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Aloha Hawaii! Please Critique SF Chowhounds' Visit to Kauai and Maui for Next Week!

Aloha Everyone!

My family of passionate diners and I will be visiting Kauai next week for the entire week (been coming now each year for two decades), followed by three nights on the west side of Maui (haven't been there in over a decade).

Kauai is pretty set, where we usually have four dinners out and three dinners at home. Roy's and Josselin's are our favorites, while we still go to the Beach House for tradition's sake despite multiple years in a row now of below satisfactory experiences. Hopefully THIS is the year they get their act together. Lunch at Puka Dog, ice cream at Lappert's, many mornings at the new Living Foods Market are required...

Last year Bar Acuda underwhelmed. I've enjoyed Plantation Gardens in the past. Any favorite new spots? Maybe Kauai Grill in Princeville or Red Salt? Any favorite cocktail spots? We will certainly be visiting the new Port Allen Brewery.

I'm much less experienced with Maui-- staying near Kapalua. We have three dinners and 2 lunches. Right now I'm thinking about Pacific 'O, Lahaina Grill, and Sansei for dinners. Lunch at Star Noodle and Mala Ocean Tavern. But, I'm considering a trip up to Mama's Fish House, or switching a lunch to Honu or Aloha Mixed Place. Then, there's the question of I'o or Pacific 'O, if either of them? Any places I'm missing?

We'll stay right by the Maui Brewery, so that's a must. I'm hoping to visit Surfing Goat Dairy and Kula Farms, along with the winery on Maui and some coffee farms. I'd love to hear more about favorite coffee shops and bakeries, and all other fantastic, delicious finds!

Mahalo nui loa for your help! I'm beyond excited to return to the Islands in just a few days!

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  1. Aloha..
    In Kauai, I would add.
    Tiki Iniki that just opened in Princeville..Todd & Michele Rungrens new bar.
    Dolphins for drinks and apps.
    St. Regis for drinks and apps.
    Hamura Saimin in Lihue..divey best James Beard nom. For their Saimin and Lilikoi pie.
    Red Salt is awesome..pricey
    Keoki's Paradise happy hour..same center as Roys.

    Plantation House for breakfast at Kapalua..best deal..view, food and no wait.
    Gazebo in Napili for b/l.
    Bev's General Store
    Hula Grill/ Duke's happy hour..

    Have a blast and report back!

    5 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        thanks for the update. . . I didn't think they were ready to open next week, but assumed my info was outdated. I hope their venture is successful.

        1. re: Bellachefa

          That's a bummer Tiki Iniki isn't open yet! I was so excited to try it...I read Julie Reiner is involved...I really enjoyed her now closed tiki bar in Manhattan, Lani Kai.

          Sounds like Red Salt will take the last open dinner spot for Kauai...seems like a consensus over Kauai Grill or Plantation Gardens. Maybe the St. Regis for some cocktails...but I do love the mai tais nearby at Tahiti Nui!

          I really want to try the Haliimali General Store, but don't want to drive the hour there to Kapalua after dinner...and they're not oopen for lunch weekends...and we're only on Maui a Saturday and Sunday for lunches. Scheduling issues!

        2. re: kathryn

          My bad..
          Had a first week of March opening..

          Wishing them tons of Aloha.

          1. re: Beach Chick

            Just called Tiki Iniki...said they're not opening until May

      2. Sansei underwhelms me.
        Plantation House for breakfast is great. Amasia in Gr Wailea is worth the schlep though its pricey.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sal_acid

          Especially if you are from SF, Sansei will be disappointing. It's really great for half priced fusion-y sushi rolls. The positive reviews are more for the value/price than pristine fish or level of craft.

        2. What fun, to be honest, I haven't been a fan of Roys for years. I think they overextended the brand. Back in the olden days it was the perfect trifecta to go to Josselins Pacific Cafe in Kapaa, Roys and Josselin managed Beach House. It was only with his food that I could get past the sunset paparrazi flashbulbs going off with diner's who didn't have a window seat practically sitting on your lap for a photo shoot at your table.

          That same experience was only heightened at The Princeville/St Regis. You are having a lovely cocktail and pupus, and dropping a couple of hundred and are suddenly swarmed by non paying tourists pushing and shoving their fanny packs into your pupu's while directing their cinimatographer to get the shot, while yelling into our faces, "we're losing the light, we're losing the light!" A picnic of poke and some Kauai Kunana
          lillikoi goat cheese from the farmers market and a couple of red cup beverages on the adjacent grassy knoll is what we prefer now.

          Good call on checking out Tiki Iniki, and we always enjoy a stop at Keoki's bar for entertainment and some pupus.

          When on Maui, and visiting upcountry, perhaps a stop at Haili'imaile General Store for Sashimi Neopolean.

          If you love Lappert's keep your eye out for Tropical Dreams. It's mo bettah!

          Aloha, and safe journey!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bellachefa

            oh and a trip to that side of Maui requires a sunset trip to Hula grill sandbar for crab/mac wontons and an adult beverage and some hula!

            1. re: Bellachefa

              Actually speaking of Kauai Kunana goat cheese-- has anybody visited their dairy? Is it a tour worth doing? Loved their cheeses at a farmers market last year.

              Bellachef, I am completely with you about the "old trifecta" days. They were the golden years with Josselin's at Pacific Cafe and Beach House, and Roy's. Roy's is more or less the same to me still. Josselin's food and service are fine, but not as polished as A Pacific Cafe. Beach House...not even close now. Nothing beat the duo of the Beach House atmosphere with Josselin's cooking, the rare masterful view restaurant with food to match.

              Yet we still go to the Beach House each year out of tradition (been going since 1981)...not sure what it will take to get them to get my family to surrender, but they sure seem to try. Last year was a mess. Almost as poor as Merriman's...

          2. I assume you mean Maui Brewing Company???? Just curious but have you eaten there before? I found their food the worst we've had on Maui. I definitely wouldn't "waste" a lunch there. IMHO there are much better options.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Mimi

              Their pizza wasn't bad, but I agree on the rest of the food - pub standard. I do like their beer, though: the last time I was at Aloha Mixed Plate they carried it.

              1. re: tardigrade

                I'm not a big beer drinker but I do like their IPA out of the can.

                1. re: Bellachefa

                  Yes, yes--- meant the Maui Brewing Company. Are they the only brewer on the island? I never planned on eating at the brewpub-- too little time and too many more worthwhile restaurants to try when on Maui. :)

                  I learned my lesson "wasting" a lunch recently at Full Sail's Brewpub in Oregon...don't need to go that route again! I have enjoyed the Coconut Porter and Big Swell IPA in cans before on Kauai...tasted better there than on draft once here in SF. I see that their pub draft list has some intriguing options, including coffee stout on nitro and a collaboration with Dogfish Head. They're in the big leagues now!

            2. I recommend the Ahi pizza at Honu, just amazing!

              4 Replies
              1. re: manomin

                Manomin, was it a special ahi pizza? I only see an ahi bruschetta on their menu...everything looks great there!

                1. re: pats38sox

                  Oh yes. It was just added to the menu in January. The kitchen sent one out for us to try.

                  1. re: manomin

                    Beautiful, I hope they're still making that pizza! Looks like grapes with the ahi?

                    1. re: pats38sox

                      No, that is Kalamata olives. It was Mediterranean in focus. It was being added to the menu, I think it was supposed to be $26.00.

              2. Liked our meal at Lahaina Grill two years ago.

                Drop Sansei.

                Mama's is excellent but pricey; if you really want to go, try to time your reservation to just before sunset.

                I think you meant Aloha Mixed PLATE and not Place? There is also an excellent hole in the wall in Lahaina called Local Food if you want some kalua pork or shoyu chicken or spam musubi.

                Don't miss Ululani's Shave Ice.

