Dining: Alternative Lanai

There's luxury hotel dining on Lanai, but fortunately that's not all.


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The chicken Parmesan at Pele's Other Garden is heartwarming fare, and goes quite nicely with a glass of Amarone della Valpolicella.

Photo by: David Croxford

After an early flight to Lanai, we stopped by the Lodge at Koele for a restorative breakfast.

The waitress arrived with a pitcher of pineapple-lilikoi juice. I took half a glass and had to ask for more. Someone in the Lodge kitchen had been up earlier than we, running pineapples through the juicer, perhaps even making fresh passion-fruit puree, turning the whole thing into a juice that made us think just how lame is all the other juice we’re ever served, most of it canned, bottled or made from concentrate.

That was before we’d even ordered.

Let me recommend the Lodge’s eggs Benedict—excellent Canadian bacon, perfectly cooked eggs and a hollandaise sauce so velvety it could only be freshly made.

 

Breakfast came with a view of the Lodge’s manicured grounds and Four Seasons-style service. While waiting for the eggs, I went to the gift shop to see if it sold a map.

While I was asking the clerk, a gentleman overheard and fetched me a free map. He turned out to be the hotel’s general manager, Robert Nolan, and, despite having a hotel to run, he walked me back to the table and spent 10 minutes explaining his favorite off-road adventures.

“This is quite civilized,” said my travel companion.

Civilization, as Freud pointed out, always comes at a price: eggs Benedict cost $22, each. That wonderful juice? $7, also each. Breakfast for two was $73 with tip.

The next day we ate in town, and had the $8 Lanai omelets (Portuguese sausage, bacon, fried rice) at Blue Ginger Café, where the little kid at the next table poured catsup on his pancakes.

Both the Lodge and the Manele Bay Hotel are indeed outposts of civility on the Neighbor Islands. However, should you find yourself on Lanai, here are a couple of alternatives that are priced more within a normal budget.
 

Pele's Other Garden
8111 Houston St., Lanai City  // (808) 565-9628  // Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  // Street parking, major credit cards // www.pelesothergarden.com

You may be wondering at the name: Pele’s Other Garden. There used to be a Pele’s Garden, a health food store run by Beverly Zigmond. In 1995, Mark Zigmond and his wife, Barbara, from New Jersey, came out to visit his sister, spending two weeks at the Manele Bay Hotel.

“We impulsively decided we could live here,” says Mark. They meant at Manele, with maid service and poolside mai tais. Unfortunately, spending the rest of their days in a luxury hotel was not within their means. So back in New Jersey, riding a commuter train, the two of them, financial analysts both, scribbled a business plan on the back of an envelope. They sold everything and relocated 5,000 miles.

They started Pele’s Other Garden as an adjunct to the health food store, selling healthy sandwiches. When the original Pele’s Garden shut down, the restaurant expanded, eventually taking over the none-too-large red and yellow plantation-era building right on Lanai City’s pine-planted square.

Pele’s Other Garden still does sandwiches and pizzas at lunch, but at dinner, it’s a casual, candle-lit bistro, remarkably ambitious for its 24 seats, with more outside on a warm evening. The salads are Lanai lettuces, with so much snap to them you know they were resting comfortably in a garden only hours before. (My recommendation: Try the roasted red pepper dressing.)

Mark tried to keep us from ordering bruschetta, noting that the weekly barge from Oahu had been delayed in a storm and the tomatoes were not up to standard (Lanai giveth, and Lanai taketh away). My companion, who had fond memories from an earlier visit, insisted. It was OK, really, just not as brilliant as Zigmond would have liked.

The entrées shone. The poetically named Bowtie & Butterflies is pesto bowtie pasta with prosciutto and butterflied garlic shrimp, a solid dish.

Most enjoyable was the chicken Parmesan. You can envision it: a grilled chicken breast topped with red sauce and thick, gooey mozzarella cheese.

This came with a large side of perfectly al dente spaghetti, with an unexpected touch. It would have been simpler to slather the pasta in more of the red sauce. Instead it came with a fresh tomato and basil concassé.

 

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