On Wednesday, three of us dined at Fish Hopper’s in Kailua-Kona across from the seawall. New paint, decor, interior seating arrangements and bar – kind of like a stylized Don-the-Beachcomber motif, sets Fish Hopper apart from the former (and much beloved) Ocean View Inn. I drove in from an upcountry deluge to an overcast, but dry village, teeming with cruise ship passengers.
Easy parking behind the restaurant (for years, a well-kept secret of Ocean View Inn patrons) makes this a handy spot to share a meal on busy Alii Drive. The menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner are similar to the sister restaurant in Monterey, but features local touches with items such as Loco Moco and Kalua Pork Sandwiches.
Mei and Carol were so enthused with Saturday’s brunch that they wanted to return for lunch, and were not disappointed with their meal du jours. A complimentary appetizer (that’s “pupus” for all you malihinis) appeared before the girls had a chance to barely get comfortable in their booth at the rear of the restaurant, facing the ocean.
Three tasty pieces of Crispy Coconut Prawns (normally $9.95 but today, complimentary) accompanied by a mango papaya salsa and sweet chili dipping sauce – need I say more? Our palates were primed, locked and loaded for more. Our perky hostess/Supervisor, Kathleen, snuck in another freebie for the gals – sampler cups of Clam Chowder (cup $4.95/bowl $9.95) - creamy, delicioso, full of seafood, and featuring a hint of spice that we could not put our grateful fingers on.
After all of this, you would wonder why we needed to order any lunch, however duty calls and this is why we are writing this blog – afterall!
Mei’s choice was the best of the bunch, in my humble opinion – Panko-crusted Sanddabs served over buttery garlic-mashed potatoes, crunchy veggies, all nested in a pool of lemon and caper sauce ($13.95). She offered a sample – I could’ve eaten the entire dish, but refrained. What – you ask – are sand dabs? They are small flounder-type fish (flatfish) that inhabit the northern Pacific coastline, feeding mainly on crustaceans, thereby giving it the tender and sweet taste that makes them most popular – kind of like halibut cheeks!
Not to be outdone, Carol ordered the combo Ribs and Coconut Prawn lunch ($14.95). This colorful presentation featured a pile of succulent pork baby back ribs, of which she graciously offered samples to us, along with a couple of prawns (same as the pupu), the crunchy broccoli and zucchini mix, plus a startling deep purple mash of Okinawan Sweet Potato! And if you glance at the photo, you can see that Carol obviously selected this dish to color coordinate with her outfit. Always thinking couture, Carol!
After careful deliberation, I chose a brilliant orange tomato slice to match my blouse, and it was served with Crispy fresh Mahimahi sandwich and accompanying pomme frittes ((that’s fries, for you non-Parisians) – $12.95)). I have to mention the tartar sauce – and I am a connoisseur – tangy and loaded with chopped herbs! At least 3 pieces, beer-battered and deftly deep fried resulted in a delectable sampling of quivering-fresh mahi of which I could not possibly wrap the bun and accompanying fixins’ around. Is that a mouthful? Just trying to convey the size of the portions! The fries were dusted with sea salt and chopped parsley as a nice effect.
Fish Hopper will make our list of lunch spots to return to. Kathleen handed us Kamaaina cards so that we can get wonderful things such as free appetizers (pupus) or those phantom cups of chowder. They also feature Kamaaina or Early Bird Specials (get that card from Kathleen!) – Mondays thru Fridays from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM for $14.95. This offering gets you a cup of chowder or salad, choice of entrees plus a special dessert. Check out their website: