First Taste: Windward Poi Bowl in Kaneohe

After recently discovering what I’ve proclaimed to be “Da’ Bes’ Freekin’ Laulau on da’ island” over at Highway Inn in Waipahu, I’ve been sort of bent lately on finding another Hawaiian food eatery on the island that might be able to top them.

Which leads me here to today at Windward Poi Bowl in the 96744, baby! Kaneohe peeps in da’ house say “ya-yah!”. say “yah-yah!”. Say “woot-woot!” Now one more time, say “woot-woot!”. lol

Everytime I’ve driven past this place, I was always curious about their Hawaiian grindz. Then I asked Diner AC, a Kamehameha school grad (endorsing the Hawaiian heritage credibility) and windward-side resident what she thought of Windward Poi Bowl, and she said “pretty good!”. Shoots ‘den, I going check ’em out, and that’s just what I did.

Like most hole-in-the-walls, there’s a very small dining room, in this case with a very clean, laid-back tropical theme going on…

In case you’re going to ask if Windward Poi Bowl has any affiliation with Ala Moana Poi Bowl, no they don’t. Different owners. The owner of Windward Poi Bowl is Brian Hayasaka.

Let’s check out Windward Poi Bowl’s menu board…

Here they have a visual aid chart of their various container serving sizes…

The Wasabi Poke sounded good on its own, but nah, not with my Hawaiian food. Wasabi not going match. With this meal, Poke gotta be prepared the tradional Hawaiian style way wit’ da Limu Kohu (red seaweed)  and Inamona (roasted, crushed Kukui Nut).

They have more photos of their menu items on the other side here…

This is a neat bowl…

I want one to keep my precious Kauai salt ponds Ala’e salt in.

I told Lei, the very friendly server, that I only wanted poi with my meal and no rice, and that I also wanted Squid Luau as part of the meal. To which she suggested I get “Brian’s Combo”. This is described as having “The Works”, including Laulau, Kalua Pork, Pipikaula, Lomi Salmon, AND your choice of either Chicken Long Rice or Chicken Luau and Rice or Poi.

Perfect! Finally a Hawaiian food restaurant that gives me some of just about everything at one comfortable price. The only thing I had to pay a dollar more for was the upgrade to Squid Luau instead of Chicken Luau. No problem, hook me up!

So here we have “Brian’s Combo” with a Squid Luau “upgrade”…

Windward Poi Bowl – Brian’s Combo: “The Works” includes Laulau, Kalua Pork, Pipikaula, Lomi Salmon AND choice of Chicken Long Rice or Chicken Luau and Rice or Poi. $10.95 (plus $1 dollar more for Squid Luau “upgrade” as shown).

I’m just a little disappointed they used the “dreaded” white styrofoam clamshell takeout container, a.k.a. “WSCTC”. What happened to the partitioned paper cafeteria tray they have depicted in the photo? Oh well.

Let’s zoom in for a closer inspection of each dish, starting with the main attraction, da’ Laulau…

This buggah’ is MASSIVE. Bigger than my fist. The only complaint I have is that it’s not served still wrapped in the Ti Leaf. I really think the Ti Leaf “purse” is an important part of the presentation when it comes to Laulau, while also reassuring you it will have the uniquely “Hawaiian” flavor imparted by the Ti Leaf.

Moving on over to the Kalua Pig and Pipikaula…

In the back row we have our Lomi Salmon…

Visual chunks of salted salmon in there. Good sign. Green onion, check. White onion, check. fresh (not overripe) Tomato, check.

Finally, da’ Squid Luau “upgrade”…

Hmmmm, looks kinda’ “milky”, which I’m assuming this one’s gonna’ have a strong Coconut Milk flavor, which personally I LOVE! Some folks don’t like the Coconut flavor to be that strong, but I do. As long as it’s not TOO SWEET! That was the problem I had with the Squid Luau from Kanak Attack.

Enough looking. It’s time for kaukau! Let’s go back to that freekin’ beeg Laulau, cut it open and have a bite…

No Butterfish, but at least there’s two sizeable strips of pork fat in there for that burst of FLAVAH. And look at all those layers of Luau leaves. Choke! Love it! I actually enjoy eating the luau leaf part of the Laulau as much as the pork that’s in it, so for me this is a big plus! Taste-wise, this Laulau overall is a WINNAH!

Salted with Hawaiian salt just right, really punching out the flavors of the fork-tender, super-moist Luau leaves, pork and pork fat.  Has it dethroned the current holder of “Da’ Best Freekin’ Laulau” at Highway Inn? No, not quite. But I applaud it, and give it a very tasty 3 SPAM Musubi. Had it been wrapped in Ti Leaf it would have got a 4. Had it had butterfish, probably a 5.

