Kauai Trip Report (Mostly Poipu)
We stayed in Poipu in a condo for five days over the new year, and ate mostly on the south side but we did drive around the island a bit to see Waimea Canyon, Hanapepe, as well as the North Shore one afternoon.
Savage Shrimp, Poipu - Very friendly service. We ordered at the counter and waited about twenty minutes for a table. I had the Aloha shrimp plate, my husband had Firecracker shrimp plate. Both good, a little spicy, and filling. Excellent tropical style coleslaw. I usually don't even like coleslaw but this was very good. The server / counter guy was great. Just make sure you don't sit down on the benches reserved for Uncle's Shave Ice customers, they get cranky!
Koloa Fish Market, Koloa - Their Korean style poke bentos were awesome! Poke on a bed of sushi rice with some sweet wasabi cream. Also loved their lau lau and kalua pork combination Hawaiian plate lunch, served with a cup of poke, some lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, and two scoops of rice. Delicious and inexpensive. Takeout only.
Josselin's Tapas, Poipu - Great restaurant and some of the best food we had on Kauai. Started off with the red sangria and the lychee sangria. Then a deconstructed ahi roll, which came as a tower of tuna, avocado, cucumber and seasoned rice, bubbling over with liquid nitrogen clouds of smoke. Impressive and I liked what they did with the seasoning of the sushi rice. The steamed duck bao buns were fluffy and delicious, with a sweet and savory filling, contrasted by a spicy dressing on top. The mushrooms, sautéed with apple smoked bacon, were bursting with umami flavor. My favorite was the seared opakapaka. Delicate, with a crispy panko crust, but with the center still barely cooked, and served with haricot vert, sliced eggplant, sliced squash, and a great sake jalapeño butter sauce. By the time the pork belly came out, we were too stuffed to go on, so we brought most of it back to the condo. Tasted pretty good later, too. Our server was awesome, very energetic, and spread out our dishes so that we only got one or two at a time, preventing the table from getting crowded. We went back a second night and unfortunately they were out of the shrimp duck tacos and the steamed duck buns already at 7:30 on a Friday. We had the roasted ahi belly with eel and creme fraiche, which was great. The marlin ceviche tostada was also fresh and quite good but very messy as it was three stacked chips with layers of cubed fish and tomatoes in between. Roasted cauliflower with kimchee ranch dipping sauce was interesting but one note and a huge portion that we didn't finish. We still enjoyed ourselves, though. And no issues with more than 1-2 courses showing up at once during the second meal either.
Red Salt, Poipu - The lemon soufflé pancakes with pineapple & creme fraiche took thirty minutes to cook but were excellent. We snacked on the complimentary basket of mini muffins and butter while waiting. My husband's breakfast burrito was fine, though I did like the combination of the potatoes, pancetta, and eggs. Service was kind of odd (not a fan of servers touching my shoulders/back especially if I'm wearing a tank top) and seemed to disappear for long periods of time.
Puka Dog, Poipu - Ate here three times. Surprisingly addictive. Our usual order was polish sausage, spicy sauce, pineapple relish, lilikoi mustard. Sometimes a fresh lemonade. I kind of want a beach delivery service for these sausages! The line looks long but moves quickly. Our food came out fast every time, too. Yum. My husband loved this place.
Tortilla Republic, Poipu - Loved this spot. Sure, very shiny and hip but we adored the food. Great ono and shrimp ceviche with mango salsa. I was impressed by the crispy, tender, fatty and flavorful pork carnitas with tomatillo. My chicken mole with rice was good and we both liked the complimentary black beans and house rice. The carnitas were the clear standout even though the entire meal was very good. I was sopping up just the carnitas sauce by the end. My Hydration margarita was good as was my husband's classic margarita. Our server was excellent, very helpful in navigating the menu and recommending dishes.
Living Foods, Poipu - Loved the pineapple bioche french toast, where chunks of pineapple had been baked into the brioche, but was not impressed by the blueberry pancakes. Pineapple agua fresca was good. Also tried a coconut water. Nice patio area to eat outside both in front and in back of the store. Good tropical fruit smoothies, too.
Ishihara Market, Waimea - Tried a few poke types at the counter of this little grocery store/market on the way back from Waimea Canyon. Crab poke was interesting but not what we were craving, so we finally settled on inamona poke, spicy ahi poke, seaweed salad, and some rice. Ate outside on the picnic tables for lunch. Too stuffed for shave ice though.
