Sample Restaurant Reviews
Dining in Hawaii…
The image forms in your mind. Delicious, healthy island foods such as fresh fish, sweet pineapple and papaya, macadamia nut pie and a tropical drink. Well…maybe. Unlike other guidebooks which lead you to believe that every meal in Hawaii will be a feast, we are here to tell you that you will have ample opportunity to have hideous food served by uncaring oafs, as well as great meals served in the ambiance of a lifetime.
We probably receive more letters of appreciation from readers about our brutally honest restaurant reviews than any other subject. Here are just a few of the reviews from the 6th edition of Hawaii The Big Island Revealed.
The Canoe House
68-1400 Mauna Lani Dr. • 885–6622
Mauna Lani—The indoor/outdoor setting near the ocean at this Mauna Lani Bay Hotel restaurant, coupled with expertly prepared and presented food, make this a memorable choice for seafood plus a bit of steak and pasta. This is a great restaurant by anyone’s definition and one we are happy to re-review any time we can. The sunsets from an outdoor railing table are smashing most of the year. Items change often, so we’ll refrain from singling any out. It’s hard to go wrong here, unless you forget your credit card. Expect $40–$55 plus super pricey pupus. Dinner only. Reservations recommended (make them for an early dinner if you want a sunset). We’ve had some reader feedback complaining of bad service, but personally, we’ve never caught them on a bad night.
Island Fish & Chips
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr. • 886–0005
Waikoloa—They brag about using fresh fish at this stand, but we’ve seen frozen mahi mahi used as the entrée. Chips along with fried fish, fried coconut shrimp, fried calamari or chicken. It’s a small operation and can take a while if anyone’s in front of you. The breading is tasty, but pretty thick and therefore, holds a lot of oil. Doesn’t work for us. In the King’s Shops, Waikoloa. $11–$15 for lunch and dinner.
61-3665 Kawaihae Rd. • 882–1071
Kawaihae—Excellent selection of fine Italian food. Pizzas, pastas and some calzones. Pizza is light—feather-like crust, light sauce, light toppings. It’s also delicious, and they feature several unique combinations. 9-inch pizza OK for 1 person, 12-inch for hearty, half-starved appetites. Try the kalua pig-and-pineapple combination or the Oriental al Pesto with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and Japanese eggplant. Pastas can be excellent but are sometimes disappointing. They can be fussy on substitutions. With those caveats, it’s a great restaurant, and we recommend it wholeheartedly. In Kawaihae Center (Hwy 270 before 3-mile marker). $13–$20 for lunch, $15–$40 for dinner. The higher price is usually for their fresh fish special.
123 Lihiwai St. • 969–1133
Hilo—The building overlooks Hilo Bay, but they don’t make good use of the view. This is a good place to go to be ignored. Prices are too high given the setting and lackluster service. You can do better. Sushi bar plus steak and seafood. $9–$15 for lunch, $15–$25 for dinner. Off Banyan Drive. Closed Sunday.
Kona Inn Restaurant
75-5744 Alii Dr. • 329–4455
Kona—Mostly seafood with a little pasta and stir-fry. Nice ambiance—a good place for a sunset dinner. Just a strip of grass separates you from the ocean. Dinner includes many varieties of fish. Consider the super-rich but tasty stuffed local fresh fish. At dinner, avoid the uncomfortable antique chairs in favor of the high-back wicker chairs. $12–$20 for lunch, $20–$45 for dinner. The food and service are usually very good. Check out the ceiling fans—all interconnected by an old belt system. Some parents like to bring their keiki here where the munchkins can play on the grass while the grown-ups can dine and keep an eye on them. Reader e-mail has gotten lukewarm on Kona Inn lately, but we’ve had pretty good luck so will keep the ono—for now. Located on the ocean side of Alii Drive in downtown Kona at the Kona Inn Shopping Village. Can’t miss it.
Rosa’s Cantina & Sunset Grill
75-5801 Alii Dr. • 326–1198
Kona—This place has the same owners as Pancho and Lefty’s (but with better views from some tables if you ignore the ugly power lines). The menu is more creative with items like molcajete (too complicated to explain), punta nesta pasta, steak diablo plus other steak, seafood and burgers. Prices ain’t cheap, and if you get a table farther from the rails you’ll feel overcharged. Like Pancho, they make a pretty good nacho, and like Lefty, other items can be lacking. In Coconut Grove Marketplace. $13–$30.
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr. • 886–1234
Waikoloa—Elegant black-and-copper decor with wood floors and shoji doors all around, you have your choice of three types of Japanese food. Teppan-yaki style (where food is prepared in front of you by a talented, knife-wielding chef), a sushi bar (tables near there will be quieter) or shabu-shabu (where items off the menu are served tableside). The ambiance is thick with Japanese culture and music, and the quality of the food is very good. If Japanese food is not your thing, they have steak, fish and chicken. Located at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, reservations required. Dinner is $35–$60. Resort wear with long pants and collared shirts required.
Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill
75-5995 Kuakini Hwy • 327–0209
Kona—Locals are the majority of the customers, and not just because it’s not near Alii Drive. Jackie Rey’s excels in every detail from well–made drinks to decadent desserts. Choose from their respectable wine list or go for the mai tai. The dinner entrées—fish, steak, pasta and short ribs—are attractively presented, and the chef knows how to combine flavors. Finish your meal with a Triple Fudge Brownie Roll. Lunch is equally good with an array of smart salads and sandwiches, burgers and some odds and ends. $11–$17 for lunch, $13–$35 for dinner. No lunch on weekends. On Kuakini Hwy across from Walua Road.
Jolene’s Kau Kau Korner
45-3625 Mamane St. • 775–9498
Local—A simple, homey, cheap atmosphere. This is a mom and pop (well, mom, at least) diner-type restaurant with cheap food and…well, that’s it. Cheap food. And it ain’t bad. Items like shrimp and tempura vegetables for $12 are a reasonable deal around here. Burgers (which you should avoid) for $4, plate lunches, teriyaki chicken, saimin, etc. $6–$14 for lunch. They squeaked out an ono for the last edition, but quality has inched down while prices have inched up, so no ono. On Hwy 240 in Honoka‘a.
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