I discovered Lanai through my usual method of locating restaurants: searching “vegan food near me” on Google.
As soon as I spotted the word “fusion,” I was sold. Fusion cuisine is so exciting, and Lanai’s Asian-Hawaiian hybridity piqued my interest.
Lanai offers Asian dishes, Hawaiian dishes, and some dishes right in the middle. My companion Kristian and I decided to test the entire range. For appetizers, we went Asian with the General Tso’s chicken and Hawaiian with the island poke.
The General Tso’s was coated in cornstarch instead of flour, making it gluten-free. The dish can can also be ordered with tofu instead of chicken for a vegan option. The cornstarch gave the fried chicken a satisfying texture. It was lightly fried to a gentle crisp, and the coating had a delicious chewiness. The sauce was spicy and sweeter than typical General Tso’s, but not in a bad way. An added bonus: it was only $5 on the Happy Hour menu, but had portions large enough for a meal, if you’re not too hungry.
Another great deal was the island poke: it’s half the price (only $6) if you order the vegan version, which is made with marinated tomato instead of ahi tuna. As much as I adore ahi tuna, I still loved the flavor of the tomato version. The beds of rice underneath the poke, however, were a bit too hefty for the delicate portion.
A dish that had a nice mix of both common Asian and Hawaiian flavors was Kristian’s entree choice: the Chinese stir fry with chicken. The chicken was cooked well, and the sauce was gooey and warm; it was sweet and acidic with a strong pineapple flavor, unexpected but exciting. It was a cozy, satisfying mix. This dish, like many others on the menu, was also accompanied by a raw carrot and cucumber salad. The salad had a strong, tasty black pepper flavor yet remained refreshing enough to help balance out the salt in the entrees.
My favorite dish of the evening, by far, was my entree pick: the aloha beef ribs. Right off the bat, the ribs looked appetizing. They were juicy and glistening and tasted as good as they looked. The meat was moist and tender, and the charred bits were fabulously salty and smoky. The overall vibe was a mixture of warmth, saltiness, and meatiness in a way that left me wishing that the serving was greater than only three strips of meat.
Kristian and I were definitely happy with our trip to Lanai. The inside atmosphere of the restaurant is welcoming and well-decorated, the menu offers unique options accommodating of dietary restrictions, the staff is friendly, and there are some great deals.
For those aged 21 and up, one of Lanai’s specialties is the alcoholic slushie offered in flavors such as apple pie (featuring hard cider and fall spices) and pink lemonade (which our waiter described as “lemonade with a ton of vodka in it”). Kristian said multiple times that he wants to go back for the apple pie hard slushie on his 21st birthday, so it seems like we’ll be back at Lanai soon!