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Good eats in Waikoloa and vicinty?

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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: http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/d...
    Alan Wong's The Hualalai Grille also at the Four Seasons:
    http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/d...
    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:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/412606

    Enjoy,

    Hunt

    -----
    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: http://www.danielthiebaut.com/. 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.

          ]

          Hunt

        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.

          Mahalo,

          Hunt

      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.

            Hunt

          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

                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.

                Hunt

                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.

                    Hunt

              2. Sorry that I could not reply to your reviews directly, but the CH site has been acting up a bit lately.

                Still, regardless of where it appears, a Mahalo Nui for the review. These comments will be very helpful to others in the future.

                As for the Tommy Bahama's, I have read some surprisingly good (to me, at least) reviews. It seems like they might be doing some things right. Have not been, and with the other options available, probably will not, unless I'm your position. Still, most reviews have surprised me. Now, I DO like the shirts!

                Aloha,

                Hunt

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Well, I'm back home now and I wanted to report back on my last couple dining experiences, since they were places that I had heard a lot about....

                  Merriman's Market Cafe: This was conveniently located within walking distance of my condo, and after the great food I had at Merriman's in Waimea I was excited to try it. We went for lunch and it was just ok. Strange, we had the same bad timing issues with the service, but this time the food didn't shine so much that it compensated for the lackluster service. Our waitress was very nice, but the place was not crowded at all and there were several other servers, so it was annoying to see our food sitting in the window waiting for pickup for about 10 minutes. Needless to say, the food was pretty cold when we finally did get it. I did like the tapas offerings on the menu and was really looking forward to the hummus and warm pita, since that is one of my staple foods at home, but I was disappointed. The hummus was so salty that I couldn't even bear to eat it. Bummer. The grilled flatbread with Maui onions would have been a lot better if it had arrived hot, as intended. Oh well.

                  Sansei Sushi: This place was actually pretty good and have some unique sushi offerings. It wasn't too expensive either. The white tuna poke with a truffle sauce was yummy, although a tad too rich. The Matsuhisa style miso butterfish was good, as was the cajun albacore sashimi. We did have one sashimi dish that was a total miss--I believe it was a wrapped kampachi with a sickenly sweet onion jam that was not what we expected at all. Overall I was happy with this place and would recommend it for a casual sushi dinner.

                  Hualalai Grille at the Four Seasons: This place I have mixed feelings about. I do wish I had made it there while Alan Wong was still there. The friends we were there with have gone several times and were in for quite a surprise when the menu wasn't what they were used to. We went there for a birthday dinner and were prepared to shell out some serious coin, but the menu was pretty sparse and several people really had a hard time finding something they wanted to eat. The service was fantastic though, as I would expect from a Four Seasons establishment. It just doesn't seem like the food exactly matches up. I had a selection of tartares served in wonton "cones" as an appetizer. The presentation was lovely, but there was way too much mayo in a couple of the tartares which kind of ruined it for me. There was a tasting menu option on the menu, but it didn't say what was included in that, and there really was no chance I was going to convince all 7 other people to get it because a few of the people are picky eaters. I actually ended up having a roasted organic chicken for my main course, because all of the fish items (well, the 2 choices) either had a preparation i didn't care for or came with side items that didn't appeal to me. I did try my boyfriend's bbq walu and that was pretty good, although that fish is just too oily for me to have more than a couple bites. From what our waitress said, it seems like they are really trying to do a completely different menu and she got a little prickly when someone mentioned that they missed the soup and sandwich from the AW menu. I read several recommendations for a chocolate crunch bar dessert from the old menu, but alas, the 'le kit kat' they offered did not measure up to what I imagine the previous dessert was. Honestly, I think I would take Merriman's over this any day. Apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way, because our friends who have been there many times in the past said they had never seen it so empty. We probably didn't even need to have a reservation for 8 people during prime time.

                  1. re: tear it up

                    Mahalo for the report on the Hualalai Grille. Have not been there, post-AW. I would *guess* that the Four Seasons wished to differentiate the various restaurants a bit more. In so doing, they may have missed things a bit.

                    Still, sounds like a very good trip and your comments are greatly appreciated.

                    Hunt