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12 meals and 3 snacks on Big Island, Hawaii (looong report)


Restaurants & Bars 6

12 meals and 3 snacks on Big Island, Hawaii (looong report)

daantaat | Dec 18, 2005 05:55 PM

Tropical Dreams in Hawi.
Stopped here for a midday snack. Tropical Dreams is a Big Island produced ice cream. Tasted the lychee ice cream but it was too subtle for my tastebuds (really hoped it would work). Went with the chocolate chocolate cookie (Oreos in chocolate ice cream) and my husband went with the Kona coffee with chocolate chips. Ice creams were nice and creamy and not too sweet like Lappert’s from Kaui. Both of us liked our choices, only minor ding was that by the end of the scoop, it was hard to pick up the flavors.

Kamuela Deli in Waimea (thought we also saw another one in Kailua-Kona in the Ross shopping center).
Recommended by the omelet chef at our hotel for good plate lunch. In the Waimea Center off Hwy 19, behind McDonald’s. Split a Korean chicken plate lunch and pineapple juice. Chicken was fried to order, nicely salted and gently spicy. Requisite 2 scoops of rice was fresh and balanced out the chicken. Macaroni salad was average—could have used a little more flavor. Only ding was the chicken was a tad on the oily side. Grade—B+. Would have been higher if the chicken wasn’t oily.

The Canoe House at Mauna Lea Resort.
Originally wanted to go to Fujimama’s in Kailua-Kona, but it was closed for renovations. Plan C ended up being The Canoe House at the Mauna Lea Resort after we couldn’t get same day reservations for Pahuia at The Four Seasons. Picked this one because friends told us it was good, you could see fish feeding in the water at night, was mentioned on Chowhound and they had open tables at the last minute. Started off with an ahi and snapper sashimi appetizer with Hawaiian black salt and other seasonings. Presented well in the bowl but both the ahi and snapper textures were not as tender as I’ve had in other places. Tastes generally worked ok together. Salad was the Hawaiian fern and white asparagus salad. Really liked this dish, mostly because there was a generous helping of various mushrooms (nameko and a bunch of others I couldn’t identify) with a fairly tasty dressing. Only minor ding was the ferns seemed to be on the overcooked side—slightly limp in the bowl. Entrée was steamed Hawaiian red snapper (can’t remember the Hawaiian name) in a ginger broth. Fish was very fresh and soft, not overcooked and good in and of itself. However, the entire dish really lacked any flavor whatsoever. If there was ginger or other seasonings in it, I would have needed someone to show me it was in there because the broth almost tasted like plain water. Dessert was the Bavarian chocolate bomb cake with lilikoi cream inside and lilikoi puree all around. Really liked the lilikoi puree—just a bit tangy and sweet at the same time. Cake was moderately chocolatey, nice texture. Overall, the dessert was solid. Grade—B- due to uneven and not quite satisfying dinner, especially for the price.

Thai Rin in Kailua-Kona.
Wanted to go to Sibu Café but it was closed for renovations (seems to be a theme here!). One of the employees at Sibu recommended we head there. Is on Ali’i Drive in one of the small strip mall plazas. Overall, disappointing and unsatisfying. I had the chicken pad thai and my husband had the yellow chicken curry. He asked for his really spicy and it came out really bland, nearly flavorless. Not sure if his haulie exterior had anything to do with the blandness but I think it’s their cooking because my pad thai was average, not great. It had too much tomato flavor and not enough of the punchy, salty flavor that it’s supposed to have. Seemed like they either omitted the dried shrimp or only put a little bit into it. The pad thai did improve with a gentle sprinkling of the dried red chili flakes from the condiment holder. Portions were decent sized, I only finished half of my dish. Grade—C.

