Kukui’s Restaurant is tucked along one of the largest family resort pools in Hawaii in the heart of the Kauai Marriott Resort at Kalapaki Beach. Palm and plumeria trees rustle lazily as diners, shaded under a flowing roof, enjoy a meal in the open-air dining room. At the back of the restaurant, near Toro Tei sushi bar, guests can enjoy unlimited amounts of street food every Saturday night.
If you’re in the mood for a light and delicious meal, try Kukui’s traditional Portuguese bean soup ($8) made with ham-hocks and kidney beans. The chef crafted soup ($7) changes nightly, but it’s always infused with local flavors.
Fresh fish dishes highlight three types of seasonal fish, which are prepared one of five ways: macadamia nut and crab crusted; steamed Thai style with cilantro and ginger; grilled with olive oil and fresh herbs from the chef’s garden; seared with Aloha Spice Co. Seafood Blend and lemongrass butter; and sesame crusted with chili aioli.
Pasta is made fresh in-house and entrées such as Kona and Alaea Salt crusted prime rib ($34) includes soup or salad, sautéed fresh vegetables and a choice of white rice, forbidden (black Thai) rice or mashed potatoes. Save room for the chocolate laulau, a tasty little package of flourless chocolate cake, haupia pudding and chocolate mousse wrapped in filo dough.
Every week, Executive Chef Guy Higa receives half of a cattle carcass from Makaweli Meat Company, which raises and processes 100 percent grass-fed beef on the Westside. The bar menu includes the Marriott burger ($17), which is made with Makaweli ground beef, bacon and cheddar cheese.
On the Kukui’s menu, the “Kauai Grown Makaweli Meat Company Nightly Cut” (market price) section of the menu rotates nightly. Chef Higa transforms cuts of rib eye, strip-loin, filet, heart, tri-tip, skirt steak or sirloin steak into flavorful and unique dishes. Each meal is served with soup or salad, sautéed fresh vegetables and a choice of white rice, forbidden (black Thai) rice or mashed potatoes.
About six weeks ago, Kukui’s started hosting a “Street Food Tasting”, which is available every Saturday evening. For a nominal fee ($35 not including beer or cocktails), diners can enjoy the view from Kalapaki Bay while filling up on unlimited servings of street food from different cultures.
Just behind Toro Tei sushi bar, and about 50 yards from the beach, Sous Chef Rey Montemayor and Charie Zabala cook on a large grill. The Street Food menu includes steak tacos made with Moroccan spiced Makaweli rib eye that is grilled and topped with fresh tomatoes, grilled onions, queso fresco and cilantro and served in a corn tortilla. On the night I went, they also served a flavorful taco made with tender Makaweli beef tongue. It was a special and may not be available every Saturday.
Kofta are Middle Eastern meatballs made with Makaweli grass-fed lamb, which is raised on Niihau. The lamb is ground and blended with cinnamon, cumin, onions and parsley and molded onto a stick before it’s grilled. It’s served with grilled cherry tomatoes, naan (flatbread) and a thick tzaziki made with Greek yogurt, fresh mint and cucumber.
Every week, Chef Higa also receives whole hogs that were raised at Kaneshiro Farms in Omao. On Saturdays, tender slices of Chinese-style pork belly are piled into a soft buns and topped with hoisin sauce and cilantro.
Other featured dishes include chicken tikka kebobs with spiced curry chickpeas; pork potstickers with yuzu ponzu sauce and fried noodles; Cali Inside Out sushi rolls; and spicy ahi poke over steamed rice. If you have room for dessert, you can have butter mochi, tropical shooters and Koloa Rum Cake.
The Street Food Tasting is a fantastic deal if you like a lot of good food for a little bit of money, and a delicious way to spend time with family and friends.
Kauai Marriott Resort at Kalapaki Beach
3610 Rice St., Lihue
Marta Lane has been a food writer on Kauai since 2010 and is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.