Are You On Fire?

Kapolei eatery En Fuego Grill & Catering enlivens taste buds.

When Ross Okuhara, a local boy from Hawaii Kai, decided to open his own restaurant in 2003, he didn’t seek out a central Honolulu location or set up shop close to his childhood home. He instead opted to dish out fresh fish and plate lunches in the sparse Leeward pocket of Kapolei.

At the time, it wouldn’t have been strange for his family and friends to wonder, why Kapolei? But to Okuhara and his forwarding-facing vision for EN FUEGO GRILL & CATERING, it made perfect sense.

“Eleven years ago, Kapolei was a developing area,” says Okuhara. “There were hardly any businesses around, so it was a good opportunity to try to get in early and there was a lot of growth potential.”

The restaurateur’s plan makes perfect sense in retrospect as current research shows that Kapolei is the fastest growing area in the state, and the residential and commercial development is only projected to keep booming.

Nestled in Kapolei Marketplace, En Fuego has lit up palates since it opened with fabulous Pacific Asian cuisine. Staying true to local-style fare, the menu encompasses a little bit of everything— from Kalua Pig and Pastele Stew to Salmon Furikake and Mochiko Chicken Bento. The eatery first gained attention for wonderfully fresh poke, and before long, its local favorites, salads, burgers, sandwiches and catering options spread like wild fire.

Amid countless newcomers seeking a base of loyal customers in O‘ahu’s Second City, En Fuego has already established itself as a staple in the community.

“We’ve watched people grow,” explains Okuhara. “And it makes us feel good to see people who keep patronizing us, and then they see our staff grow as well. It becomes like a personal relationship, and we try to make it just a good family environment.”

The name En Fuego translates to “on fire” in Spanish, a reference to the flames ablaze on the grill as the kitchen heats up with bestsellers such as Fresh Garlic ‘Ahi. This dish exemplifies their love affair with fresh seafood by showcasing auction-fresh catches that are available seared or grilled-through and highlighted with house-infused garlic oil.

It is served with a green salad with their signature soy vinaigrette, adding a nice punch of flavor and perfectly complementing the fillet.

In addition to an island-wide customer base, tourists vacationing nearby in Ko Olina have caught on to En Fuego’s flavor over the past few years while in search of an authentic taste of Hawai‘i without the resort price tag.

The spark behind the establishment’s popularity undoubtedly lies in the En Fuego’s inextinguishable dedication to quality. Using local produce whenever possible, one bite of Kulana Teri Beef or a house-made hamburger presents Hawai‘i Island meat at its best. The menu’s freshness is a difference diners can taste as well, and it shows in dishes like Garlic Chicken. The crispy fried classic can be found across the island, yet rarely is it made with the choice cuts of lean, meaty, top-grade chicken that En Fuego uses.

As the restaurant’s success continues to grow, Okuhara is always looking to the future, striving to improve his operation. Lately, he’s turned the spotlight on making special events as memorable as possible for his clients.

“Catering is a big aspect of our business and it’s just so rewarding to actually see people—you know when we do their wedding—how happy they are,” says Okuhara. “Their baby’s first birthday, we’re there for that. Those [moments] are what makes it all worth it.”

From corporate events to graduation parties, as well as small-scale gatherings, En Fuego works around the clock to deliver event-specific dining needs. In addition to providing buffets and à la carte pans, unique catering options the likes of tapas, cocktail parties and on-site cooking are available as well.

For many businesses that experience the type of success En Fuego has, expansion is a natural next step, but rather than adding more locations, Okuhara aims to watch his company grow by ensuring his current operation is the best that it can be. In an effort to enhance the dine-in experience, the restaurant recently added a breakfast menu as well as gourmet bento options.

“I think people want a little more than just eating food, they want a place to sit down and relax,” says Okuhara.

Whether patrons want a quick bite on the go, or are looking for a charming place to savor a meal, the flame’s not burning out at En Fuego Grill & Catering anytime soon.

EN FUEGO GRILL & CATERING
590 Farrington Hwy.
(808) 674-8805 | www.enfuegogrillhawaii.com