Chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts are adding to their quickly-growing westside restaurant empire, this time with a Hawaiian concept called Da Kikokiko. The beachy spot offers a kind of heavy snack menu, with various poke bowls and shaved ice flavors on the board as well as a selection of musubi. There is Spam musubi, of course, but there are other options, with different proteins and grains, as well. We talked to Williamson about the new restaurant just before it opened on October 14.
What inspired you to open a Hawaiian restaurant?
It's completely different than anything we've ever done. It's also the type of food that Nick and I love to eat. We have an affinity for Hawaiian snack foods and felt like musubis were not given enough credit — in the Los Angeles area, at least — and this was a perfect concept for the immediate surroundings. It's a very beachy, very coastal feeling, kind of as all of our spots are. They're definitely westside-focused.
What's your experience with Asian-inspired food?
I have an affinity for Asian food. Still to this day it's the only food that I ever really crave. I don't feel like I could compete with the best sushi chefs or dumpling cooks, but I feel like I have a pretty great understanding of the flavors of poke. I felt I knew enough about that to really showcase and highlight my favorite flavors of Hawaii. I think what's so great about the type of Hawaiian food that we're showcasing is its simplicity. I know what I like, and I feel like that should translate pretty well to the public.
Your menu has a few different musubi, beyond Spam and white rice.
The traditional musubi is Spam and white rice. We were thinking that set-up could go so well with so many different proteins or flavors. I've seen a lot of people add egg and add avocado. You have stuffed musubi and different ways that people prepare the same flavors and ingredients. We felt like you could apply that to a very traditional-looking musubi but also have it taste very unexpected — you know, cater to the flavors that we as Californians accept. Maybe a lot of people don't have the appreciation for Spam that Hawaii does or that I do. I felt like that was the perfect vessel.
Do you have a particular favorite on your musubi menu?
I love the miso zucchini. I feel like the richness and the saltiness and the umami of the miso really get absorbed into the zucchini, and [it] caramelizes and plays off of that white rice really well. Of course, I also gravitate toward the Spam, the familiar one. You could turn any of them into an actual meal — get four musubi, and be full for the day.
Do you eat Hawaiian food anywhere else in L.A.?
I totally appreciate all the poke restaurants across L.A., and my husband and I frequent Rutt's for breakfast a lot to get their rice-and-egg plate. I don't know a whole lot of musubi restaurants in L.A. We did most of our research in Oahu.
That's a fun research trip.
Yeah, and one of my good friends who was also a Top Chef veteran, Sheldon Simeon, he's from Maui and met us over there, and [he] took us to his favorite local poke spots. We spent many days eating way too much fish and rice and Spam. That was a really fun trip, but we actually learned a lot.
12746 Jefferson Blvd., Playa Vista; (424) 835-4192, dakikokiko.com.