Dining: Something to Eat on Kauai
At last, I have had a trio of good meals on the Garden Isle.
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We chose well for the first course. Three simple ingredients on a plate: thin green apple slices; a slice of California’s most famous goat cheese, Humboldt Fog; and one more item that made this all come alive, a chunk of honeycomb from beekeeper Chester Danbury, who keeps 400 hives on Kauai’s North Shore.
It was the best honey I’ve tasted since Greece, lambent and oozy, from bees who had buzzed through ironwood and acacia trees. Add together the snap of the apples, the sharpness of the aged goat cheese, the sweetness of the honey, and you’ve got a classic trilogy.
How to follow this? A day boat scallop that it took two of us to eat, sort of the Quarter Pounder of scallops. It arrived ensconced in mashed potatoes, with a reduced chicken stock fortified with truffles. This was $16 for a single scallop—and worth it.
Time to lighten up: a salad. Shrimp grilled and marinated in olive oil and lemon, and tossed with fresh, crunchy, slightly bitter frisée. Sprinkle with large, but not hard, croutons made from the crust of the Italian-style bread served at the table. Oh, and throw in some chopped egg, a few green beans and some flat-leaf parsley, dress very lightly with olive oil, letting the lemon on the shrimp serve as the acid. We ate every bite.
Then a false note: a large link of housemade chorizo, with which we were not enthralled. The pepper mix was outstanding (a blend of six different peppers, from Spain, New Mexico and California, Moffat told me later). But the meat mix was not all pork, and it was crumbly.
“You know what went wrong?” said Moffat when I told him later. “Our chorizo likes to hang. If it ages long enough, it develops a great, solid texture. But sometimes we sell so much, you get one that hasn’t aged enough.”
It was time to get serious. A small, double lamb chop, tasty in itself. Even better was the pool of romesco it sat in. Romesco looks like tomato sauce, but it’s not, it’s a sauce of some antiquity from Spain. You can tell because it’s still usually thickened in the medieval fashion, with bread crumbs and ground almonds. There’s a bit of tomato, but the red is from peppers, in Spain from romesco peppers, in the United States usually from roasted red peppers. It’s a rare sauce that can outshine rare lamb, and this one did.
By this time, we were decently full, though not so full we didn’t order a pot au crème, a chocolate pudding so thick the spoon stands up in it. And my favorite dessert, an affogado, a simple Italian dessert, with a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla, over which you pour a shot of hot espresso and consume immediately.
At Bar Acuda, you get a cup of espresso with a tiny dollop of ice cream on top. Moffat explained it was made by the barman and simpler because it didn’t need to get to the table immediately, but, really, an $8 dessert?
That said, dinner was not terribly expensive, $130 with tip and two glasses of prosecco, and we were happy, happy enough that I wished Oahu had a Bar Acuda, which struck me as an extraordinary thing to say about a Kauai restaurant.
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