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ShAloha revisited

After a grueling 4-hour hike up and down the entire Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail recently, on the way back we stopped by ShAloha Mediterranean cuisine for a late lunch. ShAloha is based specifically from Israeli cuisine, however please note they’re not kosher. 

ShAloha is located in Kaimuki, on the corner of Waialae and 3rd Avenue, right across St. Louis Drive In and Chaminade / St. Louis School.

Since the last time this place was reviewed here back in 2014, the menu hasn’t changed much, except of course for an increase in price, and the addition of ShAloha plates, which are essentially a deconstructed version of their sandwiches, with the addition of rice. 

VEGETARIAN PITA SANDWICHES 
$12 (Hummus $8)

  • FALAFEL – A middle east classic; garbanzo beans and our house spices fried until golden brown and served with homemade salads in freshly baked pita. 
  • EGGPLANT SANDWICH (SABICH) –Thick rounds of fried eggplant that melt like butter in your mouth, combined with a hard boiled egg and served in a warm pita with Israeli salad and homemade tahini. 
  • HUMMUS SANDWICH – The famous Middle East spread, made from cooked garbanzo beans and blended with olive oil, sesame, lemon juice and spices, served in a pita bread.  

MEAT PITA SANDWICHES
$12

  • SHAWARMA – Juicy chicken thighs marinated in our shawarma spices, grilled to perfection and served in our fresh-baked pita with salads. 
  • CHICKEN SCHNITZEL – A juicy chicken breast fillet (boneless & skinless), breaded and fried in our special spices, served in pita bread with homemade salads.  

PLATES
Any choice above $15 (includes rice), Hummus $11

SIDES

  • PITA CHIPS – Shaloha’s version of french fries. House-made fresh-baked Pita chips are made to order, and served with hummus. $8
  • Hummus / Tabouleh, Iraeli Salad / Red Cabbage / White Cabbage – small $8, large $12 

DRINKS

  • Lemonana – ShAloha’s own fresh mint-infused lemonade $3 

SPECIALTY

  • Fresh-baked house-made Pita Pack: small (6 each) $8, large (12 each) $12

ShAloha has won recognition and praise for their fresh-baked pita bread made daily in-house, and they really do stand out from anything you buy in the store shipped from the mainland. Good stuff! 

Like Korean, what I especially love about Mediterranean cuisine are the complimentary assortment of prepared veggies. Above are an Israeli Salad and Tabouleh. The latter of which is made with quinoa, tomatoes, mint, parsley, olive oil and lemon.  

Another highlight of ShAloha is their house-made super creamy hummus in the far left bin above. So, so good! Next to that is Israeli seasoned white and red cabbage. 

Without further ado, being a chicken fan while having never tried this before, Diner K went with the Shawarma sandwich. Again, that’s described as “Juicy chicken thighs marinated in our shawarma spices, grilled to perfection and served in fresh-baked pita with salads.”

$12 is a relative high price for a takeout sandwich, however they do pack a lot in there, where this thing had some real heft to it. 

Being a huge fan of it, I always get the Falafel Sandwich, shown above. 

A middle east classic, Falafel is a deep-fried ball made of garbanzo beans and spices, fried until golden brown. It’s served in a pita lined with hummus, and supposed to also have Tahini sauce drizzled over it, however it they forgot to add that when making it this time. No!!!! The reason I didn’t notice is I wasn’t watching them make my sandwich, and it was wrapped up before I got a look at it prior to leaving. 

Above is a better angle of the Falafel “money shot”. 

I can never leave ShAloha without a side of their fabulous Pita Chips with house-made creamy hummus. 

And? Let me start with the Pita Chips and Hummus. For an increase in price to $8, not only is that a bit high for a side dish at a takeout shop, they now don’t add the important ingredient that used to make this special: Zaatar. When I asked the counter person why there was no Za’atar on it, she said, “we don’t do that anymore.” What?! 