                I found Amasia to be hit or miss. My review:

                1 Reply
                1. re: kathryn

                  Ululani's will be a must. Not sure still on Mama's...it would be for lunch if we go. I love Alan Wong's flagship in Honolulu...so Amasia does intrigue me.

                  It certainly sounds like Sansei isn't as special as the hype surrounding it...too bad since it's right near us in Kapalua!

                2. Mahala nui loa everyone for your very quick and thoughtful responses!!! I really appreciate it! You're faster and more comprehensive than any post I've started before, even major food cities like New Orleans and Seattle!

                  Sounds like the 4 dinners are pretty set now on Kauai-- Red Salt added in. I really wish Tiki Iniki would open now so I could visit! Has anybody visited the new Port Allen Brewery yet?

                  I never asked-- are there any great barista driven cafes on Kauai? Living Foods has decent coffee...but a great place for espresso or macchiatos?

                  Maui-- sounds like Sansei is not a favorite here. Thoughts on Pacific 'O or I'O? Looks like the only things settled for now are a lunch at Star Noodle and a dinner at Lahaina Grill.

                  Any thoughts on Mala Tavern vs Honu?

                  1. Thoughts on the banana bread places mentioned in this article I just saw?
                    Julia's, Four Sisters, Grandma's, and Aunty Sandy's

                    1. I just posted a Kauai review:


                      No luck at all with cocktails as you will see from my report. We actually liked Merriman's well enough, but in general not as well as Merriman's Kapalua. (And, in general, as you know it is harder to find good food in Kauai, so our enjoyment of Merriman's Poipu was more a factor of what we had already eaten on the island.) I assume you left the Kapalua location off your Maui list because of your experience in Poipu. Consider re-considering. The view is awesome. Drinks are much better than Poipu, and we found the food in general to be better as well (menu is slightly different). It is at least worth a drink and maybe some pupus on the back patio at sunset if you don't feel safe devoting an entire evening to it.

                      1. Aloha everyone,

                        After a week on Kauai, heading to Maui for 3 nights in the morning. I'll report back on everything when I get home next week-- so far, very good for the most part. Really enjoyed Red Salt. Beach House was not perfect, but improved. Josselin's is most consistent. Roy's was less exciting than usual with very few inventive plates compared to the past, but when they were on for their signature dishes, it beat any of the others.

                        Cobpdx, your question about cocktails on the island really got me thinking all week. I 100% agree with you, what is the deal with cocktails on Kauai? Why are they usually not close to worth getting? To me, it comes down to three things:

                        1. In general, many tourist diners here on Kauai (and all of Hawaii probably) just let down their standards for eating and drinking...so a mai tai or ahi sashimi will taste good to them...because they're in Hawaii. They don't care as much perhaps, so if they're given something 50% of what they ordered, they're fine with that. This is really the case with cocktails...the special restaurants don't think about this food-wise.

                        Even where I live in SF, you won't get good cocktails on Pier 39 or the Cliff House...because the tourists don't care. So why bother? It's a different story at the "mixologist" joints.

                        2. It's the ice. I always forbid bartenders from giving me drinks with crushed ice because it will dilute the drink within seconds, if not five minutes. Great bartenders today are figuring out ways to make ice to get around this fact that ice melts. The various places I've been on Kauai the past week, all of the ice melts in single digit minutes.

                        3. The juices are meh. Specifically with Mai Tais. The Beach House's version of a Mai Tai was a crime. Ridiculous. I should've been paid to drink it. At least Red Salt and Honu at the Waiohai make drinkable Mai Tais. But they're still only decent. The problem is everyone just uses weak passion fruit and guava juices, probably from the Aloha Maid cans. Mediocre juice....mediocre cocktails. I'm sure Tiki Iniki will change the cocktail culture on Kauai...

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: pats38sox

                          Glad you enjoyed Red Salt.
                          On Maui, I would only do Plantation House for breakfast.
                          Sansei is ok but your from SF..its decent sushi and the hh is fun but crazy.
                          Hula Grill and Dukes for HH or lunch imho, are the Best calls to enjoy with feet in the sand.
                          Mamas Fish House for dinner.


                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            Don't know if you saw the post earlier, but I think the Plantation House is closed due to a fire that happened on Wednesday night. I don't think they would be able to open with the fire causing $600,000 worth of damage.

                          2. re: pats38sox

                            In regards to #3. The only juice in a proper mai tai is freshly squeezed lime juice.

                            1. re: pats38sox

                              I don't know if it's a matter of "lowering" your standards. I would wager that a LOT of people who visit Hawaii come from the suburban/rural (maybe?) areas of the USA. Where they don't have access good cocktails to begin with, so it doesn't really matter to them, they just want to get drunk on vacation.

                              A proper Mai Tai is supposed to have crushed ice but it's also super strong and balanced; and you're supposed to shake with the crushed ice and pour unstrained into the serving vessel per Trader Vic's 1944 recipe.

                              I'm also not surprised that the Mai Tais in Hawaii are too sugary/fruity... it is also a different drink in Hawaii (multiple juices vs lime juice).

                              From Beachbum Berry's books, about the Hawaiian Mai Tai variation:

                              "From the Surf Bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach, where Trader Vic introduced his original Mai Tai to the islands in 1953. Over the ensuing years, this recipe (which dates from 1971) evolved from Vic’s into its present form."

                              I think it's less about the ice and more about low/no demand, and bartenders not following or caring about recipes. Precision counts, like in baking, and the original tiki guys did stuff in secrecy (like Don's Spices #1 as an ingredient), which in the end hurts people like us.

                              Nobody else but them knew the real recipes for a long time (not even their own bartenders). Those who followed made stuff up, to varying degrees of success. There is also lots of free pouring in Hawaii and very few bartenders taste their creations before sending them out. Even then, many people think it's "supposed" to taste like fruity sugar. Hopefully Tiki Iniki will change things, but I'm doubtful. It's all about how the day to day bartenders execute the recipes, not the big names doing a consulting gig. Usually after the famous bartender leaves, quality takes a nose dive unless someone is there trying to maintain standards on a full ime basis.

                              If you're in a condo, bring some shakers, a barspoon, and jiggers, check some bitters in your luggage, and make your own.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                In addition to the tourists having low/no demand/just being happy to be in Hawaii, it's also all about the atmosphere/ view of the bar.

                                It's a great question, say if a local bartender started making his or her own syrups, juices, and bitters, and opened a stellar bar (maybe a speakeasy like so many of the bars today on the mainland) that didn't have an ocean view, would it be able to be a major hit?

                                I've tried making the classic Mai Tai recipes from Trader Vic's and Don's before at home. They are indeed completely different, relying heavily on the lime juice, the rum used, and the orgeat syrup. My guests always complain they aren't sweet enough...well yes, because there is no sugar component supposed to be involved!

                                1. re: pats38sox

                                  actually trader vic's original calls for a hint of simple syrup

                                  1. re: pats38sox

                                    Someone did on the Big Island. A tiki bar, true to the spirit of Don the Beachcomber & Trader Vic's. It closed recently.


                              2. Now, any quick last minute advice on Maui? I hear a resounding "no" on Sansei, though the menu looks intriguing and reviews years ago rave about it.

                                2 lunch-- Honu and Star Noodle (any favorite dishes at either?)

                                3 dinners-- only for sure is Lahaina Grill for last night. Currently reservations at Sansei and Pacific 'O the other nights. I'm always willing to change-- we want places between Lahaina and Kapalua. Any thoughts on the new chefs at Pineapple Grill and Hula Grill, or trying Plantation House for dinner, or the new Chef's Terrace at the Ritz Carlton? Should I get past my bad Merriman's Kauai experiences and try that instead in Kapalua?

