When I visited 'āina, a weekend Hawaiian pop-up at 903 Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights, I was surprised by how flavorful (and SPAM-free) it was. Rather, the Kalbi loco moco with hearts of palm pico de gallo, Korean short ribs, smoked mushroom gravy, and sunny-side-up eggs were like a dream hangover cure. But in its own right, the flavors were complex — much more so than any rice plate with a scoop of macaroni salad.
Now 'āina is taking the flavors of the Big Island and going brick and mortar. Chef Jordan Keao's "love letter" to his native island chain will open sometime this spring at 900 22nd Street in the Dogpatch.
'āina (Hawaiian for “that which feeds us”) will expand the menu by drawing on Keao's experience as a sushi chef at La Folie to create a seasonal menu that sources ingredients from the entire Pacific Rim. Oh, and by the way, there is plenty of seared SPAM. 'āina was out there spamming it up at the Street Food Festival at Pier 70 last August, and frying lots of little balls of malasada dough and filling them with guava paste, too.
The addition of a cocktail list will go great with the homemade kimchi, SPAM musubi, and other classics. Keep an eye out for this one.