I don't think SPAM is on the menu of very many restaurants in town--none that I can think of at least. Enter CK Hawaiian at the Boise Spectrum. Nestled in one of the generic food court spaces, their appearance is pretty plain. Not plain as in bad, just plain as in something you'd be hard-pressed to notice. When I got there, I looked around and saw some bright colors and a few ironic posters on the wall. That was it, plain Jane. I don't know what I was expecting; maybe I thought there would be an all-day luau going on or something. Reserved appearance aside, when I looked up at their menu, I noticed some non-generic offerings: kalua pork, garlic shrimp, grilled SPAM saimin (noodle soup) ... and they were all cheap. I ordered up some chicken katsu. I was tempted by the SPAM musubis (basically sushi roll looking things with SPAM, rice and seaweed), but the chicken katsu looked more appealing. I picked it up from the counter and sat outside. My food looked plain. My sides were white rice and macaroni salad. Whatever. I dug in.
But the old cliché holds true; looks can be deceiving. My impression of plainness was completely shattered when I started eating. The katsu sauce is one of the best combinations of flavors I have ever tasted. It is sweet, sour, spicy and salty all in one. I want to carry around a bottle of the stuff to dump on any food I am eating (except for breakfast cereals and M&Ms). The chicken was breaded, white as a ghost and piping hot. I had to pace myself so I didn't burn my tongue. The sides ended up being perfect complements to the dish. The macaroni salad was a total treat. Did I just write "treat"? I mean it was tangy and satisfying. In the weeks since I first went to CK BBQ, my girlfriend has noticed a pronounced shift in my attitude. Whereas I used to not get very excited about going to movies at Spectrum, I now suggest the offering. "I'll even buy," I say, "Let's just get there a little early so we can get a bite to eat." Yeah, the chicken katsu is that good. It has inspired me to do two things never before known in my constitution: 1) pay for something that is not for myself; 2) sit through two hours of Hollywood dreck with a satisfied look on my face.
--Ryan Peck was a menehune in a former life.