New restaurant: The Grove in Kailua
The Grove, a new restaurant by Fred DeAngelo of Turtle Bay Resort's Ola, clearly has its fans: a month after its opening, on a weeknight, the room is full of diners, some of whom are regulars. Unfortunately, I am not one of the fans. The menu is comprised of upscale comfort foods—adobo braised baby back ribs, meatball sliders and grilled flatbread. But I am disappointed with the sliders, not comforted: the meatballs are underseasoned, the sweetness of the bread jarring. The flatbread crust is crackery and tough. Pommes frites should ditch its pretensions and just be called mediocre french fries.
There are some brighter spots on the menu, such as the soft braised ribs with adobo's vinegary tang. On another night: the grilled Hamakua mushroom salad, a generous portion of smoky mushrooms on greens with salty gorgonzola cutting through the sweet balsamic dressing and candied mac nuts.
In ordering the paella, we felt like we were probably making a mistake. Paella is notoriously difficult to execute, to achieve the perfect consistency of rice and a crispy, toasted bottom layer. But, it was on the menu and so it's fair game. It arrived in a paella pan, so I was hopeful, but a couple bites in made me think that the kitchen didn't actually cook the paella in the pan, but just scooped it in: there was no crust whatsoever. It also lacked some serious seasoning. The saffron was there, but no paprika, no spice, the chorizo completely bland.
One plus for Kailua families: The Grove is very kid-friendly. I rarely dine with children, but was impressed with how they handled my friend's two-year-old who poured water over the table and went from fully clothed to wearing just a diaper. They offered some kabocha and sweet potato puree to placate him, cleaned up the messes cheerfully, and the owner came around and told us to always feel comfortable bringing children.
Small plates and appetizers $6-$12, flatbreads $9-$13, main dishes $16-32.
33 Aulike Street, Kailua, 262- 2898