Aloha! When you can't make it to your favorite island but still want to enjoy authentic Hawaiian cuisine, look no further than
Rutt's has been serving Hawaiian specialties such as kalua pork, char sui (Portuguese sausage), saimin fried noodles and malolo shaved ice in a cozy corner of Mar Vista since 1976. It's easy to overlook, so keep your eyes peeled for the bright green building with palm fronds on the roof, on the south side of Washington Boulevard just east of Grandview Boulevard.
There’s ample seating both indoors and out, with a patio that seats about 20 people. Indoors the ambience is friendly and casual with murals of surfboards and colorful Hawaiian flowers on the walls.
Owner Paul Wahba is not Hawaiian but after visiting Hawaii fell in love with the food and decided to open his own slice of paradise in the neighborhood.
The menu is several pages long and offers a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served all day here (my kind of place!). Many of the breakfast dishes are offered in three different sizes: junior, regular and king. If you order a size up, it’ll cost you a buck or two more. Egg dishes come with a choice of home-style fries, hash browns, steamed rice, cottage cheese or fruit and toast or a sweet roll. You can substitute a bagel with cream cheese or Hawaiian bread for an additional $1.25.
The signature breakfast item is a scrambled egg dish with meat, vegetables, bean sprouts and onions, served on top of a bed of white rice and a side of house-made terriyaki sauce. My friend tried the original Hawaiian royale with Portuguese sausage, char sui. He thought it was delicious and liked how every bite was filled with diced pieces of tender meat, which served as a nice contrast to the crunchy bean sprouts. It reminded him a bit of a similar dish from another part of the world—corned beef hash—when all the ingredients were mixed together.
I was going to order the vegetarian royale, but opted for the fried saimin instead. Saimin is a noodle dish and recognized by many as the traditional state dish in Hawaii, influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese cultures. Rutt’s offers both soup saimin and fried saimin. The fried version arrived as a mountain of noodles mixed with red and green peppers, onions, celery, bean sprouts and carrots. I topped off this feast with its famous terriyaki sauce and dove right in. I was hoping for more flavor, but having never had saimin before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Overall, I enjoyed it, but would try the vegetarian royale next time for breakfast, because the noodles seemed more like a lunch or dinner dish. To be fair, it was 1 p.m., but I eat breakfast late!
Lastly, we shared some French toast made from King's Hawaiian bread. It was very soft and moist, but not soggy. I asked for some coconut syrup, which made it extra decadent and delicious. Both the French toast and the pancakes are also offered in three different serving sizes. Two pieces are a steal at only $2.95 (plus $1 for the coconut syrup).
I was tempted to order a shaved ice, but passed, despite the fruity and refreshing images. I’ll save it for one of those hot days when I want to be transported back to the islands.
Rutt’s Hawaiian Café, 12114 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066, 310-398-6326
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.