Kan Zaman offers new culture to Hawaii’s melting pot

While we were on the hunt for unique restaurants in Honolulu, we stumbled across Kan Zaman.

Located in both Chinatown and Kaimuki, Kan Zaman serves Moroccan-Lebanese cuisine. Moroccan cuisine is known for its use of various grilling and braising techniques, as well as tajines, which are earthenware pots used in North Africa and the Middle East, to cook food. On the other hand, Lebanese cuisine is known for its kebab style of cooking. The results of combining these two cuisines are authentic Arabic dishes that employ a wide variety of spices, like cumin, paprika, saffron, turmeric, fresh and or preserved lemon, and coriander, to pair with meats like lamb, chicken, and beef. Although the rich flavors of Moroccan-Lebanese cuisine are quite different from the salt-and-pepper flavors of American cuisine, this does not mean that Moroccan-Lebanese cuisine is an acquired taste; the flavors are something that everyone can enjoy.

On December 2nd, we decided to check out Kan Zaman’s Kaimuki location for lunch:
Ambiance: 9/10

Overall, the restaurant is comfortable and clean.  The restaurant’s decorations, including the lighting fixtures and the wallpaper’s intricate designs and patterns, match the theme of the restaurant. During the day, the restaurant is filled with natural light, which shines through the restaurant’s entrance. In terms of noise level, the restaurant was relatively quiet, and the music playing in the background added to the theme. Standing from the front entrance, you can see three columns of chairs and tables with ample space between each table. Towards the back of the restaurant, there is a bar and located behind it is the kitchen where all the food is made.  

Food: 9.5/10

We tried two different dishes: the Merguez Sandwich and the Lebanese Meat Grill, the last dish being only available at the Kaimuki location.

The Merguez Sandwich consisted of a baguette, merguez (lamb sausage),  melted cheese, and cooked onions. The baguette was easy to chew, and was not overly soggy. For those who are sensitive to gamey flavors, the lamb sausage is rather gamey, but the melted cheese and the baguette complemented the sausage well, and helped in softening the flavor of the lamb. An order of the Merguez Sandwich comes with a side of fries. The fries were not exceptionally crispy, but the potato flavor was not heavy, making it a good side for the more savory sandwich.

The Lebanese Mixed Grill is only available at the Kaimuki location and has beef kebab, chicken kebab, lamb, vegetables, pita and hummus. The beef kebab has a powerful flavor that is full of spices and seasoning, but by dipping the kebab into the sauce provided, the flavor becomes more mellow. Although certain pieces of the chicken kebab were slightly dry, they were seasoned to perfection; the natural taste of chicken shined through, accompanied by the added seasoning. The lamb was tender, and the seasoning masked the gamey smell without being overpowering. The salad was very refreshing and had sharp, crisp flavors that cleanses the palette for more meat; its inclusion was a nice touch since this dish was meat-heavy. The salad consisted of cilantro, raw onion, and raw tomato. The pita and hummus was also excellent: the hummus was not overly salty, and the olive oil and tomatoes in hummus complemented it well.

Service: 8/10

In general, the staff were very friendly and aware of the customers’ needs. They were also very knowledgeable about the dishes on the menu, and were able to provide recommendations on what to order. The speed of the service was quite fast, and we received our dishes within 10 minutes of ordering.

Cost: 9/10

Although the cost is quite high for students, keep in mind that Kan Zaman is the only restaurant in Hawaii that serves this unique cuisine. The Merguez Sandwich was $14.95; the sandwich items are only available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Lebanese Mixed Grill was $24.95, and is considered an “Entree Item”, therefore it is available during all restaurant hours. An occasional visit to Kan Zaman would be perfect for those who desire a nice place to eat out at with friends or family.

Conclusion

At the end of our meal, we had orange blossom water sprinkled on our hands, following an old Moroccan tradition of giving orange blossom water to guests to wash their hands with after entering a home. The orange blossom water was fragrant and was a relaxing way to end our meal.

After the meal, we sat down with one of the chefs and co-owner of the restaurant, Kamal Jemmari, to discuss the inspiration for Kan Zaman, as well as its purpose and origin. Starting from his roots, Chef Jemmari acquired his culinary skills in his home country, Morocco. In Morocco, food is a big part of the culture; in fact, most people eat about five times a day. The purpose of Kan Zaman, Chef Jemmari said, “is to share with the guests who we are, where we come from, how we grow up and how we ate back home; it‘s more personal than business.” As the only Moroccan-Lebanese restaurant in Hawaii, Chef Jemmari is proud to share this unique cuisine with everyone.

In addition to the culture that Kan Zaman brings with its food, both locations also feature a belly dancing performance – a type of expressive Arabic dance – on Wednesday night.

The Kaimuki location of Kan Zaman is located on 1127 11th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816. For more information, their website is: <kanzamanhawaii.com/>.

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