Where have all the
Hawaiians gone? Vegas
The Henderson (Nev.) Shopper is delivered to our mailbox once a week, hence it is a weekly paper. About the only thing not offered for sale in this paper is a surfboard, but then I didn't get through the entire paper. Actually I wasn't looking at it at all. Ed was looking at it. I heard a muffled sound not unlike the sound a hungry gorilla makes.
"Hey," he says, "have you ever heard of Kobe burgers?"
Actually, I had heard about Kobe burgers once in Japan. Someone mentioned that Kobe beef would make a good burger and everyone in the room looked at him as if he were nuts. For those who don't know, Kobe beef comes from Kobe, Japan, from the most spoiled cows that ever lived. They feed them beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They massage their little hooves and scratch behind their little ears, and then they slit their throats and butcher them. But fantastical steaks come from these papered little darlings.
An ad in the Henderson Shopper offered a Kobe burger with salad for only $7.99, but the kicker was that the restaurant was called Huli's. Now there is nowhere in the world you can go where the word Huli's does not conjure up Hawaii. It is a Hawaiian word made up on the bones of wee little chickens barbequed over hot coals while their wee little bodies are coated with sauces developed by angels. There was nothing else to do except go find Huli's. After all, it was three o'clock in the afternoon, almost time for some meal or other.
Huli's was not far from where we live, just 3 miles away at 113 Lake Mead Parkway. Mark that carefully in your diary because if you come to Las Vegas and don't go to Huli's, you will be missing an experience of delight in food and conversation.
Huli's sports a rather garish (I love garish) pink-and-blue-feathered neon chicken wearing a lauhala hat on a sign out front. The sign is larger than the building. The building takes one back to frontier days ; one could expect John Wayne to be lurking in the shadow of the building. Low buildings, stucco and a shaded entranceway face the parking area. There really should be a cactus or two for effect.
When you enter the restaurant, an almost familiar face greets you. His name is Al Yamamoto and you'll never guess where he is from. Ah. Can't fool you -- he is from Hawaii. Born near Sixth Avenue, owned a Chevron station or two, lived in Kona for 20 years and now operates the Huli's of Henderson. There are some wonderful little reminders of Hawaii on the wall but I think he could use some more ... something to do with fishing, but no stuffed bluefish, please. The restaurant is small. Interesting and good food, but small. His menu offers Hawaiian chicken sandwich, teri-burger, saimin and wonton soups, kid's plate lunch, ahi poke, teri-stick and the most wonderful homemade Dobash cake. It raised my blood sugar 150 points. Good stuff.
Al is busy but takes time to chat and make you feel like you never left Makaha. He was a fisherman, built his own boat and in general is an all-around Hawaiian who does most everything that needs doing. He talks about his brother Gary Yamamoto who, with his wife in Paige, Ariz., raises Kobe beef and supplies frozen products all over the world. (See Web address below.) He also has a fishing pond and an almost luxurious house by the lake, for which you can make reservations.
But if you can't bear the thought of leaving Hawaii without a plate lunch or two, don't pack a picnic basket. Huli's is only about a 15-minute drive from the downtown Las Vegas airport. While cruising along the highway, just think about the broke-the-mouth ahi poke and Dobash cake waiting for you. And tell Al that Arnold sent you. Won't get you any discount, but he will be glad to hear Hawaii folks talk to one another.
Arnold Van Fossen is a former Honolulu resident
who recently moved to Henderson, Nev.