Eatery expands Mexican food options


POSTED: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Never trust a townie to give directions for the Leeward side. A friend who recently moved to Waipahu recommended a Mexican restaurant on “;her”; side of the island, and we made a plan to meet there.

Drive. Drive. Drive. Get there. Phone call.

“;Are you there yet?”;

“;I just got here; where is it?”;

“;I think I told you the wrong place.”;

Twenty minutes later, after crawling along in traffic on Kamehameha Highway, I was at Waipio Gentry, home to Acapulco restaurant.

There hasn't been much authentic Mexican fare to boast of in the area, so the restaurant arrives as a pleasant surprise.

Horchata, the rice milk drink, is meant for one, but it's served in a glass nearly the size of a pitcher and could quench the thirst of three. It hit the spot after the long drive.

The restaurant is small, with seating indoor and out, though this time of year you'll probably feel much more comfortable in air conditioning.

The wicker and leather chairs have a fresh-off-the-boat vibe, and, having been stamped “;Acapulco,”; gave the restaurant its name, I was told.

Big wooden tables give the feeling of having found that fabled beanstalk and climbed your way into a land of giants.





        Waipio Gentry Shopping Center, 1040 Waipio Uka Drive

        » 678-3115

Food: ;*;*;*
        Service: ;*;*;1/2
        Ambience: ;*;*;1/2
        Value: ;*;*;*


Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily Cost: Lunch or dinner for two about $20 to $30


Ratings compare similar restaurants:
        ;*;*;*;* - excellent
        ;*;*;* - very good; exceeds expectations
        ;*;* - average
        ;* - below average.


In spite of the restaurant's diminutive size, its menu is vast, offering much more than the basic tacos and burritos that form the bulk of too many individuals' experience of Mexican food.

I was curious about the aguachile, a dish of whole shrimp, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers bathed in lime. Habanero peppers are added to the mix if you like it hot.

I liked the idea but was a little squeamish when actually face to face with the lime-”;cooked”; shrimp, which, because of its size, was close to a raw state. Raw shrimp doesn't have the same appeal to me as raw fish.

On the other hand, I loved essentially the same ingredients when pulsed in a blender and served as a soupy ceviche in a bowl with large slices of avocado. It's a great summer dish, chilly and light.

As a starter, you could also order a plateful of monster shrimp ($13.90) or scallops ($13.90) served in your choice of one of three ways, with a garlic, diabla (super-spicy) or chipotle sauce, the latter with its characteristic deep, smoky chili flavor.

The wording on the menu makes it sound like you can get all three flavors on a plate, which would have been a nice starter and is common practice at most restaurants, allowing diners to take a small taste before diving into an entree portion ($14.90 shrimp/$15.90 scallop). They weren't willing to put together a sampler.


An order of chili relleno ($9) also comes with several choices of filling, whether mozzarella, ground beef, carne asada, grilled chicken or pork carnitas. The Anaheim chili was too small to contain a generous portion of the pork, which spilled over the fluffy batter. All this was smothered in a dark verde sauce.

It wasn't as pretty as other chili relleno dishes I have known, but the fork-tender pork combined with the sauce gave it a savory richness that made it worth ordering again.

The chili verde ($12.90) is less appealing on its own as it's noticeably low on the tomatillos that would give it an expected burst of fresh, vivid lime-green color and acidic zip.

If you're a fajita fan, you can have the kitchen roll it up for you ($12.90) with cheese, lettuce and salsa, or you can go the DIY route and order the fajita ranchera ($17.90 single order/$25.90 double) with upgrades of onions, mushrooms, red bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. Fajitas del mar ($18.50 single/$31.90 double) does the same with shrimp, fish and scallops.

I opted for the ranchera with chicken that had the bounce and flavor of Portuguese sausage, not a bad thing with locals.

One dish that read better on paper than in reality was the carne al tequila, thin-sliced rib-eye steak marinated with Jose Cuervo Gold tequila said to be grilled over an open flame, but displaying no evidence of that. It was rather flat and flavorless.

But don't let that deter you from a paying a visit. There's an earthiness here that is transportive, with the kind of authenticity you can't get with the polished facade of a mall taco shop.


Nadine Kam's restaurant review appears every Wednesday in the Star-Bulletin. Restaurants are reviewed anonymously. Meals are paid by the Star-Bulletin.