New restaurant in Waianae: Coquito's Latin Cuisine

Left: pernil with pigeon pea rice; right: steak mofongo with tostones and fried yucca

There aren't a lot of restaurants on Oahu serving dishes like mofongo and tostones—what sound like gangster names but are Latin-Caribbean specialities. So to find them in Waianae—at Coquito's Latin Cuisine—is a surprise. But don't expect Coquito's to be the Leeward equivalent of Cactus Bistro; Coquito's dishes are much less refined. I wouldn't make a special trip out here, but it can make a good post-beach stop, a break from the usual plate lunch/poke snack in Waianae. The place is packed with Spanish speakers celebrating, the lanai seats a group nursing sunburns and beers.

Everything tastes better than it looks. Maybe that's not saying much because when our dishes arrive, they look so drab and unappetizing, I am thoroughly disheartened. So when I taste heavy garlic, pepper and salt on the steak mofongo ($12)—steak piled onto plantains mashed with bacon—I am perhaps more impressed than I would normally be. The mashed plantains are bland, as are the side of fried yucca and tostones. But the tostones—double-fried plantains—are so crispy, they're still addictive.

Pernil, Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder ($12), looks just like kalua pig, and while I would prefer something less shredded, oregano and a touch of nutmeg (?) save it from utter disappointment.

Tres leches cake ($4.75)—sponge cake soaked in sweetened milk and cream—is straightforward, simple goodness.

Coquito's Latin Cuisine, 85-773 Farrington Hwy., 888-4082