Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hukilau Lanai

Hukilau Lanai loves the local farmers and fishermen and strive to use ingredients and products from Kauai and the neighbor islands. Their handcrafted cuisine is made from scratch in their kitchen daily and features contemporary Hawaiian cuisine.  Located in the Kauai Coast Resort, this restaurant prides themselves on the fresh local ingredients and the attention to detail shines through with their top notch service.
We arrived after dark and I was surprised to find that the restaurant is actually inside another hotel, overlooking the pool area and not the ocean.  We waited near the bar while a table opened up (we had reservations, but arrived about 20 minutes early) and were soon seated in the lower lanai area. Our server was very informative about each menu item and recited the fresh catch specials of the night with ease.  He sold me on the different fish offerings, so I immediately knew what I wanted to order for my main course.  But first, Keith and I had to decide on starters.  We overheard many others raving over the ahi poke nachos, so we ordered that plus the lobster and goat cheese wontons.  The nachos were fun, crispy, and sweet from the inamona - a condiment sauce made from kukui nuts.  I wish I got a better picture of the dish, but the lighting was pretty dim where we were sitting.  The wontons were light inside and nice and crispy outside.  I enjoyed the tang of the goat cheese to offset the sweet guava plum dipping sauce.  So far, we were off to a decent start as I would order both appetizers again.  Next, a choice of soup or salad came with each entree.  I chose the Wally's Salad that again had sweet overtones with the mandarin oranges, yet the romaine and cucumbers provided the needed crunch and freshness I was looking for.  Keith chose one of the soup specials, gazpacho, that sounded better than it looked and even better than it tasted.  He has had several versions of this chilled tomato soup and Hukilau's preparation was too chunky with the extra onions and carrots.  The soup was overly sweet with the pineapple as well.  Keith barely had three spoon fulls before pushing the bowl aside. 

I was glad we had starters because our entrees took a while longer to come out. We didn't mind as much since this was our first night in lovely Kauai and had nothing else pressing for us to do that evening.  The portions were plentiful and I loved the presentation of my Hukilau Mixed Grill.  Two different fish preparations split the plate with sugar cane skewered shrimp laying across.  My favorite was the hebi or spearfish on the left in Cajun seasoning with its firm texture, and walu or butterfish on the right in a simple soy sauce that was much more delicate and flaky.  Both fish were stars on the plate.  Underneath a bed of rice drowning in more sweet coconut cream sauce.  Good thing I am not diabetic because there was just too much sugar in all these dishes.  Keith noshed on a more traditional prime rib steak, as he needed a break from all the seafood.  Although cooked at the right temperature, there was nothing that stood out about his meal.  It was pretty straightforward and basic.  We skipped on dessert as we were pretty full and it was getting late. We had about a 45 minutes drive back to our hotel.  It gets dark on the islands late at night, especially with no overhead street lighting like we are used to in the city.  The food at Hukilau Lanai was respectable, with playful twists on American and Asian dishes such as the ahi nachos.  Commitment to sustainable local ingredients shined through and gluten-free dining options are also available.  I would recommend this restaurant to others staying on the Eastside of the island, but may be a trek for those staying elsewhere.

Total Rating: 3.425
Food: 3.5, Price: 3, Service: 4, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 3

What I ate:

Adam's Poke Nachos
ahi poke, local tomato, avocado, tobiko, inamona, wasabi cream, crisp wonton chips

Lobster and Goat Cheese Wonton
lobster, local goat cheese, cream cheese, mac-nuts, guava plum sauce

Wally's Salad
romaine, cucumber, tomato, bacon, red onion, croutons, mandarin oranges, papaya seed dressing

Hukilau Mixed Grill
grilled Cajun season hebi (spearfish) and grilled soy sauce marinated walu (butterfish)
with sugar cane skewered shrimp
served with rice in a coconut cream sauce

Plus Keith ate:
chilled tomato soup with carrots, onions, pineapple

Prime Rib au Jus
prime rib of beef, Hawaiian salt, secret spices, basil red skin mashed potatoes

Hukilau Lanai on Urbanspoon

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