Las Vegas is nicknamed “The Ninth Island” because of the large population of Hawaiians who’ve moved out to the Mojave desert. Ross J’s Aloha Grill is where Hawaiian transplants come to get real “local food.” It is the second location of Vegas’ oldest Hawaiian restaurant, Aloha Specialties, which is located in the Hawaiian-themed California Hotel and Casino. Considering the mongo portions, tasty food and the cheaper-than-drive-thru prices, it may be the best bite for your buck.
The must-try item is spicy Korean chicken. You can get it over a deep bowl of rice or as a plate on a trough of rice with a scoop of mac salad. Like teriyaki, the chicken is dredged then fried, creating a crisp crust. The meat is well marinated and has a soy-brined savoriness. The sauce is pleasantly hot with some miso flavors. Spring for a side of kimchi, which gives the bowl extra kick and welcome acidity.
Almost as essential as Korean chicken is saimin. Saimin is what Hawaiians call ramen, but it has its own conventions. Usually it’s topped with a shredded Japanese omelet and Chinese BBQ pork. The saimin broth is fishy and rich with dashi. It almost smells like a bowl of fish cakes. The noodles absorb some of this, which makes for very happy slurping.
For breakfast, Ross J’s offers the iconic island dish loco moco. That’s Salisbury steak over rice with eggs on top. The hand-formed patties at Ross J’s are not cooked past medium and stay much juicier than we’ve experience on past dances with the loco moco. Runny egg yoke combines with brown gray to make a custard-like glaze for the steamed rice and juicy burger. If you finish a bowl of this, you’ll be stuffed past sunset.
We are not so excited about the mix plate, which is teriyaki steak, chicken, and mahi over rice with a scoop of mac salad. The mahi is overcooked and covered with gluey tartar sauce; the teriyaki chicken is good enough, but pales when compared to the spicy Korean version. The best element is the teriyaki steak. It is a thin, basic cut of beef, but nicely seared on both sides and still a touch pink in the middle. We’ve had worse steaks in Vegas for ten times the price.