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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Early Bird Special: Sundance Kitchen

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 12:05 PM

click to enlarge It's a place that feels uninspired -- until the food arrives. - LACEILBLEU/FLICKR
  • laceilbleu/Flickr
  • It's a place that feels uninspired -- until the food arrives.
An early nibble from the Weekly's Wednesday food review.

The Hawaiian plate lunch doesn't have to be a sprawling aggregate of starches. At Sundance Kitchen (1865 Post at Webster), the house restaurant for Sundance Kabuki Cinema in J-Town, familiar strip-mall grinds (Hawaiian slang for eats) find welcome sophistication without going all Roy's. And while the place feels as dreary as some little-trafficked bar in a provincial airport, the food is meticulously crafted. The island classics loco moco, Spam musubi, and kalua pork are among the best you're likely to taste. No wonder: Once upon a time, restaurant manager Pat Da Silva ran the well-loved Honu's Island Grinds & Bar in nearby Buchanan Mall. Gorge on the full review (filed by yours truly) later today at SFWeekly.com, or dip your finger in SFoodie's extended excerpt (after the jump).

You have to give Sundance credit for taking a chance on a vision as particular and as deeply realized as that of Da Silva and her chefs, Sal Hsiu Chen and Anthony Tabi. Certainly there was nothing middle-of-the-road about Spam musubi, which delivered big, salty flavors in a sharply tailored little package. Sandwiched between nori-wrapped slabs of sushi rice, the Spam was delicately rubbery and processed-meaty. A sprinkling of furikake -- the Japanese seasoning of seaweed, fish flakes, and sesame -- lent a breath of oceanic complexity to a dish often dismissed as a gag.

A similar complexity distinguished the lomi salmon, part of the evening poke bar, a remnant of Honu's. It was a mix of rugged and delicate, big orange cubes of soft fish sprinkled with coarse Hawaiian salt, tomato, and an onion twofer: scallions and sweet yellow onion, soaked in cold water to leach out much of the bite.

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