A Taste of Summer at the Kauai Grill
My husband Dan and I went to the St. Regis Princeville to taste some of the new summer dishes on the menu at Kauai Grill. The luxury resort’s signature restaurant is inspired by internationally acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. (He and his wife did a fantastic show called Kimchi Chronicles by the way). We had a chance to meet Kauai Grill’s chef de cuisine Maxime Michaud when we wrote about his new position for MidWeek Kauai. Today, I’m happy to share my incredibly delicious experience with you, as well as some tasty upcoming menus that Maxime and general manager Antonio Palomares shared with us.
We start with a bottle of Extra Dry Bele Casel prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy where the grapes are soft-pressed and the wine is aged for three months. Our server keeps the bottle chilled and the mildly sweet bubbly pairs wonderfully with our entire dinner.
The sun starts to sink over the ocean as a bowl of Cherry Tomato Gazpacho ($12) is served. The chilled soup is garnished with thin moons of crisp cucumber, cherry tomato halves, little balls of pickled watermelon and lemongrass granita.
As usual, the Kauai Grill turns out dishes that look simply prepared but flavors are a complex dance of delicate and robust, creating an explosion of the divine on your tongue. The broth is savory, tangy and sweet, the watermelon pungent. Chips of lemongrass granita add subtle flavor and a cool crunch. In all, it’s a light and lovely taste that graces your mouth with the essence of summer.
You might think you’re getting a beautiful plate of beets when the Marinated Big Island Kampachi arrives. (To learn about Kona Kampachi, check out the summer issue of Edible Hawaiian Islands). The kampachi is cured in sugar, salt and beet juice and thin slices of succulent fish are the color of jewels. Sections of juicy oranges add to the eye-catching dish which is topped with crème fraîche, micro-greens and finished with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil. Each bite elicits a soft moan as I relish the exquisite preparation of raw fish swaddled in fresh, bright, herbaceous flavors. Little crystals of Hawaiian sea salt lend a pleasant crunch.
I finish and notice a few micro-greens are trapped in a pool of olive oil in the bottom of my plate. There’s no way I’m leaving that, so I grab a slice of bread from the basket and swipe the bottom clean. I pop that last morsel into my mouth, lick my fingers in one smooth move and realize I was dining with sophisticated people! I guess it’s my Spanish blood. We like to eat with our fingers.
Pan Roasted Onaga with Roasted Tomatoes and Summer Vegetables ($43) looks elegant, simple and rustic at the same time. It’s a hearty serving of buttery white fish—the skin fried to a perfect crisp—with roasted tomatoes, crunchy yellow wax beans and tender yellow squash. Vegetable juices swirl with those of the fish and more of that fruity olive oil. My bread makes quick work of the remaining juice and another finger lick soon follows. It’s an honest dish, like something you’d find in Italy, France or Spain, made of fresh ingredients that are expertly crafted into a fine, wholesome meal.
Dan and I lean back in our chairs, take a deep drink of prosecco and look at the view. A fiery sunset drenches Mount Makana and Hanalei Bay in golden rays while pink and lavender clouds hang high over the ocean.
As the Grilled Lamb Chops with Mushroom Bolognese ($48) come to the table, I wonder if I can eat anymore. But I’m a glutton for delicious food and after one bite I forget I am full. Thank god we are doing a tasting menu because full plates would be impossible . . . maybe. And these lamb chops are the best we’ve ever tasted. Ever. Anywhere.
They’re from Colorado and not a whiff of gameyness meets my nose. Cooked to medium, spot on, my knife slides through the tender flesh and warm juice trickles down.
The mushroom bolognese is topped with Parmesan cheese and both lend a zesty flavor to the mild lamb. I even eat the bits of fat, which I usually avoid. They are so creamy and packed with flavor that I eat it with relish. A delicious side of crisp-tender broccolini is laced with chili oil. The dish is so exceptional, we eat in silence, savoring the experience.
Our server refills the prosecco and asks how everything tastes. I look up dazed, in a fantastic food stupor and can only say, “It’s really, really good.” I’m a food writer and the Kauai Grill always leaves me at a loss for words!
The sun dips below the horizon, world music plays over the sound system, prosecco dances in my head and dessert arrives. A comforting bowl of Salted Caramel Ice Cream ($12) and a pool of melted dark chocolate is sprinkled with candied peanuts. A puff of whipped cream evokes drugstore days and a shard of lacy, caramelized sugar spears the soft ice cream.
On July 23, the Kauai Grill will feature a five-course tasting menu built around popular dishes at Vongerichten’s Spice Market. After one month, the Kauai Grill will offer a five-course tasting menu built around popular dishes at Vongerichten’s Market.
There’s also a five-course tasting menu paired with champagne coming and soon, guests will receive the wine list on an iPad. Sections will include wine, cocktails and sommelier parings. Wine listings include region and grape and when you click on it, a picture of the label pops up with a description. The upcoming tasting menus are still being tweaked, but look for them on our blog soon.