                                Definitely also banana bread at Julia's, coffee at Anthony's and Maui Coffee Co in Lahaiana, shaved ice at Ululani , drinks at the Ritz, Grand Wailea, and tiki bar at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, pineapple wine tasting, and Maui Brewing Co.

                                Mahalo nui loa!!!

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: pats38sox

                                  Alan Wong's Amasia is at the Grand Wailea, BTW.

                                  Take the Sansei reviews with a grain of salt... Keep in mind how the "deal" may be influencing a review, and/or what kind of sushi they get at home. It's perfectly fine for fusion-y maki rolls at a discount.

                                  1. re: pats38sox

                                    I agree with many of your points about the Kauai cocktails. In the end, if people don't complain or stop ordering drinks, there is no incentive to improve quality (whether it be the ice, technique, whatever). The funny thing is, with my Manhattan at Merriman's Poipu, a MEASURED quantity as I had specified (2 oz bourbon, 1 oz sweet vermouth, bitters) with minimal stirring, they could have charged me the same for LESS booze (ie made more money on the drink) AND I would have been happier with the drink. It's just not hard.

                                    Regarding Maui, I am in the camp of give Merriman's Kapalua a try. As I think I said before, if you are afraid to devote an entire evening to it, try pupus and drinks (the SHORT Mai Tai) on the back patio area. The pork quesadillas and beef sliders are generally very good there (my last visit was March, 2012). Avoid the combo pupu platter, as some of the dishes on there aren't great.

                                    We have also been to Sansei. I agree it is fine, but I am imagining you have better options in SF.

                                    For lunch, the Fish Market on Lower Honoapiilani Road has good fish sandwiches and tacos and also good quality fish for purchase if you want to cook at the condo.

                                    1. re: cobpdx

                                      Cobpdx-- I'm guessing you're from PDX? Why can't Jeffrey Morgenthaler open a place on Kauai...

                                      At Red Salt a few nights ago, I asked for a "Penicillin," and got a blank stare from the bartender. Then again, I was getting ambitious thinking they might already have honey syrup on hand and ginger for muddling.

                                      I would love to try Amasia or Mama's Fish House...but we're trying to stick with Kapalua-Lahaina area for dinners to limit post dinner driving. After visiting the winery, we'll be driving to the south shore to see some of the beaches and resorts. It sounds like Monkeypod Kitchen would be the spot for cocktails.

                                      I'm going to try to swap Sansei for Merriman's...now running into the reservations issue since they're showing few openings on Opentable.

                                      Does anyone have thoughts on Pacific 'O? I went to I'O over 10 years ago...Would you pick one or the other, or prefer Honu or Mala Tavern?

                                      It looks like our only Lahaina lunch will be at Star Noodle. The other lunch will be up country. Bev's General Store is unfortunately closed Saturday lunch, so I'm considering Paia's Flatbread, or Colleen's at the Cannery? Or is there a place in Kula? We'll be heading to the winery.

                                      1. re: pats38sox

                                        Yes, I'm in PDX and have the good fortune to have Jeffrey Morganthaler's offerings within walking distance! And lots of other great options, as well! You should visit sometime and go bar hopping.

                                        1. re: cobpdx

                                          Been to Portland a few times-- Clyde Common's barrel aged Negroni is my favorite cocktail in the country! Big fan of Hair of the Dog and Kask too...wish I could find those now in Maui!

                                    2. re: pats38sox

                                      Star Noodle is one of the most tourist & over-rated restaurant's I've been to. It was just featured in Sunset Magazine & all the tourist guide say to eat there, but I say Pass!

                                      You can make reservations for parties over 5, it was just 2 of us around 6pm on Tues evening & the wait was killer over 1hr, we finally decided to do take-out. We got Garlic Noodles large $10 & steamed pork buns which is 2 buns for $10, it's actually pork belly so if you don't like a lot of fat pass this up. Noodles not much garlic, I like lots maybe 5 cloves & this barely had 1 I think, very oily too.

                                      We ate one meal at Panda Express in Lahaina & really liked it much better & I'm not even a fan of Panda Express since it's mall food in the SF Bay Area.

                                      I liked getting take-out Poke Bowl (with or without rice) at Foodland Farm Grocery Store in Lahaina. You can sample all the poke before making a choice. Poke bowl 2 kinds of poke & rice for $10.99 or just 1 poke w/ rice $6.99. There's outdoor seating or take it back to the condo/hotel.

                                      Star Noodle
                                      286 Kupuohi St (above Walgreens)
                                      Call for reservations over 5ppl:
                                      Open daily 10:30a-10p

                                    3. The suspense is killing me. How were your Maui experiences?

                                      1. Haha, the suspense is over! I'll split the post into 2 parts-- the 7 days on Kauai, then the 3 days on Maui.

                                        Beginning with the beautiful Garden Isle of Kauai, we decided to give Merriman's another chance after 2 years of poor dinner performances upstairs. This time, we had lunch downstairs. I wouldn't call the pizza, burgers, or salads "special," but they are a much, much better deal than the small, overpriced dinner portions with underwhelming preparations. Service was smoother too. I'd recommend the Kalua pork pizza. The crust is a bit strange-- almost like a cracker crust.
                                        Dinner at the Beach House-- better than last year, but we also made sure to arrive earlier. Last year with our 8pm reservation, their only focus was to expedite the dinner timing. Everything was fine-- none of the fish really stood out or the ahi sashimi. The chocolate cake is actually better than most. Still, the place seems like it's run by the mob. It could be so much better, Jean Marie come back! And, the Mai Tai at the Beach House was an embarrassment of way too much dark rum, way too much ice, and I can't even tell you what else they put in it because they probably don't even know. Avoid at all costs.

                                        Next day, can only report back on the fact that Lapperts' gelato flavors (salted caramel, banana) need work compared to the classics I adore (Kauai Pie, passion fruit sorbet). Also, I've got a weak spot for the "sneaky tikis" on Captain Andy's. They won't win any cocktail competitions, but with the atmosphere of the ocean and Poipu coastline, any cocktail would taste great.
                                        For our dinners in, had some terrific opah, ono, ahi, and monchong from the Koloa Fish Market and Living Foods...hard to say which has the superior fish. Koloa Fish Market has some terrific marinades and pokes for sides.
                                        Next dinner out was at Josselin's. Jean Marie continues to make the most exciting food on the menu. It's about a 75% success rate, not everything wows. Sangrias are great, as are the shrimp and duck tacos, the 62 degree farm egg with kiawe roasted asparagus, and the real highlights are his work with fish-- spectacular butterfish in a soy mirin reduction and mahi mahi with a nori vinaigrette.

                                        The problem at Jean Marie is the service details. Since it's a tapas restaurant, they've got to get the pacing down. There were always too many plates on the table. They should limit at 2 plates at a time, no matter the size of a party (I think we ended up having 10 or so dishes).

                                        Puka Dog for a lunch-- still fine, but overhyped. It's too bad the fruit relishes get drowned in mustard. You can't hardly tell the mango relish from the papaya relish, let alone even notice they're on the hot dogs. Fortunately, the sausages are superb, beautifully plump and robust. Wait time? 40 minutes.

                                        Should note-- the Honu Bar at the Waiohai continues to make a decent Ultimate Mai Tai, using both Amaretto and Grand Marnier. As always, I picked up some taro chips and li hing mui covered potato chips from Taro Ko in Hanapepe. And returning from a sand blasted day at Polihale, tasted all the beers at Kauai Island Brewing. None really left a mark on me. The taro beer was disappointing. IPA and porter were the best of the bunch. We need to give them some more time I think.

                                        Last 2 dinners-- Red Salt and Roy's. Red Salt makes a respectable Mai Tai, the best I had on Kauai. I enjoyed Red Salt's cuisine-- especially the Kalua pork luau with excellent taro gnocchi and the amuse bouche of a chilled cucumber-coconut-pepper soup. Yes, an amuse bouche!
                                        The signature 7 spiced ahi was polarizing. The ahi itself was magnificent-- rare and radiant. The edamame cilantro risotto was undercooked and the serrano ham brown better was a salt bomb. For dessert, ask for the warm chocolate macadamia nut cookie!

