PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Medi Bowl, a Mediterranean combo comprising kalo falafel, roasted baba ganoush, beet hummus, millet tabouleh and greens with an herb tahini sauce, is one of my favorite dishes on the menu at 'Ai Love Nalo. The colors are a feast for the eyes.
Because my foodie diet is so rich in protein and fat, I'm happy for those occasions when I can escape to such basics as fresh veggies and hummus, staples in every food writer's/blogger's kitchen for those detoxing down times when we're not at a restaurant.
I once suggested we feed hummus to the hungry instead of stocking up on salt-, sugar- and preservative-laden canned goods during food drives, only to be told the hungry wouldn't eat it. Critics of my plan had a point. As much as I love hummus and a good salad, I don't crave them the way I crave fried chicken, pork ribs, or lately, Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches.
Humans have a natural affinity for fats, sweets and carbs. You can read up on some of the science here: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53528/
Yet, immediately after visiting 'Ai Love Nalo, I found myself craving the casual vegan restaurant's tofu poke bowl, with limu providing all the ocean essence I needed, and avocado providing body and richness, so I didn't miss the fattiness and texture of fish at all.
I also crave the Medi Bowl ($11), a Mediterranean-inspired combo of kalo falafel served over greens with an herb tahini sauce, millet tabouleh, and small portions of local eggplant baba ganoush and beet hummus with all the flavor of chickpea hummus with a tinge of beet.
It's no wonder the restaurant tends to be packed on the weekends, when people are most likely to have the time to make the drive to Waimanalo. It's well worth the trip.
Dishes here are fresh and delicious, and there will be many a dessert lover who will rejoice over its non-dairy, all-natural dessert of Outta This Swirled soft-serve sundae. Replacing the ice cream is a mixture of coconut milk and bananas, coated with a no-added sugar "Cacao Magic" shell.
A meal here is a treat for the body, soul and senses from beginning to end.
'Ai Love Nalo is at 41-1025 Kalanianaole Highway. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Online at ailovenalo.com. There's no phone.
You can opt to sit indoors, or, if you don't like being confined by four walls, bring a mat to sit outside in the "Garden of Eatin'," pictured below.
The tofu poke is delicious, available in a generous poke bowl that starts with a choice of brown rice, millet or a half/half combination, with limu, onion, avocado, green onion, furikake and greens. Recently, $11.
The Kaukau Lu'au plate is 'Ai Love Nalo's healthier remake of the Hawaiian plate lunch. Local Okinawan potato and an assortment of local veggies are baked in creamy coconut lu’au, and served with your choice of poi, brown rice or millet, with a sampling of tofu poke and a side salad. Recently $11.
Roasted veggies and avocado are piled onto a veggie sandwich, but the whole-wheat vegan bun didn't hold up well to the ingredients and became mushy quickly.
Dessert lovers will rejoice over 'Ai Love Nalo's vegan, guilt-free soft serve, made with bananas and coconut milk, with cocoa powder shell that mimics chocolate. It's presented here with sliced bananas, papaya and housemade granola.
There are several smoothies on the menu. This is the Lime in Da Coconut, made with coconut milk, key limes, avocado, honey and bananas, and topped with coconut flakes.
Before leaving, head next door to visit the Waimanalo Market Co-op. There, you'll find fresh produce, 'Nalo-related merchandise including jewelry, clothing and tote bags, and a couple of food purveyors.
The co-op is at 41-1029 Kalanianaole Highway, open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays to Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 690-7607.
Produce at the Waimanalo Market Co-op is sourced from the area ahupua'a.
If you think you've found the island's best poke, better remake your list if you haven't tried poke from Hale I‘a Hawaii. Lance and Lucie Kaanoi's poke is exceptionally fresh and delicious, making both their Korean-style, and ogo and ahi poke must-trys on your next visit to Waimanalo. They also serve poke hoagies.