Given that this was the food truck which – hands down – inspired the longest lines where I work, I am not surprised the Hula Girl truck had developed enough profit and notoriety to try out an actual brick and mortar restaurant. The Hula Girl Bar and Grill in Shirlington delivers on everything that made the food truck so good and so popular – but as a restaurant experience there are a lot of kinks to work out.
We got to the restaurant at lunchtime, and had to wait about 20 minutes – which was not a big deal in Shirlington Village. The host took our number and called us when it was time to come back. So far, so good with the service – but here is where things get complicated:
- Drinks took much too long to come. We got multiple kids water cups, but the juice took a bit too long to ultimately arrive.
- It took an hour for the food to come out. This was particularly problematic as the waitress mentioned that the Ahi Poke might be slow in coming (thus dissuading me from ordering it), yet the rest of the meal still took a long time.
- The Mahi Mahi sandwich we ordered was missing the tartar sauce as advertised on the menu
- The kicker is that the slowdown was attributed to a lag in getting rice cooked – not brown rice or fried rice (actually they got the fried rice promptly), but white rice – which seems a mortal sin for any restaurant with an Asian influence
- The waitress seemed confused throughout – not understanding our order, a combination of mains and small plates – and when expediting was creating a backlog she did not have a good way to solve the problems.
So the service experience was ghastly – and we felt is more acutely since we have children. But when the food got there, it was legit. I got a woodear mushrooom warm salad with soy, peanuts, sweet potato noodles (japchae) – which was lovely and almost certainly the least tasty item. Our juice came from Aloha Classic (or something), the Pineapple-Orange-Guava combination, and it was great. The grilled bok-choy, the spam musubi (think of a sushi hand rill with spam) were all winners. Even the fried rice had a bit of a ginger fragrance which gave it more dimension than the normal expectation.
Sadly, I loved this meal – because I don’t want to experience the restaurant for another couple of months, at least until they get their service in order. The food is for real though.