here are impressions of places we ate at this year during our long visit completed three weeks ago. we didn’t eat at any places on the south shore, partially out of laziness. we’ve visited most of the places on the south shore in previous years (except casa di amici and plantation gardens), and were planning on roy’s this year. we stay on the east side, so most of the places below are on the east side. the list is alphabetical, as opposed to chronological. a few places we wanted to visit, but just slipped through the cracks, were bar acuda in hanalei town, mediterranean gourmet in ha’ena and roy’s in po’ipu.
blossoming lotus - this is a certified green vegan restaurant in kapa’a town, using organic ingredients as much as possible. our dinner was absolutely delicious. we started with very flavorful cashew cheese, avocado, cured red peppers, and jicama relish on flaxseed crackers, then had moroccan seared tofu and a nightly masala special as main courses, both of which had a wonderful combination of flavors. this was a memorable dinner.
brick oven pizza - we stopped here twice on the way back from polihale state beach. this is another annual destination for us on kaua’i. it’s not east coast, but it’s a very good thin crust pizza baked in a brick oven. the brushed garlic butter enhances the crust nicely. sauce, cheese, and toppings are all very good. our favorite is the super, which we ordered both times this year.
the bull shed, waipouli - this place is at the edge of the ocean. the menu is very basic --- protein, white rice, and salad bar. the salad bar is small and has the usual items plus excellent fresh pineapple chunks. the only sides available are a baked potato and a grilled vegetable skewer with green peppers, onion slices, mushrooms, and pineapple. however, they serve an outstanding 28-30 oz. slice of prime rib on the bone for $27, 3 different 10 oz. filet mignons for $24, and 2 12 oz. top sirloin preparations for $16. they also have a good daily grilled fresh fish special (usually ono, mahi, ahi, or swordfish) for about $20. steaks, fish, rack of lamb, and chicken are prepared on the gas grill. drinks are the most reasonably priced of any restaurant we’ve visited on kaua’i so far. the restaurant is very popular with locals and wait times for a table can be long on sundays and special occasion days (e.g. high school graduation celebrations). menu is similar to duke's upstairs, although duke's menu is more extensive.
coconuts, kapa’a - we’ve eaten dinner here every year since it opened about 7 or 8 years ago. when it first opened, the menu and preparation were a breath of fresh air. the food is competently prepared, and there’s a good variety of dishes. the tempura ono has been on the menu since it opened, and it’s a very good dish. what’s bothersome is that the menu has remained unchanged since the restaurant opened, but prices have increased by 50% on most of the entrées. the ono was fairly priced at $20 several years ago, but not at $30. and unlike at duke’s there’s no view here.
duke’s, lihu’e - this is another place we visit for dinner every year (for over 10 years now), because our kids love it. i’ve never been a huge fan of duke’s, because main courses are basically protein, rice or potato, and salad bar. they have always done fish very well, though. this year we sat down in the open air 2nd floor dining room at around 6 pm, well before sunset, and the experience was great. we had a beautiful view of kalapaki bay as the day turned to twilight and of the interior man-made tropical waterfall. we had three fish entrees --- monchong, opah, and ono, all sautéed with a macadmia nut crust. they were all perfectly cooked and delicious. again, nothing very creative, but very competent preparation of fish. the salad bar is just a salad bar, but it’s large, well maintained, and has a wide selection. starting to like this place.
eggbert’s, waipouli - great breakfast place. excellent coconut crusted french toast and banana pancakes. also you can make a good pseudo loco moco (rice, eggs over easy, and ham) from the sides. just add hot sauce or soy sauce ( not gravy, but it’s pseudo).
garden island barbecue, lihu’e - imo, there are no good chinese restaurants on kaua’i, but this is the best of the lot. we got a takeout of beef chow mein with cake noodles and nightly specials of green beans with pork in black bean sauce and half a hong kong style fried chicken. not memorable, but tasty and reliable. prices are very reasonable, too. popular with locals.
hanalei gourmet, hanalei - stopped here for lunch during a drive to the north shore. had the open face oregon bay shrimp sandwich, artichoke toast, salad of the day, and the bbq pork sandwich from the daily special sheet. shrimp sandwich and artichoke toast were very good. the pork was just baked pork shoulder, and the barbecue sauce on top of it was too sweet. the fries were very good.
