“Sitting on the porch alone, listening to them fixing supper, he felt again the indignation he had felt before, the sense of loss and the aloneness, the utter defenselessness that was each man’s lot, sealed up in his bee cell from all the others in the world. But the smelling of boiling vegetables and pork reached him from the inside, the aloneness left him for a while. The warm moist smell promised other people lived and were preparing supper.”
– James Jones, From Here to Eternity
I’ve written before about my teenage years living on a Pacific island – admittedly mostly focusing on the typhoons and earthquakes. It seems like sacrilege, or at least the height of ingratitude to admit this, but I didn’t really enjoy my time there. Most of my friends loved it (I mean, obviously, C. it was a tropical island, what was your problem?), but it was simply a hard place to live at the time for me. I left a good school, an amazing magnet program for my writing, Latin as a course option, and a lot of other thriving programs that I missed as a teenager, and even somewhat resented giving up.
Of course in retrospect lots of my island life was good. I’m still in touch with only two teachers from my youth, one of them is from that new high school. I was able to travel throughout Asia and Australia. My worldview, already decently large thanks to my dad’s international career, was blown open even wider. A lot of good came out of living there, but it remains one of my least favorite dwelling places.
But one thing that I will unabashedly gush over about island living (apart from the amazing cultural diversity and outrageously gorgeous and wonderful people) is the food. Until you’ve slaughtered, cleaned, and buried a whole pig in a pit to roast out in the jungle while bundling up tapioca pudding bundles or freshly caught fish in palm leaves to cook in the coals, while your neighbors from at least a dozen different cultures whip up their own delicacies and dishes around you, – you have not lived.
As a result, I’m always brought to a stop when anything remotely Polynesian catches my eye while on the prowl for good eats. I’m used to seeing such joints in California and the west, but you can imagine how surprised I was to stumbled upon a Hawaiian restaurant…in the middle of Soho!
Minions, meet Kua ‘Aina. Kua ‘Aina, minions. Charmed!
Kua ‘Aina operates locations in Hawaii, Japan, and…weirdly London – all modeled on their original North Shore location which opened in the 1970s. President Obama is said to be a fan, he famously orders the half pound avocado burger and has been known to treat his traveling staff to To Go orders, and I can see why. From kitschy decor to a fun atmosphere, it’s simply a fun place to be.
No matter the London weather, the boss and all the servers are decked in (what else?) Hawaiian shirts and greet visitors with a big, “Aloha!” On Guam they say, “Hafa Adai” but the sentiment is the same, and I was surprisingly chipper to hear an island greeting after so long!
Burgers and breakfast are their specialties, both mixed with the delicious cultural cross section of taste that is island cuisine. Teriyaki, pineapple, and seafood all put in appearances. But the real reason I had to share this joint on the blog is for the single, solitary reason that they make the best sweet potato fries I have found to date in this city! As something of a self-proclaimed obsessive about such food stuffs, this is a big deal, kittens.
Kua ‘Aina is located just behind the famous Liberty of London, just off the equally famous Carnaby Street, at:
26 Foubert’s Place
‘Fess up, have you ever lived in a place you didn’t love? And did anything (like food) mitigate the circumstances for you?