We're on our honeymoon, first based in Kona on Hawaii, aka the Big Island, and then going to Maui. I'm doing this while on my honeymoon of course to help other chowhounds out there, but also, to help my wife and I remember our honeymoon, and the meals on it! For restaurant information, consult the Lonely Planet & Moon Guide, both for the Big Island.
We arrived Thursday night without our bags after dark in Kona, and ate at an OUTSTANDING Vietnamese restaurant, Ba'le Kona, in a shopping center (many good restaurants are in shopping centers in Kona). There were lots of vegetarian things (we eat fish, but not meat), and they were very helpful with our picky eating. The spicy tofu lemongrass was superb--highly recommended. No decor, bright lights, but great eats. Summer rolls were ok. When we mentioned we were on our honeymoon, they gave us free ice cream--chocolate (good) and pumpkin (good, but a little thanksgiving-ish). Too full to eat anything else, we passed on an excellent-looking gelato place a few stores down. I'll come back to them (we did!). Dinner for two was about $18.
For breakfast Friday, we went to the farmer's market in Kona-Kailua, which was great--great island produce, and we met a friendly couple who spend about 15 minutes with us telling us about all the island fruits--how to pick them out, etc. We stocked up on breakfast foods (some fruit cake, fruit, and yogurt from the supermarket) for breakfasts in the room.
Lunch Friday was at Sibu Cafe in Kailua--Indonesian, and talked up by the guidebooks. Being Manhattanites, New Yorkers, with potentially jaded palates, we were disappointed. The salad they are famous for was big, but unexciting (a very peanutty dressing), and the tofu, salad and spring roll plate was equally uninspiring. It was fresh though, and there was nothing actually wrong with it--just not exciting. Price--about $20.
Dinner was at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay, and was highly disappointing--the old joke comes to mind--the food was terrible, and the portions were so small! The food wasn't actually inedible, just not very good, and very small portions, for very much money. And the room looked like it had been decorated by someone who . . . I don't know. It was just really ugly! And the service was also lackadaisical. Don't even ask about the price of the meal.The only redeeming factor was that since we didn't have to drive, we could drink . . . I highly recommend the Hangtime Pinot Noir--a favorite of mine from the restaurant formerly known as Avenue at 85th and Columbus.
Saturday was lunch by the pool at the Sheraton--both the salads and fish sandwich with fries were solid.
Saturday night we went to Basil's, also in Kailua. Pizza and and eggplant parmesan were edible, but not great. Price was right though--$19.
Sunday we went to the volcanoes. We stopped for coffee and and a scone at Bay View Farm along route 11--the baked goods were exceptional, and the coffee superb.
Lunch (shortly after breakfast--it was a good day!) was also along route 11, the Na'alehu Fruit Stand. Locals were watching Sunday afternoon (although it was 10:30am) football, and the proprietor/chef suggested the ahi sandwich, the day's special. It was simple--ahi cooked (cooked through--unusual in Hawaii) with tomatoes and garlic, served with lettuce and tomato on a delicious, freshly baked roll. Superb, as was the smoothie. The cookies there look better than they taste, not that they taste bad . . . $10--a great value.
Dinner, after a long, wet afternoon at the volcanoes, was among the best in a long time, HI or NY--The Seaside Restaurant in Hilo. This is a MUST VISIT. No decor--it seems like a big, ramshackle diner or fish restaurant, with simple food. That was all true, except for the simple food. Service was super friendly. We started with ahi poke--which turned out to be about 3/4 of a pound of 3/4 inch square cubes of beautiful raw ahi tuna marinated in soy and scallions. It was good, but impossible to eat very much of, even for my sushi-loving wife. We asked them to sear it (the other way it can be prepared), and it came back 80% cooked through, which was perfect, and delicious. Get it seared.
Main courses were tough to choose, as so many things looked good. My wife had the fried butterfish with a miso glaze, which was very rich, and somewhat sweet, but delicious--two good-sized black cod (that's what butter fish is, apparently) steaks. Very rich, but very good. I had a special, which was unbeatable--if they have it, GET IT. It was I believe ono, a thick, white flaky fish, sort of like mahimahi, that was steamed with scallion, ginger and soy, and finished with lots of fresh cilantro and chili oil, which made the dish. I'll say again--one of the best things I've eaten in a long, long time. All the entrees come with a garden salad appetizer and a side of pasta or rice and vegetable, all of which were fine, but unexciting. For dessert, we shared a bowl of Kona Coffee ice cream, which was perfect. The 2.5 hour drive back to Kona however, was long, dark, and scary. Don't do it, if you can avoid it! Dinner-$60. Reservation recommended.
Monday, we went up to the North Kohala coast and Waimea. Lunch in Waimea was at the famous organic, natural, Hawaii Regional Cuisine original, Merriman's, where I had the best sandwich I can ever remember eating. It was grilled eggplant, delicious tomato, amazingly creamy and fresh goat cheese, and and hot sauce on a freshly baked roll, served with a few little potatoes and some gingery asian slaw. The sandwich was perfection. My wife had the fish tacos, which were excellent too. The lemonade was also superb. For dessert, we shared a slice of Kona coffee cheesecake--very good, but not life-altering, like the sandwich was. $30 for lunch. Make a reservation!
Dinner found us back again in Waimea at Daniel Thiebaut, a well-known Hawaii Regional Cuisine restaurant. Food was well-executed, but not amazing. Appetizers (a great salad with spicy ahi "firecrackers" with a great peanut dressing and tomato ceviche--red & yellow grape tomatoes marinated in lime and coconut milk) were excellent, but main courses were less superb. Crab-crusted mahi-mahi without the crab in a chili beurre blanc was fine--the fish was good, the sauce somehow tasted like pizza cheese (albeit with a better consistency). Sauteed fish (again, white, flaky, and thick) in a citrus vinaigrette was better, but not oustanding. Both came with mediocre mashed potatoes and some squash and carrots. We shared a glass of an excellent Selbach Riesling, which was only $5, a great value. We passed on dessert. A disapointment, and not a cheap one, maybe about $90.
On the way home (again, a dark drive, but not as long as from Hilo), we stopped at the gelato place, which was excellent, and run by a very friendly Swiss fellow. The coffee gelato was particularly good, although so was the chocolate-hazelnut.
Lunch Tuesday was at a Mexican food stand in a mall--mediocre fish tacos, followed by the most vile thing I've tasted on the island--a shaved ice concoction. Shaved ice is a big thing here, and they look neat, but they syrups are totally artificial, neon-colored, and generally on par with (if not worse than) your basic snowcone. Stay far away!
Tonight, we're going to dinner at the much anticipated Ke'ei Cafe, and we leave for Maui on Wednesday. Any must-eats in Maui, let us know!
More to come later!
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