Trees Lounge Offers Brunch
On Sept 24, word spread across social media that Trees Lounge was closing after nine years of business. Kauai’s residents and loyal visitors were distressed to learn the news. After all, they’d became accustomed to the only place in Kapaa that offered live music. But in a last minute move, music-lover Ulla Freeman, a Kauai resident since 2009, bought the place on Sept. 26.
Both Benjamin James, Ulla’s son-in-law, along with her partner, Isaac Alvarado, lead the kitchen. A few signature dishes from the dinner menu remain, such as Caribbean Black Bean Nachos, Delta Ribs and Jerk Chicken, so I’ll tell you about the newly added brunch menu.
When you’re seated, a glass of house-made flavored water is brought to your table. It looks like any other glass of water, but on the day I went, it was flavored with Kauai Fresh Farms cucumber and lemon from Benjamin’s yard.
Despite being roomier inside, there are 40 new seats, and three French doors open to the outdoor dining lanai. Benjamin’s wife, Minna, embraces the holidays by painting fat pumpkins on the restaurant’s wide windows. And while Benjamin cooks, he keeps his eyes on the guests.
“The kitchen is open so I can interact with customers and create personalized service,” says Benjamin, who has cooked at the St. Regis Princeville and on the Sailing Vessel Kwai, a cargo ship based out of Cook Islands.
Brunch at Trees is served in three sizes. Any Kind Eggs ($8) includes two cheesy eggs prepared fried, scrambled, as an omelet, or as a frittata. For an additional $4, the “Add the Works” option comes with smoked Gouda cheese, bacon, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, kale and seasonal vegetables. If your super hungry, the “Make it a Meal” choice, for another $6, includes steamed rice, Benjamin’s toast with a house-made spread, or roasted Molokai purple and baby red potatoes. You’ll also get juice, tea or coffee (which is roasted at Imua Coffee Roasters a few doors down), and a fruit bowl.
Belgium Waffles ($10) are airy and mildly sweet. They’re topped with Papalani Vanilla Bean Gelato, poached honeydew melon, ginger syrup and toasted macadamia nuts spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne. It’s a fun indulgence that started as a special dish for Benjamin’s kids during the holidays.
I was happy to see a Dutch Baby on the menu, as they are the special dish at my home. Typically, an eggy batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked in the oven. The sides rise above the pan and the center fills with air, which deflates to about ½-inch thick. Trees’ Dutch Baby is almost 2-inches thick, with apple slices embedded into the top. It’s almost like bread pudding and served with house-made apple butter and local honey ($10).
On Dec. 11, Trees Lounge is hosting a holiday dinner and dance party as a fundraiser for the new charter school, Alakai O Kauai. The evening includes a 5-course meal, a DJ and a performance by Al Farashat bellydancing troupe. There will also be a photo booth with holiday props. Tickets are $50.
440 Aleka Place, Kapaa
Open Sat. – Fri.
Brunch 7 to 11 a.m.
Dinner 5 – 11 p.m.
Happy hour 5 – 7 p.m.
Fresh Washington oysters every Tuesday night
Live music every night (Typically, there’s a $5 cover charge)
All images copyright 2016 Daniel Lane/Pono Photo. For more information, visit www.PonoPhoto.com.