We've been in Kauai for five days of fun, sun, rain, beaches, breathtaking scenery, and food, glorious food. We've had some good meals, some not-so-good meals, and some sublime meals. The better restaurants are pricey, so if you come here, be prepared for a little sticker shock at some of the restaurants. We usually stock up on breakfast items and simple lunches and save a little money that way, and enjoy sampling different restaurants, while returning to some old favorites as well.
We started the week with lunch at JJ's Broiler, a casual beachside restaurant featuring burgers, salads, and sandwiches, and featuring steaks. They have a large, open deck where you can watch surfers while enjoying a nice (but in our case, breezy) al fresco lunch or dinner. I had a toasted chicken panini with tomato, mozzarella, and pesto. Not exactly Hawaiian, but tasty and not terribly expensive. Frank had the Kalua Pork Wrap, featuring the ever-popular pork dish that is featured at luaus. One of the nice things here is the that kids meals are served in a little sand bucket with a shovel, so you have a functional beach toy to take away.
One of our more memorable (though not favorite) meals was at the local favorite, Oki Diner. Oki Diner serves local Hawaiian fare, so this is not the place for a dieter. Frank had the Loco Moco, a concoction made of white rice, layered with ground beef, two fried eggs, all smothered in gravy. Real "stick to your ribs" type stuff, and probably something that will hang around in your digestive track for a week or two. I had kalbi, Korean-style barbecue short-ribs, which were sweet and just like mom makes. I think I definitely had the best meal of all of us, since Alex complained that his grilled cheese was "terrible," although I amnot sure how a grilled cheese sandwich could be classified as "terrible." Grandma had what was billed to be lemon chicken, but was overly battered, thin deep fried stips of chicken with a gooey sauce. Everything was edible, but gourmet cuisine it was not. It was inexpensive, but I know that there are other places to try local food that have to be a notch or two up.
One local place that was a big hit with everyone was Halohalo Shave Ice, where you can get shave ice (sort of like a finely tuned sno-cone) with ice cream at the bottom. The ice is shaved so thin that it is light and fluffy. If you go here, you have to ring the bell for service or they think you are waiting for a spot at the lunch counter.
What would a trip to the islands be without an overpriced luau? We were limited to Thursday night for
the luau before Grandma had to go back to Indiana, where it is evidently, still February. Our options were somewhat limited, and our favorite luau at Smith's Tropical Paradise was closed. So, we opted for the Grand Hyatt in Poipu, which had the standard fare of kalua pig, huli huli chicken, poi, poke salad, and taro rolls. The waitstaff kept the mai tais flowing throughout the night and nobody went home hungry. The luau featured a Polynesian dance review, but we left before the big Samoan fire dancer made his entrance. The dancers were competent, and the MC had a nice voice, but it was very much a hotel revue, on par with cruise ship entertainment.
Onto the sublime...Grandma graciously agreed to babysit one night while we went out for an adult dinner at Roy's in Poipu. Chef Roy Yamaguchi is the master of the fusion of Asian and Hawaiian delicacies. We've eaten at Roy's restaurants in Oahu, Austin, and Pebble Beach, but the one in Poipu is by far the best. The baby back ribs with a light, sweet glaze come as an appetizer, but you could feast on these alone and be quite content. We ordered the Canoe for Two, a sophisticated pupu platter with ribs, spring rolls and kalbi potstickers that are utterly delicious. For entrees, I had a lightly coated macadamia-nut sutome (swordfish) with a lobster beurre blanc that I wanted to lick off the plate. I'm not kidding. Frank had to restrain me. Frank had opakapaka, a light, delicious white fish with a shoyu/ginger sauce that was also fantastic. If you only have one thing at Roy's, go for the molten chocolate cake. Warm and crusty on the outside with a gooey hot fudge filling...Lots of restaurants have this, but nobody does it better than Roy. The only downside to eating at Roy's is that it is really, really noisy. Something about the acoustics in the place made it hard to hear, so it was not terribly romantic.
Our other highlight was dining at Gaylord's at Kilohana, where a chatty, friendly waiter and a terrific wine list made for a memorable evening. I had a seafood sample plate with a buttery lobster tail, a fish filet with a tropical salsa, some grilled scallops and shrimp, all cooked perfectly. Frank ordered the papaya creme brulee for dessert, but noted that it was just a papaya with some custard that someone had blowtorched. It was lovely, and tasted good, but not exactly what he had envisioned. Gaylord's also features some nice shops with island-crafted gifts and souvenirs that are a cut above what you might find elsewhere. This was our first time at Gaylord's. We tend to favor places on the beach, so the plantation setting didn't seem that appealing. It turned out to be a lovely place, and one we'll go back to when we come back to Kauai.
Our final night on the island, we dined at another new place (for us), Wahooo Seafood Bar & Grill (not to be confused with the fish taco chain). The speciality here is locally caught fish and fresh ingredients. The presentation was spectacular, the waitstaff friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable, and the ambience relaxed and subdued. I had the ahi (yellowfin tuna) in a light coconut broth with mussels and vegetables. It was light, fresh, and delicious. Frank had the wahoo with a seafood medley in another light, tasty sauce. We finished up with a flaming banana dessert made at tableside with bananas, oranges, brown sugar, macadamia nuts, and Fra Angelico.
Top Photo: Flaming Banana Dessert at Wahooo Seafood Bar & Grill, Kapa'a, Kauai