50th birthday celebration in Kauai
Hi. I'm counting on all of your great palates to help me out. I am taking my boyfriend to Kauai to celebrate his 50th b'day. Will be at the Grand Hyatt Kauai the first week of Feb. I haven't been in Kauai for about 5 years and would love good dinner recommendations based on recent restaurant experiences. I'd like a fantastic place for the b'day celebration and then just great food and or/ fun places for the rest of the week. He also loves wine so a good list would be a plus. Thanks for your help!!
too bad the St. Regis Princeville won't be open by then..(celebrating my 'big day' next September for a week)
Grand Hyatt is a lovely property and have had great meals at Tidepools..
make sure you get to Hamura's Saimin stand in Lihue.
Have a wonderful time and report back!
Hi nyclivetoeat. Just got back from Kauai from my husband's 50th bday celebration and staying at the Hyatt. I had your same quandry going in, so wanted to share our experiences, and say thank you to all of the Hounds that helped us out. I of course scoured this board and my Chowhound notes never left our rental car.
I have to agree with someone on this Board who said that Kauai is not about the food, it's about the place and the scenery. That being said, we had lots of memorable, fun meals, though not always because of the food!
I have to start out by saying that this was our first trip to Hawaii. Not only can we not wait to go back, I wouldn't think about setting foot on another island. Kauai is incredibly special, in every sense of the word. Perfect combination of breathaking scenery, ideal weather, and a laid back atmosphere with few tourists (or so it seemed).
- The Hyatt:
It's spectacular. For as large as it is, it's extremely quiet and doesn't feel overrun. We didn't spend much time there, but give high kudos to their breakfast room service (part of our package). Amazingly fast, fresh, hot and delicious. Not what I've come to expect from room service. Stevenson's Martini Bar has nice ambiance, but is ridicuoulsy priced (as you'd expect at a resort). Their sushi wasn't anything special and the calamari app. that we ordered was overcooked and chewy. Thankfully we discovered Keoki's Paradise, less than a mile down the road - the same drinks for literally half the price and great food. We loved their tiki bar. Enjoyed the Captain's Bar at the Hyatt (nestled among the pool). Decent food (had their quesadilla) and fun bartenders. The same ridiculously priced drinks, but a fun treat for being so close to the pool and your room.
- Tidepools vs. The Beach House:
My biggest dilemma was my husband's bday dinner. After reading mixed reviews of both the Beach House and Tidepools, I decided to split the difference. Drinks at the BH for the sunset and dinner at Tidepools. However, after checking out Tidepools on two separate evenings, the restaurant felt empty and honestly pretty uninviting. We were there after dark, maybe it's nicer when you can see out to the grounds and the waterfall. The dining rooms were much less impressive than I was expecting. So I called the Beach House to see if we could get a res., of course 3 days out no luck. So we ended up making a reservation at Roy's (behind Keoki's) as a back-up because we weren't enthralled with Tidepools. Though we didn't end up needing it. Thanks to advice I read on this Board, we got to the Beach House between 4:30 and 4:45 and got in line, so to speak. This ensured us a table in the lounge when it opened at 5:00. They serve a full menu and the lounge is really just an extension of their dining room, both are open air and right on the water. So we had drinks, watched the sunset and stayed for dinner. (By the way, their drinks are also half the price of the Hyatt's.)
Based on the mixed reviews, I was prepared for a mediocre dinner with a gorgeous view. But instead, dinner was outstanding, as was the service. So good in fact that we returned the following night and got the exact same seat in the lounge with the same server.
The wasabi-encrusted snapper was phenomenal, as were the chili crusted scallops, some of the best I've ever had. Not only did we receive outstanding service from our waiter, but also from the manager, Eric. Extremely friendly, but knowledgable and professional. The manager is also the sommelier. Great wine list, btw.
Another thing that turned us away from Tidepools, or I should say, the Hyatt, is that the same bad sauteed calamari that I'd ordered at Stevenson's was on the menu at Dondero's (the high-end Italian rest. at the Hyatt). I'd like to assume that it'd be prepared by a different chef, but I wasn't willing to take any chances.
We explored the entire island and did lots of hiking, so we were always hungry! Here are the other restaurants we tried:
- Duane's Ono-Char Burger (east shore):
Great, fresh toppings and great flavor to the burger, but the burger itself was a dissapointment. Very thin and low grade beef. Great Marionberry shake though. Though the caveat is that this is the best burger on the island, so it's all relative.
- Brick Oven Pizza (south shore):
Decent pizza. Though LOVED their house salad dressing. Wished they sold it by the bottle. Again, having not tried any other pizza joints, this may well be the best pizza on the island, as it was touted.
- Pomodoro's (south shore across from Brick Oven):
Good Italian, but way overpriced. $95 for eggplant parm, veal parm, two salads and one glass of wine. Wouldn't recommend it. Wish we'd tried Casa d'Amici.
