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Spice and Rice

East meets Upcountry at a new Ha‘ikū restaurant.

October 15, 2009
Sarah Ruppenthal

Spice and Rice, a fusion of Thali-South Indian and Burmese cuisine, offers a diverse selection of high-quality foods at reasonable prices in a casual, family-friendly setting.

Owners Michele Joy and Ba Aye Rajan opened the restaurant Memorial Day weekend, a venture that they had dreamed about for more than 20 years. Located in a 1950s’ plantation-style home that once housed the infirmary for the original Ha‘ikū Sugar Plantation, Spice and Rice is part of a “food emporium,” or a co-op, sharing the breezy, comfortable space with Ha‘ikū Sushi and the NorthShore Café.

“It’s an idea of it’s time,” said Joy. “It gives our customers an opportunity to try different kinds of cuisine, and at affordable prices.”

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Michele Joy and Ba Aye Rajan are the owners of Ha‘ikū’s newest restaurant.

Most menu items are under $12, and with its bring-your-own beer and wine policy, Spice and Rice is an inexpensive option perfect for any appetite.

Rajan, who was born and raised in Burma, is a talented chef who takes his culinary creations very seriously.

“In Burma, the common greeting is, ‘How’s your health and have you eaten?’” he said. “Food is a very important part of life there.”

Learning to cook in Burma, and later in his travels throughout Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, Rajan explained, “Where I come from, food takes a very long time, from morning to night… I would spend sunrise to sunset in the kitchen.”

Today, he shares his flair for regional cuisine at Spice and Rice, with a menu that is so much more than spices and rice. The restaurant offers a range of delectable—and reasonably priced—selections for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, including samosas (potato curry-filled pastries), Khauk-Swe (chicken coconut noodle dish), fresh-baked naan and the signature dish—the Thali Plate.

Perhaps invented to appease the most indecisive of palates, the Thali Plate is heaped with a diverse selection of dishes, including organic Basmati rice, fresh pineapple chutney, raita (cucumber, onion, yogurt and spices), dahl curry and vegetable curry—all on one plate. For those who may be wary of the “heat” quotient associated with these traditional dishes, don’t worry—Rajan keeps the spices on the side.

“We aim to please,” said Joy. “That’s why we have so many options on our menu.”

Customers can sample a traditional South Indian or Burmese dish, or order a mouth-watering sushi roll prepared by a five-star sushi chef.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Joy. “It makes it easier for people to decide.”

Indeed, with such an enticing menu, decisions may come easily; especially the decision to come back for more.

For those who prefer to dine at a later hour, the sushi bar is open until 10 p.m., which provides a delicious option for late-shift employees and night owls.

“We are the only place in Ha‘ikū serving until 10 p.m.,” said Joy. “We decided to stay open later to accommodate the working community.”

For Joy and Rajan, the new restaurant is not just a business, it is a dream come true. “We are so excited to be here,” said Joy. “It’s Spice and Rice… and everything nice.”

Spice and Rice is located at 824 Kokomo Road in Ha‘ikū, across from the Ha‘ikū Cannery Mall. The “Spice Kitchen” is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.; the Ha‘ikū Sushi bar is open daily, from 5 to 10 p.m.; and the NorthShore Café is open daily, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.



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