A recent out of town adventure has put me seriously in (blogging) arrears so bear with me as I record yet another (and final for this summer) visit to the Pavilion at Hokuli’a- and this time, they were expecting us!
Do you recognize him? After three visits to the Pavilion, you absolutely should be able to pick him out of a lineup. We have sung his praises, and tossed rose petals in his path. One should be so lucky to have him around-and if you are not able to enjoy the privileges of Hokuli’a, you could possibly find him ensconced at Saketumi (http://www.saketumi.net/).
On this Sunday morning, Nathan practically beat us to “our” table with a house specialty (courtesy of the fabulous Jonelle – Club Concierge): Mai-mosas. You read it correctly – a mixture of orange juice, lilikoi juice, sweet and sour, curacao and triple sec, (ie: mai-tai) and of course- the inevitable French effervescence.
Last brunch, I had sampled the benedict and was determined to try a polar opposite from the menu. My resolve simply dissolved at the mention of “smoked chicken benedict with poblano hollandaise”. Holy pakaloli! How could I resist? Apparently Mei was also enamored with the “smoked anything” concept and we fell into step with dual orders. We benedict junkies must stick together afterall. And as usual, the kitchen did not disappoint! Besides the perfectly poached egg, the chicken was moist, tender with a hint of smoke – not overwhelming as some establishments tend to do. Honestly, sometimes I feel as though I have inhaled a bottle of Liquid Smoke. I really did work my taste buds to savor the essence of poblano chili- gently laced through the silky hollandaise. Did I forget to mention those phenomenal roasted potatoes?
Surprising us all by requesting a half-and-half, Rachel visibly shimmered with glee as Nathan presented her with dainty portions of both Nicoise salad and fruit-topped pancakes. Salade Niçoise: Rumor has it that the famous (and extraordinarily libidinous) ballet choreographer, George Balanchine, may have created this dish for one of his many paramours while living in Monte Carlo in south of France, however it was brought to the attention of American cuisine by the Queen herself – Julia Child. Most salades of this sort have the perfunctory lettuce, olives, canned tuna, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, anchovies and French vinaigrette. The Pavilion’s petite version (it was, afterall, a half order) included locally grown lettuce and tomato, blanched haricot vert, slices of Yukon Gold potato, a piece of freshly grilled swordfish, medium-creamy boiled quail egg (which got a proportionate share of oohs) and a healthy serving of anchovy-garlic aioli piped attractively on the side. The other half of her meal was none other than a short-stack of tender Lemon Pancakes topped with mixed-berry compote. I did manage to sample a smidget of pancake- the citrus was oooh so-o-o subtle, yet almost refreshing – if there can even be such an encounter with a flapjack!
Remember our Southwestern influenced filly, Carolyn? Her constant companion at the breakfast table is (surprise!) a spicy cup of salsa (whaaat??? Not the groom?); mandatory accompaniment for eggs. Huevos Rancheros caught her immediate attention – heck, even swayed her away from the Strawberry Shortcake French Toast (Tina’s numero uno choice). The Huevos dish came layered with savory black beans simmered in beer, scrambled eggs – (Carolyn prefers her eggs that way rather than the usual sunny-side up yolk erupting like Kilauea), fresh tomato salsa and guacamole. Naturally, warm flour tortillas were gently folded on each side of the presentation. A couple of black beans on the tip of my fork reminded me that I must try the beer-simmer technique on the next batch of lentils.
“Eggs Florentine” means scrambled eggs and frozen, chopped spinach to anyone that owns a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 70’s. On this morning, it held an entirely different connotation: two of those delicate and superb poached eggs that we now expect from the Pavilion chef, sauteed fresh baby-spinach leaves perched on tender potato latkes and drizzled with velvety bechamel sauce. I can barely remember knowledgeable Nathan talking about the potato cake preparation, but I was so busy snitching a taste that I failed to take notes. Mea Culpa!
Finally, we have arrived at the morning’s sweet confection menu choice – Strawberry Shortcake French Toast! Although the title of the dish is fairly self-explanatory, I’ll construct it for you: English muffins, egg-battered and gently griddled just like french toast, topped with creamy yogurt drizzled with island honey and fresh-sliced strawberries. It could be that I was sitting at the opposite end of the table and perhaps that was the reason I never got to sample the shortcake-or-Tina was staying tranquil and trying not to attract the attention of five eager forks. I believe that she did mention “delicious” once or twice.
The man himself – Chef Cameron Smay – emerged from the kitchen to greet us. An island boy, Chef Cameron chatted enthusiastically about his background and interest in food, from his local roots (remember the Ocean View Inn?) to educational and culinary endeavors on the mainland. As we babbled the morning away, and probably Chef’s ear in the process, the Babes realized how fortunate we were to enjoy the cuisine of a cook that was so passionate about food preparation, taste and presentation; putting so much of himself into every detail of the dish. Bravo, Chef!
As an aloha from the kitchen, Chef Cameron sent us a plate of – I can’t even remember what it was called – but I can still elicit the memory of dense chocolate and crème fraiche drizzled with creamy caramel. Here’s an exercise for you – look closely at the photo and try to imagine rolling a forkful around in your mouth – is that a slight hint of Saigon cinnamon hiding in the cacao? Gotcha!
The Kona Babes have decided to add a feature to our online reviews: at the end of each blog, we’ll add a photo of the women’s bathroom (not the easiest room to photog) and a line or two of the condition of the loo. If a restaurant presents a clean and tidy lua, that speaks volumes about the condition of the rest of the establishment. Here’s a shot of the Wahine’s Lounge – obviously spotless! They also provide various personal sundries in a cabinet – a nice touch!
A Hui Hou Kakou!