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Feb 16, 2014 09:41 PM

Kauai trip report - Jan 2014

We had a great week vacation on Kauai.. did food research on chowhound and surprisingly not a ton so thought I'd return the favor. Very casual throughout the island, def more so than Maui in general. Prices were probably higher likely because it's a smaller, more remote island.

We stayed on the south side in Poipu.

- Hamura Saimen (lihue): Really disappointed. Broth had no flavor, noodles over cooked and wontons flavorless. Most things about this shop are raving, so I didn't really get it. Would never go back. It has some charm because it's been around awhile and seems to be a local fav.
- Mark's Place (lihue): Super tasty hawaiian mixed plate!! We came here twice. My favs were the stew, the korean chicken and the loco moco! My fav loco moco i've ever tasted because the hamburger meat actually had flavor and the gravy wasn't too salty!
- Puka Dog (Poipu): honestly, i didn't have high expectations for a hot dog but these were AWESOME! first of all the dog's are all charred to order, love the charred outer casing. Next, all of the sauces elevated this otherwise regular hot dog. came here twice, WINNER.
- Uncle's shaved ice (poipu): just okay, a sole option on the south side. known also for shaved snow which was just okay. saving grace was delicious mac-nut ice cream.
- Savage shrimp (poipu): right next door to uncles. used to be a shrimp truck now turned shop. doesn't fit the nearby shops b/c it's appears family owned, making great shrimp at affordable prices. tried a thai style shrimp dish -- known for the garlic shrimp i believe.
- koloa fish market: we tried 3 fish markets on this trip and this lands right in the middle behind Hanalei dolphin on the north side. prices are high, but a good Poke selection and overall a good picnic on the beach food. the flavors and quality of fish wasn't up to par with hanalei but does a good enough job. really enjoyed the sesame crusted ahi.
- Yanagi sushi (koloa): this is a relatively new food truck, parked outside the botanical gardens in koloa. Two guys who used to work for "the man" decided to open their own truck with a better view. the fish was fresh but most of the rolls tasted pretty much the same. loved the sashimi plate the most. pricey rolls overall. just a so-so from me.
- Kauai Pupu factory: opted to try this instead of the Ishihara market.. maybe have regretted this decision! In comparison to the other two markets I visited, it's more of the low-key operation esp because the location is more remote. quality of fish is consistent with Koloa fish market. Their tako salad was by far the best of the three we tried. the rest of the poke preparations were good, not outstanding.
- Kauai Ono: A special kauai dining experience.. 5 courses under the stars, cooked off of a food truck for $50. Located on the north side.. overall the experience was fun and different than anything else on the island. The food is locally sourced and emphasized local ingredient. All the food was well cooked and seasoned but I think we all expected more. I would still recommend it as a fun Kauai food experience if you're in to things like that. They offer dinner twice weekly, check website for reservations.
- Hanalei Dolphin fish market (hanalei): best of the 3 fish markets we tried.. best in flavor and quality of the fish. The most expensive if I remember correctly. Fav was the nori/poke salad and the ono fish salad. Came here twice in 1 day!
- Masa's sushi restaurant (lihue): we wanted to have a sit down sushi dinner one evening and found this sleepy sushi spot. behind the bar is one guy -- the owner Masa. He prepares all of the sushi therefore there can be a wait if there's more than 1 customer in the restaurant. Overall quality was just medium and quality of the preparation leaves a lot to be desired. Not sure if we'd come back, but I was happy to support these small business owners on our way through.
- Island taco (waimea): such an awesome spot right before or after hiking Waimea. the fish tacos were just awesome. ahi better than mahi-mahi. tortilla's are made in house. A MUST TRY

Overall a great food experience in Kauai. Everything's much more casual than I remember Maui, but lots of fresh Poke to be had.

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  1. Aloha. .
    Great report!

    We are in the process of buying a home in Poipu and tho' we just got back from the islands, I still learn about places from the Hawaii board.
    Have not been to Island Taco and will be a good call before hiking down Waimea for a couple of Ahi tacos.

    Sorry to hear that Hamura Saimin disappointed.
    Usually, it rocks with the saimin and lilikoi pie.
    Did you get to Red Salt at Koa Kea resort?

    The oceanfront spot at the Marriott's Waiohai has a great beach bar/grill for Ahi and Ono tacos on the grill with Hinanos..perfect for after snorkeling all day with the Monk seals and turtles.

    Kauai has some great food but its not in the caliber as O'ahu..which for me, HNL ranks up there with Paris/Sydney/SF.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Beach Chick

      Hi, BC:

      Mobettahs buy the hale at Anini than Po'ipu.


      1. re: kaleokahu

        Aloha Kaleo!
        One of the prettiest beaches is Anini...but the turtles and the Monk seal know me down Po'ipu way.

        Mobettah for this chica.

      2. re: Beach Chick

        My God, woman, are you part of my alternate universe?

        Checking CH before a trip to Kauai in 2 weeks (thawing out from Boston) and here you are! I trust your recs, so anything in addition to above? We'll be at the Grand Hyatt for 6 nights.

        1. re: mcgrath

          Aloha McGrath!
          From BOS, St. Lucia, La Jolla and Kauai...we both know how to travel well.
          I was married at the Grand Hyatt Kauai after we first married in Moorea, Tahiti.
          Grand Hyatt is a wonderful property and Stevenson's Library is fab, Dondero's for Italian..Tidepools is average.
          Hit up Red Salt at the Koa Kea resort for dinner.

          Josselins tapas is fab.
          Keoki Paradise for happy hour and Aloha music.
          Dukes for happy hour
          Tiki Iniki in Princeville for drinks and apps.
          Cocktails at St. Regis Princeville.
          Hamura Saimin for saimin and lilokoi pie for lunch in Lihue.

          Kauai is my fave island out of the chain.
          Snorkel and swim at Poipu State beach..turtles and Monk seals and they have a great beach grill oceanfront at the Marriott Waiohai where we just stayed for a week in September...great fresh grilled Ono tacos and cold beers.

          Aloha and have a blast!

          1. re: mcgrath

            Aloha McGrath!
            So, let's review..

            Hamura Saimin in LIH for lunch of ramen and lilikoi pie.

            Red Salt in Poipu for b/l/d at the lovely Koa Kea resort

            Happy Hour at Keoki's Paradise for drinks, Aloha music and they have a good hula pie and Ono tacos.
            Dukes has a fun, lively happy hour.

            Josselin's for tapas in Poipu..

            Beach House for drinks and apps at sunset.

            Grand Hyatt for salt water pool swimming, pool bar and then Stevensons library for drinks and apps.


        2. Dolphin Fish Market has a new location at the Shops at Kukui'ula in Poipu. With both a dine in and takeout portion. Same complex as Josselin's, Tortilla Republic, Merriman's, Living Foods, Savage Shrimp.

          Josselin's and Tortilla Republic were some of our top meals on Kauai, hit them up next time.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            That is great that Dolphins opened a second location in Poipu.
            Josselins rocks.
            Keoki Paradise for happy hour and Aloha music is always a good call..can walk home.

            1. re: kathryn

              We went to Josselin's and the food was great and the prices reasonable. Of the 9 dishes we ordered the only one that was a miss was the sashimi, which had a strange combination of flavors that didn't appeal to me.
              I really loved the clams and the short ribs, both of which I can make at home but Josselin's versions were outstanding.

              The only strange thing was the service, only half the staff seemed friendly and our main waiter seemed to ignore us half the time even though the restaurant was only half full. There were very few check-ins after dishes arrived and we ended up making most of our requests to the busboy/bus girl.

            2. Thanks for the reviews! I will add a few tidbits from our first day.

              We had a few hours to kill before checking in at our lodging in Poipu, so we headed to Monico's for seafood tacos and most importantly, piña coladas. I am not a piña colada drinker, but theirs tastes like a coconut milkshake, really delicious. In terms of food, theirs is better than 90% of the Mexican food I've had in the SF area.

              On the way back to Poipu, we stopped at Ara's to pick up poke for dinner. The have a lot of different kinds of poke, whereas most other places seem to have a few variations on tako and ahi. The picture shows, from left to right, spicy lobster, hamachi, tako, ahi, and shrimp with tobiko. They were all tasty but my favorites were lobster and hamachi. While it's more convenient just to pick up poke at the local Koloa fish market, for me it is worth the trip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: felice

                Ara's is the bomb!
                I stop there a few times a week for poke.
                They make it up fresh every few hours.
                Ara and Debbie are wonderful folks too.

              2. A few more updates... The Right Slice is a pie place down the street from Mark's Place. Their pie crust is excellent and we've been enjoying the three mini-pies we purchased. In addition to sweet pies, they also have excellent savory pies. Not cheap, but high quality.

                I think the general consensus on this board is that Merriman's Poipu is not as good as Merriman's Kapalua, and a meal at either can cost a pretty penny. I would have to agree. Still, I have paid more for much worse food in Hawaii. We return to Merriman's once every visit because their food is consistent and very good.

                The Koloa farmers market was a real treat this trip. They had a huge variety of delicious fruit that isn't available at the market, including longan, cherimoya, rambutan, cream apples, and star fruit. I wasn't expecting much since it's the end of February and not really the summer prime fruit season, and was pleasantly surprised.

                2 Replies
                1. re: felice

                  Two last comments before we fly out tomorrow:

                  Final dinner at Dolphins in Poipu was fantastic. Most of us had the grilled fish of the day and it was simplicity at its best. The fish was as fresh as could be and cooked perfectly. We will definitely be returning on future trips.

                  Tomkats Grill in Koloa turned out to have excellent Kalua pork. It's moist and smokey and not overly salty.

                  Until next year....

                  1. re: felice

                    Tomkats isn't fancy, but we have enjoyed it every time.

                2. Somehow I missed this post before we flew here to Kauai. We've been here a week and have a week to go and you just added a couple of places.
                  Agree about the fish tacos and the Dolphn in Hanalei-turns out they also have a restaurant here in Poipu which we will try.