                                        Roy's continues to be the most reliable restaurant in Poipu, though it is showing signs of fatigue and resting on its laurels. Service is still hands down the best. The misoyaki butterfish, the classic ahi with spicy soy mustard, the chocolate souffle, and the jade pesto monchong were as good as ever. The age old macadamia nut crusted mahi in lobster butter sauce though fell into every anti-Roy's cliché: a tired 90's type dish, banal garnishes of red potatoes and sad asparagus, and the almost always useless mac nut crust.
                                        Most disappointing at Roy's was how they usually have several new fish preparations to show the creativity of the chef...it seems like they're dialing back since there was just 1 fish preparation you wouldn't be able to get at a Roy's in SF or Baltimore.

                                        A Kukuiula Wednesday Farmers Market note-- don't know who makes the pesto and hummus, but wow do they make the sauces/ dips well! I sampled some obscure fruits like ice cream bananas...didn't make me swoon. Such a great community event.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: pats38sox

                                          Thanks for the report!

                                          Would Josselin's let you order only 2-3 at a time to alleviate the pacing issues?

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            They probably would and that definitely would help the pacing issues. We just selected everything at the start...never the best idea for this style of dining. The order of dishes brought out was strange too, with a pork belly large plate coming before fish.

                                            Not sure if I'm a fan of the whole sangria cart concept...it seems a little pushy and you have to decide on sangria or not before even consulting a wine list or cocktail list.

                                            1. re: kathryn

                                              We asked if we could order as we went along, and our server said that they preferred everything to be ordered at once, so that they would know what order to bring things. We specified that we wanted a SLOW pace, and got 3 dishes within minutes of ordering. The pace was way, way too fast, particularly for a tapas restaurant and particularly since we specified that we didn't want things coming out quickly. If I ever were to go again, I would insist on ordering as I went along.

                                            2. re: pats38sox

                                              Wish I hadn't been busy, I'd have sent you to Tortilla Republic.

                                              I think Red Salt is okay, but just not what I want on Kauai, I can get those type places cheaper by the dozen in LA or NYC.

                                              I like Merriman's Poipu far better than I like the Beach House these days. I don't think it has been the same since Josselin left. But I like the Merriman's on Maui even better.

                                              Love the Right Slice at the Wednesday Culinary Market and love the little Korean lady if she still shows up with her homemade goodies.

                                              On Maui, Plantation House, Merriman's, DUO, Ferraro’s, Joe's Bar & Grill, Nick's Fishmarket, Lahaina Grill, Capische, Spago, Roy's, Hali'imaile General Store, Kojima Sushi, Gerrard's, Pacific 'O and Mala Ocean Tavern are my favorites. I think Nick's has fallen a bit, maybe more than a bit, but I still love the setting and the food is good, just not "oh wow".

                                              Honorable mentions go to Honu for solid food, Sea House for solid food and a great setting and 808 Bistro for good food and good imagination.

                                              1. re: pats38sox


                                                Was just at Josselin's and Roy's past 2 nights. I agree that the service is fast and furious at Josselin's - your post made me aware of this before we ordered (which we didn't mind that much as we were with our kids). We decided to order 4 dishes at a time and it worked out perfectly. For us the highlights were the pumpkin ravioli and the butterfish - awesome at both restaurants but a bit better at Josselin's. All in all, the service was superb at both places. Thanks for the heads up.

                                                1. re: DDD

                                                  Thanks for the report! Big round of applause for ordering 4 dishes at a time! It's unfortunate that sometimes you just know you have to take pacing matters into your own hands, but that is far better than having 6 plates stacked on the table at one time.
                                                  At Roy's, did you stick with the classics (the ahi, the molten chocolate cake)? I'm always curious to see how their creations specific to Poipu fare.

                                                  1. re: pats38sox

                                                    Yes, for Roy's pretty much stuck to classics only. They were quite tasty, no overall drop in quality from 3 years ago. I thought the short ribs were not fantastic though. The molten choc cake was still great. Lovely service as well.

                                              2. The long book continues now to Maui!

                                                Opened with a tasting at Maui Brewing Co.'s pub in Kahana-- a whole different league than Kauai Island Brewing. I'm still partial to the CoCoNut Porter and Big Swell IPA. It's fun to see they're really branching out, trying some Belgian styles and deep, dark stouts.

                                                Originally, I had a reservation at Sansei...but this board changed my mind!

                                                Opening dinner at Honu-- great, great place. Pizza actually is only fair here and the least impressive part of a very impressive new establishment. Unbeatable views, great service. Start with the Guava Pisco Sour (sweet, not TOO sweet, they've almost got it right...the biggest problem was the lack of egg white froth which must be from not dry shaking the drink for close to a minute). Love that they give free spiced chickpeas to each table. The pastry chef here is stellar-- spend the money on the bread. This is a great example of where it's better to pay for superior, fresh bread, than get free useless bread (a very Frank Bruni argument). Great dark chocolate beet torte for dessert by her as well.
                                                Impressive touch by the kitchen with grilled spanish octopus, flax seed toast, and edamame hummus, along with the gado gado salad and the ahi bruschetta on edamame puree and flax seed toast.
                                                The one problem? Almost every dish repeated ingredients-- edamame, flax seed toast, and chickpeas galore. The best dish of the night was a special kale "sprouts", just like Brussels sprouts marinated in a shochu soy sauce.

                                                Lunch the next day at Flatbread Co after the nerve-racking drive in NW Maui to Julia's banana bread (as good as the hype says, the coconut candy is even better). The hour long wait was tough, got a bland espresso across the street at Anthony's. The flatbreads themselves are terrific, especially the pale pesto and the pork-pineapple one. Get the salad with Surfing Goat Dairy goat cheese.

                                                Then to Maui's Winery...it's refreshing to visit a winery with free tastings and the staff doesn't constantly mention wine clubs. I'm used to Napa and Sonoma...and pineapple wine is, well, pineapple wine. Best was the raspberry dessert wine.

                                                Had decent cocktails at the Ritz Kapalua's lobby lounge. I actually insisted on my Canton ginger powered "French Mai Tai" to be served up, tired of the bland, watered down drinks I kept being served elsewhere.

                                                Dinner at the Pineapple Grill. The new chef shows great potential with his kobe beef & brie raviolis, the excellent pistachio & wasabi pea crusted ahi, and a showstopping tender short ribs dish with a miso-mustard broth, and a green apple marmalade. The pineapple upside down cake is a knockout dessert. Great service, a little bit of a sterile, corporate ambiance (it is owned by a sterile, corporate group...).

                                                Next day, was going to have lunch at Star Noodle. Unfortunately, unforeseen golf tee time issues and poor planning forced me to eat a to go $17 grilled vegetables sandwich from the Sheraton Ka'anapali's Black Rock Bar that was one of the most embarrassing moments of my dining career. Disappointed in myself how I missed out on Star Noodle and was stuck with this...maybe a sandwich worth $5? (It was to go because they forgot my order and I had to hurry away).

                                                The last night-- I had heard the one possible "oasis" for craft cocktails could be at the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Villas's Ocean Pool Bar, where a SF mixologist supposedly consulted on the menu and training the bartenders.
                                                Well, that didn't work out. It's far from a special menu to begin with. I didn't get to try any of his creations since all of the ingredients were used for Easter brunches earlier in the day. So, tired of Mai Tais, I asked for a Negroni. They didn't have Campari at the bar. What bar doesn't have Campari??
                                                They did hunt down Campari and made a very decent Negroni...the regular Mai Tai was better than the not impressive competition elsewhere. Still, very sweet and fruity.