Now let’s sample da’ Kalua Pig and da’ Pipikaula…

Da’ Kalua Pig is also winnahz! Super moist, perfectly seasoned with Hawaiian Salt, with a natural “Imu-like” smoked flavor to it, without being too subtle or overpowering. 4 SPAM Musubi on the Kalua Pig.

So far, so good!

As for the Pipikaula, nah, pass. It’s almost exactly like the one at Highway Inn, which for me at least, tasted like nothing more than a piece of beef that’s been cooked beyond Kingdom Come, while being very bland. My leather belt probably tastes better than this. Well not that bad, but you know what I’m sayin’. Actually, after putting some Hawaiian salt on it that helped. So I’ll still give at least a 1 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s sample da’ Lomi Salmon, because you know, after you eat one bite Kalua Pig, you gotta’ chase da’ buggah wit’ da’ Lomi…

Lomi Salmon’s good. Real ono. Fresh-tasting. Generous pieces of salt salmon, while not being too salty. 4 SPAM Musubi. The Maui onion that’s served alongside it was a winnah as well. Supah sweet da’ buggah! Whack dat’ with some lomi salmon and chase ’em wit’ da’ poi, whoooo, broke da’ mout’!

While I’m at it, the Poi, which tasted like Taro brand, was very fresh as well, and most importantly, not watered down to SOUP! 5 SPAM Musubi for the Poi. Better be, after all this place is named ‘Poi Bowl’!

Now let’s try da’ Squid Luau…

The flavor is OUTSTANDING. Lovin’ it. Strong unsweetened coconut flavor that’s intensely flavored with the flavor of cooked Luau leaves, while being salt-seasoned perfectly. There’s a pretty good amount of very tender, not rubbery Tako in it that you can also taste its flavor in the luau-leaf infused coconut milk “broth”.

But texture-wise, whoah brah, what is dis? Waihe’e ‘kine Squid watah or what? lol It was so loose and runny, I practically could have drank this out of a straw! May I suggest to Brian he take some of that generous amount of Luau leaves he’s wrapping the Laulau with and throw some in the pot with the Squid Luau!

Was still really ono though. Even as runny as it was, flavor-wise I give it a very solid 5 SPAM Musubi. The soupyness was a substantial deficit though, so for that, overall we’ll have to give the Squid Luau a still highly respectable 3 SPAM Musubi.

Summing it up, I give Windward Poi Bowl’s ‘Brian’s Combo’ a supah ono 3 SPAM Musubi rating. I’m impressed!  Thicken the Squid Luau with more Luau leaves, serve da’ laulau still wrapped in da’ Ti Leaf, fix the Pipikaula, and finally serve the food on a cafeteria tray type of paper plate and this could be a 4 or 5-SPAM Musubi’er!

Windward Poi Bowl
45-1117 Kamehameha Hwy.
Suite #106
Kaneohe, Hawaii  96744
Tel. 808-236-2695

Business hours:
Monday – Friday: 11am to 2pm/5pm to 8pm
Saturday: 11am to 8pm
Sunday: closed

The Tasty Island Rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)


5 thoughts on “First Taste: Windward Poi Bowl in Kaneohe

  1. Everything looks awesome. I wish I had more time to range out to the windward side to sample all the great hidden grinds up there. I should plan a day in Kailua/Kaneohe sometime soon and put this place on my “hit list”.

  2. Pomai, Kaneohe is not your regular stomping ground but you found a pretty good eatery here. The lau lau and pipikaula was not dry and tough like some places I had before. I like the lomi salmon pieces you could see and taste not ground up looking with more tomatos than salmon.

    I will bring my other friends when I on a outing to Kaneohe. It a great stop over for lunch.

  3. Aaron, not anymore, but it used to be! While I agree about the Laulau, I thought the Pipikaula was actually a little tough and mostly just bland. Still no can beat Helena’s Pipikaula.
    Indeed worth stopping by. I’ll be back again and again!
    Dale, I still have to try the Hawaiian food at Masa & Joyce Okazuya in Kaneohe, which is another one of their specialties. You might wanna’ add them as well to your list of eateries while on that Kaneohe/Kailua cruise.

  4. Pomai, I not sure of knowing good Pipikaula if it made well . Like is it suppose to be like beef jerky dry and tough or moist and tender? I do not know much on Hawaiian Food but love eating it. Got to try the Squid Luau soon.

    When are you going to make ice cream with your new ice cream maker?

  5. It all depend how you like in pipikaula. I wshen younger like a little dry like beef jerky texture but now into moist and tender type. So there no wrong way of eating it it all how you like.

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