Originally, we were going to do a one-day trip over to the Monterrey Aquarium from Fremont. However, driving there and back seemed like a complete waste of time (and waste of gas). So we changed things up a bit and decided to leave the Bay Area one day early and stay overnight in Salinas instead. That meant we would be looking for eats in the Monterey area. Of course, in touristy spots, food can be quite mediocre and overly expensive. With a little bit of research ahead of time, it looked like the family-friendly Hula's might offer up something interesting for a reasonable price.
We started off with an order of the Jamaican Johnny Cakes that resembled a moist hybrid banana cake-corn bread with a crispy caramelized exterior. They weren't overly sweet nor banana tasting, so we surmised that they used plantain. I liked them a lot (said a la Jim Carey) as they were a study in texture. We also had the Island Style Poke (raw ahi, soy sauce, sesame oil, avocado, onion and sesame seeds) which actually showed up last. They were great about it though, taking it off the bill and apologizing. It was worth waiting for as the tuna was fresh and texturally on point. There was a good balance of flavours including enough sesame, soy and acidity (with the squeeze of lemon).
For our mains, I went for Duke's Luau Pork Plate with slow roasted pulled pork, soy glaze, pineapple, rice and slaw. Normally, I get disappointed with anything billed as "luau". Even the one I had in Hawaii was dry and tasteless. Not here though as the pork was moist and almost fluffy. The glaze was just the right balance between sweet, salty and zing. Even the coleslaw was on point with a solid crunch and the zippiness from pickled ginger. Viv ended up with the Ahi Tuna Sandwich. Although it was cooked more than I would've liked (being almost fully cooked through), the sammie was solid. It featured the same wonderful coleslaw to go with the thick piece of tuna.
My son went for the Kalbi Chicken Sticks with the side of rice from Viv's plate. Sadly, these were terrible. The white meat was obliterated being super dry and stringy. The excessive char on the outside only served to create a hard bark that was inedible. We really should've sent these back. The one positive was the tasty marinade as it was not overly sweet. My daughter, doing her own thing again, had the boring Mac n' Cheese which totally went with the Hawaiian theme... Although not particularly cheesy, it was sufficiently creamy with firm macaroni noodles. Making up for the lack of cheese was the ample amount of seasoning (mostly salt and butter).
We ended our meal with the Pot Brownie. Okay, before you look up the number to child and family services, this was served in a flower pot (no weed). It was served piping hot, moist and very chocolaty without being too sweet. The fudge, on the other hand, was very sweet. This was a large portion that made us quite content and mellow (again, no weed!). Overall, we found the food at Hula's to be decent and definitely kid-friendly (skewers withstanding). Best of all, the service was over and beyond what we expected.
- Generally decent eats
- Great service
- A little bit pricey
- The proteins we had (chicken and tuna) were overcooked