Saturday, June 15, 2013
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Plano, TX)
I had heard that there was some good traditional Hawaiian barbecue to be had up in Plano, but unfortunately I don't find myself up that far north very often. Today my wife suggested a trip to Ikea in Plano, and I agreed in exchange for lunch at L&L.
I've never had Hawaiian barbecue anywhere other than Hawaii itself, so I wasn't sure exactly what I'd find in the land-locked city of Plano, Texas. L&L didn't have the overly-touristy Hawaiian atmosphere that I was expecting, but instead had a small cafe-sized dining area with a few surfboards on the wall. I also enjoyed the looping video footage of fire dancers and luau music playing in the background. Not quite so enjoyable were the employees both in the dining area and behind the counter who were loudly slurping down big bowls of kimchi. Granted it was lunchtime, but it was a little off-putting from a customer's standpoint.
L&L had lots of tasty looking things to try. The staff and management appear to be Asian, so they have a few spring rolls, etc. on the menu in addition to the typical Hawaiian selections. I ended up ordering a BBQ Mix Plate: BBQ Beef, BBQ Ribs, and I substituted in some Kalua Pork for the BBQ Chicken that's supposed to come on the mix plate. Their entrees automatically come with steamed rice and macaroni salad, and since there didn't seem to be any other options, those side dishes would have to do.
The macaroni salad was pretty bland and forgettable. It was basically just macaroni and mayonnaise, like a coleslaw with pasta instead of cabbage. The rice was just plain, steamed white rice, and was as equally forgettable as the macaroni salad had been. I did appreciate that it was cooked well at least.
When I ordered something that included ribs, I was expecting, well, ribs. You know, long bone with some meat attached to it. What I got here were some of the weirdest "ribs" I'd ever seen. It looked like they shaved a cross-sectioned slice off of the slab from the wrong direction, with just three oval-shaped slivers of bone embedded in a deli-style slice of rib meat. To make matters worse, the meat was pretty tough to chew. The fat was not at all well-rendered, and it was actually really gristly. The flavor was basically nothing more than teriyaki, and not a particularly memorable teriyaki at that.
I moved on to the beef, only to find it on par with the ribs. The single thin slice of meat was completely overcooked and fairly dry. It was also just as gristly as the ribs. I had initially assumed that something called the "mix plate" would be a mix of different types of barbecue. Instead, the L&L mix plate is essentially three different meats all covered in the same teriyaki sauce. The beef was a big let down.
My wife isn't really the biggest fan of teriyaki. She had ordered the BBQ Chicken plate, which the menu described as being marinated in their special L&L Hawaiian barbecue sauce. What she didn't realize was that "special L&L Hawaiian barbecue sauce" is apparently just their fancy way of saying "teriyaki sauce." She didn't really eat any more after the first few bites, so I stepped in to try it out. Here again, we had both expected the dark meat chicken to be on-the-bone, but just like the ribs, we instead received deli-style slices of chicken. The chicken was cooked well and was very juicy. I wanted to like it, though I can only handle so much teriyaki at one time.
After what I tasted on my wife's plate, I was really glad that I had substituted the Kalua Pork for the BBQ Chicken. The shredded pork was very tender, and there was a huge portion of it with my mix plate. I enjoyed the natural flavors of the pork, but sadly that was the only flavor I could find. I smelled some delicious smoke outside before we walked through the door, which really got my hopes up. I'm not sure where the smoke was emanating from, but it sure wasn't L&L. The menu describes the pork as being "smoke-flavored," which is usually code for liquid smoke. Even then, I couldn't taste the slightest bit of smoke in this pork.
It's been almost 3 1/2 years since my wife and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, but I still remember how delicious the food was. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue wasn't even close to the amazing and flavorful barbecue and luau meats that we had eaten during our time there. I think L&L has probably gotten lazy and complacent over the years. While adherence to tradition is obviously an important part of their business, they need to pay more attention to the quality of the meats and sauces they use, because otherwise tradition is meaningless.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
8404 Preston Rd.
Plano, TX 75024