Puhi eatery offers ultimate plate lunch

PUHI — Beads of sweat rolled down Mark Oyama’s cheeks and Jason Sunada’s T-shirt was already discolored from the perspiration that had wet the garment through.

But the work continued as a steady line of cars rolled by the special tent fronting the parking lot of Mark’s Place in the Puhi Industrial Park.

“I can eat this now? Somewhere in the world, it’s gotta be lunchtime,” one patron said as the aroma from the combination plate lunch hit home just a few minutes after the tent opened at 10 a.m.

Ka‘ipo Evans and Amy Ueunten were two of the Mark’s Place workers manning the drive-through tent, noting that this is the first time they’ve ever had an event like this.

Billed as The Ultimate Plate Lunch, the event celebrated the 10th anniversary of the popular Puhi eatery and also served as a fundraiser for the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board’s farm and food initiative in schools.

“We are so grateful to have had 10 great years in business, and the Ultimate Plate Lunch is one way for us to celebrate this milestone and thank the community, our customers and friends for their support and patronage,” Oyama said in a press release.

Mark’s Place, traditionally known as a place to get gourmet plate lunches, came up with the idea when Oyama, a frequent visitor to schools for career day presentations, thought it would be a nice way to expose young students to agriculture. That led to his contribution of a portion of the anniversary promotion to the KEDB farm and food initiative in schools.

“It’s definitely a plate lunch because it has mac salad,” Evans said, with Ueunten adding that it even has the fork in the container.

The Ultimate Plate Lunch offered diners a gourmet selection of Chef Alan Wong’s braised shortribs with gingered shrimp and ko choo jang sauce, Mark’s Place Executive Chef Kevin Nakata’s crispy sauteed moi from Grove Farm Company’s Hukilau Foods with Hawaiian salt caramel and pickled onions. And to make it a plate lunch, the dish was completed with steamed white rice, potato macaroni salad and greens.

“It is a great honor for us to have Chef Alan Wong create a selection for the Ultimate Plate Lunch and have his crew on hand to work side-by-side with our staff,” Oyama said.

Friday’s event was totally sold out, and the perspiration on Oyama’s cheeks was generated as the owner of Mark’s Place wheeled completed plate lunches to the drive-through tent, coordinating deliveries to organizations who ordered at least a dozen lunches, and making sure the production line was moving smoothly so the 500 plate lunches could be moved within the four-hour window from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s good that we have Kristen Yanagawa and Chef Jason Sunada,” Ueunten, who brought three years’ of summer experience to the event, said. “They’re busy, but they still have time to joke around and laugh. It makes everything better.”

Mark’s Place was founded in 1998 by Mark and Wendy Oyama and currently has locations in Puhi and Lawa‘i. In addition to providing local-style gourmet infused plate lunches and desserts, the Lawa‘i location offers a variety of prepared meats, poke, pau hana specials and omiyage foods including lavosh, cookies, prune mui, snack mixes and more.

The Oyamas were the recipients of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Persons of the Year Award for the County of Kaua‘i in 2000, and in addition to balancing the full-time task of operating Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering, Oyama is also on the faculty of the Kaua‘i Community College’s culinay arts program.

Contemporary Flavors Inc. is the parent company for Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering, a full-service caterer featuring Pacific Rim and cross-current Asian cuisine.

“Wendy and I just want to say, ‘Mahalo, Kaua‘i.’ We’re looking forward to serving you for the next 10 years and beyond,” Oyama said. “Now that we’ve done the Ultimate Plate Lunch, what’s next?”

For more information, call 245-2522, and you do have to find your own tree (to siesta under after that plate lunch).

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