Everyone in Kona is aware of the infamous legal fiasco instigated by the Protect Keopuka Ohana (spearheaded by Jack Kelly and Chuck Flaherty) vs. Oceanside 1250 (developers of Hokuli’a), so I won’t bore you with the details. But DO google it.
Today, Hokuli’a property owner, and cherished Babe – Rachel, who is in town for a few weeks, graciously invited us to lunch at The Pavilion at Hokuli’a – a private, “… open-air Pavilion which is a gathering place for residents to enjoy fine dining and social gatherings featuring ‘Hawaiian fusion’ fare served amidst a charming island ambience…”. On these special occasions, any Babe who happens to be in Kona is suddenly available for lunch!
Certainly, we have traveled this road a few times before, however the Babes are very appreciative of any opportunity to dine in such exclusivity. The fare is delightful and the service and surroundings are untouchable – but there is something about this place that is distinctly unique and sets it apart from all others:
a hushed warmth envelops you upon entering the large yet intimate pavilion and remains with you throughout your meal. A dawning realization emerges as you take your seat either at a table with friends, or else in solitude on a comfortably oversized chaise – that you have truly arrived in a microcosm of understated elegance unavailable to many…
Due to my habitual tardiness, I am the last to arrive at the table. The Babes have already ordered their beverages – fresh brewed iced tea and an ambrosial strawberry lemonade concoction peppered with a smattering of miniscule seeds from the strained berry.
Nathan, our genial host/steward/attendant/purveyor-of-all-things Hokuli’a/ rushes over to get my drink order and reiterates the luncheon specials for my benefit (mea culpa). He then whips out his iPhone and scrolls through some photos to reveal the latest hot sushi offering at a local restaurant in town as I show him the exotic Hawaiian Lava Roll from Shiono’s. We giggle and engage in some foodie talk for awhile as I silently thank God that Nathan survived the ‘cut’ of massive layoffs that occurred on property awhile ago.
I barely got a straw in the glass when Mei’s cup of Hawaiian Sweet Potato Bisque arrived. Since Mei was away from the table, we all decided to have a taste so that we could deliver knowledgeable remarks for the sake of anyone perusing our site. The pureed sweet potato was refined and silky in texture; not sweet (albeit it’s name), and conveyed a hint of sizzle resulting from a squeeze of mashed, roasted Serrano pepper. Finished with a sprinkling of Queso-Seco crumbles, we marveled as the lushly concentrated potage clung to a spoon. Soup cup returned to it’s rightful owner, the clamor of conversation continued with the usual topics of just-read books, movies that make you laugh or cry, and just about anything to divert Mei’s attention from the fact that we had just fractionized her appetizer down to half of a portion for the sake of the blog.
Four of us ogled (and ordered) the Roast Rib Eye Sandwich: Sour Dough bread, lightly grilled and topped with a healthy stack of deli-sliced rib eye steak, horseradish mayonnaise and smoked gouda cheese. Onion rings accompanied the sandwich – but not just ANY onion rings! Sweet Maui onion slices were first immersed in a milk bath, then dipped in a light egg wash before being dredged in Panko. We decided amongst ourselves that they were deep fried in Canola or a very light oil because the rings were tender, moist and crispy all at once. In fact, much of our conversation for the next 15 minutes was about how addicting the onion rings were becoming.
Tina heard “fresh ono” and decided immediately on the Fish ‘n’ Chips: Beer battered freshly caught Ono (wahoo) served in a ceramic colander and complemented with crinkle-cut fries. I spotted the tartar sauce and couldn’t resist dipping my fork in for a taste – scrumptious, and everything tartar sauce should be and beyond! Included were the customary ketchup and malt vinegar. I could actually hear Tina’s “Mmmmm” as she nibbled a succulent piece of fish, declaring “..this is absolutely the BEST fish and chips on the island”.
Always the forward-thinking individualist of the group, Mei settled on the Tequila Marinated Flank Steak Tostada: marinated and grilled steak, sliced and served on a bed of Jicama-Red Cabbage slaw. Her observations of “…juicy and tender steak, however the red cabbage was a bit tough…” was tempered with “…unexpected hint of spiciness..” The dish must have passed ultimate inspection, because she consumed every tasty morsel!
You will notice that I did not include menu prices in this appraisal. Because the Pavilion is only available to members and their guests, there would be no reason to stipulate item costs. I can tell you, however, that the meals are offered at very reasonable prices.
As we finished our meal, righteously protesting at how satisfied we were with our individual lunch choices, a waitress sauntered past our table balancing a tray of what appeared to be hot fudge sundaes in frosty martini glasses. You could have put a diamond tiara on a leash and trolled it down the middle of our table to get the same effect. I’m sure that we resembled commodity traders in the wild scene from the movie “Trading Places”. However being the Kona Babes, we did the responsible thing and ordered two sundaes to share.
I can’t even begin to describe the velvety texture of the chocolate ganache – let alone the obvious quality of the cacao used for the topping. Creamy French Vanilla Ice Cream (was it hand-cranked??) hiding underneath all that rich magnificence and a small sprig of bright green mint to shock you back to reality. The picture does NOT do it justice!
A dining opportunity at Hokuli’a is like a trip to nirvana for the Babes, and since those events are few and far between, when Rachel graciously offered Sunday brunch, we eagerly accepted. Therefore, we hope that you’ll follow us as we indulge ourselves with the pleasure of one of the most breathtaking and much appreciated dining spots on the Big Island.