HOMEGROWN HAWAIIAN NOODLES

“These are the best noodles I’ve ever eaten! And I’m from San Francisco –  we have great noodles!” So spoke the woman seated at the stainless steel prep table behind the counter at Adela’s Country Eatery, where a mid-week influx of tourists strained the tiny capacity of the front seating area. I don’t have to take her word for it – I’ve had the pleasure of tasting them for myself and have returned for an encore. 

The cafe is the eponymous brainchild of the former director of operations at I Love Country Café, Adela Visitacion, and her business partner, Millie Chan. Chan owns I Love Country Café with her husband, Richard, and they’ve known Adela ever since she started working for them at age 19 as a cashier. In that former life, Adela also learned the back of the house as a cook and baker, then to the front again as management.

Adela's Country Eatery
Millie Chan, left, and Adela Visitacion worked together for 25 years at I Love Country Café, which Chan owns with her husband, Richard.

Over the last two decades the Chans also sent Adela around the world for culinary training, from a charcuterie class at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa Valley campus to the Mochizuki Seimen noodle factory in Hokkaido, Japan, where she learned to make fresh ramen noodles.

Adela's Country Eatery
Adela learning to make noodles at the Mochizuki Seimen factory in Hokkaido, Japan. Photo courtesy of Richard Chan.

“My sensei (Satoru Izumida, chairman of Mochizuki Seimen) was very strict,” Adela said. “Richard and Millie would be talking to me, and he would say, ‘Don’t talk to her, she has to concentrate on her noodles!’” 

That was four years ago, and over time Adela and Millie decided they wanted to work on a restaurant concept where they could hone a menu that focuses on local ingredients from small farms in Hawaii. The breadfruit for their ulu noodles, for instance, comes from the Hawai’i Ulu Cooperative on the Big Island. That’s the first flavored noodle Adela experimented with, and today they offer six types as the base for the Create-Your-Own-Pasta plates: ulu, taro, Okinawan sweet potato, moringa (Filipinos know this as malunggay), avocado and angel hair.

Adela's Country Eatery
Adela sheets the dough on the same ramen machine she trained on at the Hokkaido noodle factory in Japan.

For the sauce at Adela’s Country Eatery, you can go European with alfredo, marina, garlic butter or cacciatore (marinara and demiglace), or local – tomato cream, coconut cream and stir-fried. You can then top your plate with meats or veggies: portobello mushroom, eggplant, chicken, lechon (crispy pork belly), shrimp scampi or braised short ribs.

If you’re not in the mood to choose, they’ve got their favorite combos such as Avocado Pasta with Lemongrass Cream Sauce and topped with clams, fish of the day, calamari, shrimp, mushroom, onion and sweet pepper. If you’re feeling more carnivorous, go for lechon with the Malunggay Pasta or Okinawan Sweet Potato Pasta plates.

Adela's Country Eatery
Pastas clockwise, from top right: Moringa, avocado, Okinawan Sweet Potato, angel hair, ulu and taro

My favorite plate lunch, however, is the Taro Pasta. This dish tastes like Hawaii to me – it’s a luau on a plate, from the taro pasta to the luau leaves to the coconut cream sauce that closes out on your palate with a zing of heat. Any of these pastas could hold their own against a plate at most white tablecloth restaurants on Oahu, but that Taro Pasta plate is worthy of national notice. 

Adela starts her day at 6 a.m. to get 66 pounds of pasta ready for slow days, and double that on popular days like Saturday, when there’s often a line out the door. Adela’s Country Eatery’s most popular pasta favored by locals is moringa, followed by ulu, while tourists love the newest addition to the lineup, avocado. She’s continually tweaking the menu – look soon for a seventh noodle made with kabocha.

Aside from the pastas, fast-moving menu items include the braised short ribs and the House Special Fried Chicken – which takes 48 hours from prep to plating! The majority of those hours are spent in a brine, “to make it soft and juicy before we fry it,” Adela said. 

On my most recent visit to Adela’s Country Eatery, I was thrilled to see an expanded selection in the dessert case, with eye-popping Rainbow JELL-O squares, deep purple Ube Cheesecake, Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie, Brownie Bottom Cheesecake and a Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake. Got a sweet tooth that’s only slightly aching? There’s also a variety of sweet breads on the counter, including Okinawan Sweet Potato Poi, Banana Nut, Pumpkin Nut and Taro Banana.

From left: Ube Cheesecake, Chocolate Cheesecake and JELL-O Cheesecake. Yes, I tried them all – save room for dessert, they’re worth it.

If you’re planning to dine in, go before the lunch or dinner rush – seating is limited to three small tables in the front. You’re also welcome to sit at the tables behind the counter – Adela and Millie are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and they go to great lengths to accommodate their customers. When time allows, they’ll chat about the dishes they serve and the farmers they source their produce from. 

Between their creative, unique dishes and their gracious customer service, Adela’s County Eatery has been added to my shortlist of dining spots I recommend to visiting friends and family who want a taste of Hawaii.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Adela’s Country Eatery is open Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., closed Sundays. Saturdays are the most popular days, and you might have to wait 30-40 minutes before reaching the order counter. Because all dishes are made to order, you’ll also wait about 10 minutes for the food to be prepared. To reduce your wait time, you can call in your order but be aware that you’ll still have to wait in line to pick up and pay. 

Pasta dishes range from $12 to $18.99 and other plate lunches cost anywhere from $9.99 for Garlic Fried Rice with two eggs to $16.99 for Macadamia Crusted Fish with a spicy creamy mango sauce. The House Special Fried Chicken is $15.99 for a half chicken, $29.99 for the whole. Cash and credit cards accepted.

The restaurant is located off Kam Highway, in the little shopping center directly behind the Aloha gas station. Parking may be limited during peak dining hours, as the shopping center houses several restaurants.

Adela’s Country Eatery
45-1151 Kamehameha Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
Ph: 808-236-2366
www.adelascountryeatery.com