It is time for a history lesson. Oh god, thats a horrible way to get your attention. I know a few of you read that first line thinking "I'm not here for school you bozo, just tell me about the damn food." Alright, alright I got it. You don't want to learn anything, well too damn bad because you're going to. So wake your brain up and sit in your Thinking Chair because you're about to get that history lesson that you so desperately need.
On the Sand at the Kauai Marriott Resort
3610 Rice Street, Lihue, HI 96766
Hours: Dinner 4:45pm-9:30pm Barefoot Bar 11:00am-10:30pm
The Ambassador of Aloha, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, born in 1890, was the most decorated Hawaiian that you have never heard of. A winner of 6 Olympic medals, Olympic Hall of Famer, and the first person ever to be inducted into the Swimming and Surfing Hall of Fame. Duke lived a long and fulfilling life and created an impact all over the world. He introduced surfing to the US Atlantic Coast, New Zealand, and even Australia where they put up a statue of him after his death in 1968. He even lived in Los Angeles for 8 years and had a role in 28 movies. He was a Sheriff for the city and county of Honolulu for 25 years, and was appointed the new state of Hawaii's Official Ambassador of Aloha in 1960.
The guy did it all, even before Hawaii was even a part of the United States. His willingness to teach the world about his passion not only affected those who came in contact with him, but the people who benefited from his teachings that came after him. And the only reason I even know who this guy is, is because I went to a restaurant that was named after him. And the story is just as good as the food.
Duke's Kauai is located right on Nawiliwili Bay and the view from the restaurant is a picture perfect moment that belongs on the cover of one of those Must Go To Restaurants books. This beautiful restaurant is the place that my wife and I decided to go to the night before our wedding. We figured if we were going to go out to somewhere nice, we might as well do it right and ball out.
The dining is split up into two parts. The downstairs area is your bar and grill area, which offers American style dishes with some Hawaiian fresh fish specials as well. But the upstairs area is where you want to go if you are looking for a complete dining experience with a view. You also get a menu that is only offered during their dinner hours. With pupus (appetizers), fresh fish, seafood, and a steakhouse grill, you will feel like an honored guest in this fine dining experience.
The wine and cocktails menu is very unique. They offer many Hawaiian specific drinks as well as local beers and fine wines. My wife ordered the Lava Flow which is blended fresh pineapple, coconut syrup, strawberries and rum. That shit was so damn good, definitely because of the fact that the pineapple was so fresh and obviously was grown locally. I ordered La Piña which was blended fresh pineapple, coconut cream, and Hana Bay gold rum with a Darkk rum float. But the best part about my drink was that it was inside of a fresh pineapple, I felt like damn royalty.
We started off with their Panko Crusted Calamari with wasabi-guava cocktail sauce. I didn't even know wasabi and guava went together, but I soon realized that it was a pair that I had been missing out on my whole life. You know when you go get deep fried calamari and usually the pieces are like pretty thin and a little crunchy? I honestly thought that was just how it was always supposed to be, until we got our plate. The calamari was so thick that they looked like they had the octopus on steroids, and if he was I really don't care. Biting into that calamari was something totally different then I've ever experienced with calamari before, it was like an entirely different kind of food. I was actually a little bit sad because I knew I was probably never going to have calamari like that again.
So that was just the appetizer, what came next was even more Knock Your Socks Off kind of feeling. We ordered the Signature Top Sirloin which was grilled usda prime beef, garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized maui onion demi glace. We also ordered the Pulehu Style Filet Mignon which was grilled with Hawaiian salt, brown sugar, cracked pepper, roasted garlic butter, mashed potatoes. And of course we also ordered a quarter pound Tristan lobster tail and a side of Coconut Shrimp with Lilikoi dip because we were getting married the next day so we had to celebrate that moment with a lot, and I mean a lot, of food.
Let's start with the Sirloin. I have never had a piece of meat cooked so perfectly, sorry to anyone who has ever cooked for me. The maui onion demi glaze sweetness gave an incredible balance to the mashed potatoes that I wasn't expecting. The Filet Mignon did not disappoint either. The Hawaiian salt and brown sugar gave it a subtle taste of Hawaii in every bite. But what really made the dish was the garlic butter, I mean they must have melted an entire stick of butter on that that plate because the filet mignon was swimming in a pool of delicious flavor. The lobster tail just put everything over the top, getting fresh seafood from an island in the middle of the ocean is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.
When we were finally done stuffing our entire body's with all the food we could possibly indulge over the span of about an hour, we just sat there and enjoyed the moment. I remember looking at my wife and thinking that I wasn't sure if we were ever going to have a dining experience like that again. The drinks, the food, the view, the fact that we were about to get married, all added up and made it for a special moment. Which is exactly what that place is, special. The standard that this restaurant holds itself to is that of the man it is named after. It will make an impact on you so significant that you will have to tell everyone you know to fly all the way to Kauai simply for this moment of food bliss. Duke is the Ambassador of Aloha, and Duke's Kauai carries on his legacy with every meal.
RIP a legend! The Father of Surfing!
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.