Bend seems to have a connection with Hawaii. More than a few people I know have traded their surfboards and suntans for snowboards and four seasons (theoretically). But one thing islanders refuse to give up is Hawaiian cuisine and for that we can all be thankful. Hawaiian fare is no-fuss goodness - slow-roasted meats and fish prepared in Asian and Pacific Island styles, melding the Hawaiian population's various cultures. And Bendites are lucky enough to have not one, but two, authentic Hawaiian joints, Aloha Café and Big Island Kona Mix Plate, the latter of which recently relocated from a less than convenient 3rd Street location to a prime spot next to the Regal Cinema in the Old Mill, formerly occupied by Quiznos subs.
The new Kona Mix Plate is about half the size of the old store, but the location makes up for the lack of space. I recently visited Kona Mix Plate for lunch and the place was bustling with moviegoers and shoppers hankering for some island fare.
On my first visit, I ordered a combination plate ($9.25) of the Chicken Katsu and Kalua Pork. You place your order at the counter, and the friendly family-run staff finds you and brings your food to the table.
My meal came with two sides and was enough food for two to share. I am a huge fan of Kalua pork, but this version came up short for me. The pork itself was juicy and well cooked, but a bit bland. The Chicken Katsu - chicken fried in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) was cooked perfectly, but both dishes needed the barbeque sauce that came with the meal to add flavor.
The second time I visited Kona Mix Plate, I brought along a friend and tried another combination, the Bulgogi beef and sautéed mahi mahi. Kona Mix Plate has also added a small menu of sushi, sashimi and poke, and I ordered the ahi poke appetizer ($10).
The mahi mahi, while flaky and moist, was quite buttery, which overpowered the delicate flavor of the fish. But Kona Mix Plate redeemed itself with both the Bulgogi beef and ahi poke, which were outstanding.
Bulgogi beef, which is a traditional Korean preparation (think Korean BBQ), was right on. Tender strips of beef were marinated and cooked in a delicious soy-based sauce - sweet, flavorful and lightly spicy. The ahi poke, while priced comparatively a bit steep at $10, was a huge portion. Large chunks of fresh tuna were tossed in soy, sautéed seaweed, onions, scallions and sesame seeds. The poke comes in three levels of spiciness and I chose medium, which had a hint of heat, but wasn't too intense.
Dinners are served with two sides - rice, green salad, french fries or traditional potato mac-and-cheese. Other options include spicy chicken wings, teriyaki chicken, spicy pork and sautéed tofu, all for under $10.
Even though we're a ways from Maui, Kona Mix Plate makes a valiant effort to bring traditional Hawaiian fare to Bend. With their new location, extensive, solid menu and friendly service, Kona Mix Plate is sure to please both native Hawaiians and locals alike.