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Jan 6, 2009 05:20 PM

Good eats in Waikoloa and vicinty?

I'm going to be staying at the Waikoloa Beach Resort at the end of the month and would like to get some suggestions on places to dine. We are going to have a car and are willing to take a little drive to get good food. We are going with friends who have been there before and they basically eat at the hotels and other chain restaurants (Ruth's Chris, Tommy Bahama, etc), but I'm interested in finding more unique places. I have no problem spending money, if it's worth it, as I've heard that everything there is pretty expensive. I just can't bear to spend tons of money on mediocre food and service--which is what I normally find at hotel restaurants. Also, we plan on doing some cooking, so any recommendations for markets in the area would be great as well. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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  1. Without going upcountry, I can recommend three fairly close by and in this order:

    Pahu i`a at the Four Seasons:
    Alan Wong's The Hualalai Grille also at the Four Seasons:
    Roy's at Waikoloa. Only hesitation that I have is that it has gotten louder over the years.

    With the exception of this Roy's, I did reviews of the other two, but that review seems to have gone to byte heaven, but this one has some references:



    Hualalai Grille By Alan Wong
    72 111 Kaupulehu Dr, Papaikou, HI

    Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
    72 100 Kaupulehu Drive, Kailua Kona, HI

    Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill
    69 250 Waikoloa Beach Dr # E1, Waikoloa, HI

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Aloha Bill - It was the end of November/early December that Alan Wong became disassociated
      with the Four Seasons, it was reported as a mutual agreement and one that eventually was
      to happen.

      1. re: manomin

        Thanks for the recommendations Hunt--your reviews are making my mouth water! I will definitely try to do the tasting menus with wine pairings when I can. Just out of curiosity, how far is "upcountry" and what would you recommend there? I think we are going to try to take a couple little trips out of the immediate area we are staying in to do some exploring...

        1. re: tear it up

          Not that far. We had two great meals (lunch and then dinner) at Daniel Thiebaut's: Had dinner reservations, and found ourselves up there about lunch time. Meal was so good, that we did not hesitate to drive back that night for more. It was a tad more casual, than Pahu i`a, and about the same level as the "old" AW's. [I am saddened that AW pulled out, but that is life.



        2. re: manomin

          Whoa! Had not heard of this. What is the status of that lovely space?

          Now, it might be a great restaurant, but I would be hard-pressed to not judge it too harshly, in light of the wonderful food and service on our last visit.

          Please update me, at your convenience. Still, wife says "no place BUT the Four Seasons on the Big Island, and I have 1.25M Hilton points. Still, she IS the wife, so I listen closely.



      2. a relatively new restaurant that has received excellent reviews from local residents...The Blue Dragon in Kawaihae

        1 Reply
        1. re: holualoa farmer

          do you have any details on Blue Dragon?

        2. Try Brown's Beach House at The Fairmont Orchid in the Mauna Lani Resort just down from Waikoloa Beach Resort. Food is really good, great views. And if you venture up to Waimea I would recommend Merriman's over Thiebaut's any day. Its one of the most well known restaurants on the island, definitely the only restaurant worth the drive up to Waimea.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tinman9

            We have been meaning to do Peter Merriman's on the Big Island, but have not made it yet. Just did Merriman's on Maui, and it was very good. Trying to piece together Thiebuut's from some years ago, and another Merriman's restaurant, is very difficult.

            Still, we had diner reservations at Thiebaut's and happened to be upcountry that day for lunch. Dined at Thiebaut's and then drove back up for that night. That says that they impressed us for two meals in the same day.


          2. Actually I don't remember seeing any supermarkets or markets around Waikoloa beach. There is a supermarket in Waikoloa Village (in the hills across the highway) and the Foodland in Waimea was pretty good. There is a Costco (as well as other markets) in Kailua-Kona and that's probably your best met for grocery shopping.

            1. Spent a month in Waikoloa Beach resort last summer and ate our way up the coast. In the construction phase, but supposedly about to open, there was to be a gourmet grocery in the Queen's Market place right in Waikoloa Beach. Maybe it's opened?? Other than that for groceries, the Waikoloa town (10 minutes up the hill) or Mauna Lani resort for a small, but nice Foodland. Merriman's has a small place in King's plaza - good for lunch or a light supper. The larger restaurant up in Waimea (20 minutes) was delicious for lunch - didn't have dinner there. We had a wonderful meal (best of the trip) at Alan Wong's Hualalai Grill - sorry he is gone! Sansei has a place in Queen's plaza - good for sushi and very lively. There's a good sushi restaurant (Norio's)in the Fairmont Orchid and the bar in the hotel makes some amazing drinks. Cafe Pesto in Kawaihae Harbor is casual, but good - we ate there several times and enjoyed it. Roy's was loud, good appetizer, so so entree. We ate at Pahui'a at the Four Seasons - beautiful spot and delicious food. The Canoe House at the Mauna Lani was beautiful, but the food not quite as fabulous. Now that the Mauna Kea has reopened maybe there is a new great restaurant to try there. Enjoy!

              3 Replies
              1. re: kjjr


                Thank you for the report from the field.

                I'm glad that Café Pesto is good in this location. We did a couple of visits to the Hilo restaurant and were impressed. Booked one dinner, and went back for a second.

                We also did the Canoe House, after glowing, pre-CH recs., and were horribly disappointed. Several have commented much more recently and it seems that everything has changed for the better. From my distant perspective, everything needed an overhaul, and almost any change would have been for the better. Because of the CH responses, I'd do it again, on the next trip. Will check out the Mauna Kea.