hukilau lanai, waipouli - this has become one of our favorite dinner destinations since it opened about 5 years ago. it has a lovely view of the manicured grounds of the kauai coast resort and the ocean just beyond if you sit down before sunset. we visited 4 times during our stay. the first time we had 3 mains --- hukilau pasta with shrimp, shrimp and chicken duet, and furikake dusted sautéed opah. all of these were very, very good. we finished by splitting a caramel macadamia nut tart with cinnamon ice cream, which was an absolutely outstanding dessert. we liked it so much that on the second visit we split the shiitake meat loaf (also superb) 3 ways, then the three of us each had the macadamia tart. it was even better the second time. on the 3rd visit the two of us had the wine and food tasting menu (served between 5 and 6 pm), which consisted of 6 courses with a wine pairing for the first 5. the courses were sweet potato ravioli paired with a riesling, warabi (fiddlehead fern) with homemade cajun sausage paired with a rose, seared fresh mahi mahi topped with tapenade and served with orzo paired with a soave, seared pork tenderloin with local mushrooms in a marsala cream paired with a tempranillo, port reyes blue cheese and french bread paired with a port, and finally a hot pepper guava, strawberry/raspberry, and honeydew sorbet trio. it’s a recent addition to the menu and is very much worth trying. it’s not entirely successful (for example, the ravioli and riesling were a very good pairing, but they weren’t a good lead-in for the tart warabi that followed). for $40, including wine, it’s an excellent value. the last visit was for wine and caramel macadamia nut tart only.
jj’s broiler, lihu’e - very good fried egg, bacon, cheese and avocado sandwich recently added to the menu for lunch. nice view of kalapaki bay from the deck, too. the mahi mahi sandwich was only okay.
kaua’i hula girl, waipouli - got pupus of portuguese bean soup, garlic bread, pork tacos, and crab cakes. the pork tacos were good, everything else mediocre.
kaua’i pasta, kapa'a - pasta is al dente, prices are reasonable, but won’t knock your socks off.
mark’s place, puhi - got a teriyaki beef plate and chicken katsu plate here after playing golf. both were excellent, although i liked the chicken katsu at honokowai okazuya on maui a little better. the katsu sauce here at mark’s was better, though. no complaints on the teri beef plate.
mema thai, wailua - got red curry, green curry, and 2 pad thai to go. okay, but would probably eat elsewhere if it was on the mainland.
monico’s taqueria, wailua - if you gotta have mexican while you’re on kaua’i, this is the place to get it.
nanea, princeville - this restaurant at the westin ocean resort villas in princeville has only been open for about six weeks, so it’s still catching its stride. the first phase of the villas opened at the same time, and the complex is still under construction, but it appears to be happening away from the restaurant. we had dinner this past saturday at around 6 pm, and it was very quiet. the restaurant is on the bottom floor of the brand new clubhouse and opens up onto the main swimming pool area with partial views of the ocean in the distance. the restaurant is open to the outside with seating both indoors and outdoors on the patio, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. we started with crab stuffed seared diver scallops and roasted beet salad, both of which were excellent. there were two scallops, perfectly seared and very sweet, and the stuffing didn’t detract from the scallops, although the dish would work well without the stuffing. the pearl onions, corn puree, and papaya relish were perfect accompaniments. the beet salad was actually cubed beets mixed with greens on top of orange slices with 2 dollops of whipped goat cheese on the side. it all worked well, but seemed to feature the orange slices more than the beets. our main courses were duck two ways and crispy monchong. the duck consisted of seared breast and kalua duck lau lau, which was smoked duck meat steamed in a ti leaf purse. it was accompanied by sautéed sweet potato cubes and bok choy. very good dish, although the skin on the duck breast should have been more crisp. the crispy monchong appears on the menu as crispy onaga, but there wasn’t any onaga available so we were delighted that they had monchong. it was dusted with seasoned flour and sautéed and served with whipped yukon gold potatoes, creamed spinach and 3 wonderful crab fritters. a very, very good dish. while we were very pleased with the food, the restaurant should get better over time. the wine list seems overpriced, but the corkage fee is a reasonable $15. also, the restaurant is next to the main pool area of a family oriented vacation condominium complex, so when the resort gets busy, the view during daylight hours could be of lots of kids running around the pool area. the princeville resort will close soon because of upgrades to convert it to a st. regis, so guests will stay at the westin. this will likely positively affect the quality at nanea. however, once the new st. regis princeville opens with its assuredly upscale restaurants, the target clientele of young families at the westin could have a negative impact on nanea.
olympic café, kapa'a - another great breakfast place. excellent guava bread french toast and blueberry pancakes (blueberry? go figgah.). also, creative and delicious scrambles and omelettes. not as good a pseudo loco moco as eggbert’s.
waipouli restaurant, waipouli - great place for local food. special saimin with noodles, roast pork, chicken katsu, hard boiled egg, napa, carrots, and bok choy is very good. we also had breakfast/lunch here on two other occasions, ordering the mushroom and sausage omelet with toast, tonkatsu plate, and french toast with sausage links. all were excellent.
wong’s garden, hanapepe - we stopped here for a slice of liliko’i chiffon pie on the way to polihale state beach. the pie was good, but not special. what was noteworthy, though, was the glass case with roast duck, char siu, and roast pork hanging from hooks like you’d see in a barbecue shop in most chinatowns. we’d never seen that on kaua’i before. planning to try that next year.
we stay at a timeshare with barbecue grills, so kalbi ribs purchased at foodland marinated in kikkoman takumi sauce are a staple for us when we don’t eat out. the kalbi ribs at korean bbq in wailua are good, but we modestly prefer our homemade version with grilled corn on the cob.
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