What may at first glance look like an ordinary house on Santa Clara Drive is actually a quaint restaurant run by Santa Clara resident Herb Basso.
From the relaxed island music and pleasing spiced smells, to the clean, serene and welcoming atmosphere, it hits you instantly that Basso’s hideaway, Ka’ili’s, is not your average island food restaurant.
What used to be called home, located at 2862 W. Santa Clara Drive, to a family of 10 has now turned into something much more extravagant. Frederick Roulette built the home in the 1880s and sold the structure to John and Emma Hafen Graf, where they raised their children. The Grafs’ passed down the house to several other families until it ended up in the hands of Basso.
Basso, originally from Hawaii, moved to Santa Clara about 23 years ago with his wife. He said he always knew he wanted to turn the house into a commercial establishment. He made the decision just four months ago to open an island restaurant in the home.
You find out Ka’ili’s is much more than just an island restaurant the longer you stay.
“Compared to the other cooking jobs I’ve had, this is a lot nicer,” said Taylor Stanley, an employee at Ka’ili’s. “There is a good spirit here; it is just a mom and pop store.”
Because Ka’ili’s is off the path from the commercial area of St. George, Basso knew he was going to have a challenge attracting the customers. With that in mind, he decided to make his main target of customers the elderly, business people and travelers.
With the tropical flavors you will taste in your meal, you will not be disappointed in this food. The exotic taste leaves you wanting more.
“One of the philosophies of our restaurant is good, Asian, Pacific Rim food, with a little bit of an American twist,” Basso said.
For example, a dish within that category is Lomi Salmon. Basso said it is a dish you would have at your typical luau but with a special twist. This salmon is prepared with onions and tomatoes and is cooked within an omelet to create a delicious island-American cuisine.
Basso said he enjoys his time in the kitchen when putting different recipes together and creating new things for people, such as the Lomi Salmon.
Ka’ili’s menu also features fresh fruits and vegetables that have been grown in the area, primarily from Basso’s own garden.
“Because (we cook with fresh produce), we have a seasonal menu,” Basso said. “So we will be having lots of different kinds of flavors.”
Not only does Basso take care of all of the necessary things to run the restaurant every morning, but he also starts an open fire to cook the steak.
Some other specialties at Ka’ili’s are Basso’s own beef and Chicken Teriyaki, as well as salmon with a special Japanese seasoning. Ka’ili’s also has Asian Island Noodle Soup, Kai’ili’s famous Hawaiian Roast Pork and Deep Fried Rice.
The deep-fried rice comes with vegetables mixed in the delicious bowl. Each bite you take you can taste something different in the mix. This dish is definitely not your average bowl of rice.
In addition to Ka’ili’s already colorful menu, Basso said there are many more tasteful things that aren’t on the menu. One of those items is a mouth-watering Rosemary Rub Roast Pork.
This marinated, oven-roasted pork is combined with fresh picked herbs and sea salt.
“We are doing some fun things (with the food) that are different than your typical island restaurant,” Basso said.
Not only does Ka’ili’s cater to your taste buds, but it also caters to your needs during your visit. With a very friendly staff, and Basso, who comes out to visit, you can’t help but feel at home in the different but classy atmosphere.
Ka’ili’s dishes range from $7-10 but are well worth the weight. The service, which is satisfyingly fast, is nothing short from excellent. Ka’ili’s customer count typically ranges from 15-20 a day and around 40 on the weekends. Ka’ili’s offers indoor and outdoor seating as well as private dining. Dinner reservations are strongly encouraged because of the small size of the restaurant.
Ka’ili’s also offers catering, take out and family packages. You can reach Ka’ili’s at 435-216-9828 or check out its food online at kailisrestaurant.com.