L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
5/F Shangri-La Plaza, EDSA Garden Way Center, Mandaluyong City
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Metro Manila truly is small in the sense that word spreads fast.
When we visited L&L Hawaiian Barbecue's first Philippine store at the Shangri-La Plaza mall, we already spotted young Fil-Ams having their fill of the big island classics. This was a mere two days after L&L opened. The interiors by Noel Bernardo has the laidback "aloha" vibe without the kitsch—just enough distinct Hawaiian touches to remind you of the restaurant's origin. Traveling surfers have also made L&L huge in California, and this is where the local owners discovered their homey and hearty dishes during a trip visiting relatives last year.
Luckily for them, when they inquired about acquiring the franchise for the Philippines, the owners were already on the verge of an Asian expansion. "Actually, the chef is in Indonesia right now to check on the store that also just opened there," says L&L's assistant corporate chef Raymond Molina. The Guam-born, Filipino-Japanese has roots in Pangasinan, although this true citizen of the world has been all over until he finally settled in Hawaii.
The Aloha State has a large Filipino community, so it's no big surprise that one of the founders of the food chain is Pinoy. Eddie Flores Jr. and partner Johnson Kam started serving their Hawaiian plate lunches at the first L&L Drive-Inn in Honolulu, Hawaii, which they purchased from two Koreans, Lee & Lee (Hence, the restaurant's monicker). Mr. Eddie coined the name "Hawaiian Barbecue" to describe the hearty lunch plates that they became known for. It consists of two servings of rice, macaroni salad, and a main dish.
We were excited to try their lunch plates and settled on the bestsellers and those that are distinctly Hawaiian. The Chicken Barbecue plate (P188) is a sure crowd-pleaser—the marinade is slightly sweet with a touch of soy. The thigh fillet is prepared skinless, making it one of the healthier options.
Smoked Kahlua Pork
Something that seemed very Hawaiian was the Smoked Kahlua Pork (P220). The shredded pork was sautéed with some cabbage and had a mild smoky flavor.
What was loaded with flavor, though, was the Garlic Shrimp (P295)—battered skin-on and fried, then sautéed in garlic butter. This was truly the tastiest of the lot and you might have to order twice to get your fill of those spot-on flavors.
The Loco Moco (P235) is something for the big eater in the group. Composed of two hamburger patties topped with two fried eggs, it is also doused in L&L's signature gravy. Truly comfort food in any time zone.
Of course, it's not a Hawaiian restaurant without Spam, and a quick grab-and-go option would be the Spam Musubi (P65). It's quite simple: a fried Spam slice and barbecue sauce over a block of rice, held together with nori. Cute, potentially tasty—if you're a Spam fan like us.
L&L is still feeling their way around the Manila dining scene. We hope that later, they'll add some of the beef items and the Lau-Lau (steamed pork chuck wrapped in taro leaf) that are noticeably absent from the Philippine menu. For now, though, we would be happy to return and try their take on Japanese favorites, like the Chicken Katsu (P195) and Teriyaki Beef (P230).
Photos by Jericho San Miguel