If you are in Kapaa and hungry for fresh, healthy food an exceptional option is the Kilauea Fish Market at Waipouli. It’s out-of-the-way, tucked in the southeast corner near Aston Islander on the Beach, but it’s worth the special trip.
Nearly everything is made from scratch at the island-style deli that features salads, wraps, and plates. Large portions will satisfy meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and those on gluten-free diets. Plates come with brown or white rice and either a local green salad, or a mac salad that’s so tasty and comforting, you’ll want to finish all of it. You can choose Grilled Hawaiian Fish (market price), grass-fed filet mignon ($17.99), Habanero Chili Pepper Chicken ($12.99), Hawaiian Chili Pepper Pork ($14.99) and Adult Tofu Mexi Bowl ($9.99) with homemade beans.
“All of our sauces are made from Corinea’s recipes,” says Sheryl Knox, Waipouli store manager. “She’s known for her Sesame Island Dressing, which goes on our wraps and salads.”
Corinea MacNeil was passionate about food so she trained in France. When she moved to Kauai, she wanted to make fresh healthy food with local ingredients and good flavor. In 1993, she opened the Kilauea Fish Market located in the historic stone building of Kilauea Sugar Plantation. After helping with the build-out, Steve Knox became a partner and the two opened the Waipouli location in 2011.
Cajun Seared Ahi Sashimi Salad (market price) comes with a side of Sesame Island Dressing as well as Shoyu Hot Mustard dipping sauce. The sushi grade ahi is blackened with Madam Pele’s Heat, from Tradewinds Spice Co, and served on a pile of perky Kailani Greens, cucumber, mung beans and shredded cabbage and carrots.
Their Sesame Ahi Poke (market price) is a revelation. Succulent cubes of sashimi grade ahi are cut so there are no tough white membranes, which is a deal-breaker for me. The texture is silky, creamy and slightly firm, and it’s lightly dressed with sesame oil, Hawaiian sea salt and scallions.
“All poke is not created equal,” says Sheryl, whose store goes through about 300 pounds of fish a week. “We make it fresh once or twice a day and only use the sashimi part that does not contain the membranes. Local fishermen deliver various kinds of whole ahi, so it’s extremely fresh and the color ranges from deep red to pink.”
The Grilled Fish Plate features 8 ounces of fish as well as your choice of sauce, which is served on the side. Today’s fish is ono and the firm, mild flesh is sweet and juicy with a crisp sear and tender insides.
“I always explain the different types of fish because sometimes our customers are hesitant to try it,” explains Sheryl. “We started getting uku (grey snapper) last year, and I tell people it’s fluffy, almost like rock lobster. People who try it say ‘It’s to die for!’”
Nine homemade and addicting sauces are available for purchase ($7.99 per pound), and include Sesame Island Dressing, Sesame-Soy Ginger, Shoyu Hot Mustard, Teriyaki, Creamy Garlic Cilantro, Wasabi Cream, Salsa, mild Korean-style Sesame Soy Ginger with local chili peppers and a fiery Habanero Sauce.
To make the habanero sauce, Sheryl roasts fresh (and usually local) habaneros on the grill, simmers them in olive oil and garlic and blends everything but the oil. The spicy oil is reserved for customers who request that their fish, meat or tofu be cooked with it.
All of this good eating comes at a price.
“People ask me, ‘How can you charge $12.99 for two tacos?’” says Sheryl. “We are not like fast food, where everything is pre-made and measured. There is eight ounces of fresh fish in the tacos and we’ve made make everything by hand. That takes extra time and it costs us more, but we feel it’s absolutely worth it.”
Kilauea Fish Market at Waipouli
4400 Aleka Place #5, Kapaa
Mon. – Sat. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Marta Lane, a Kauai-based food writer since 2010, offers food tours 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.