Sunday, February 28, 2010

Waipahu, HI: Elena's Restaurant

This is probably our most anticipated post on our heritage and pride, Filipino food. So I have five words for you:

Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelet

You're probably thinking...what is that? Before I get into that, let me say that no one knows Filipino food other than a Filipino. Seriously, I don't care how many times you've been to the Philippines or if you were backpacking across the country discovering Filipino cuisine, it's irrelevant. Filipinos know their cuisine more than anyone. Period, end of story.

Don't you think Filipino cuisine would have taking off by now like Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai? The reason: No one knows what Filipino cuisine is. Non-Filipinos haven't truly embraced or grasped what Filipino cuisine is all about. Filipino comedian Rex Navarette explained it the best.

Here's a clip:


Living in San Diego, we were quite disappointed at the lack of good, authentic Filipino food. During our recent vacation to the island of Oahu, our prayers were answered with Elena's Restaurant, home of the finest Filipino food.

Elena's owners, Theo and Elena Butuyan, immigrated from Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Philippines (Yes, they're Ilocano!) in 1969 to the island of Oahu. It was in 1974 that the Butuyan's founded Elena's Restaurant, back then a small kitchenette and counter with six stools in the old Nabarette Cafe in Waipahu, HI (Source: Elena's Restaurant).

In true Asian fashion, Elena's is located in a strip mall, similar to places like Lotus of Siam and Raku in Las Vegas. Don't let the location fool you. What lays inside is worth savoring for.

Unlike Marc, I'm one of those Filipinos that don't like to eat vegetables. I don't know why, that's how I am. I like to save stomach space for the good stuff. So brace yourself when I say we ordered the ultimate heart attack invoking meal, Pork Three Ways (encased, deep fried and pan fried).

Sweet Longanisa

Talk about umami in an encased meat. You will find all elements of umami in this little sausage (sweet, sour, salty, bitter). You know the sausage is authentic if it has that 'red glow'. Longanisa is practically the first encased meat that I liked before the American hot dog. What's inside? Do you know what's inside a hot dog? I think not. It's good, trust me.

Lechón Kawali

Lechón Kawali is essentially pork belly pieces deep fried to perfection. This is one of my favorite versions of lechón because it has that Chicharrón-looking exterior. Yum! No sauce needed.

Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelet

Yes folks, you heard it right. The above dish of pork adobo mixed with fried rice and wrapped in an egg omelet is trademarked. What other Filipino dish have you seen that is trademarked? None.

This favorite is one of the many dishes that you can find at Elena's. So what are you waiting for. In the words of our mothers and countrymen, let's eat!

Afterthoughts: So in a nutshell, Filipino food is based on the countries who invaded/immigrated to the Philippines. That's why you see Spanish and other Asian cuisine influences in Filipino cuisine. It may not be "TV-ready" but it sure is good. The ultimate pan-asian mixed plate.

Did you know the current Executive Chef at the White House is Cristeta Comerford, she's of Filipino decent. And for the record, Anthony Bourdain hailed Lechon as the best pork ever.

Things to know:
  • Hours: Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 6AM to 9PM. Take out available 15 minutes prior to closing.
  • Price Range: $. Cash and Visa and Mastercard.
  • Locations: Waipahu, HI and Las Vegas, NV (lunch and dinner only). Both located in strip malls.
  • What to order: Anything pork related. Favorites: Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelet, Lechón Kawali and longanisa.
  • The food is served family-style. 3-4 dishes is enough for 2 people.
  • Lunchwagons: Look for the Orange trucks. Click here to download the lunchwagon route.
Elena's Restaurant
Tropicana Square
94-866 Moloalo Street #D4A
Waipahu, Hi 96797
(808) 676-8005


Mellissa said...

We are humbled by your Blog. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your gracious words. We hope to meet one day. Much Mahalos, the Children of Elena, Mary Cris, Mellissa & Richard.

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