                                                Dinner at Lahaina Grill...the closest setting I've ever found to Galatoire's in New Orleans. Great experience, the most refined meal of the trip, very crisp. The waitress was particularly sharp...dead on with pacing and knowing the minute details of dishes.
                                                Yes, everything is expensive...$10 more than anywhere else. A meal here easily is equal to Chez Panisse on a Saturday night. Just keep that in mind. But, it is a special dining experience. Not Alan Wong's or Chef Mavro's, but still very special. Started with prawns and scallops stuffed chile relleno. As good as it sounds, skip the ahi and foie gras starter...the latter overwhelms the poor fish and you end up eating both on their own. Great ingredients, not a great dish.
                                                The chef knows his way with fish-- best was a special opakapaka with a rare to find excellent panko crust, on a terrific al dente smoked mozzarella risotto and lobster champagne sauce. Pacific rim cuisine? No, but still great.
                                                Great ahi too with fragrant vanilla bean jasmine rice and an apple cider-soy butter vinaigrette.
                                                Desserts are no let-down-- I still remember vividly the "Road to Hana," the sunken chocolate cake (even better than at Roy's in that category), and the triple berry pie (I wish they didn't put in a 2 foot high bed of whipped cream).

                                                Lastly, with a 4 hour layover at HNL Airport, there is officially nothing to eat at the airport. Shame on me for being lazy and not taking the taxi to Alan Wong's Pineapple Room, Town, or elsewhere. I probably would've been convinced to go to Helena's Hawaiian Food since it's closer, but it was a Monday...so they were closed.

                                                1. All in all, another very special trip to the Islands! Mahalo nui loa for all of your recommendations! I can't wait to return.

                                                  Let's try and solve this cocktails issue though in the Islands...how can we keep Mai Tais and other drinks from the watered down, super sweet state they're in everywhere right now?

                                                  For those keeping score-- Red Salt and Honu Bar had the best Kauai cocktails. I'd say Honu in Lahaina the best for Maui.

                                                  By the way, I just made the "original" Trader Vic Bergeron Mai Tai recipe at home last night...was better and far less sweet than any on the trip.

                                                  1 oz. light rum, 1 oz. gold rum
                                                  1/2 oz. curaçao, 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup, 1/2 oz. lime juice
                                                  1 oz. dark rum float
                                                  Shake, strain into old-fashioned glass, garnish with maraschino cherry

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pats38sox

                                                    I don't think the cocktail problem in the islands is solvable until you get the rest of the country into proper cocktails as well.

                                                    Not sure if anybody in the islands even knows the Trader Vic's recipe, maybe a few places in Honolulu. Most of them are making a bastardized version of the *Hawaiian* Mai Tai. As I posted up thread the Hawaiian version of the Mai Tai is very different. It has 4 juices in comparison to the Trader Vic version:

                                                    "From the Surf Bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach, where Trader Vic introduced his original Mai Tai to the islands in 1953. Over the ensuing years, this recipe (which dates from 1971) evolved from Vic’s into its present form.

                                                    Mai Tai (Hawaiian)
                                                    * 1 oz. orange juice, fresh
                                                    * 1 oz. pineapple juice, unsweetened
                                                    * 1/2 oz. lime juice, fresh
                                                    * 1/4 oz. lemon juice, fresh
                                                    * 1/4 oz. orange curacao
                                                    * 1/4 oz. orgeat syrup
                                                    * 1/4 oz. simple syrup
                                                    * 1 oz. Demerara rum
                                                    * 1 oz. dark Jamaican rum
                                                    * 1 oz. light Puerto Rican rum"

                                                    BTW, Julie Reiner has tapped Matty Drugin (Madison St, Green Russell, Adrift in Denver) to work at Tiki Iniki, I think he's moved there permanently... Fingers crossed.

                                                  2. Thanks for the reports! I have another couple of places to try on the next trip to Maui (and to Kauai, since we just did not somehow make it to Josselins).

                                                    Sounds like you were able to coax some *decent* cocktails out of some of the Maui establishments. I am going to be pushier on my next visit! A negroni is a great idea.

                                                    1. Looking for feedback on:

                                                      Alan Wong's Amasia
                                                      Haliimaile General store
                                                      Ka'ana Kitchen

                                                      I worry that spending a lot of food at these fancier places is just a waste of money. Coming from San Francisco, so we have lots of good food at home. Trying to find the right mix of good food that we don't have in SF.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Foodnut8

                                                        Keep in mind that overall Maui is going to feel a little "behind the times" in terms of menu/conception.

                                                        Though what I've read about Ka'ana and Migrant sounds more modern. But then again, perhaps more similar to what you can find in big cities on the Mainland.

                                                        Amasia is good but you have to order carefully. The price point isn't too and considerig that it's a famous chef and in a fancy hotel.

                                                        HGS is quite good.

                                                        Monkeypod is pretty reasonable, too, and it's casual/boisterous.

                                                        1. re: Foodnut8

                                                          hav you considered starting a thread of your own?

                                                          What I wouldn't do for a Sashimi Nepolean from HGS and a hug from Wendy the bar maid!

                                                          1. re: Foodnut8


                                                            From what you have listed (coming from SF) Ka'ana Kitchen might be the only one I'd consider from the first four choices. I am admittedly intrigued by Migrant, but they hadn't opened yet when we were there. I'd definitely hit that.

                                                            Amasia - at best you'll get what you pay for. It slides toward the negative from there.

                                                            Hali'imale General Store - It's a safe menu, don't expect to have your socks knocked off. It's a pretty dark drive up there at night, too. Again, at best you'll get what you pay for. Portions are ample.

                                                            Monkeypod - Some people love this place. I would just as soon drive to Paia and go to Flatbread Company.

                                                            Ka'ana Kitchen - like everything in Wailea you're paying over odds for the food. At those levels I'd rather go to Mama's. I will say Andaz is one slick hotel, though. At the very least stop in for some drinks.

                                                          2. Here are a few of my thoughts on your choices...we had lunch at Pacific'O last summer and thought it was wonderful. Star Noodle and Aloha Mixed Plate were disappointing. Star Noodle was expensive and loud. Aloha Mixed Plate (I think they are under the same owner) was so so. We prefer the plate lunches at Honokowai Okazuya instead (take-out only). Maui Brewery was one probably the worst meal I have had on Maui. We love Monkeypod Kitchen and Mama's too. Honu is always on my list of places to try but we always run out of time. You can get your Lappert's fix at their shop on Front Street. Let us all know where you end up dining. We are headed back in a few months ourselves.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Mimi

                                                              Appreciate all the suggestions. Anything standout by Lahaina?

                                                              I read that Ka'ana Kitchen has a very good breakfast buffet. (Expensive of course)

                                                              Any other places have a good top notch buffet or Sunday Brunch? We love the high end ones in Hong Kong and Singapore..

                                                              1. re: Foodnut8

                                                                Not really fair to compare Maui against high end breakfast buffets HK and Singapore, as Hawaii is the most remote island chain on the planet.

                                                                That said, look into places like Gazebo, Plantation House, Sea House, etc. for made to order breakfast on the west side.

                                                                Note also that much of West Maui is grouped under the same Lahaina zip code. So you might actually be staying in Honokowai, Kaanapali, etc.

                                                                For other eats near Lahaina, you mean upscale? Downscale? What cuisines?

                                                                When in Hawaii, we focus on local foods, Pacific Rim, fresh seafood, mostly. Eat lots of poke and plate lunch. Fish tacos. Dinner at Merriman's or Lahaina Grill. Plate lunch at Local Food. Shave ice at Ululani's. Things that are harder to find at home.

                                                                Have you done a search?

                                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                                  I have enough reccommendations to work with thanks!

