Part two of my food trail. We spent 2.5 days each in Kailua-Kona and Hilo. Kona is dry as a desert while Hilo is raining cats and dogs everyday… due to something about how the clouds can’t get over the mountain so it remains in Hilo. 140 inches of rain a year… whereas Kona gets like 1. Yikes! The Big Island… honestly, was a bit boring. It didn’t have very nice beaches except for Hapuna Beach, which was freakin’ beautiful but it was in Kawaihae, so a bit ways from Kona. Kona had nothing but black volcano rocks and Hilo had nothing but rain. The best thing about Hilo though was the Mauna Kea Observatory. Hubby and I drove up to about 4000 feet (half way) one night and gazed at the most beautiful array of stars in a completely black sky. We wanted to drive up to 9000 feet and use the telescopes but minors under 16 are not allowed up due to air pressure etc… it was so beautiful at 4000 feet – I can’t imagine what it would be like at 9000 feet! Next time we are so ditching the kid in Calgary and we’ll go do our thing. Sorry baby – we love you but we couldn’t go swimming with the sharks, go ziplining etc b/c of you! You’re staying with grandpa next time :D
Hubs, baby and I boarded the super early flight from Maui to Big Island and picked up our rental car. Hmmmm no internet access yet, where to eat? I was flipping through the local magazines and saw The Shops at Mauna Lani and thought ooooh, maybe I can do some shopping after all, and there must be restaurants there! Talk about deceiving… barely any shopping to do – the best thing there was a Foodland (seriously) and four restaurants. We chose Just Tacos b/c a) it wasn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg ($20.95 for a bowl of Tempura Udon @ Monsterra? Is that a joke?) and b) we haven’t had Mexican food for a while. I wouldn’t say Just Tacos was completely authentic but their food was better than average and service was pretty decent.
Seiji Brew Garden & Sushi
Seiji was located in a very odd plate, but it wasn’t hard to find b/c there were hand painted signs all around pointing SUSHI towards the restaurant. The restaurant was a very small place with a smallish menu but the food is made with good care and Seiji himself is very knowledged about sushi. The fish is super fresh and the rice has a good amount of vinegar and sugar to it that hubby ate every last grain… even when there was no fish left (he’s really bad for leaving rice behind when all the toppings are gone). The food just tasted so authentic and healthy that I wouldn’t mind returning over and over again. Seiji even gave my toddler another bowl of miso soup when he saw how much my toddler loved it!
This was a restaurant on the resort we stayed at. Your very standard fare with tourist pricing (ouch) but we had plans to go to the beach right after breakfast and didn’t want to go far. Food was decent but it was a pain paying for that 1/2 papaya…
Da Poke Shack
After the beach we wanted to get a quick bite, so after getting a shaved ice, I got hubby to drive here b/c it was closeby. I had to keep rushing him to go b/c I have read that their poke sells out quick, and by the time we got there, the one flavor I wanted to try had only 1/2 scoop left. I got the poke bowl which comes with one scoop of poke, but it was clear that there wasn’t enough so I asked for 1/2 scoop of another type, for which I had to convince the cashier to give me. She was reluctant and said no, I can only have one kind of poke but I pointed out that the one I want only had 1/2 scoop left, only then did she gave me 1/2 scoop of a second type. Not even sure how she didn’t notice that they were running out since she was scooping it out for the customer prior. Plus what’s wrong with giving me half of a scoop of each variety anyway… it’s not like I was asking for extra and they were the same price. Anyways, besides that, the poke was amazing. Hubby got the Lau Lau which was absolutely amazing – something I have to learn how to make!
Hubby and I first noticed Bubba Gump in Lahaina back in Maui but the line-ups were insane… and then here in Kona, you can easily get in without much of a wait, so we decided it was time to pay them a visit since we wanted to see how they specialize in shrimp. Unfortunately hubby wasn’t still feeling well so all he had was the soup and salad combo, while our toddler had the soup as well and I had the pasta. I really enjoyed the perfectly cooked, al-dente linguine that had just the right amount of lemon caper sauce. The shrimps were also cooked perfectly and had that good crunch that fresh shrimp would have. The server told us that this is one of their most popular dishes and I can see why. The bread pudding was also great – has the two components I look for in a dessert – warm and topped with ice cream. Yummmmm.
Pine Tree Cafe
This was our last restaurant stop before heading to Hilo, and I decided it was time to eat local style food again. PTC is a very casual setting where you order at the counter, pick a table to sit and then wait for your food. Prices are decent and there are TONS of choices. Hubs decided it was time to try a Loco Moco, while I couldn’t decide what to get at all… ribs are not my idea of a breakfast but what the heck, I’ll eat better when I get home (and I have been!). This was a great meal with good value, huge portions and good taste. My toddler enjoyed about a third of his fried rice omelet and ate the rest later throughout the day. I had the pumpkin cake later in the evening and it was moist and sweet, with a hint of pumpkin.
New Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant
We arrived to a wet, rainy Hilo… and was depressed instantly from being away the sunny, dry weather back in Kona. Sigh. Hubby said, let’s look on our GPS to see what there is to eat (since there was no internet access in our hotel room – thanks Expedia for the false advertising! Free wifi throughout the hotel does not equal to free wifi ONLY in the lobby). As soon as he saw Vietnamese, he said – let’s go there. New Saigon was a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant with GOUGING tourist prices. I remember spring/salad rolls was some ridiculous price of around $8 for 3 rolls. Well look at my bowl of pho… while the taste was decent, it was not worth $10.50. There was barely anything in there. I was still hungry afterwards since I gave some to my toddler but I was too cheap to spend another penny here so I ate the rest of my pumpkin cake. We drove around later anyways and I got something else to snack on.
We drove to downtown this morning b/c hubby wanted to check out their Farmer’s Market, so we decided to grab breakfast somewhere… except even though there are places to eat, I just didn’t see any breakfast places. So we walked and walked… and came across this restaurant. It was then about 11:00am and we thought eh, it’s lunch time. Italian it is. One of the reasons why it prompted me to go in was the price. $6.50 for pasta dishes? Most of the items were under $10! Well it certainly didn’t disappoint. The calamari fritter was not your usual squid rings, but it was a squid steak. It was super tender and had a good bite, but not chewy like you would get sometimes with squid. Our mains were all very simple tasting, yet delicious. The server even gave me a choice of pasta for the bolognese and I picked angel hair just b/c it would be easier for my toddler to eat.
Hilo Farmer’s Market
This is one of the recommend places for tourists to go check out, and were we glad we went. You will not see any gouging tourist prices here (except for Honomu Jams, but they make excellent jam and it’s all natural). Our only disappointment is that we were not staying for the weekend where we would’ve been able to see the full market – with around a hundred vendors! Anyways, as you can see from my pictures, there is a vast array of produce that you can buy, as well as the most gorgeous flowers ever. I wanted to buy some so badly but I can only keep them for another two days and that’s it… so capturing them on my camera instead. We bought papayas, rambutan, avocados and bananas to try – all excellent and dirt cheap! Also, vendors are extremely generous with providing samples for you to try!
A quick bite just so we don’t have to starve until dinner, but also not overeat at dinner. I have no justifications of eating here, except that it’s quick and cheap. You can also try items here that will never be available in Canada… like that taro pie. Taro is a huge thing here in Hawaii, and I have a thing for taro. That pie was really tasty – tasty enough that I had to eat it again when we were in Honolulu. It’s sweet with a crispy pie shell – the shell is nothing like the pies here in Canada! Also that burger… it’s $1. And it’s also not available in Canada. Just had to eat it.
Ocean Sushi Deli
I had high hopes for this place b/c of its high ratings. I based a lot of my restaurant pickings from Urbanspooon but this was probably the shittiest place you can possibly get sushi from, unless you have zero standards. I have written a longer review on Urbanspoon regarding our experience: see below. Honestly, even though the food was cheap, the quality was not there and the fish was sliced pretty thin – yet they managed to pack about four cups of rice in that chirashi bowl. Also, not everything was fresh. Service was downright horrible – that bitch of a server had something up her ass all night. Seriously, if she hates customer so much – she doesn’t have to be a server! I did not feel horrible for not leaving a tip – no one deserved it except for the poor bus boy – which he won’t get a share of anyway.
Hubby couldn’t believe I picked this place to eat – me neither. 91% rating my ass. We don’t often leave dinner mad but yeah, we will never eat here again. We then drove to Mauna Kea to gaze at the thousands of stars that improved our moods drastically. Seriously people – if you go to Hilo – go to the Observatory if you can! It’s totally worth it.
My longer review on Urbanspoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/37/411664/restaurant/Hawaii/Ocean-Sushi-Deli-Hilo
We wanted a normal meal the next morning that was close to our hotel and decided here. A bit of a dated place, but great service and a pretty huge selection of items on their menu. Food was definitely delicious – I don’t often have protein for breakfast in the morning but that seems to be my trend in Hawaii, and the mahi mahi was very good. What’s better was the banana bread – hmmmm warm, moist and sweet. Hubby’s crab cake benedict was also very nice and the Hollandaise sauce was a good version. After here we went on our helicopter tour!
Hilo Rice Noodles
If you can believe it, I actually asked to eat pho tonight. Hubby said, did I hear you right? You never want to eat pho. Hahaha… so I checked Urbanspoon to see what was a good place for Vietnamese and this was one of the choices that came up. The price is still kind of high but at least there was way more food in this bowl and the soup is also just ok. They also serve Chinese food and I had really wanted to try the Dong Por Yuk but there would be no way I can eat my pho and that. Oh well! Service was decent.
Hilo Airport Food
Yuck Yuck Yuck!
Next morning, we had to leave to fly to Honolulu (my favorite island). We had to drop off our rental car a bit early and was stuck at the airport for a good 2.5 hours. Hilo Airport is very bare, with no free wifi ($6.95 for 2 hours anyone?) and just… NOTHING. The only good thing I can praise about the airport is that there was no wait to check in, go through security etc. b/c it’s not a busy airport. Well, at least there was a place to eat, but the food as expected was not very good and it was expensive.
That’s it for Big Island – Honolulu to follow!