Pahuia at The Four Seasons in Waikoloa.
Aah, FINALLY a GREAT meal!!! Can’t say enough about this place! 5 stars all the way—décor, service, food! We were originally seated on a patio table overlooking the water with a great view to boot. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and they were gracious to move us to a covered semi-inside table, away from the very brisk wind. We still got a nice view of the water but without our hair and menus flying away. Bread basket had flatbread with Parmesan (or Asiago) cheese with rosemary, olive bread and white rolls. Came with unsalted butter, basil butter and lemon marscapone. The flatbread with lemon marscapone was my favorite—light, tangy and salty! I got the sweet potato soup and my husband got the roasted beet salad with goat cheese. Sweet potato soup was light and flavorful. Beet salad was deconstructed to 2 each of red, yellow and striped beets on a plate with 2 pyramids of tangy goat cheese, a pickled cipolline onion, balsamic dressing and walnut dressing. Outstanding! Trio of poke appetizer was ahi, snapper and hamachi. Three mounds of fresh fish in different dressings—one was coconut milk, another sesame oil/soy and I can’t remember the third. Had a hard time sharing with my husband. He got foie gras with Asian pear, brioche croutons and some kind of yummy sauce. Nice portion of perfectly seared foie gras. Brioche croutons were perfect for mopping up the sauce! We split the vegetarian sampler plate (decided we weren’t in a fish or turf mood) for entrée. Had garlic-potato ravioli on tomato jam, asparagus and cipolline onions with Meyer lemon-orange-butter sauce and sauteed haricot verts and baby carrots. Wish I’d gotten my own entrée because it was so good! Also would have loved to try one of the other 2 vegetarian entrees. Chose the coconut tapioca with mango sorbet, pineapple spears and cilantro sauce for dessert on advice of our waiter (other option was the Grand Marnier cake). Was like a soupier version of haupia with tapioca—creamy, coconutty, not sugary sweet and excellent! Dipped the pineapple spears into the cilantro sauce—lots of fun! Grade—A+

Big Island Candies in Hilo.
Got lost trying to find this place and got a nice informal tour of the residential area. It is primarily geared towards tour buses and locals needed to bring/send gifts to the mainland. They handed out samples of their shortbread and chocolate covered macadamias with ricy crispy flakes at the door. The minute I ate the shortbread I knew I had to bring a box back. Light, buttery and crisp! Ended up getting a sampler box that had coffee, chocolate and macadamia shortbread both in plain and chocolate dipped varieties—about $26. The chocolate had a nice texture but the sample wasn’t large enough to get a good sense about the chocolate quality, something I really wanted to judge. Unfortunately, they do not sell single truffles, cookies or candies. Everything is boxed up (for better or worse), so you either buy a bunch of things or pass it on by. Truffles looked interesting—mocha, hibiscus, yuzu, coconut and dark chocolate. Briefly thought about getting a box but was afraid it would melt in the car and I have too much Vosges at home to go through. They do have a counter serving smoothies and ice cream. Ice cream is pre-packaged in scoops of 3, wanted the haupia but didn’t want to eat 3 scoops or let it go to waste, so I passed. Other interesting thing is that you can watch them making and packing their candy through the glass window along the back of the shop. They do mail orders as well, website Grade—A. I wish you could buy singles of chocolate and cookies at a counter instead of whole boxes of things.

Nori’s Saimin and Noodle Shop in Hilo.
Small, hole in wall, locals only place. I was the only non-local there and everyone knew it. More amusing than anything. Debated between noodles and kim chi fried rice, should have gotten noodles because this is what they’re known for. Large mound of fried rice w/ bits of kim chi and lop cheong topped w/ fried egg w/ 2-3 chopped char siu chicken thighs. Main problem was a bit greasy for me. Known for noodles and should have stuck to them but was craving kim chi fried rice. Expected the rice to be spicy like at Zippy’s or Korean restaraunts but it wasn’t. Grade—B-

Tex’s Drive In in Honoka’a.
Got malasadas only. No lilikoi filling available and got strawberry and bavarian cream instead. Didn’t realize how big they were (about 2/3rds the size of your average rectangular donut bar) and got 4. Would have been fine w/ 1. Very yeasty, light, not greasy, great balance of doughy and spongy. Strawberry filling had nice “real” strawberry taste, not sugary sweet like other strawberry fillings could be. Bavarian cream was also good. Breakfast, plate lunch, wraps and sandwiches also available here. Eat the malasadas the day of purchase. Tried to save them for the next day but they turned hard and inedible. Take out or eat at the patio tables. Grade--A

