Casual meets sophistication at The Lanai, a chic Poipu restaurant and bar that emulates the lanai of an elegant plantation home.
Owners Howard Warner and Jeff Sacchini came up with this design concept that harmoniously melds the quaint look of yesteryear with contemporary fashion. They wanted to offer people a luxurious place to unwind yet feel comfortable in their T-shirts, shorts and slippers.
A relaxed open-air atmosphere combined with swank rustic décor is a pleasant surprise. Distressed Indonesian teak wood, tiki torches and soft lighting are among the many characteristics that put patrons at ease at this charming eatery. It’s the kind of trendy hot spot you’d expect to find in a bustling city, but instead, it’s discreetly tucked inside The Shops at Kukuiula on the South Shore.
This hip dining establishment, which opened its doors in 2016 and is attached to the gourmet grocery, Living Foods Market, not only delivers on its ambiance but also on its menu. Its ever-evolving island cuisine boasts of eclectic cultural flavors, thanks to the culinary creativity of Executive Chef Blake Pascua. The Oahu native spent almost three decades in Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked his way up the food industry ladder to the Oakroom — the only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant in the southern state.
He went on to help open a number of restaurants, from the 300-seat Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar to the Basa Restaurant, a former classic upscale Vietnamese/French establishment where he held the reins as chef de cuisine for three years.
Afterward, Pascua found his way to the Garden Isle, and eventually to The Lanai, where he has guided the kitchen for about two years. His first project was revamping the entire menu, and those who dined at the restaurant prior to his arrival will recognize the difference.
He kept a few of the mainstays, including the entrée, Loco Moco, a modern take on local comfort food created with braised short ribs soaked in Maui Brewery coconut porter and served over a mouth-watering truffle mushroom risotto topped with a fried egg and house-made gravy.
What’s exciting, however, is the new fare he adds to the menu on a regular basis that uses local elements as well as southern ingredients, from his Kentucky upbringing — something you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else on Kauai.
These aren’t the only options that will have your taste buds begging for more at The Lanai, which specializes in classic American and Hawaii-infused cuisine with many notable small plate options.
Before diving into these savory and sumptuous dinners, start your meal right with one of the many pupu bound to throw a party in your mouth. Avocado croquettes are the perfect example, where avocados are deep-fried in spicy breading and accompanied with tantalizing extras like sweet soy glaze, tropical chutney and spicy aioli. Sounds simple, yet this dish is anything but in its unusual display of palate-pleasing flavors.
You also can’t go wrong with Hawaiian ceviche, made with the fresh, local catch of the day, such as opah, wild-caught shrimp, tomatoes, avocado and zesty pineapple salsa, served with a side of chips for scooping. Salads are always a refreshing option to kick start your meal as well, and every single one offers a splendid spread of seasonings.
And let’s not forget that this establishment is known for its playful selection of tropical signature cocktails garnished with Kauai-grown seasonal favorites. What’s more, The Lanai has one of the best happy hours on island every day from 3 to 5 p.m. that includes $3 beers, $3 off signature drinks and wines by the glass, as well as discounted lunch and dinner items.
So, pairing drinks with food is a mission that’s easily accomplished, especially when the options are made entirely from scratch using as many local and organic ingredients as possible.
The 48-ounce Shaka Bowl will set your taste buds on fire with its brew of Bacardi Coconut Rum, Funkin Passion Fruit Puree, strawberry puree, natural li hing powder, lemon and pineapple juice that arrives at your table complete with a “volcanic” flame.
Also, the Lanai Tai, a contemporary spin on the mai tai, is an indulgent drink consisting of a medley of Koloa Coconut and Gold rums (made on island), orange curacao, orgeat, lime juice, orange flower water and a float of Koloa Dark Rum.
For those who enjoy a little heat, the Bad Influence is a fiery combo of lemon, spicy habanero vodka, fresh slices of jalapeño, and cooled off with mango and pineapple juice and honey, as well as a smoked ginger lime salt along the rim of the glass, to help ease the peppery flame.
With such a vast array of wine and spirits procured from around the world, it’s difficult to pick just one. Even if you’re a wine connoisseur, your options are just as extensive, with vino imported from at least six countries around the world that can be ordered by the bottle or glass.
Make sure you save room for one of The Lanai’s sumptuous desserts, like the Crème Brulee Duo or cheesecake — each an ideal way to top off an elegant meal.
The Lanai is a great place to relax, where top-of-the-line island food and drinks make the experience that much better. Perfect for a nightcap or a delectable treat after a “hard day” lounging at the beach, the menu differs from anything else on the Garden Isle, and the best part is that while local favorites stick around, the items are consistently changing, so you never get bored no matter how many times you frequent here.
The Lanai’s high quality, sustainably grown and locally harvested dishes offer flavorful diversity and are an amiable blend of cultural ingredients that will leave you wanting more.
The Lanai is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m.
Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.