Da Kine Island Grill oozes aloha with its menu of tropical tiki drinks and classic Hawaiian comfort food. Palm fronds and surf boards decorate the inside of the downtown San Jose restaurant. A pineapple decorates each of the high-top wooden tables while a playlist of upbeat ukulele tunes completes the ambiance. The restaurant’s most prominent feature is a large bar which serves up Hawaiian draft beers and a broad range of tropical concoctions. Da Kine straddles the line between a family-friendly restaurant and a Corona commercial-inspired happy hour.

On the drink menu I found a favorite with the Kon Tiki Tropical Itch ($10), which was a sweet blend of mango juice, Cruzan rum, gin and cinnamon simple syrup. The spicy cinnamon did not overpower; instead it complemented the overly sweet mango. Da Kine offers several variations on the classic Mai Tai. Da Kine’s Original Mai Tai ($12) mixes rum, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime and grapefruit with housemade falernum, a sweet syrup with peppery flavors of ginger and allspice. While the cocktails tasted amazing, the boozy concoctions didn’t necessarily leave me feeling tipsy.

Da Kine’s food menu, which is also available for catering, offers island standards such as loco moco: a rich dish of meat (usually kalua pork or spam) over rice, covered with a generous serving of brown gravy and topped off with a fried egg. Spam and kalua pork appear in several dishes across the menu. The kalua pork sliders (three for $7.95) were simple but very tasty; the sweet and toasted King’s Hawaiian roll provides a perfect partner to the tender and smoky pork. On a previous visit, the kalua pork that came with my loco moco plate ($9.95) had the same sweet and smoky flavors but was not nearly as tender.

Also popular are the various award-winning pokes. Da Kine won three awards for their poke at the 2012 Da Poke Run, which featured Hawaiian joints from across Northern California. Visitors to the competition declared Da Kine the People’s Choice for Most Traditional Poke, while judge and chef Sam Choy awarded the restaurant with Chef Sam Choy’s Pick for Best Poke Around and Poke Master of 2012.

On my first visit the ahi poke ($8.95) had a balanced flavor of soy, green onions and sesame, but large chunks of white onion were overpowering to the dish. On an additional visit, the poke sampler ($15.95) better showcased the award-winning pokes. I particularly enjoyed the salmon poke with sweet mango bites and crunchy pieces of macadamia nut.

Da Kine Island Grill
23 N. Market St, San Jose. 408.568.9700