Imari’s in the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Someone else’s choice and was very pleasantly surprised how good it is for a hotel restaurant. Might have something to do w/ all the Japanese tourists they get—lucky for us! We sampled a variety of sushi rolls. My new favorite rolls are the ume with shiso leaf and ume with cucumber. Ume is the Japanese pickled plum—bright pinkish red, soft, salty, sour and sweet—to die for in their rolls! Could have eaten these all night and been happy! Their other rolls (crab with eel and avocado, cucumber) were also excellent, well made sushi rice. Had a wonderful soup which was tempura fried flounder with shiso leaf in a broth. Outstanding! The broth was light, had a nice clean flavor with a spike of hot pepper. The tempura was light, tender and YUMMY! Followed this up with the miso marinated black cod, a bowl of rice, pickled daikon and cucumbers. Also excellent! The black cod was soft, buttery and not too salty, perfect with white rice. Also tasted my husband’s sashimi hamachi salad w/ jalapeno peppers and lettuce. Hamachi slices were generously sized, soft, tender and very flavorful. Could have also eaten them all night. He got the seared ono with sweet potato puree for entrée. I only tasted his sweet potato puree (very good). He said the ono was very good. Dessert was the passion fruit jello with panna cotta and fresh berries—large enough to feed 2 comfortably. Jello was interesting, bit of tangy-sweet bite to it. It was best eaten with the fruits and custard on top which balanced out the tangyness. One of our dinner companions had tempura and sushi, all of which she said was very good. Grade—A.

Hamayu at King’s Place Shops in the Waikoloa Village.
Had a craving for cold soba and wanted more ume sushi. Didn’t want to drive and this was the closest to our hotel. Was pretty decent, given its location (tourist trap). Cold soba was what you’d expect, although they could have drained off the water a little more. Came with tempura which was light, crispy and not oily. Also had ume with shiso leaf sushi roll. Still good, although not as good as Imari’s. The ume and shiso leaf were both fresher and brighter in flavor at Imari’s but satisified the craving nevertheless. Husband had spicy hamachi roll and chef’s selection of nigiri sushi. His were also quite good but not the to the level of Imari or other sushi places we’ve been. Grade—B.

Roy’s at King’s Place Shops in Waikoloa.
Someone else’s pick for a large group dinner. Layout is eerily similar to the Maui outpost. Biggest thing was that it is VERY loud inside and difficult to hear someone across the table from you. Dinner was a pre-selected menu because of the large group. Appetizers were beef spring rolls, Korean ribs and crab cakes. Spring rolls were average, nothing to really write home about. Everyone raved about the ribs and crab cakes. Had house salad w/ lilkoi dressing. The cucumbers and tomato were wonderfully fresh and I loved the dressing. Biggest negative was that the salad greens had too much water on them and diluted the dressing down. I had the macadamia crusted opah with roasted potatoes, husband had the mungchong (not sure if this is the right name) fish with soy and sesame oil over rice. Both were good, although I liked my husband’s better because of the sharper flavors. Both fish fillets were very fresh, melted in your mouth and mild in flavor. Service was pretty good for such a large group. They kept the bread coming until you said “no.” Grade-A-.

Breakfast in the Ocean Tower at Hilton Waikoloa Village.
The most convenient place for us for morning food. Breakfast buffet had the usual assortment of fruits, eggs, bacon, sausage, sweetbreads, etc. Best part was the all you can eat fresh papaya and pineapple. Had a plateful of that every morning! Also had miso soup packed with all the tofu, wakame and green onions I wanted along with pickled daikon and cucumber. Skip the salmon—it was bland and slightly overcooked. Pancakes or waffles come with either coconut, lilikoi or maple syrup. Decent place for breakfast if you’re in the hotel, otherwise not necessarily worth a special trip. Wouldn’t recommend here for lunch or dinner because a friend had dinner and sent her soup back because it was so bad. Grade for breakfast only—B+

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