lechon, there is a trio of Chinese-style salt-pepper crispy shrimp, veggies, kamaboko and scrambled egg.
BEYOND PASTAS, six fried rice dishes range from garlic fried rice ($9.99) with two eggs to the house version tossed with BBQ pork, lup cheong and shrimp ($14.99).
Those with huge appetites might want to try the fried chicken ($15.99 half, $29.99 whole) that I refer to as a chicken box because that’s how my half chicken arrived — packed with an overwhelming amount of food: fried mozzarella, coleslaw and choice of Hawaiian- Portuguese sweetbread toast, rice or fries.
The crispy salt-pepper chicken pleased my Chinese soul, but others may be seduced by the sweetbread alone, made from a recipe Richard found in his grandmother’s belongings after she died. He had grown up believing he was of Chinese ancestry, but only recently learned his grandmother was Portuguese, and he’s pleased to introduce that heritage to Adela’s kitchen.
Other rice-plate favorites include garlic butter or salt-pepper shrimp ($15.99 each, both head-on style), braised short ribs ($15.99) and smoked beef brisket with pineapple-barbecue sauce ($15.99).
ADELA’S COUNTRY EATERY
45-1151 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
>> Call: 236-2366
>> Hours: 10:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays
>> Prices: About $30 for two
Ratings compare similar restaurants:
**** – excellent
*** – very good
** – average
* – below average
Nadine Kam’s restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.