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Kauai: Number One Chinese BBQ

3-3160 Kuhio Hwy, Lihue , Phone: 808.246.6888

Closing day: None, it's Chinese!

Reviewed by: Nosveemos from USA, review #789

When: 2004

If quantity, basic quality and price serve as a criteria, you've got to go, but the ambience strives to achieve early 7-11.

Directions: Across from Pizza Hut on the main drag to the airport thru Lihue

Preliminaries: I am "haole," that’s "not local." Locals are "hapa," if they are not haole. Webster’s Dictionary defines "hapa haole," and haole, but not hapa alone. Haole in case you don’t know, are those unlucky not to be Polynesian. Generally applied to mainlanders (continental US). When out and about Kauai, for those who pay attention to such things, on low riding small trucks and other teenage idles, can be seen window appliqués of the logo: local boys or Kauai’i boys or West side boys. Doubtless, Spielberg, quintessentially attuned to boys and their growing-up, noted this local boy preoccupation culture whilst making his first Jurassic Park on Kauai. One more important element, local boys tend to the ali nui physique of the ancient Polynesians. That means, in short, massive.

Number One I had missed till my hapa pal Owen recommended. Owen meets all the elements of local hapa, to be redundant. What’s really important on Kauai? To the local boys its cars and food. Where do they put their money? Cars and food.

The language for the two has become interchangeable. When first telling me about Number One, he described it as going to pound some food; and, if only sampled, then one has just dented the thing.

Number One sits in an old drive-in by the 7-11 store on the main drag thru Lihue, same street where Ronald McDonald resides. Going to Number One, locally owned by Chinese for whom English remains a struggle, means you can hit the 7-11 for that Big Gulp bargain drink and then ding the menu a bit further at Number One. Eat-in or Take-out. Efficiently, local boys get the best buys at both locations.

Owen describes the portions by gesture to show a plate satisfyingly filled to its edges. There lingers at the reflection a slight smile on his lips, and Owen repeats a paean to the size, whilst repeating the gesture. Note to reader: Owen comes to my shoulders, but I should guess our poundage equal. Owen further advises, one can order 1, 2, or 3 main choices with a choice of rice, including fried rice, or noodles. “How” he exclaims for emphasis, “Can they do this for the price?” They must mean here the Chinese owners. Reflexively, I think for a moment of macro-economic things, wondering but should I call Alan Greenspan with this anecdotal report of price levels due to in-sourced Chinese cuisine. Or, can this but be a centuries' long trend with which the aging guru already incorporates to his broad vision? After all, I once read somewhere that, as the wag put it, in Manhattan, all Chinese cooking takes place in one vast subterranean kitchen, and then is brought to the surface for distribution. Probably, this is where that dig-a-hole-to-China story got started. Another item the CIA ought to look into. Back to Local.

I ask Owen about L&L, one of what I think is a local place. He advises me dismissively, not local, but a franchise from Oahu. Note: L&L opens 24/7.

But now Owen, going with the flow, glowingly tells of the Chicken Katsu, with genuine fondness he takes the time to describe the dish in detail. Boneless chicken pieces battered and fried, served with a choice of toppings, including real gravy.

Enough of theory: I took myself the next day for a late, by Kauai standards, dinner to Number One.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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