Dining Out: Creativity spices up Tommy O’s bistro menu

Downtown location offers taste of Hawaii

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Why: Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro in downtown Vancouver offers traditional island breakfast fare seven days a week. It also turns out cultural hybrid dishes such as Huevos Rancheros with Kalua Pork.

It’s owned by Tommy Owens, who also owns Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Grill in east Vancouver. Unlike the grill, the bistro serves breakfast. It’s been at 801 Washington St. for 10 years. Before that, Owens operated Tommy O’s Aloha Café in the Vancouver Marketplace for seven years.

Atmosphere: Surfboards and images of surfers decorate the sunny yellow walls. Myriad plants add to the island feel, as do the floral tablecloths. There’s an adjacent lounge that Owens opened four years ago. It stays open later than the restaurant, hosts live music and is for adults 21 and older.

What I tried: I had the Mauna Loa, a medley of seasoned home-style potatoes scrambled with mushrooms, red onion, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes and topped with your choice of feta, Swiss or cheddar cheese.

I opted for feta, and the flavor of the crumbly, creamy cheese blended very well with the other ingredients in this eggless scramble.

The potatoes were nicely crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The vegetables mixed in with the potatoes were fresh and plentiful. Most were cooked just enough so that they were softened but still pleasantly al dente. However, there were some pieces of spinach that didn’t seem cooked at all, and the texture of those bites didn’t coalesce well with the rest of the dish.

The Mauna Loa is served in a bowl, and comes with a choice of rice or toast. Tommy O’s uses Portland French Bakery breads. I opted for the Sunflower Sourdough toast. It was very good, but I was disappointed that I only received one slice. I had plenty of carbohydrates with all the potatoes, but the two halves of bread looked very skimpy on the plate. Two pieces of toast would have been nice.

Also, while this dish was very tasty, the $10.99 price tag seemed a bit high, especially considering it doesn’t involve meat. I’ve had similar dishes with larger portions elsewhere for closer to $8 or $9.

My dining companion had the Huevos Rancheros, and opted to spend the extra $3 to add Kalua Pork. The slightly sweet pork added a Hawaiian twist to a favorite Mexican breakfast dish, and the flavors blended well.

The dish was served in a bowl, which is unusual for Huevos Rancheros. It features two corn tortillas topped with black beans, cheddar cheese, two eggs, fresh salsa, ranchero sauce and sour cream.

My date asked for his eggs over-easy, and said that they were expertly cooked. The tortillas were nice and thick, and the salsa had a great flavor. However, he felt that the portion was smaller than expected, especially given the $11.99 price ($8.99 without the Kalua pork).

He also ordered a side of the Curry Macaroni Salad. The curry adds new depth to this traditional side dish.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: In past visits, I’ve had the Mixed Plate off the lunch menu. It’s a great way to try a sampling of Tommy O’s Island Favorites. I especially liked Teriyaki Chicken and the Kalua Pork. My date previously has tried the Loco Moco, a decadent traditional dish composed of two scoops of rice, a teriyaki burger, two eggs, grilled onion and brown gravy.

On the sweet side, the Malasadas off the breakfast menu sounded delicious. The dish features half a dozen Portuguese donuts tossed in cinnamon and sugar and served with raspberry jam. I can only hope that it’s the same delicious raspberry freezer jam that’s served with the toast. I couldn’t believe it when Owens told me it’s not homemade, because it’s that good.

Other observations: Hawaiian food isn’t known for being light, but Tommy O’s does offer some healthful options. For instance, people can opt for brown rice instead of white. For an extra $1.99, diners can have Egg Beaters or egg white scrambles and omelettes. There’s also a gluten-free dinner menu. Vegetarian options are somewhat limited and include the Mauna Loa, veggie and tofu stir-fry dishes and a Kauai sandwich.

The dinner menu especially highlights seafood, with dishes such as Macadamia Nut Halibut, Togarashi Prawns and Yin & Yang Sea Scallops.

Cost: Most breakfast items are $7.99-$11.99. Lunch ranges from $7.99 for a half order of Teriyaki Chicken to $19.99 for the Alaskan Halibut. Dinner entrees are $10.99-$24.99.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast is served daily until 11 a.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. The lounge is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 3 to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Where: 801 Washington St., Vancouver.

Information:http://www.tommyosaloha.com, 360-694-5107.

Health score: Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro received a health score of 13 on April 28. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For more information, call 360-397-8428.