The bright, spotless interior of Aloha Fresh has huge photos of fresh fish on the walls, and almost a “grocery store feel,” as one customer noted. True, the deli-style glass case and Formica tables give it a somewhat plain vibe, but a friendly personality permeates the Hawaiian restaurant in Cupertino.

The salads, fish and pork are all ultra-fresh, uniquely designed and delicately flavored. The owners hail from Hawaii, so there is an additional level of pride in offering food that’s flown in to the mainland. The restaurant’s name is also a perfect fit, as the ‘aloha’ spirit shows in smiles and greetings, and friendly explanations from two women behind the counter.

While one lady gathered the order, another offered free heaping tastes of kalua pig (warm, fragrant pork resembling carnitas) while we waited in line for our poke bowls, which are served on salad or rice.

I’m not a sushi person, so I ordered Surf n’ turf ($14 special with two sides), which consists of kalua pig and five to six big fresh shrimp. While waiting in line, we were also offered kukui-nut fish on a toothpick. For the first time I questioned my previous aversion to raw fish.

The wasabi-kimchi sashimi ($13 on white rice, black rice or salad, with two sides) was equally great. Seaweed salad and namasu cucumber salad are two of the sides customers can choose, and both were delicate and fresh. Other choices include macaroni salad, imitation crab salad and black rice, the last of which was new to me but an option I’ll order again.

It’s easy to spend the bulk of our paychecks on rent, student loans and all other forms of debt, but eating out—and eating well—shouldn’t always require two to three hours of pay for a meal for two. Aloha Fresh accomplishes this feat while keeping it healthy. The three of us had leftovers for $45.

While we ate, an employee came by with another sample: salmon skin. The lightly salted, dry, crisp treat is not on the menu, but ask for it.

Located on Stevens Creek Boulevard, the restaurant sits on a major traffic artery, which has its pluses and minuses. Parking is free but can be a little hard to find during main lunch or dinner hours. It’s worth a visit, even between meals.

Aloha Fresh
19740 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino