The temperature is reaching 33 degrees Celsius outside, and despite the slight purring sound coming out of the AC, we’re feeling the sun’s prowess at Hula Hula Kemang. It’s almost like the weather is providing us a crucial element to complete the Hawaiian vibes that Hula Hula emulates. As the place located right across Nalu Bowls, which has a similar ambience, one can’t help but wondering whether this particular area is on the path of becoming Little Hawaii.
Thatched grass decor, flowery paintings, and of course the all-important ukulele reinforce the beach-like atmosphere. There is an elevated area decorated with colorful throw pillows that you may have seen on a photoshoot for a famous local clothing brand. It can also double as a picnic-style dining area whenever needed. Everything lines up nicely to form a laid-back dining experience, so imagine our surprise when Top 40 and EDM songs start playing, yanking us back from imaginary Hawaii to fast-paced Jakarta.
It’s possible that this disjointed occurrence takes place partly because of the one-woman operation that Hula Hula Kemang is running with. The very nice and friendly lady behind the counter acts as a cook, cashier, music selector, server, and cleaner at the same time. On weekends there is another person that comes to help, but on weekdays it’s just her.
To be completely honest, I’m not 100% on board yet with Hula Hula’s food. Black Tuna Tartar, for instance, claims to be a tuna poke bowl served with black rice and tangy tartar sauce. As I’ve grown to associate poke bowl with raw fish (the way it is served in Hawaii, the country of the original poke), it feels wrong to eat one with cooked tuna chunks. Sour Cream ‘n Cilantro Salmon fares better in my brain as it does not claim to be a poke bowl, but then you’ll start asking why the tuna one is called poke while the salmon one is not when the two are are variations of the same dish. Having said that, the flavors are acceptable and the choice of using black rice is interesting.
Hula Hula Kemang indeed highlights some healthy ingredients such as the antioxidant-rich black rice and the protein-filled soybean. They also serve a number of smoothies bowl. But are those enough to call Hula Hula a healthy food joint? I believe Hula Hula is health conscious, but it would be awesome if the cafe could be bolder in emphasizing that. I need more convincing, so to speak. But perhaps that’s the aim after all: Being healthy without being too strict.