Ajay Oppelaar and Robert Stutzman have brought their love of Hawaiian food and culture to Victoria.
The partners, who opened the Hawaiian-themed Aloha Bowls and Kahuna Burger on Kenneth Street in downtown Duncan in 2021, opened the Kahuna restaurant at 515 Chatham St. near downtown Victoria on Oct. 27, and held its grand opening on Nov. 1.
Oppelaar said Kahuna is a culinary fusion of Kahuna Burger, celebrated for its mouthwatering Hawaiian burgers, and Aloha Bowls, a haven for Hawaiian poke and plate-lunch enthusiasts.
He said the partners were looking for an ideal spot for a restaurant in Victoria for some time and finally found one in the Ironworks building where Very Good Butchers operated their sandwich shop.
Oppelaar said the Chatham Street location is perfect for Kahuna.
“There are five full blocks of redevelopment going on around us and the Victoria Art Gallery is just across the street,” he said.
“It’s a neighbourhood of condominiums, light industry, restaurants and shops and I think we’ll have a great future here.”
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Oppelaar said he and Stutzman are already making inroads in the neighbourhood and have taken over a commissary kitchen in a nearby bakery where all the sauces for Kahuna will be made, as well as their delicious and popular Paradise Pies that are made with a Hawaiian spin.
Paradise Pies often include such favourites as apple fritter pie with caramel whip cream, Banoffee, chocolate banana split, coconut lime cheesecake, and double blueberry.
He said they have also formed a partnership with Herold Street Brewing, located just half a block from Kahuna, which has agreed to make a custom brand of Kahuna beer when the restaurant gets its liquor licence.
“We talked to the owner and said it would be great to have a Kahuna beer on tap at the restaurant, and he agreed to do that for us,” Oppelaar said.
“It was that easy. We also intend to serve the world’s best Mai Tai cocktail and import Hawaiian wines.”
Oppelaar said Kahuna has a website at mykahuna.ca where people can order dishes for pick up or delivery from the restaurant, as well as from Aloha Bowls and Kahuna Burger in Duncan.
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Oppelaar said he and Stutzman still live in Duncan, but are now spending a lot of time in Victoria building up their new location.
He said further expansion is a big part of the partners’ future plans.
“We’d like to see Paradise Pies open its own storefront, and we’re looking to open another Kahuna location in Langley and possibly in Nanaimo, and then Vancouver,” he said.
“People are really buying into our Hawaiian-themed restaurants. We provide comfort food that’s sweet and tangy and savoury all in one bite that gets an emotional response from our customers. The people here are really excited about us opening Kahuna and many people from the Cowichan Valley have also been dropping by to say hi.”