                                                                  Also we are staying at the Four Seasons Lanai Manele Bay
                                                                  Anyone have suggestion on which restaurant is the better one?

                                                                  Its a stretch going to Nobu there!

                                                                  1. re: Foodnut8

                                                                    I would definitely start a new thread if you have Lanai questions as it's a different island.

                                                            2. Aloha again Kauai!
                                                              So happy to see that this thread is still alive and well...with a little Lanai twist. One day I'll have the chance to go there!

                                                              But we're heading back to Kauai at the end of this week for 10 days. What's new in 2014? Should I make sure to visit Tiki Iniki and Kauai Grill from Jean Georges? After 2 very negative Merriman's visits, I will not return. I will make sure to pace the meal myself at Josselin's after 2 erratic visits with way too much food arriving at once. Should I return to Roy's, Plantation Gardens, and Beach House as we've done every year for over a decade and the only consistent thing is inconsistency?

                                                              No Maui this year. Just The Garden Isle, staying again in Poipu. Mahalo nui loa and very excited to return!

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: pats38sox

                                                                I'd try Tortilla Republic and the new Dolphin Fish Market (related to the Hanalei one), as well as Savage Shrimp (formerly a food truck). All at the Shops at Kukuiula.

                                                                Tortilla Republic makes some decent cocktails, too.

                                                                Had no issues with pacing during 2 meals at Josselin's in late Dec/early Jan.

                                                                Have you read any recent trip reports?

                                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                                  I've always thought about trying Tortilla Republic—I know it's always a terrible excuse to say coming from LA and SF why do I need to try Mexican food in Poipu. It's true that's always in the back of my mind but I really should give Tortilla Republic a try. Good Margaritas would be a nice switch-up from all the Mai Tais :)

                                                                  Some of my family tried Dolphin Fish Market last April and had a terrible experience service and food-wise. Maybe I should give it a try myself though since I'm sure they worked out the early kinks. I've never been the biggest fan of Hanalei Dolphin, though ;(.

                                                                  1. re: pats38sox

                                                                    Tortilla Republic also has a West Hollywood location so I guess it's kind of a Californian import?

                                                                2. re: pats38sox

                                                                  If you plan to go to the north shore on a Wednesday or Thursday evening, dinner at Kaua’i Ono in Hanalei town is worth a try. It’s a $50 (cash only) 5 course menu (changes regularly) outdoors on one of several picnic tables that seat 8-10 each under a very tall, lighted white canopy. We ate there a few weeks ago, and my wife, who’s not a huge fan of tasting menus, loved it. Preparations were simple, but ingredients were fresh and locally sourced and included some we’ve not found at other restaurants. First course was taro (from nearby) two ways – a square of boiled and baked root under a scoop of luau (leaves&coconut milk). Second course was pan roasted walu on olive oil tossed kale with a garnish I don’t remember. Third was simply local greens tossed in a light vinaigrette. Fourth was slow braised shredded brisket of Kaua’i beef topped with a scoop of mashed cassava and garnished with pea shoots. Last was a flourless chocolate cake topped with a slice of apple banana and drizzled with apple banana sauce.

                                                                  I’ve read on other sites (like yelp and tripadvisor) that people left hungry or felt that counting greens as a course was a ripoff, but we really enjoyed the meal (and were full) and the whole experience. We sat across from a couple that moved to Kilauea from the mainland three years ago and had a great time with them. Even though you eat at picnic tables, you get cloth napkins, silverware, and wine glasses. Water glasses are mason jars. Beverages are BYO with no fees. We brought a bottle of white and a bottle of red. Advance reservations necessary. Since it’s outdoors, be sure to put on mosquito repellent before you sit down. I did, but my wife didn’t. I wasn’t scratching the next day.

                                                                  We’re going to try to fit in one more visit before we leave the island on 4/24, ending a 15 year run at our Waipouli waterfront timeshare paradise, which has changed ownership and is being converted into a hotel later this year after all the timeshare leases expire.

                                                                  Also new in Lihu’e, which we haven’t tried yet, are Greenery Café, open for breakfast and lunch across the street from Tip Top Motel, and Rainbeau Jo’s, a food truck which is supposed to do good breakfast and lunch, in the industrial area next to Vidinha Stadium. We’re going to try to grab lunch at both places some time this week or next.

                                                                  1. re: beantowntitletown

                                                                    We were in Kauai in November and also loved our meal at Kaua'i Ono. The food was great and we really enjoyed the company at our table, as well as the casual yet festive vibe.

                                                                    On the recommendation of one of our dining companions, we went the next day to the Kilauea Fish Market in Kapaa for seared ahi tuna wraps. They were completely delicious - if we had discovered them sooner, we probably would have had one every time we passed through Kapaa, which was often.

                                                                    1. re: beantowntitletown

                                                                      Thanks for the head's up on Kauai Ono—I've cleared my Thursday schedule and am determined to have dinner at this wonderful event. It's so Bay Area 2014 except...with even better produce and fish! Goodness that meal you had sounds great start to finish. Would love to try the taro 2 ways.

                                                                      I was actually thinking about your tips on the mosquitoes while running today as I got bit several times...I'm a magnet for them. But I won't let that get in the way of going to Kauai Ono. And the byob part is great—always a perk to be your own cicerone/somm.

                                                                      Thanks for pointing out Greenery Café and Rainbeau Jo's. Interesting that a breakfast/lunch place would be right across from Dani's. Anybody tried the ahi wrap at Greenery?

                                                                      BTW, love the name Beantown Titletown :) Papi Power, In Belichick We Trust.

                                                                      1. re: pats38sox

                                                                        Right back at ya, pats38sox. “Two-peat” the Sox? One more for Brady/Belichick? We can dream. I see you're on island now. Got lunch at Greenery Café this week. Food was good, but not worth a special trip. We had a rosemary chicken wrap and angel hair with housemade tomato sauce and chicken apple sausage (was supposed to be organic ground turkey, but they ran out). The restaurant is in a residential/commercial zone on Akahi St. and is a very small building (like a former garage, maybe) behind a former home, now housing a professional’s office. There’s a small covered outdoor area containing two small plastic tables in front of the screen door where you order your food. On the side of the building are two more tables with umbrellas on an outdoor patio. Have not tried breakfast; we’re normally too late to get breakfast anywhere. Might try an ahi wrap next week, but it’s hard to beat Kilauea Fish Market’s.

                                                                    2. re: pats38sox

                                                                      One other north shore thing. From your posts, it seems that you like mai tais. Try the basil mai tai at Roy's Princeville Tavern and the classic Trader Vic's mai tai at Tiki Iniki. Both are different from the "typical" mai tais elsewhere on the island. The basil mai tai is my new favorite.

                                                                      I 'm lukewarm on the food at Princeville Tavern, and we haven't eaten at Tiki Iniki yet.

                                                                      1. re: pats38sox

                                                                        If you’re in the mood for Italian, there’s a new place called La Spezia that opened up in Koloa town in September. We tried it on Saturday, and it was great. It’s in a building next to Big Save, and outside it looks like a typical storefront in Koloa town. But once you walk through the front screen door you’re in a sleek Italian bistro with soothing earth tones, beautiful chandeliers, tabletops made from wooden wine crates, and a walk-in wine refrigerator. Dining room seats 20-30, and the attractive bar and lounge to the right seat around 20. Highlight of the evening was a special of giant head-on Kaua’i prawns from Kekaha with a kick-ass spaghetti arrabbiata (pic attached). Kale salad was very good, although the fried soft-poached egg had a hard yolk, and the pork belly was hard to find. Wife’s lasagna with Bolognese was very good, although it would have better without the Bolognese topping, which was too acidic. Special of tomato/eggplant/bread soup was excellent, as was the panna cotta with berries and whipped cream that ended the meal. A nice plus is that it’s open till 10 pm every day except Monday, and we’ll be going back after a sunset trip to Polihale. No reservations.

