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Photo courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory, 2301 Kalakaua Ave., 924-5001.
If you like cornbread, you’ll love The Cheesecake Factory’s Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes ($9.95). On first bite, these small, moist and fluffy cakes taste more like a dessert than an appetizer. The toppings of tiny, diced tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, avocado and salsa verde add color and unique flavors to the corn cakes. For a moment, you forget that you’re eating a cornbread creation until it hits you—an aftertaste reminding you of Grandma’s fresh, home-baked cornbread. The combination of flavors mixed with the cornbread sensation make this a great appetizer—or dessert. Who needs cheesecake? Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. www.thecheesecakefactory.com.
Pahu ia, Four Seasons Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu, (808) 325-8000.
We could write a book about the Hawaiian Anthology appetizer quartet ($38) at Pahu ia, the Four Seasons Hualalai’s award-winning beachside restaurant. It’d open with a chapter on the Keahole lobster bisque “cappuccino”—light, yet absolutely flavorful, topped with a float of Hamakua vanilla bean foam. The melange of local ingredients and flavors in the “deconstructed” ahi poke, and lilikoi-barbecue-sauce-infused kalua pork bao with house-made kimchee, would keep readers riveted through chapters two and three. A concluding chapter on the Anthology’s simple, grilled Kona baby abalone—lightly finished with an herby chimichurri sauce—would demand multiple readings. The coda? The surf rolling in a few feet away from the table and a sunset on the horizon. Open daily. À la carte breakfast 6:30 to 11:30 a.m.; buffet breakfast 7 to 11:30 a.m.; dinner 6 to 9:30 p.m. www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/dining.html.
Sansei Seafood, Restaurant & Sushi Bar, 201 Waikoloa Beach Drive in the Queens’ MarketPlace, Waikoloa, 808-886-6286.
The Big Island couldn’t wait to welcome D.K. Kodama’s latest (and largest) to the Queens’ MarketPlace, and we can’t wait to go back for another of chef Eric Rouelle’s Seared Foie Gras Nigiri Sushi ($19). Bartender/guide Chris gave us spoons and instructions to swirl the tangy unagi demiglaze around bits of fresh mango, caramelized Maui onion and teeny orange masago (smelt roe) and stage it on the side. Then we took up our chopsticks and plucked the heaven-sent seared foie gras from its sushi-like pedestal, sank our teeth in and followed through with the lovin’ spoonful. This ceremony is a great prelude to a cold Hefeweizen. Dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Late night dining and karaoke Friday through Saturday 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., www.DKRestaurants.com.
Waikoloa Beach Grill, 69-1022 Keana Place, in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, Waikoloa, 808-886-6131.
The good news is award-winning chefs Stephen Tabor and David Brown now present their presidential-quality menu tapas-style in appetizer portions. The bad news is you might have to share. The Grilled Duck Breast with Chutnied Fruit Salad ($12.50) had us finger-wrestling over that last swipe of sweet-salty sauce well after the duck was gone. Medallions of duck breast are marinated in Port, honey, herbs and secrets, then grilled and glazed in a house-made chutney mixed with fresh strawberries, bananas, mango and pineapple, for a lingering lip-smackiness akin to li hing mui. The chefs pair this with Las Brisas Rueda, a wine from Spain. Open daily for lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., pupu 4 to 5 p.m., dinner from 5 to 9 p.m., www.WBGrill.com.