Tuesday, February 22, 2011

L & L Hawaiian BBQ in Plano, Texas

On my unexpected day off yesterday, I was out in the Plano area. On my way back to Dallas, I remembered wanting to try this place called L & L Hawaiian Barbecue in Plano. It's located in a shopping center on the east side of Preston Road just south of the 121 Tollway.

I wasn't really hungry for lunch when I stopped by because we had a big breakfast and I had just finished a Starbuck's Venti Cafe White Mocha. I was just purchasing some food to take home for a late lunch. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to try the L&L since I was in the area.

I entered the establishment and it was pretty dead. I didn't think it was a very good sign for business, especially a restaurant, to have only four and a half occupants at around 11:30-12 o'clock. It's even worse when the occupants are the cook, the cashier, the elderly parents of the cashier and probably owners of the franchise, and a baby which I'm assuming is the grandchild of the owners. While I was trying to decide what I wanted from their surprisingly limited menu options (I compare their menu choices to the L&L in Waikiki), an Asian family of six entered. I told them they could go before me since I was still trying to decide if it was worth my time to purchase something since my anticipation was better than the actual menu choices.

After the family ordered, I decided to go with the BBQ Chicken Salad and the Lau Lau/Kalua Pork Combo which comes with rice and mac salad. I thought I could drop off the BBQ Salad to my wife on my way home as her office is on the way. They had a picture of both the Salad and Kalua Pork but not the Lau Lau. I vaguely remembered what the Lau Lau was from this past summer in Hawaii but wasn't sure until it was served. I think the BBQ Chicken Salad was like $8.50 and the Pork Combo was like $9.50. I got the aloha portion which gives you more mac salad and two scoops of rice. I think the difference in price is like a dollar for aloha size.

About an hour later, we arrived home and it was time to test the food. The kids and I stood around the styrofoam container (which styrofoam isn't a problem for me like some others) with high expectations. The Lau Lau was indeed what I expected: pork steamed/cooked in a taro wrap. I'm not much for the wrap portion as it's not very flavorful (to me) and is mushy. I scraped the leaf off and ate the pork. The kids didn't want any of it although. The dish was very close to that which I had in Hawaii but I think it steamed longer in Hawaii because the pork was more tender than this. One child devoured the mac salad which is very good and exactly like it was in Hawaii. The other took a scoop of rice and half of the Kalua Pork and cabbage. The Kalua Pork was very close in comparison as well but it wasn't as tender as on the islands. It's shredded but you can still tell that it wasn't as tender. It was still very good and it's better than nothing. I finished everything in the container that the kids didn't eat except for the leaf so it wasn't awful. It just wasn't my Hawaiian/Filipino cuisine that I remember.

The wife came home many hours later and I asked how she liked the BBQ Chicken Salad. She thought it was very good but she too felt that it wasn't actually Hawaiian/Filipino cuisine. The BBQ chicken does have a specific glaze/sauce that is often represented in H/F cuisine. But it too was basically an iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber salad with glazed chicken and a side of Asian dressing. Was it good? Yes. Was it Hawaiian? Sure, maybe. Can it be had at Pei Wei, Royal Thai or some other Asian cuisine restaurant for a similar cost? Yes, something comparable can be found in non-Hawaiian-specific restaurants.

Is L&L truly H/F cuisine? In my opinion, it is not entirely. I think it has been modified over the years just like many cuisines to capture the tastes of the locals...these locals just happen to be White Americans and this location specifically for Texans. I'm not saying that's entirely bad but the website professes that they bring the Hawaiian homeland cuisine to those many displaced Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders that had to migrate to the mainland. Personally, I feel gypped.

The L&L in Waikiki is very Hawaiian/Filipino. I could get Pork or Chicken Adobo, Shoyu Chicken, Teriyaki Beef or Chicken, Pancit and many others. It was freaking awesome! I think the money-grubbing expansion has destroyed the L&L brand. Again, I'm not sure what the other L&L franchises serve in the other states but if it doesn't have a corporate structure of what should be offered, then it's not genuine to those of us that truly know.

I posted a picture and comment on Facebook and my cousin (a crazy and rambling one) commented saying I shouldn't hate on the braddahs trying to bring the homeland to the mainland. I didn't respond but he's so ignorant that he doesn't realize the founders are not Hawaiian. I'm not completely positive but I believe one is of Chinese descent and the other may be Korean. I believe one came to Hawaii for schooling at the University of Manoa.

Anyway, it doesn't matter who it is. If they aren't going to properly bring the homeland, I'd much rather them not bring it at all.

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