Above is how it’s supposed to look like. Za’atar is a Mediterranean seasoning blend made with oregano, thyme, sumac and various other herbs and spices. That makes all the difference on these otherwise fantastic deep fried pita chips. Without the Zaa’tar? Nope, it’s a no-go. That fantastic creamy hummus to dip them helped just a little, however with no seasoning on the deep-fried pita chips whatsoever, they were like a Ferrari driving on its spare tire. 


ShAloha Falafel Sandwich, with Tahini sauce from a previous visit

As for my Falafel sandwich, it was definitely amiss without the Tahini sauce. Like the Pita Chips, I think there was also a seasoning “issue” within the ingredients here as well, unless it’s that Tahini that gives this sandwich all its character. I certainly wasn’t about to drive all the way back to Kaimuki just to add that on, nor do I keep the stuff in my fridge. My best remedy was to put more Hummus from the Pita chips and some Israeli hot sauce on it for added flavor. With that, it was acceptably good, however I wasn’t exactly raving over it as I did in the past.

Being the first time here, Diner K wasn’t all that impressed either with her Shwarma seasoned chicken sandwich. I took a bite and would concur with that. 

ShAloha is owned by Sage Sisko, originally from Israel. He used to have a business partner named Mor, also from Israel, however the cashier told me Mor is no longer involved with the company. As its stands, ShAloha has an excellent 4.5 stars average rating out of 528 reviews, so perhaps this was just one of those off days. Still, they better bring that Za’atar back for the Pita Chips. 

ShAloha
3133 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816

Tel. (808) 744-4222
www.ShAlohaPita.com

The Tasty Island rating: (for 4.12.18)
 1/2
(1-1/2) Average to good

Related links:
• ShAloha – Yelp user reviews
• New Middle Eastern Eatery: Shaloha – Honolulu Magazine Blog
• Fuud: Shaloha in Kaimuki – The Cat Dish blog
• ShAloha Pita – Fashionably Forward Foodie blog
• HawaiIsrael.com – Mini Israel,  an online Israeli Kosher Supermarket in Hawaii
• OahuKosher.com – Fine Kosher food for all occasion, serving the island of Oahu
• ShalomHawaii.com – Everything for and about the Jewish community on the Hawaiian islands

The Tasty Island related links:
ShAloha
• Da Falafel King
• Yudi’s Deli
• Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen

P.S. Since we’re on sandwiches, once again I’ve been on a BLT “binge”, having one about every other day for the past couple weeks. Yeah, I know. Sigh. Woe is me. 

For me, a BLT should be kept classically simple. Good bacon — I use thick-cut Maple smoked Kirkland (Costco) brand — that’s pan-fried semi-crispy with still a little chew. Top that with thick-sliced perfectly ripe tomatoes, hand-torn leaves of crispy fresh Iceberg Lettuce (I prefer that over any other type for BLT), on very fresh lightly toasted sandwich bread that’s smothered generously on both sides with Best Foods Mayonnaise. Such a perfect combo’. 

I’ve always wanted to try making Big Island style Smoke Meat using Pork Belly, turning it essentially into “Hawaiian Bacon”. Next time I smoke a batch I’ll try that and make a BLT out of it. I bet it’d be winnahz! 

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11 thoughts on “ShAloha revisited

  • April 12, 2018 at 8:58 pm
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    Pomai.
    I used to cook my bacon only in my cast iron fry pan till I read one of May favorite professional chefs discovered bacon done in microwave so I tried it and I”m not going back. Crispy perfectly cooked bacon (Costco) with no shrinkage or extra grease each time. Place bacon on a microwave bacon cooker plate between two paper towels to soak up extra grease and microwave (4 Costco strips 3min 45 sec at 1,000 watts 100% power) if you Don’t have a turn table rotate 180 degrees after halfway cooking time and if your power is 1,1000 watts reduce time 15sec or if power is lower increase time 15sec.
    Faster bacon and cleaner kitchen.

    Reply
    • April 12, 2018 at 10:29 pm
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      Ken.

      I sometimes nuke bacon between paper towels on a disposable plate for a quick snack. Works great. Those dedicated microwave cookware for bacon do help improve results. I used to have one.

      Have you ever grilled bacon on coals? I haven’t yet. I bet it would be amazing!

