Monday, July 31, 2006

Kaua'i Eating

Kauai Eating

Notice this entry is titled ‘Kauai Eating’ not ‘Kauai Dining.’ That’s because we flew to Kauai to eat, not for fine dining. We wanted to try the best local hole-in-the-walls, shacks on the side of the street, and breweries. Unfortunately we were only there for three days so this list is in no way definitive and is just a tiny sampler.

Best Coffee
Java Kai (Kapa’a)
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, #105
Kapaa, HI 96746

Totally yuppie (if you’re more of a ‘new age’ type, go next door for the vegan bakery) but unbeatable coffee, Java Kai has something for everyone.

The drink menu puts Starbucks to shame; it’s got to have at least twice as many different drinks, including elaborate coffee-chocolate concoctions and smoothies. While pricey (a small smoothie is $5.35, a small cappuccino is $2.80) the coffee smells divine and tastes even better. The beans are grown locally, roasted in-house, so at least you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Java Kai also boasts an extensive bakery: 9 flavors of muffins, 2 bar cookies, cheesecake, and a scone of the day. On the day we were there, the scone was lavender & honey, and was absolutely divine, bursting with lavender (the size of caraway seeds) and very moist.

Best Smoothie
Banana Joe’s (near Kapa’a)

Banana Joe’s is a smoothie shack on Kuhio Highway heading toward Kapa’a from Kalihiwai. They offer one flavor (only!?) smoothie, one frosty, and lots of fresh fruit. The day we went, the smoothie was banana/pineapple/mango, and the frosty was pineapple.

A frosty at Banana Joe’s is something you should experience at least once; it’s incredible. They use a Champion Juicer to make it: they feed frozen fruit into it (nothing else! No dairy, no sweeteners) and out comes what looks like soft serve ice cream. I seriously want one of these in my house. I guess it also makes juice, but I just want it to make fresh fruit ‘ice cream’ every day!! The pineapple flavor was OK, but I think it would be to die for with strawberry-banana or mango. I froogled the Champion Juicer ($179-199); we might have to make that investment.

Best Local Food
Hamura Saimin (Lihue: Kress St near Rice St)

*check out the traffic jam outside!*

The first day we went, Hamura’s hadn’t opened (we were there at 8:30 in the morning because we were so excited to try the saimin). The second day we went, it was too late (4:00 pm and heading to the airport for our 4:50 flight) so we weren’t very hungry. The saimin looked amazing though ($4-5 a bowl, $5.50 for won ton soup). There was seriously a traffic jam outside, this place is that popular.

We wanted to order shave ice, but the shave ice counter was closed. (Come on, it was Sunday. Seriously, who closes down the shave ice on the weekends?@!) we checked out the menu anyway: shave ice, halo-halo and lilikoi chiffon pie. Ahhh, definitely have to go back to try those out.

Hanamaulu Café
3-4301 Kuhio Highway, Hanama’ulu

Hanamaulu Café is seriously an old-school Japanese teahouse. I loved the menu and décor – exactly the same as Natsunoya teahouse in Honolulu. We both ordered the special set meal: teri beef or chicken, mixed tempura, miso soup, rice, pickles and salad ($10.50 at lunch, $12.25 at dinner). Hanamaulu Café does not try to remake the wheel; they do what they know best. They serve standard Japanese food so patrons know exactly what they are going to get. The tempura (shrimp, eggplant, broccoli and sweet potato) was served piping hot, very fresh ingredients, and a heavy tempura batter (as opposed to light & flaky). The teri beef was in a sweet teriyaki sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds.

In addition, we ordered a ‘special chef roll’ of sushi to try: spicy scallop. It was disappointing compared to the meal, just raw scallop, cucumber and wasabi.

We were hoping to order the guava sherbet for dessert (supposedly better than Lapper’s) but they had already run out for the day.

Best Omiyage
Lawai Store (Menuhune convenience store in Lawai)

It may say Menehune Store outside but don’t be fooled. This is the Lawai Store. Forget bringing back manju from Maui; the Lawai Store kicks their ass. Inside it looks like a regular convenience store until you see the bakery in the back. Their manju is so popular that when we stopped by on a Saturday at 3 pm, they were sold out and we had to place an order to pick up on Sunday.

Sunday we came back and the bakery racks were full: manju (azuki bean, apple, peach/pineapple, or coconut), pies (apple or custard), mochi, pastries, sushi, spam musubi and fried chicken. Perfect for a picnic or to take back to Honolulu. Reasonably priced as well: $1 spam musubi, $3.50-$5.50 for manju, $0.80 for pastries.

Best Brewery
Waimea Brewing Company (Waimea)
9400 Kaumuali`i Highway
here’s their website

Waimea Brewing Company is a must-see on Kauai. Beautiful setting (plantation cottages), on the beach, dining al fresco, and great beer. What more can a gal ask for? Try the lilikoi brew (the very color of lilikoi juice) or the IPA (6% alcohol, I couldn’t drink it but it was Jane’s favorite) which is so popular they ran out on the day we were there.

The food was pretty standard: burgers, fish, lots of fried appetizers. We ordered the goat cheese & taro leaf dip with pita bread, a poke wrap, and a chicken burger with onion rings. The goat cheese dip sounded fantastic, but tasted more like regular ol’ spinach dip. The poke wrap was a nice idea but the poke was overpowered by the amount of rice in the wrap, and the French fries were soggy. The chicken burger was nice although the sauce and cheese in it were a little heavy.

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