Lava Lava Beach Club Kauai
“I used to make Filipino food with my grandfather,” says Shane Galan, chef of Kauai’s new Lava Lava Beach Club. His warm brown eyes and welcoming smile are disarming. “Our family would hunt pigs and cook them on the barbecue with a blend of tomatoes, lemon, onions and shoyu. My job was to stand by the grill and do whatever I was told while the adults drank beer!”
Shane grew up on Hawaii Island in North Kohala, and began cooking when he was a teenager by helping in the family-owned bakery. He followed his stepmother, who was a pastry chef, to the Hilton Waikoloa Village. After a stint at Kamuela Provision Co., he moved to Oahu and worked for several restaurants before moving back to the Big Island and working at the original Lava Lava.
On Kauai, Lava Lava Beach Club is a 250-seat open-air restaurant and bar. Shane and I sit outside, at the only restaurant with tables, couches and fire-pits on the sand. I push my toes into the cool earth and look at the sweeping view. Iron woods line the waterfront and Sleeping Giant (Nounou mountain) hugs the southern end of Wailua Bay. Guests sit in plastic chairs along the shore, a whale breaches 200 yards away and a surfer catches some waves. Near my table, a dog on a leash sips water from a huge ceramic water bowl, which the Lava Lava staff keep full.
Shane runs a gleaming kitchen piled with local ingredients. Whole fish, that’s fresh off the boat, is delivered daily. Makaweli Meat Company’s grass-fed ground beef, which is raised and processed on Kauai’s west side, as well as taro brioche buns from Passion Bakery, are used in burgers. Arugula from Steelgrass Farms in Wailua is added to salads and Koloa Rum Company’s award-winning rum shows up frequently on the cocktail menu.
Due to the east-facing coastline, sunrise breakfasts are special. Full breakfast offerings are available until 10 a.m. and include options such as Hapa Laka Loco Moco ($15) with Portuguese sausage, local beef patty, two eggs, fried rice and mushroom gravy. The Wailua Bay Benedict ($15) features slow roasted kalua pork, poached eggs, yuzu hollandaise and fantastic home fries.
A limited breakfast menu begins at 10 a.m. and only offers two things. Wiki Wiki ($12) is a huge bowl of oatmeal, house-made granola, toast and fresh fruit. LLBC ($15) is a massive breakfast with five strips of bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, home fries and a banana muffin.
Lunch and dinner offer gluten-free and/or vegan options such as Pineapple Fried Rice Bowl ($19); 3 Greens and a Grain ($13) and Farm to Beach ($21) with local purple sweet potatoes, kabocha pumpkin, seasonal locally grown veggies, bell peppers, cauliflower, cashews, pumpkin seeds, coconut curry sauce and jasmine rice.
Dinner standouts include Hook, Line & Sinker (MP), which is based on chef’s whim, so it changes every day. Today, mahi mahi is served over mashed potatoes and edamame puree and drizzled with butter sauce; a brilliant combination. Thick slices of caramelized hamakua mushrooms are tucked against plump shrimp and sautéed kale. A tangle of crispy leeks sits on the fish.
Lava Roschi Ahi ($37) is a fiery filet of seared ahi draped over steamed white rice and peppery micro arugula. A spicy citrus peel tōgarashi is sprinkled on top. Roasted cherry tomatoes and a sweet Asian pickle are surrounded by lemon-honey aioli and unagi sauces.
LLBC Burger ($18) is a size-able patty served a perfect medium-rare with rich grass-fed flavor. It’s stuffed with blue cheese, topped with avocado, fried sweet onions, tomato, arugula, cheddar cheese and chive aioli and served with sweet potato waffle fries.
Viren Olsen, formerly of Hukilau Lanai, is the head pastry chef. We indulged in the Kiss My Chocolate Monkey ($11) with vanilla sponge cake, Kokoleka Hawaiian chocolate mousse, banana custard, brûléed bananas and butterscotch drizzle.
The bar serves beer ranging from Budweiser to Sierra Nevada and Kona Brewing Co. to Maui Brewing Co. Cocktails include Lava Lava Flow ($12) with coconut cream, rum and frozen strawberries and bananas blended into a thick and creamy “shake.” Sandy Toes ($12) comes with a salt and pepper rim to remind the drinker of Big Island’s black sand. Blueberries and fresh sage leaves are muddled and mixed with gin, fresh lemon juice and St. Germain for a tart yet well balanced cocktail. If you really want to party, the Bamboocha Mai Tai ($19) is probably the only drink you’ll need all night!
Bamboocha is pidgin for “huge” and the cocktail is served in a 10-inch bamboo “glass” that you get to keep. Inside, Koloa light and dark rums are blended with premium 151 rum. There are more than nine variations of the Bloody Mary, including the BLT ($11) with a maple-bacon rim and a strip of bacon tucked inside.
As we wind up dinner, live Hawaiian music fills the air. The silhouette of the mountains press against clouds that change color in the late day sun, which glints off palm trees. An airplane flies toward the airport and a cruise ship shimmers in the hazy distance. I’m subdued by it all. It’s like an enchanting movie set. This is what people expect when they come to Hawaii.
Lava Lava Beach Club
420 Papaloa Rd., Kapaa
6:30 to 10 a.m. – Breakfast
10 to 11 a.m. – Limited breakfast
11 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Lunch
3 to 5 p.m. – Happy Hour
5 to 9 p.m. – Dinner
Bar closes at 10 p.m.
Daily live music and hula dancing
All images copyright Daniel Lane/Pono Photo. For more information, visit www.PonoPhoto.com.