      Reply
  • April 13, 2018 at 10:44 am
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    Are you sure that’s quinoa in the tabouli? It’s usually cracked/bulgur wheat.

    If they’ve stopped using za’atar on the pita, chances are they’re not spicing the falafel well. Based on the pic, there isn’t any seasoning in there (besides garlic or salt, which is impossible to see). Usually you can see the flecks of parsley, some sumac, etc. As for Tahini, I prefer it left off. Something about the sort of bitter blandness of the sauce, I feel like it’s a flavor absorber/remover. Takes all the brightness out of things, in my opinion.

    Reply
    • April 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm
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      h,
      Hmmm, I thought it looked like Quinoa, but you could be right. There was just a little of the Tabuoleh in the sandwiches we had, so I couldn’t really pinpoint anything about it. It was all mixed up with everything else. I love the subtle mint flavor it adds to the party though!

      Regarding the Falafel, You might be right as well, where it wasn’t the lack of Tahini sauce that made it taste like something was missing, but the lack of seasoning the Falafel properly.

      Reply
  • April 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm
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    that place sucks so bad….$26 plus change for a sandwich, pita chips, and a drink.

    tried the eggplant sandwich and it was so disgusting. was more of an egg salad sandwich

    the only thing that made all the food edible was the hotsauce.

    will NEVER GO Here again

    Reply
    • April 13, 2018 at 12:44 pm
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      Jerry, I agree they’re way overpriced. We paid about $35 for two sandwiches and the side of Pita Chips, not including any drink. As for them sucking so bad, well, they’re Yelp ratings are currently really good at 4.5 stars, so I guess it depends how familiar you are with this type of food. I take it many locals in Hawaii aren’t, so their first experiences here are very positive. As was the case for me on my first visit.

      If new customer are already familiar with Falafel and Shawarma, Tabouleh, Hummus, etc, and how they should be properly prepared and seasoned as h pointed out, they’d quickly see where the flaws are here, as they were on this visit. In my case, it was a waste of $35. Would’ve been better of with two amazing made-to-order salmon, tempura and kamaboko bento from Kokoro-Tei for less than half the price, right down the street.

      Thanks for the tip on the Eggplant Sandwich. I was going to order that next time, however the way you describe it, I think I’ll pass.

      I should have pointed out the owner wasn’t in on this visit, which I understand he often is. I wonder if when he’s out, the kitchen slacks on preparing the food properly. Just a thought. Not pointing fingers.

      Reply
    • April 19, 2018 at 2:57 pm
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      Haru,

      That’s a lot of ingredients and prep work for those sandwiches. Instead of making it, next time I’ll try the Schnitzel at ShAloha, making sure they put all the ingredients in the sandwich so it has its full potential.

      They should do a vegetarian Schnitzel, using say, eggplant or mushrooms instead of chicken.

      Reply
      • April 20, 2018 at 4:11 am
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        The Schnitzel isn’t as bad as it seems and I usually have some homemade pesto on hand (I’m no food snob – I HAVE to make my own stuff or go without). It’s very good. Use a Claussen style refrigerated pickle for these – NOT the hamburger chip style. A fried eggplant version is very good too – try taking one large local style nasu, cut it sideways several times into a fan leaving the stem end attached and then flour, eggwash, crumb, and fry in one piece for easier eating.

        Best Regards!

        Haru

        Reply
  • April 18, 2018 at 3:35 am
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    I have to agree with your assessment of Shaloha. Their current food is nowhere near the quality and value of what they started with. I used to bring the pita home to the mainland which is tough since it doesn’t last more than a day or two unfrozen but at current prices it isn’t worth it.

    Also, try sprinkling a bit of celery salt on your BLT!

    Reply
    • April 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm
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      Alan,

      Shaloha at one time were selling their pita bread packs in retail stores, however I don’t see them there anymore. I wonder if something happened to their equipment, or did the split in ownership have something to do with it. When I’m in Kaimuki again I’ll stop by just to chat with Sage, the owner (if he’s in).

      Celery salt on a BLT eh? I’ll try that next time. I know that’s a key ingredient in a Chicago style hot dog.

      Reply

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