A couple of weekends ago, my sister dropped by for a brief visit after having attended an Arashiconcert in Tokyo. Having recently discovered Kua 'Aina, I promised to take her there for a little taste of home so her visit was a good occasion for all of us.
Kua Aina is a chain serving burgers and sandwiches like it's nobody's business. Mos Burger? Ha! Though technically it's not really fair to compare this chain to Mos Burger since Kua 'Aina is an American chain started in Hawaii :P Anyway, the place was an small discovery. On my way home from work one day, I complained to hubby I'm craving for a sandwich, a *real* American sandwich and not a Japanese double-whammy-quasi-carb-sandwich in the form of a glob of potato salad in between 2 slices of super processed white bread. I didn't even feel like a teriyaki shrimp burger ala Mos Burger. Mind you, I have nothing against Mos, and I love their creative and delicious their "burgers." In fact, Mos is Japan's proud and esteemed answer to McDonald's solely because those burgers have a little bit of a Japanese flavor thrown in and are clearly not American.
So my resourceful hubby got online, and after some reading on review sites and forums, he texted me back with a "Found it." We came to Kua 'Aina without any expectation, but only because we didn't know what to expect! And we walked away thoroughly satisfied, if not totally impressed. Since then, hubby and I have taken different groups of people, American expats, mind you, and they were all equally blown away by the authenticity of these burgers (and fries!). Best of all, Kua 'Aina has yet to rob us of our weekly grocery budget. We have bought stuffing meals here for under 3,000yen (about $36), including beers and other drinks!
I have had the Turkey Bacon Cheese sandwich twice at Kua 'Aina. Both times, the bread came out crispy but not rough to bite. I hate finishing up a nice and crispy sandwich only to feel my gums all scraped up after! And these Kua 'Aina sandwiches are properly American-sized sandwiches, by the way ^.^ I could only finish half my sandwich each time and be so full I could not eat anymore even if I wanted to. I've also tried their Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich, which was also delicious, although I wish they would put more chicken in it, precisely because it was yummy ^.^
My favorite Turkey Bacon Cheese Sandwich.
I particularly love their chicken nuggets and the fries. I like how they were perfectly crunchy outside but were soft and moist inside, and how they impressively remained this way throughout the meals I've had with them, which was every meal xD You know how most fries get soggy if you don't finish them quickly? Not these fries! Other side items I enjoyed include the Spicy Hawaiian Potatoes, which were smaller cut chunks of steak fries seasoned with a bit of a kick, and the New England Clam Chowder, which was very creamy and on the hearty side with chunks of potatoes and whatever good stuff they put in it.
Hubby has his favorite too, the Avocado Burger, which was so big he had to eat it in layers or risk something come popping out and get messy. All in vain, as his burger got messy anyway every time xD At this particular dinner, my sister ordered the same Avocado Burger. Oh yes, and you can order sets, which comes with fries, onion rings, and a drink. Or you can switch your drink for a soup. Or you can order a beer set, which is about 1-200yen more, and get a beer instead of a soft drink. You get to pick your preferred type of bread and cheese for your sandwich.
And I wore this to dinner with my sister ^.^ No makeup though. Was too lazy.
On our way home, we spotted this display of watermelons that had been cultivated into odd shapes and are sold for a ridiculous amount. Not all fruits are this expensive in Japan. The more common fruits like apples and Asian pears are locally grown and can be much more affordable, but fruits in general are more expensive in Japan than in the US. For example, regardless of being locally grown or imported, apples costs around 100-200yen each, that's about $1.20-2.40 with current exchange rates, oranges cost about 100yen each, imported Florida red rubies are 125-150yen each, imported American cherries are about 500-600yen, or $6.25-7.50, for a small pack of 1-2 servings, etc. These are the current pricing at my local supermarket, and there are probably cheaper fruits sold else where we don't know about. Just yesterday, hubby came home with 5 ripe, sweet and juicy white peaches he bought from a street cart for 1,000yen (200yen or $2.50 each). The other day when we were at the groceries, we saw the same peaches going for 800yen for only 2 (that's $5 each), twice the price! So folks, if you're in the US, don't take your cheap fruits for granted. Hubby and I always eat a copious amount of fruits when we're home visiting ^.^
Pyramid shape - 15,750yen (~US$197)
Cube shape - 10,500yen (~US$131)
Heart shape - same price as the cube shape
Gourd shape - 21,000yen (~US$262)
Triangular shape - 12,600yen (~US$157)
Just to show you how much of a luxury fruits can be in Japan, I've included several pictures I took when I lived here back in 2005-2006. Yes, these pictures are dated, and keep in perspective too that these pictures were taken in a much smaller suburb versus the gigantic sprawling metropolitan where I am living now. The location might have factored into these outdated prices, and back then, 1 US dollar exchanged for 120yen, where as the same dollar now only gets around 80yen. Ouch, right? Damn right it's painful.
This is how a typical "fruits boutique" look like.
2,625yen for a bunch of beautiful grapes, that's about $22 with the rates back then, and $33 with the current rates.
Tangerines by the case, the left case is 7,000yen ($58 with old rates, $87 with current rates) and right case is 10,500yen ($87 with old rates, $131 with current rates). Not sure why there was a difference in price. The tangerines in the left case look significantly larger than the ones in the right case, so may be there were less tangerines in the left case and therefore was cheaper?