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Cozy Up to Comfort Food at Kamana Kitchen

September 19, 2016, 4:04 PM HST
* Updated September 8, 11:20 AM
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It was a dark and stormy night… okay, that may be overstating it for this part of the island…

It was actually a typical, drizzly, overcast day in Hilo and we were looking for a spot for lunch. Something cozy sounded good. The daughter’s boyfriend suggested Kamana Kitchen, where the rest of us had not yet been. How was it? Let’s just say, I have a new “comfort food” place.

Kamana Kitchen, located in Hilo Shopping Center, serves Indian food. Not being well-versed in Indian cuisine, I had a lot of questions and needed guidance. Kamana Kitchen’s staff was very helpful.

The restaurant is tucked into an alcove not far from Island Naturals. Inside, you see island influence in the paint and textures used in the décor, but also feel its Indian roots. Statues lined one wall; Bollywood videos played on a big-screen television.

We started off with samosas ($5.45), which I had tasted before. However, my previous samosas experiences paled next to these pillowy pastries. We ordered the vegetarian samosas, which are filled with peas, potatoes, herbs and spices. The pastry was crisp and they came with two dipping sauces. They are also available with meat.

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I worried unnecessarily about the food being too spicy (this had been my previous experience with Indian food). Our waiter helped us gauge our various degrees of spiciness-tolerance. I went “mild” with most things I tried. On the next visit, I will take it to the next level.

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Most dishes are served in traditional metal thalis. These remind me of cafeteria trays, which sounds odd, but think Japanese bento box. Different foods have different compartments.

I chose the Mixed Grill ($19.95), which was perfect because I couldn’t make up my mind between the shrimp, chicken or lamb. By ordering the mixed, I got all three, plus rice. There was so much food that we had the leftovers for dinner.

We also sampled the Chicken Tikka Masala ($11.95), one “medium” spicy and the other “mild.”  We loved the tender chicken in a creamy sauce.

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Lastly, we chose the Aloo Matar ($9.99), which is a vegetarian dish of green peas and potatoes cooked with herbs and spices in yet another type of creamy sauce. (Now you know why I call this “comfort food”—lots of delicious things in creamy sauces.)

We rounded things out with Garlic Naan ($2.95). Naan is a traditional leavened bread that is baked in a “tandoor” oven. This refers to a cylindrical oven, which often curves inward, like a beehive, to concentrate heat.

The meals came with plain naan, which is delicious, but I really loved the addition of the garlic and fresh cilantro.

We also tasted a Mango Lassi ($4.95), which we all loved. There are several desserts available for less than $4, but we were too full to sample anything on this visit.

The wait staff is friendly and prices are reasonable.

Kamana Kitchen is located in the Hilo Shopping Center, 1235 Kilauea Ave., Ste. 180, Hilo. Ample parking. Open 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Happily, Kamana Kitchen also has a Kailua-Kona location (75-5770 Ali‘i Drive, Ste. 2 and 3), so those of you on the west side can check it out. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Mango Lassi, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Mango Lassi, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Vegetable Samosas. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Vegetable Samosas. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Tikka Masala lunch, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Tikka Masala lunch, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Mixed Grill, Kamana Kitchen. Photo: Marla Walters

Mixed Grill, Kamana Kitchen. Photo: Marla Walters

Interior, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Interior, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Aloo Matar, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

Aloo Matar, Kamana Kitchen. Photo credit: Marla Walters

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