- Jo Jo's Shave Ice (west shore):
YUMMMMM. Who knew shaved ice and ice cream could be so good? We went three times. My husband's addicted. Our favorite was cappucino with choc. syrup and macadamia nut ice cream
- Hanalei Dolphine (north shore):
Had a terrific lunch there. Delicous ahi sandwich and sushi roll with a couple beers. Great quality and reasonably priced. (though we more than made up for it at the adjacent jewerly shop ; ).
- Hanalei Gourmet (north shore):
Loved this place. Only stopped in for drinks - best bloody mary - because we had our hearts set on seafood down the street at the Dolphin. But the menu and the food that went by us looked fabulous and fresh. Great atmosphere too. Next visit we're going to stay on the north shore and I suspect this will be our local haunt.
- Red Hot Mama's (north shore)
Really wanted to like their burrito because the place itself is so cool (a walk-up stand), but the burrito was really wet and sloppy. And the taste was nothing special. Though really enjoyed the ice cold 22 oz. beer from the market next door.
- Waimea Brewing Company (west shore)
Stopped in here on 3 different occasions. It's ultra-convenient on your way to or from the canyon. (It's just up the street from JoJos, next to Waimea Cottages, the sign for the brewery is hardly visible). Great beer, 7 different varities on tap, our favorite is their Wai'ale'ale Ale. Was cool to stop in in the middle of the afternoon and watch Sunday and Monday night football! But what was most impressive was the food. Not your typical bar food. They make their own toritlla chips daily. They're light and crisp and make incredible nachos, especially with Kalua Pork piled on top. Mmmmmmm. Also had a delicious thai beef salad with homemade spicy peanut dressing. Have an extensive menu, would like to have tried more, but we were usually there in between meals. Loved Earl the bartender.
Sorry we didn't make it to Blossoming Lotus, Kinatro, Hamura Saimin or Mark's. But we'll definitely be returning.
Enjoyed your extensive notes on your food ventures on Kauai. I had similar experiences with the Beach House despite mixed reviews, and would go back in a heartbeat. But I think the main criticism is that it's touristy. Well, I'm a tourist. It's better than Roy's, which has become a massive world-wide chain. And the scenery there is unbelievable.
Anxious to try Waimea Brewing Co on my next trip there. I loved JoJo's as well. Did you know there are two? I went to the original which is no longer owned by the original JoJo, and mostly tourists go there. But it was really good anyway. Anxious to try the other one, JoJo's Anuenue (sic) which the locals frequent.
And you're right about Kauai, it's all about the most beautiful of all the Islands.
I know what you mean, regarding "touristy." I too, am a tourist in Hawai`i. Even if I were to become a "local," there would still be differences.
For us, I do not even recall any aspect of our fellow diners. Yes, there were people, who parked themselves on the beach, just across a railing from our table, but why not? The food, the sunset, the service and the wine did it for us. Heck, there could have been major Hollywood-types at the next table, and we did not notice them. Things were that good. For us, it's the food, then the wine, then the service. Get those right and evey other diner can be from wherever, just so long as they are not noisy.
Mahalo for your indepth reviews. Most of all, I'm glad that you had a wonderful trip and that the birthday celebration was good.
As to the BH, I cannot argue with folk who have put the food down, but can say that we were very pleased. The wine service was also good and great fun.
We almost did Pomodoro's, but I got a funny feeling about it. Maybe it was an online menu, or maybe a series of reviews on other boards. I opted for Dondero's (Hyatt) and had one of the best pieces of beef in my life. Wife's osso buco was not such a thing of beauty, so consistancy is probably not their strong suite. Did not notice the calamari, but we usually had a bottle of Montrachet waiting for us on our lanai down the road, so never went to Stevinson's. Looked neat, but was filled with a "glamor crowd," everytime we passed it. I like a quiet environment for my after-dinner Ports, etc., and this did not look like the right spot. Still the room (when empty) was lovely, clubby and inviting. Maybe a convention on the property?
Thanks for mentions of some of the rest of Kaua`i. A lot outside of Poipu does not get reviewed, or even mentioned. Last trip was too short, and we did not even make it around the island. Traffic was just to bad to do a nice long drive. That had changed from our previous visit. Even the "by-pass" in Ka`pa`a did nothing to alleviate it.
I greatly appreciate your taking the time to post this. Even if you had hated the BH and called me all sorts of bad names, the info would still be great of others.
I, too, am going to Kauai for my 50th (yikes!). I was there 3 years ago and I read on the Chowhound forum then about a truck/van that served shrimp. They'd move the vehicle but I found it by the spouting horn. It was delicious! Have any of you seen it recently? At the time I went, the nice woman who fed me told me there was a chef from Napa who tried to get her recipe from her!
Her shrimp was excellent and it only cost around $10, served with rice and salad...
Any sightings would be appreciated!
