Just returned from a glorious week on Kauai. After researching restaurants on Chowhound, my girlfriend and I decided we'd buy fresh fish at Hanalei Dolphin and cook rather than spend lots of cash on mediocre food (we did have a beer or two each afternoon by the river at the Dolphin!). However, that all changed our next-to-last night there, when we spotted an unfamiliar sign in Hanalei, across from the Java Kai cafe. We ended up having a glorious time sitting at the bar that night, and again the next night, and had to share.
The place: BarAcuda, open just over two weeks, owner/chef is ex-SF restaurateur who's moved to the island
The location: in Hanalei Center, across from Ching Young Village
The menu: small plates, a la AOC in L.A. or Lark in Seattle, though more limited. Faves were polenta fries with aioli, housemade grilled chorizo, lobster pot pie, saffron and squid risotto, and grilled flank steak with arugula and shaved parmesan. Morsels of simple ingredients with great flavor allowed to shine. I defy anyone to share the polenta fries. We had all but four dishes over the two nights.
The vibe: beautiful decor, lots of wood, fabric, and great lighting, indoor and outdoor tables, and bar seating overlooking open kitchen. It's unlike anything I've seen or read about on the island, and really was a breath of fresh air.
The crowd: a mix of locals and tourists. Staff was very warm and friendly, especially Leighanna (long, dark brown hair) and Angel at the bar.
Here's hoping for much success! We're very much looking forward to many delightful nights there on future trips.