Wong's/Omoide Bakery & Deli, Hanapepe - Popped in for a takeout slice of lilikoi chiffon pie. Yum!
Merriman's Pizza and Burgers, Poipu - Husband had the pork and grilled pineapple with jalapeño pizza, said it was OK, while I was lukewarm on my local cheeseburger. Didn't really enjoy the cucumber on the burger, nor the whole wheat bun. Bun disintegrated very quickly, was like tissue paper by the end. Patty was big and needed a bit more seasoning. Lame service at the bar, with a bartender who was great at looking down or only at the game on TV. A shame since we loved Merriman's Kapalua on Maui as well as Monkeypod Kitchen on Maui. They need to step up their game here, seriously.
Duane's Ono Char Burger, Anahola - Excellent burgers, with a loooooong wait. Should have called ahead! After ordering, it took an hour to actually receive our food. Many people who phoned ahead were able to pick theirs up more quickly. Loved the Local Boy with pineapple, teriyaki, and cheddar, as well as the fries with their special sea salt and spices seasoning. The woman taking orders drastically underestimated the wait time, saying it was 30 minutes. Great burgers though.
Tiki Iniki, Princeville - Enjoyed our experience here. Stopped in during happy hour. Funny and talented bartender, Jason. Made some excellent cocktails and was very personable. We tried a Hanalei Sling and a Lovely Lini. Also shared an order of sticky ribs which were fine if a bit sweet. They had some very cool custom shot glasses for sale, and we purchased four of them. Wish we had been staying closer as we would have gone more than once!
Went past Wishing Well beforehand: yep, closed. Oh well.
We had a nice time and had mostly beautiful weather, Kauai is gorgeous!
Thanks for the great summary of the restaurants you visited
on Kauai at Poipu. We also like Keoki Paradise a lot for lunch, and LOVE LOVE LOVE the Beachhouse for sunset dinners.
They did not have Jossilin's Tapas when we were last there, but we will seek them out next time.
Great food recap! We might be going out to Kauai again in a year or 3, will have to look back to this.
I will say our best meal there was Bubba's burgers after doing part of the Napali coast trail.
And if you are ever back, try stopping at the Kauai coffee company plantation near Kalaheo. They have an amazing (free) tasting room and a great way to over caffinate.
Katherine, thanks for all the great details. We'll be spending 5 nights in Poipu for the first time in March, so it's great to have your report. Koloa Fish Market sounds tasty! How are the prices? And your mouth watering description of Josselin's food places it firmly on my list of restaurants to consider.
Unfortunately this will have to be a lower budget trip for us, so only 1 or 2 really nice restaurants between Kaua'i and Maui.
I'm curious what you would choose as your top 2 or three of the places you've eaten on the 2 islands. Do you think there are any clear winners? I value your thoughtful opinions.
Koloa Fish Market's bento was something like $6.95 or so, and the plate lunches were $10-12. There was a lot of poke you could do by the pound as well and a pupu platter that looked great. Pics attached.
On Maui, our new favorite fine dining experience is Merriman's Kapalua and price wise it's actually a little bit cheaper than Mama's, which is nice. If I had to pick one for a special occasion meal on Maui or Kauai, that would be it.
Yum, those photos of the poke and the seared ahi make me want to be at Koloa Fish Market right now! And the prices are good too. Hooray! Our 22 year old some who will be with us could probably put away 3 of those pu'pu platters, though. I'll have to make sure he gets the Mac salad and 2 scoops rice to fill up!
Thanks for the Merriman's rec. We always mean to go, but don't usually stray far from our home base for dinner. The one time we went up to Kapalua for Merriman's, thinking to do sunset on the deck followed by dinner if we could get a table, the whole place was booked up for a special event. We always go by there at lunch time and wish they were open. Anyway, this time we are staying at the Kapalua Bay Villas and will definitely visit Merriman's. Maybe just wine and pupus, or maybe our special dinner. Can't wait!
And Beach Chick, I am excited to try Hamura's on Kaua'i! That should work for the budget. I have heard some good things about Mark's Place too, for plate lunch take out. Anyone have any advice about Mark's?
Mark's Place is good plate lunches. I always go there when I visit Kauai for work. Lots of blue-collar workers go here for lunch. Small parking lot and can get pretty busy during the lunch rush since everything is cooked to order. Several picnic tables outside to sit and eat, but it can be hot with no shade in sight.
Loved your report!
The Koloa fish market pics were terrific....glad to see there may be a chance to pick up some Monchong...next trip...our favourite.