                                                                      2. This is wonderful—really looking forward to returning tomorrow morning (though it's actually warmer currently here at my home than in Lihue).

                                                                        Thanks everyone for the updates and advice as always. Kathryn, I've looked thru some of the recent threads and I'll have a few final questions/tie-breakers below.

                                                                        Locked In Places
                                                                        Dinner: Roy's Poipu, Beach House (in this case I don't have veto power with the family, some of whom have eaten there since 1981), Josselin's

                                                                        Lunch: Puka Dog (I'm going to try the vegetarian dog for the first time this year and ask for no mayo sauce, only lots of fruit relish). Brennecke's (not a food fan but family loves the atmosphere). Most of our lunches are at the beach or the condo with various delicious local jams, breads, Kauai Kookies (never been a fan of the shortbread style unless you can dunk in milk or coffee), Taro Ko's chips from Hanapepe, Koloa Fish Market poke, Maui Brewing...

                                                                        Drinks: Definitely will do the Tiki Iniki/Roy's Tavern Mai Tai-off. Since when did Roy's have a tavern? Always have to visit the Waiohai Beach Bar- great Mai Tai with Grand Marnier added (it's their spruced up version).

                                                                        Maybe Dinner: We'll have a few at the condo but maybe like between: Kauai Ono, Kauai Grill-Jean Georges, plantation Gardens

                                                                        Maybe lunch: Sounds like I need to pay a visit to Ara's Sakana-ya for some poke. We will have a first-timer with us so that probably means a visit to Hamura's Saimin. Also never been to Mark's Place. Island Taco in Waimea sounds maybe worth a trip?

                                                                        Final Questions—
                                                                        For an off the plane lunch (landing at noon), how does Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa'a sound? Or Mark's Place?

                                                                        Anybody been to the new Kauai Beer Co. in Lihue (different than Kauai Island Brewing). Is Kauai becoming the next Portland for craft beer? ;)

                                                                        Any good spots for espresso? Has third wave coffee & latte art reached Kauai? Kauai Coffee Plantation tasting doesn't count.


                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: pats38sox

                                                                          Quick update thus far—loved the ahi wrap at Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa'a...even convinced the family next to me on the plane to go thereand sure enough they showed up right after we finished lunch. Excellent poke there too.

                                                                          Superb fish from Koloa Fish Market...monchong needs to be better known.

                                                                          Plantation Gardens & Kauai Ono reservations set...they will join Beach House, Josselin's, and Roy's for dinners out.

                                                                          Also tried Anahola Granola for the first time--we need that imported to CA! Also now a fan of Hanalei Poi Co but my family keeps calling me crazy.

                                                                          1. re: pats38sox

                                                                            monchong most definately does not need to be better known as it is a rare delicacy. ssshhhhh! When on the islands, be it the fish monger or a restaurant - when we see it, we buy it!

                                                                          2. re: pats38sox

                                                                            Red Salt is fantastic at the Koa Kea resort in Poipu.
                                                                            Breakfast/lunch or dinner is excellent.

                                                                            IMO, The only Roy's worth its salt is in Waikiki..never dug the Roy's in the Poipu center.

                                                                            I would do Keoki's paradise for happy hour in the same center with my bruddahs that play fab Aloha music.
                                                                            Josselins rocks and they've added another Dolphins location in Poipu.
                                                                            Beach House is more drinks and apps..

                                                                            Hamura Saimin in Lihue for lunch of Saimin and lilikoi pie is sublime...divey goodness and James Beard nominated.
                                                                            Happy hour at Dukes is always a fun time.

                                                                            Have a mai tai at Tiki Iniki and say HI to Todd!!


                                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                              Appreciate all the help. Had a great trip. As usual there were some big twists and changes.

                                                                              Ended up going to Sansei even though we warned. Was shopping in Foodland and saw the line, decided to go if we got in for 50% off happy hour. There are some clinkers, but the Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll, Matsuhisa Style Miso Butterfish, Crab Ramen, and Foie Gras were excellent.

                                                                              Star Noodle was also very good. Steamed Pork Buns, Ramen, Garlic Noodles and Malasadas hit the spot. There were misses of course.

                                                                              Also liked Monkeypod, Ko, Plantation House,Local Food, Yee's Mangos, Ululani's, Mana Foods, Home Maid Bakery, Stillwell's.

                                                                              Migrant, Da Kitchen Express were ok, not great.

                                                                              Lahaina Grill was good but at that price, restaurants in major cities like San Francisco can out do them. Didn't feel very Hawaiian.

                                                                              I got some reviews and pictures up here.

                                                                              1. re: Foodnut8

                                                                                Glad you had a great time.
                                                                                Look forward to heading back to Maui..
                                                                                Sansei with the 50% off is a great deal and have always had decent sushi.
                                                                                Looking forward to trying Kathryn's rec for sushi in Kihei!

                                                                          3. Aloha Everyone! Here's my long report from Kauai this month...

                                                                            Mahalo again for your advice, this was another wonderful trip to Kauai for dining and enjoying the island from Ke'e to Polihale.

                                                                            Here are my thoughts/new and old spots visited over the course of 10 days. The big winner? Hard to say but Kauai Ono certainly was most unique. Big Loser? Plantation Gardens.

                                                                            Plantation Gardens: I've always loved the atmosphere, thought the food was decent, and service for the birds. It was exactly as before. No need to go again. Do note, they offer only 2 fresh fish dishes a night...nothing compared to its peers around Poipu.

                                                                            Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa'a: Great hidden gem. The ahi tuna wrap does live up to the hype. The poke was extremely salty...a bit strange.

                                                                            Puka Dog: I tried the vegetarian dog for the first time for comparison and since I'm not a fan of their garlic special sauce, I got just the mango relish. The Polish sausage wins and the lone relish needed to be doubled. I'm still not Puka Dog's biggest advocate.

                                                                            The Beach House: Fortunately stepped up its game with food & service from past years. Must get the beet salad with guava alae smoked salt and just the right amount of truffle oil. I forget the decent fish that came with coconut scented Thai rice but oh was that one of the best sides I've had in recent memory! For fish, get the excellent furikake dusted ahi.

                                                                            Hamura Saimin Stand: Maybe I've had too much excellent ramen the past year but all of a sudden the Saimin Special went from "special" to "good" for me. Broth was a touch too musty and thin...Still a great experience though and the saimin is by no means not worth ordering. Their won tons aren't my favorite...

                                                                            Josselin's: I took matters into my own hands and paced the meal in 3 parts. I can't trust their pacing anymore. Lots of good to excellent small plates-- the roasted lamb meatballs, mushrooms w/ bacon, slow cooked butterfish, mahi w/ nori vinaigrette all were highlights. Avoid the pork belly (dry). They need a real dessert menu...no effort put into it compared to the rest of the menu. And above all else, AVOID THE SANGRIA. Boring, watery, off-measured...literally nobody of the table of 5 drank more than 1/2 of their glass.

                                                                            Lappert's vs Papalani Gelato: Lappert's. Papalani's flavors just aren't as powerful, the texture a bit chalky. Can you really beat Lappert's Kauai Pie?

                                                                            Roy's: Like Beach House, stepped up its game and was better than probably last 5 visits. The new highlight was either a beautiful crispy fried Brussels sprouts starter or entrée of grilled Singapore peppercorn crusted opah w/ fried tofu, snow peas, and shiitakes. Classics like the blackened ahi, misoyaki butterfish & chocolate souffle all were on the mark.

                                                                            Still love those li hing mui and taro chips from Taro Ko in Hanapepe. Not a fan of Kauai Kookie (does anyone taste guava in the guava mac nut flavor?).

