So Many Flavors, So Little SPAM: 'Aina, a New Hawaiian Pop-Up in Bernal Heights

If you’re a pop-up chaser, there’s a new one in Bernal Heights worth hitting up, perhaps en route to the Alemany Farmers and/or Flea Markets so you don’t buy ten times as many persimmons as you can carry because you shopped hungry. It’s called 'aina, and it’s Hawaiian. It’s weekends-only, and it’s very good. There are no pineapples, and there is no SPAM.

Instead, there are brunch-y dishes such as a poached egg with house-smoked king salmon, pistachio pesto and baby garden greens and chicken katsu with a poached egg and somen noodles. Chef Jordan Keao, a native of the Big Island, has artfully put together a menu that draws on Japanese and even Portuguese influences without putting the utility of brunch as a hangover cure at risk. 

To wit: there is a Kalbi loco moco with hearts of palm pico de gallo that involves Korean short ribs, smoked mushroom gravy, and eggs cooked sunny side up. If you had a pounding headache before sitting down to that, you will be in good shape after spooning up the last of the rice. You can even get some Kalua pork a la carte if want you really want are malasadas, Portuguese donuts served with a coconut custard called haupia. (Hello, new guilty takeout pleasure.) You can even eat them in the parklet outside (or the other parklet, two short blocks away. Bernal Heights is so adorable.)

Lest I pigeonhole 'aina as highbrow junk food, the sourcing speaks for itself. The guava and taro for the French toast are flown in from Hawaii and the lap cheong (Chinese sausage) does in fact come from China. But remember, it’s a pop-up so it might not be around forever. Get thee hence now.