The best teri beef on the island

When I was a kid, I ate quite a lot of teriyaki beef. My grandmother and mother made great versions, and a trip to Ala Moana meant a stop at Wong’s Okazuya. Standing at the take-out window towering above me was possibly my earliest Pavlovian experience. I knew what was coming was thin ribbons of meat glazed with a sweet-gingery sauce that almost blackened the beef.

That was the 1970s. Today I never order teri beef, because almost always what I get has the flavor and texture of a dog chew toy cursorily dipped in shoyu. Uck. That is, unless I make a rare foray to Kapolei. For me there is only one reason to go there—Hapa Grill. And there is only one thing I order—the teri beef plate.

Opened in 2005, it is run by former newspaper reporter Shannon Tangonan Putman, who grew up helping her parents with their Sassy Kassy’s Lunchwagon. And while there are sandwiches made with focaccia and salads topped with feta cheese, the old-school plate lunch signatures are top-notch culinary time machines.

Last weekend I dragged two girlfriends on a hunt for a new food truck I’d heard about in Kapolei. After an hour of being lost in the exurbs and turning into the grumpmobile, I was almost relieved—it meant I could eat Hapa Grill teri beef as plan B. It is a perfect re-creation of plate lunches of yesteryear—thinly sliced beef with not one bite of ick-what-is-that gristle, marinated until the meat is completely saturated and cooked until there are crunchy bits, and the beef glistens like it’s been freshly shellacked. A failed mission turned into happy-dance time.

Hapa Grill, The Marketplace at Kapolei, 91-950 Farrington Hwy, 674-8400,