Some folks might wonder what’s a Hawaiian/Japanese restaurant doing in East Harlem? As Harlem becomes more diversified, why not? I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners of Makana Hawaiian & Japanese BBQ, Dave Chan. He certainly exuded the Aloha Spirit that I enjoyed when I lived in Hawaii.
My expectations were a little guarded as I attempted to imagine just how this modest eatery would introduce island food to the locals. Well, I think Dave, hit the spot. Realizing that you have to bridge the gap, his menu reflects a variety of Sushi and Sashimi items, Bento Boxes, Lunch Plates, Noodle Soups, and appetizers such as Ahi Poke and Spam Musubi. Yes, I said, Spam. Anyone who has traveled to Hawaii knows that Spam is everywhere.
I decided to try one of my favorite dishes, BBQ Beef Short Ribs. It came with “1 scoop rice,” salad, the ribs, and macaroni salad.
The ribs were a slightly different take from the ones in Hawaii but equally as flavorful. I was eager to see how the mac salad was going to be served as it’s traditionally a little macaroni with tons of mayonnaise. Would this heart attack inducing ingredient appear on my plate? I was pleased to see that they used discretion and reduced the amount of whipped oil. As I glanced over to another table, a party of 5 appeared to have enjoyed their meal since the Chicken Katsu and Island Curry Chicken Bento Boxes were left empty.
The majority of Makana’s sales are takeout or delivery but there are a few tables and a small counter for eating in. Located just off of 116th St. and 1st Avenue, Dave sees his restaurant as serving the established population and new residents. His close proximity to the East River Plaza which houses Costco, Target, Old Navy, and many more stores, has already increased his delivery service.
With an eye on expanding to other locations in Harlem, this restaurant is a great introduction to Hawaiian food. Bring on the Furikake Chicken, Haupia Chocolate Pie, and Malasadas!
Makana Hawaiian & Japanese BBQ
2245 1st Ave. (Bet. 115 & 116 St.)
New York, NY 10029
212-966-3534 or 212-966-3609