Brace yourselves, here comes another mention about James’ (me) business trip to New York in 2013. But yes, I was able to eat at the L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in downtown New York. It was a place that offered dishes that featured generous servings of both meat and white rice similar to how we cook it in the Philippines. It was a welcome find since at that point the only rice dish I have been able to eat were Chinese Fried Rice and the spicy rice from the Halal carts.
The restaurant looked like crap. We were the only people in store but a delivery worker was pretty busy so I surmised that New Yorkers were ordering delivery from them often. The food was nothing special but the serving was bang-for-your-buck! It also had some sort of Filipino vibe and then I found out from the newspaper clippings on the walls that one of the founders was Filipino. Huh!
So when I got wind that L&L was opening a store in the Philippines, I felt nostalgic all of a sudden. The New York trip was a pivotal milestone in my life (thus I keep writing about it) because it made me feel I could actually be somebody. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in New York was key for me to cut my homesickness so it held a special place in my heart. It opening at the Shangri-La Plaza made it even more special. I attended elementary and high school at the school across from this compound and spent countless of times at this beautiful mall.
We were at Shang for Starbucks’ coffee appreciation festival. After the coffee journey, we headed over to L&L to have our quick dinner.
The interior design is amazing. Good lighting, wood accents abound, and some paraphernalia adorning the walls that tries to give a Hawaiian vibe. I have never been to Hawaii so I have no idea how authentic the design is but it is considerably better than the drab interior of the New York store..
I was so far euphoric at this point. I got to spend time at the coffee festival, I had just bought a pour-over coffee set, and I was finally at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue with Haziel. Now I was ready for the food. Here’s a warning (spoiler if you will) prices are almost similar to US prices converted to Philippine Peso but serving sizes are Filipino serving sizes.
I’m a sucker for Spam having grown up from the stuff. My Lola kept sending us those Balikbayan boxes when I was a kid and she always made sure to include several cans of this good stuff. The Spam Musubi seems like a quirky snack item to us but is actually regarded as an integral part of Hawaiian cuisine.
So this iteration has a thick slice of the infamous “meat”, sushi rice, with some sort of sweet and salty sauce in the middle, all tied together by a strip of nori. You must get this! Everything just works together harmoniously. And at under 100 Php? Yes please!
It’s about 300 Php so it’s around $7 when converted as of this writing. That would be a bargain for New York but a tad pricey for the Philippines. It’s pricey because, at the end of the day, what’s in this plate? Two tiny pieces of shrimp, a little piece of white fish, a small piece of grilled pork, a little macaroni salad on the side, and two small cups of rice. There’s nothing special!
The shrimp and fish were seasoned well but dry. The macaroni salad was bland. The pork was also seasoned and grilled well. It had that char on the outside but was tender and juicy. The rice wouldn’t even be half of the rice they served in New York. For almost 300 Php, this plate was disappointing.
I’ve been seeing beef cooked this way lately. It’s thin, seasoned well, but a little tough. The chicken was cooked as well like the pork in the seafood mix. I mean the things I don’t like about this plate can be filed under nitpicking. However, for almost 250 Php? I will nitpick. Sorry.
The novelty of the chance to experience something I enjoyed back in the states wore off quickly here. I mean for those prices, I expected a larger serving size. There’s really nothing special about the execution of the dishes. I feel like they’re making the patrons pay for the franchise and royalty fees but scrimping on ingredients.
I have some good memories with the New York store, no matter how dingy it was. The Philippine iteration, although cleaner, does not do it justice. I did not try the loco moco but for now I would only come back for the Spam Musubi.
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