                Yeah, the news about AW hit me hard. Still, we have wonderful memories of dining there. Nothing can erase those, and they are worth every $ we spent.

                There was a New Orleans-influenced restaurat in Waikoloa Town, but I believe that it is long gone. It was OK, but then we are from those environs, so maybe we judged it too harshly. But, we dined at a NOLA-influenced restaurant in Lanai City, and it was great. The chef and GM were brothers from Gretna, LA. The chef was working on some recipes, and invited my wife back to the kitchen for consultation. So, NOLA in Hawai`i is not impossible.

                Again, great report and very informative. Hope that the OP is taking notes.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Unfortunately, my trip is almost over so I wanted to report on where I've been so far--before I get home and get back to work and reality and forget everything! Our condo ended up being right down the street from the King's and Queen's marketplaces, so since we were tired from traveling, we decided to check out the new gourmet market in the Queen's marketplace and grab a quick and easy dinner and stock up on a few essentials for the week. I believe it's called Island Gourmet Market, but it must be owned by the ABC store because the carry baskets said ABC and so did a few labels on items. Needless to say, it was disappointing as a gourmet market, but a huge Whole Foods spoils me. The layout was terrible and it had just as many souvenirs as it did groceries. Anyway, we did find some pretty good stuff there and it wasn’t too outrageously overpriced (as I have since learned is often the case in these parts). Here’s a rundown of the other places we tried so far:

                  Café Pesto in Kawaihae: the staff was very nice and accommodating, since we were a party of 8 and it’s a pretty small place. The bartender seemed to be pretty slammed, but he still had a smile on his face. Our waitress was very helpful and the food was pretty good, but nothing to write home about really. I was a bit bummed out when I ordered a bottle of cab/shiraz blend and they were out of it, but the Chianti Classico we ended up with was probably a better match for our food anyway. The shrimp half moon nachos appetizer was interesting and the pizza was really good, but the special fish of the day (walu) was supposed to be served on a bed of Japanese soba noodles, but it was actually on what looked like ramen noodles, which were really greasy. The fish itself the waitress described as a ‘butterfish’ similar to Chilean sea bass, since we were not familiar with walu, and was quite oily as well. After dinner my boyfriend did a quick google and found out on wikipedia that it’s not actually a butterfish at all and can often cause rapid gastrointestinal problems. Perfect. Luckily, we didn’t have any problems and I’m sure people eat it all the time, but I personally will be avoiding it in the future.

                  Tommy Bahama Tropical Café: This was definitely not my pick, but we are with a group of 3 other couples (all of whom have been coming here the past few years, while my boyfriend and I are newcomers), so we decided to go with the flow. I am really not a fan of chain restaurants in general, and one of top of a Tommy Bahama clothing store (in the Mauna Lani shopping area) was doubly unappealing. This place was actually better than I thought it would be, although my expectations were extremely low to start so they didn’t have to do much to accomplish that. The prices were outrageously high, in my opinion, for what it is. I have no problem spending money on food, because it’s pretty much my favorite thing in life, but normally it’s for amazing food at fantastic restaurants with superstar chefs. The appetizers and salads weren’t too out of line, but avg $35 per entrée at what is basically a Cheesecake Factory with smaller portions is ridiculous. For an appetizer, entrée, dessert and one alcoholic beverage (and really, who has just one?) you are looking at close to $100 per person. The maple cinnamon butter stuff they bring with the warm bread may have been the highlight. I had the special, which was sea bass with some local vegetables, tomato relish and mashed potatoes (which were dry and bland). It was pretty good, aside from the potatoes. The side of whipped bayou sweet potatoes we shared was pretty gross, in my opinion. Someone else at the table had the Shoal Bay Snapper and that was really tasty, but they somehow found a way to screw up the Hawaiian long beans. All through dinner I was looking forward to the wha’jamaican chocolate cake (which I had scoped out on the menu before and saved room for). That was a letdown. It was supposed to be a warm flourless espresso chocolate cake, but it actually felt like it had just come out of the refrigerator and was a dense slice of chocolate cake that didn’t taste much like espresso at all. I shared and didn’t even finish it, and not because I was too full.

                  Merriman’s in Waimea: This I have to thank everyone for recommending. The food was great and compared to Tommy Bahama, I felt like I was getting a real bargain! The local goat cheese and mango vanilla jam to accompany the fresh bread is a must. I had a ponzu-marinated mahi-mahi with hearts of palm and onion relish….awesome. The Hawaiian chocolate “purse” with dulce de leche ice cream was what a chocolate dessert should be. It was basically a warm flourless chocolate cake wrapped up in chocolate phyllo. The menu said it was served with a lemon drizzle, but that didn’t sound good like it went well together so I requested it on the side. The waitress suggested I try it with a caramel sauce instead, which was perfect. The only complaint I had about this place was that the wait staff’s timing was slightly off. We ordered a bottle of wine and it was brought with everyone else’s cocktails, which was fine, but the waitress set it down to deliver the rest of the drinks and said she would be right back to pour it, but then must have forgotten so we were sitting there for a while staring at our unopened wine trying to flag her down. The condiments for the bread came well before the bread and the condiments for the tomato appetizers came late, after we were halfway through already. Just a few other things like that. It certainly wouldn’t stop me from going back.

                  Tonight we are going to try Sansei Sushi over in the Queen’s Marketplace and our last night, the Four Seasons. After all of Hunt’s glowing recommendations, that is what I’m most looking forward to! All in all, we have enjoyed our dining experiences. Suffice to say my favorite restaurants will certainly seem a whole lot cheaper when we get home to Vegas!

                  1. re: tear it up

                    OK, it works now. Please see my reply that is now under your main post.