                                                                            For coffee, Living Foods is always decent (and their cookies are way more than decent). However I really enjoyed the new Little Fish Cafe in Hanapepe. This is a treasure, please visit!

                                                                            Poke and fresh fish to grill-- hard to beat Koloa Fish Market.

                                                                            Didn't get a chance to try Jean Georges or Roy's in Princeville. I did sample a few drinks but no food at Tiki Iniki. Drinks were good...none were great. The Mai Tai in my view tied the Grand Marnier version at Waiohai's Honu Bar and Tahiti Nui. The others felt it was a step down.

                                                                            In terms of my Mai Tai fatigue...I admit to having ordered Negronis at the end of the trip I was so tired of Mai Tais being juice and rum.

                                                                            Really enjoyed Nani Moon Meadery in Kapa'a, Kauai Island Brewing, and the new Kauai Brewing in Lihue. All are really showing some great strength. I'm excited to see their growth.

                                                                            Lastly, Kauai Ono. I love the concept. First and foremost as mentioned by other posters: beware of mosquitoes. My family got drilled by them. It's true everything everyone says, rain or dry.
                                                                            Starter was taro 3 ways, not bad nor great. Loved the next 2 dishes-- butterfish w/ ponzu sauce on a gorgeous bed of kale. Best of the night was the simple Kauai greens salad, though I would've switched that and the fish as 2-3.
                                                                            Others raved about the pulled Kalua pig topped with sweet potato puree. To me, it was fine but one note and got heavy and boring after several bites. It would've been great in tacos perhaps. But it seemed more like the belly filler after the smaller first 3 courses.
                                                                            Dessert was an excellent coconut mochi cake with apple banana caramel...a revelation.

                                                                            Lots of great tastes as always...mahalo nui loa Kauai!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: pats38sox

                                                                              i generally prefer cookies chewy, but kauai kookies are decent. i do taste the guava, somewhat mild.

                                                                              if you are ever on oahu and 'cookies by clyde' are available, snatch them up; all the flavors are excellent. although crunchy, they are some of the best cookies i have ever had. i am not sure who clyde is, and have heard many rumors, but apparently he makes his cookies only for certain occasions and events, esp fundraisers.

                                                                            2. We just got back from Kauai, and overall, not really a food destination, but lovely anyway. There did not seem to be much for good cheap eats. Notable exceptions were: Hamura Saimin, fun and tasty, odd homemade wontons though, just get the regular saimin and a slice of pie; and Hukilau Lanai, fantastic bargain tasting menu with good wine pairings, great outdoor setting, pleasant service, they only need to learn how to make french press coffee.

                                                                              16 Replies
                                                                              1. re: tibbles

                                                                                Agreed—in a way, it seems the highlights of Kauai's food & drink are in the artisans (whether it's jam makers, bakeries, farmers, mead & beer) and less in regards to the middle and upscale restaurants. I'm guessing though there will be spots opening soon on par food & service-wise with Alan Wong's, Chef Mavro's, Salt Kitchen...Kauai Ono is a very good sign of things to come.

                                                                                1. re: pats38sox

                                                                                  There is not enough demand for places like that. Maybe if Kauai became more like Maui it could happen, but I doubt it would happen soon, if at all.

                                                                                  1. re: killersmile

                                                                                    "Maybe if Kauai became more like Maui..."

                                                                                    A thousand curses on you

                                                                                      1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                        Why, is what I said wrong? In my mind (and that of almost everyone I know), Maui is the medium between Oahu and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands in terms of development, urbanism & tourism.

                                                                                        1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                          I think people are reading too quickly & taking that one phrase out of context.

                                                                                          I read it as "IF Kauai were hypothetically to become more like Maui THEN those types of upscale restaurants COULD be economically feasible BUT it is unlikely to happen, IF it happens at all."

                                                                                          Killersmile isn't saying it should happen or even wishing that it would happen...

                                                                                          1. re: kathryn

                                                                                            Beach Chick were you reading too quickly and taking that one phrase out of context? I most certainly was not. And I think you and I are the only two people being called to task.

                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                              No worries Bellachefa and Beach Chick...I don't think anyone wants Kauai to become Maui (the day will never come when Poipu looks like Kaanapali. I also don't think anyone wants Kauai's dining to become about celebrity chefs like Maui is starting to (well, other than Roy).

                                                                                              I would love to see the equivalent of what Bev Gannon and Sheldon Simeon are doing for Maui though...I feel like Josselin's has always had the potential to be like that but just doesn't feel the urge to leave the status quo Roy's, Beach House level.

                                                                                              1. re: pats38sox

                                                                                                Aloha. .
                                                                                                Knowing both islands for many many years and shudder to think that my beloved Kauai, could turn into Maui, which I love but the Gods of Kauai, will never let that happen.


                                                                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                  The spirit of Kauai is strong; independent and proud.
                                                                                                  Before our Thursday departure to SFO, we stop at Costco to fill the rental car's tank with gas; feed ourselves for the third time this trip at Mark's Place; and sweeten the ending with pie at The Right Slice.
                                                                                                  Mark's Place is my comfort zone; I could eat here every day with its menu changes: uku plate lunch, loco moco, Mark's famous Mixed Plate, crab salad wrap, apple crumble, flan, and for the flight home - chicken teriyaki sandwich/cheeseburger. The Right Slice is fail-safe for the sweet tooth with blueberry macadamia nut or lemon pie.

                                                                                        2. re: killersmile

                                                                                          Killersmile, don't worry, I am not here to castigate you. Maui is Maui and Kauai is Kauai. The people of Kauai have consciously chosen to limit it's development and to keep the rural, "life in the slow lane" pace of life. Preserving Kauai as we like it does come with its costs, one being not being able to host a surfeit of fine dining restaurants. It's a tradeoff that we gladly accept. People come to Kauai for it's natural beauty and vibe, not for its countless celebrity chef restaurants.

                                                                                          We like Hamura's salty soup and the bubble gum stuck under the counter. We like the poke at Ara's sakana-ya and Fish Express. We like the basic breakfasts at Tip Top and Country Kitchen.

                                                                                          I am reminded why we like it here when I meet my friends monthly at Lydgate beach park with beer and pupus to watch the moon rise over the ocean.

                                                                                          There is no Alan Wongs here, no Nobu and no Eric Ripert. But I can say that the beer and pupus taste a whole lot better than any vintage wine and appetizer I have ever had anywhere in the world as I sit and watch that big ole moon emerge above the water with the trade winds blowing in my face.

                                                                                          Some say Maui no ka oi, but Kauai locals know better.

                                                                                          1. re: wabi

                                                                                            eric ripert? oahu boy here and don't know him. also have not yet been to AW or nobu. we live in town, but you'd be surprised at some of the rural areas. i lived in kahaluu til i was ~4, and it gets more rural than that! i do have memories of a kauai trip long ago, the highlight of which was a phallic rock.

                                                                                            1. re: indelibledotink

                                                                                              (Eric Ripert is the chef at Le Bernardin in New York City.)

                                                                                                1. re: wabi

                                                                                                  when i lived in nyc i didn't go to many fancy restaurants. had peter luger's 3 course meal for $20 on special, loved this tapas bar in my neighborhood when i was in brooklyn heights - they closed. went to gotham once. i lived above blue water grill at union square, ate there several times. when i went for a visit i ate at smith and wollenskys.

                                                                                                  i recall visiting a manhattan cowboy bar with a gaudy red interior and a red covered wagon hanging from the ceiling. definitely not fancy, but i kind of wonder where it was/what it was called, i was in a haze at the time. any guesses?

                                                                                                  ty for clearing that up, lol, been telling everyone it was on kauai.

                                                                                              1. re: wabi

                                                                                                aha. Fish Express is always our first stop after airport/rental car! Walk in door and my eyes get big; I want it all. It's a good start to 7 days in paradise.