Dear Meg and Fellow Chows,
Thank you so much for the continued information. I am leaving to go on my trip soon and once again turned to this site for your constructive restaurant evaluations. I hope we have as nice a trip as you guys did, and am glad your 50th celebration was such a success. Hopefully ours will be too. I will report back with my reviews once we get home. Happy eating to all and thanks again!
The more research I do, the more mixed reviews I read (on this board and others) for both the Beach House and Tidepools. I'm torn but leaning toward Tidepools which seems recently to have a greater percentage of positive reviews for both food and service.
Though would love to incorproate the sunset view at the Beach House as part of my husband's birthday treat. Is Tidepools close enough (with a car) that we could have drinks at the Beach House to watch the sunset and then head to the Hyatt for dinner?
And is there a bar inside or out with a sunset view?
The distance between TBH and Tidepools is short. Just be careful of the one very narrow bridge, which is around a sharp curve. You'll notice this on your way to TBH, but it is a bit more difficult to negotiate the other direction, especially if you have too many of those sunset drinks. I know that I walked past the bar, but did not pay close attention to it. I *think* that it is inboard. We had a table right on the railing, and very near the hostess/host station. This might have accounted for our excellent service. Some have complained about service there, but I could find NO fault. Also, our food was great - maybe the only time on that trip that my poor, long suffering wife did not get shafted on her meal.
Trying to distill my feelings on the two, for your purpose, I think that I'd opt for Tidepools. While we had a better overall meal at TBH, it is a bit more down-scale, and can be filled with "tourists." But hey, I was a "tourist!" The seating at TBH was a bit more crowded and a bit less-formal. The food there was good, but I just wish I'd been wowed by it.
OTOH, the best meal that I had was upstairs at Dondero's. However, my wife's main was less than great - it was marginal, at best! So, maybe we did not order wisely at Tidepools.
Tell your hubby "Happy Birthday," from the Chow Hounds,
Hi nyclivestoeat. I read your post with much interest as I'm taking my husband to Kauai for his 50th in a few weeks and we're staying at the Grand Hyatt on Kauai ; )
My post would read almost exactly like yours, so I'm dying to know, where'd you end up and what did you think??
I've read so many mixed reviews of The Beach House, Tidepools and Roys, I'm getting skeptical and need additional, and ideally recent input.
re: easily amused
You have chosen the most lovely place in all of Kauai to stay and celebrate this special event of your husband's 50th! It is certain to be a trip to remember.
You can not go wrong with the dining choices at the Hyatt.
While both fine dining choices here(Donderos & Tidepools) are excellent...the setting and atmosphere at Tidepools is really truly special. be sure to tell them when you make the reservation that it is your husband's 50th birthday.!
We also like to have lunch at the Poipu Bay Clubhouse, which is also part of the Hyatt's dining options. It has great views of the 18th hole and green with well prepared casual dishes.It is located just next door to the Hyatt property.
Donderos the Italian restaurant has some wonderful offerings that I would also recommend to try if you are looking to dine on another night. You can download the menu for all of the above mentioned spots on the resort's website under Dining.
Meg, you and your husband will have a spectacular time given the Hyatt's special allure and location on the Island of Kauai.
I would suggest Tidepool's. Beach House service/quality can be hit or miss (there are lots of debates about the topic on tripadvisor), but you can't go wrong with Tidepools.
There are lots of old posts about where to eat on Kauai, which should be a good start for you. If you want to read more about island and get pretty accurate restaurant reviews, look into buying the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (the book itself has some slightly questionable info about hikes, but it is hands down the best book out there!)
I would recommend The Beach House. Call early and ask for a sunset reso. The food is excellent especially considering the wonderful view which is usually not the case.
You will love the Hyatt. It is awesome. I wouldn't bother with the restaurants there as there are too many local places worth checking out though few are as fancy.
Look up these places- Duane's Ono Char Burger, Kountry Kitchen, Hanalei Gourmet, Coconuts (my personal favorite), Koloa Fish Market. All are great causual places.
Beach House is ok but beware of the jewelry store inside the restaurant. My wife got a "second" dessert that wasn't on the menu and cost $400. The waiter was really cool and delivered her pearl earrings with her regular dessert.
Anyway, I thought the fish was oversauced. A common problem at many Kauai restaurants. The Plantation was probably our best dinner of the week.
Wahoo was pretty good...less sauce on the fish. We both like Bubbs's for burgers.
Personally. I wish we had been able to make it up north to go to Bar Accuda.
In my opinion there is no great food on Kauai. Good and acceptable is about as good as it gets. Service will always be hit or miss no matter where you eat. I'm not saying you won't have perfectly enjoyable meals, it's just that as a foodie here in Chicago we have, um, higher standards.
P.s. Roys was closed for the week we were there in December. It looked like a big remodel job. Three years ago when we were there, Roy's was far and away the best meal we ate. The service was excellent too and if I can remember a particular meal from that long ago. it must have been pretty good. That or the rest of the dinners were pretty sad.