This newish Hawaiian BBQ restaurant in San Leandro has some hits and some misses.

My youngest daughter, Camila, had had a pretty tough day so when she asked that we get Hawaiian that evening, I was willing to go along with it, even though we’d eaten out a lot that week. She had specifically asked that we go to Ono Hawaiian BBQ, our closest Hawaiian joint and one we frequented when she was younger. For one reason or another we stopped going and I think it’d been several years since we’d had Ono or Hawaiian at all. So, before I ordered, I decided to look at reviews. Alas, recent ones for Ono weren’t too encouraging.

Moana Hawaiian BBQ, on the other hand, was getting great reviews – plus it was near Ono, so not that much further from our house. Reluctantly, Camila agreed to order from there. Overall, I was happy with the meal, but there were some misses. I wasn’t too comfortable ordering online, so I sent Mike to do so at the store. It was a pretty quick trip.

Moana’s menu seems to be very similar to Ono’s, even to the name of some dishes, for example, they both feature “island white fish”. They both have a family meal ($43) consisting of three meats and two sides: rice and macaroni salad. That’s what I decided to get and it turned out to be a good deal, it was a lot of food.

Camila wanted the chicken katsu, which is also one of my favorites. It consists of fried, breaded chicken served with katsu sauce. The chicken was tender and flavorful, and appropriately cooked. There was plenty of it and Camila made three meals out of it.

Mike decided on the island white fish, fried fish fillets. The fish itself was nicely seasoned, as was the breading. Mike felt the breading was too thick, though that didn’t bother me as much – and I appreciated it when I microwaved the left overs: the breading held up fairly well. I did feel the fish was crying for some lemon juice – fortunately, a few years ago a lemon tree just started growing in our side yard (I suspect a lemon from our neighbor’s tree fell there and eventually it turned into a tree), so now we have fresh lemons whenever we want them. With the lemon juice added, the fish was just delicious.

I also enjoyed the kalbi beef ($3 supplement). Restraint was clearly used in marinating them, so that they still had a grilled beef flavor, rather than just a teriyaki or similar sort of flavor that overwhelms the meat at Ono. Teriyaki sauce was served alongside them, but I felt I didn’t need it. They were also very tender and not too chewy. I very much enjoyed them.

The white rice was exactly that, rice. It serves as a conduit for the katsu and teriyaki sauces, but I see it as wasted carbs – particularly when we had so much other food.

The macaroni salad, unfortunately, was a big miss. It just lacked the flavor that the the one at Ono has. Camila definitely commented on it – and Mike had to agree it wasn’t that great. They still ate it, though.

I also ordered the malasadas ($5.50 for 10), Hawaiian donuts with a Portuguese ancestry. It’d been years since I last had one and I didn’t remember how I felt about them. It turns out, I’m not a big fan. They were lighter than a beignet, but still denser and heavier than a donut and the salty dough wasn’t particularly flavorful. I did like the crystalized sugar on top which is a big improvement over powdered sugar. Reading back on my blog, it seems like I wasn’t too fond of malasadas when I had them in Hawaii almost 20 years ago, so it’s not Moana, it’s me.

In all, it was a good experience and if it’s up to me, we’d go back. Alas, the substandard macaroni salad might make Mike and Camila prefer we go elsewhere when we next want Hawaiian.

Moana Hawaiian BBQ
14966 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 274-5777
Daily 10:30 AM - 8:30 PM

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