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Uncles – Star Bulletin Staff Picks

Pier 38, 1135 N. Nimitz Highway / 275-0063

Creationists attacking Darwin’s theory of evolution have probably never been to Hawaii, where, clearly, human inhabitants have evolved to adapt physically and behaviorally to island living. Living in this petri dish, it’s hard to realize just how weird and tweaked we are by the notion of crowds and scarcity.

This was evident during visits to Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, where I wanted to beat the early lunch crowd. It’s a tactic that would work if everyone else weren’t also lining up to lunch at 10!

The bait? Fresh fish at a reasonable price, though only during the day for now.

The menu is bigger than you’d imagine from studying the chalkboard, because for every fish offering, whether ono, mahimahi, opah or ahi, you also have a choice of four tempting preparations: charbroiled with garlic and olive oil or Uncle’s teriyaki sauce; sautéed in garlic, butter, wine and lemon; blackened Cajun style; or pan-fried with a touch of chili pepper and soy sauce.

For me, sautéing is the way to go if you want to avoid dried-out fish. But the cooks here so far are doing a tremendous job of timing doneness so your fish gets rare-, medium- or well-cooked treatment to order, a courtesy ordinarily reserved for steaks. Both charbroiled and pan-fried styles retained their moisture at medium doneness.

You might wish for more chili pepper in the pan-fried version, but sauces are kept simple — made from ingredients found in any auntie or uncle’s kitchen — to avoid overshadowing the real star, the juicy succulence of fresh fish.

Go for the fish plates. Other menu items are mere distractions.

In addition to hot entrees, Uncle’s offers a handful of refrigerator items packed to grab-and-go, including $5.95 bowls of delicious ocean-fresh spicy ahi poke on cabbage, sashimi and oysters on the half shell. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Meals less than $15 per person. — By Nadine Kam