I'll make you a wager: you'll have never tasted tuna any finer than the Lava Grilled tuna steaks on offer at Victoria Square's newest eaterie Kua 'Aina. Belfast is usually the last place that restaurant chains open up in, but thanks to Kua 'Aina being owned by two homegrown Northern Irish folks, we are privileged to be only the third branch to open, with the other two being London based.
We went along for a meal and met Harry for a chat. He usually runs the Carnaby Street branch, and he also mans the Kua 'Aina festival van (more on that later).
Harry explained that Kua 'Aina is actually the only restaurant in the complex who cook completely from fresh. The Hawaiian menu is a fabulous breath of fresh air indeed. I had peeked at the menu online before our visit, and initially had pictured it as another burger bar, and whilst they do a great burger, that's only part of the picture.
The menu offers traditional burgers, fish, veggie and chicken & turkey options. Then you choose whether you want it served as a burger, or hot sandwich, or bunless with salad. There are also very tempting 'Super Salads' , and the tuna & avocado caught my eye immediately. Sometimes when you are trying to diet especially at this time of year pre-summer, the salad option on the menu can feel like the booby prize. Your lettuce arrives and you longingly stare at everyone else's meal and decide you'll just buy a sarong for over that bikini and get something tasty next time. BUT- look at that salad!
Its an enviable rainbow of fresh, crunchy goodies. The ginger and soy dressing with the tuna and greens is to die for. The tuna fillet tastes like no tuna I've had before. I've had tuna at restaurants before which literally tasted of nothing, but the Kua 'Aina fillet it meaty, smoky and delicious.
All the 'proteins' in the meals are cooked on the special lava grill. I asked Harry what this actually meant. He explained it's a Hawaiian way of low fat, healthy cooking, and it's what the George Foreman grill is based on.
The other food we went for was a Mahi Mahi & Monterey Jack sandwich, Spicy Huli Huli Chicken as a burger and a kid's meal of chicken strips and sweetcorn. If I did have a negative point about Kua 'Aina, it would be the kids' choices I'm afraid. The options aren't plentiful and the meal like a bit anemic beside our colourful offerings. I would love to see more Hawaiian options too, as kids are just as open as us to trying new things. I did totally love the glass Smix's apple juice came in however (top pic in this post) I want one myself!
When Kua 'Aina asked us along, they said I simply had to try the milkshake, so we had one each. Coconut and strawberry, in cute pint bottles. They are just as good as they tipped us off to, and they source the ice cream from Morellis locally. You can even make it dirty with spirits, and check the Kua 'Aina website for their signature cocktails and 2 for 1 offers on those.
We also picked a couple of sides, although saying that, the main meals were plenty. We had sweet potato fries which rivalled the kings of the sweet potato next door (N**dos!), very crispy and delicious. The onion rings are comically large and made for sharing.
I couldn't resist the chilli fries, but a word of warning. They are HUGE. The portion could be a meal for one in itself. Fries with mince and cheese and jalapeños. I couldn't manage even a 1/4 but kindly they wrapped it up for me to take home. Incidentally you can order Kua 'Aina for delivery thanks to the Deliveroo service arriving in Belfast. Also while I mention it, the Kua 'Aina staff, I think we dealt with three local staff during our visit, are all really upbeat and friendly, which makes me think they must be nice to work for as well as eat in.
We adults were too full for dessert, but Smix used his special, child's 'dessert stomach' to fit in this freshly made, thick and fluffy American style pancake with maple syrup (icecream optional) .
So we had a lovely visit and most certainly shall be back. Sadly if you aren't in London or Belfast, it may be some time before you get a Kua 'Aina of your own. Why not petition them on their Facebook Page for a restaurant in your area?
As I mentioned earlier, they have a food truck that visits festivals. Not sure if this is last year's or this season coming's food truck calendar, but keep an eye out this summer!