Nalu's Island Grill
27000C Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
It was a Saturday evening, the wife and I left the kids at home with Grandpa. We had a night out without the kids and decided to visit some friends of ours. The plan was to eat dinner, go to Powell's (blog post about Powell's coming soon) go to the movies and then go see a friends band play in Fullerton. What a busy night. When the wife and I arrived at our friends she asked where we wanted to eat and I suggested some place the wife and I had never been before. Our friend told us about this Hawaiian bar-be-que place that was in the same shopping complex as Powell's. The wife and I agreed it sounded good and since it was close to Powell's that was an added bonus. I figured this would be just another food stop but damn was I wrong.
Nalu's Island Grill is where we ended up. From the outside it looks like any other average store front eatery, nothing special. When I first walked the huge menu board caught my eye. The tables appeared to be randomly placed on the floor with some bar style seating around the walls. The workers busily plating food and taking it to the customers who had ordered before us. It was not packed full of people but there is also outside seating available so I would assume people were out there. The menu I have linked does not show all the items available. I assume this is because the linked menu is titled a to go menu. The wife and I both got combo plates, unfortunately I have forgotten the actual names of the combo plates, hers was beef and chicken, mine was kahlua pork and chicken. Each combo plate comes with a choice of two sides, I got steamed rice and garlic noodles my wife got mac salad and garlic noodles. Our friends got the garlic noodles with a kahlua pork and a shrimp combo plate. Damn I wish I could remember the names of the dishes but that is not the important part. What I do remember is the taste of the food.
The first thing I started with was the chicken which was placed on top of a pile of kahlua pork. The chicken was thinly sliced like a chicken cutlet and was breaded with panko bread crumbs. There was nothing special about the taste of the chicken by its self, it just a well cooked piece of chicken. What made this chicken so good was the dipping sauce that came with it in a small plastic cup. I am not sure how to describe this sauce but it was sweet, salty, tart and spicy. Not hot spicy, flavor spicy with some garlic in the mix. This sauce in combination with the panko covered chicken was a piece of golden brown deliciousness. Couple pieces of that later I grabbed my plastic fork and went for the garlic noodles. These reminded me of chow mein noodles but thinner. The noodles had a mix of stir-fired veggies in them like a typical chow mein would have. The difference here was the intense garlic taste these noodles had. Not so much that it overwhelms the taste of the veggies but more then I was accepting. I love garlic so it was no problem for me at all. The steamed rice was steamed rice, what can you really say about steamed rice? It was cooked well and sticky the exact way I like my steamed rice. The star of the plate in my opinion was the kahlua pork. The first fork full was headed to my mouth but I stopped before devouring it because the smokey smell of slow cooked pork hit my nostrils. Just the smell of this pork was outrageous. The only thing I could think of was a smoke pit full of pig parts and the hours this must of have spent there. The pork finally crossed my lips and it was juicy, tender and full of smokey flavor. This pork could have been served on a dirty shoes and I would have had more it was that damn good. The next time I go to Nalu's it's all about the kahlua pork. There was steamed cabbage below the kahlua pork that when eaten at the same as the pork added a snap to moist pork. The bits of pork that were the outside had the most intense smokey bark that gave you shot of flavor. I can not say enough about this pork it was out of this world good.
Of course I had to try some of the wife's food so I could comment about here. The spare ribs were good with a nice sweet glaze cooked on them. They didn't stand out in my mind as anything super. That's not to say that were bad but nothing special. The chicken my wife had was a teriyaki style chicken again it was good but I only one piece so maybe I missed the boat. The wife also had mac salad which I normally do not like but this mac salad was very good. It was not too heavily dressed and the pasta was cooked al dente. The crisp snap of shredded carrot added nice mouth feel to the salad. I definitely would order this mac salad next time instead of steamed rice. The plate of shrimp looked good but I did not try and of that, still not a fan of sea food. My friend was eating her garlic noodles and side of kahlua pork and asked me if I wanted more pork. I of course said yes and finished off the rest of her pork. With drinks the wife and I spent about twenty-two bucks. Our friends spent about the same for the food they ordered. For two people that may be a little high but it was worth the expense. I am telling you this pork is well worth the cost admission.
Overall Nalu's Island Grill is a place I want to visit again. I want to explorer the menu a bit more and try a few other things. I would recommend anyone in the area give Nalu's a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the food that is placed on your table. The people behind the counter were nice and the atmosphere was pleasant. My time at Nalu's was not just about good food but was also about the company I had. Good friends, my wife and great food. What an excellent dinner. Guess what's next? You got it, the pictures! After seeing these pictures if you don't at least consider going Nalu's you would be crazy.