KOHALA COAST — Foodies can choose from a wide variety of new culinary options along the Kohala Coast this month and into the New Year.
The Shops at Mauna Lani
Two new Asian outlets will spice up The Shops at Mauna Lani.
Shiono, previously located in the Mauna Lani golf clubhouse, was scheduled to have a soft opening Saturday on the second floor of The Shops at Mauna Lani. The menu remains primarily the same, but a new sushi counter has been added. Culinary staff dish up fresh sushi and Japanese cuisine Tuesday through Sunday.
“Our chef, who trained in Japan, is here,” assistant Etsuko Jig said. “We’ve added to the menu omakase – or chef’s choice. We feature local fish, like Big Island abalone, kampachi and ahi.”
On the ground floor of the same shopping center, James Babian — the owner and chef at Pueo’s Osteria in Waikoloa Village — will serve up creative Chinese fare at his second restaurant, Pele’s Wok Bistro &Bar. The spot, which replaced The Blue Room, is scheduled to have a soft opening sometime this week. The space has a whole new look and feel, and diners can choose to eat indoors or out.
For the menu, think Chinese inspired and locally sourced: Wok Seared Kona Shrimp as an appetizer, Egg Flower and Waimea Vegetable Soup as a second course and Beef and Broccoli with Big Island grass-fed beef, organic local broccoli, Hamakua mushrooms and island ginger as the main course.
Shiono and Pele’s Wok will have grand openings in January.
Known for his homemade bacon-inspired dishes at Mai Grille in the Waikoloa Kings’ Golf Course clubhouse, Chef Allen Hess opened his second restaurant at the same resort Dec. 1 with Aloha Bol in Queens’ MarketPlace’s Ono Food Court. Local, fresh ingredients can be mixed and matched, allowing diners to create their own “bols” starting with greens, rice, quinoa or somen combined with a choice of vegetables, proteins, sauces and toppings. For those who want to sample one of Hess’s creations, dishes can be ordered off the Chef Creation menu.
Prior to venturing out on his own, his former posts included head chef at Merriman’s in Waimea and chef de cuisine at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel’s memorable Canoe House.
The island’s first licensed rum distillery, Kuleana Rum Works, is tentatively scheduled to open at Queens’ MarketPlace Dec. 27. Located catty-corner to Daylight Mind and next door to Waikoloa Luxury Cinemas, the bar and restaurant will serve their own choice rums complimented by Umekes’ grindz.
The first three premium rums they will pour at the restaurant are Kuleana Hawaiian Rum Agricole, Huihui and Nanea.
“I honestly love all three — that’s why we are launching with them,” Steve Jefferson said, Kuleana Rum Works’ CEO and co-founder. “The star is definitely the Agricole — it’s 100 percent, fresh-pressed sugarcane juice from 40 varieties of heirloom Hawaiian ko grown on our farm in Hawi — so it’s very special.”
He continued, “I’m super excited about the Huihui — we are blending our agricole rum into a fantastic light rum from Papua New Guinea. I call it a gateway rum because it’s super drinkable in cocktails like a Bacardi, but has an exotic flavor that really makes cocktails and lips sing.”
Co-founder Chris Schlarb, said, “I suspect the Nanea will be one of the biggest sellers, especially to consumers. We blend three carefully selected, variously-aged rums from around the world, meticulously considering how each contributes to the foundation, body and accents until the blend is unmistakably nanea – meaning fascinating in Hawaiian. This should be enjoyed naked or in a classic cocktail.”
Jefferson is definitely a rum aficionado.
“When I ‘meet’ a new spirit, I like to drink it neat. That tells me a lot. And I love cocktails – especially well-made ones – so I then think of as many ways to try it as I can,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been swapping our rum into classic cocktails, like the Manhattan. We have a version called the Kuleana Old Fashioned that swaps in two of our rums for the whiskey and it’s crazy good.”
Umeke’s menu items will complement the rums.
“We are collaborating with Nakoa and his super-talented Umeke’s team to come up with our own menu and manage the program,” Jefferson said.
If he had to pick one dish and one cocktail to eat on opening day, Schlarb said he would order the Pipi Kaula Fry and a Kuleana Mai Tai.
“It’s our secret Kuleana Mai Tai Mix, Absinthe and Aromatic Bitters and is super delicious. It’s based on the 1944 recipe before sweet juices were introduced so is different,” he explained.
Also within Waikoloa Beach Resort, the Kings’ Shops is adding three new dining outlets later this month or in early 2019: Original Big Island Shave Ice Company, Island Vintage Coffee and Foster’s Kitchen Waikoloa.
Filling the space that formerly housed The Three Fat Pigs and The Koa Table, Foster’s Kitchen is scheduled to open on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Already established at it’s Kona location, the same made-from-scratch cuisine will be served at the new location using local, non-GMO and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Foster started talking to Kings’ Shops’ management company back in 2017.
“They approached me in Kona and said they liked our plan and asked if I’d be interested,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
The interior will have a completely new look.
“It’s 4,100 square feet with 56 tables. We gutted the place down to the frame. We’re going for a plantation home look — polished, cozy and relaxing,” Foster said.
The menu will be the same as the Kona location except for new wines on the Captain’s List and some daily specials.
“Nobody else has southern Cajun food with a Hawaiian influence,” Foster said.
Shawn O’Shaughnessy, who Foster has known and worked with for 18 years, is the Waikoloa restaurant’s general manager. Previously he was on the opening team at Ola Brew Co.
Notable menu items are the Blackened Shrimp Cheese Grits, Country Fried Pork Chops, Steakhouse Burger and Stuffed Chicken, Foster said.
“I used to make the Stuffed Chicken at home. It’s got three types of cheese and prosciutto,” he said.
Foster’s Kitchen received national recognition this year on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” show and New York Times’ “36 Hours in Kona” travel story earlier this month.
Original Big Island Shave Ice Company, a popular food truck in the Kings’ Shops parking lot for the last eight months or so, is slated to open a storefront location there in early 2019.
Owner Reggie Ignacio and his family are second and third-generation shave ice entrepreneurs. Homemade fresh fruit syrups are used in the shave ice with authentic local flavors such as guava, pickled mango, lemon peel, passion fruit and li hing mui.
“We had the trailer for three or four years and wanted to expand into something bigger so we could carry more products, like merchandise and more options for ice cream, ” Reggie’s son Kayah Ignacio said.
They intentionally chose the parking lot for their food truck that began at one day a week and expanded to two days.
“It was to get people more familiar that we were going to open a shop here and grow our base,” Kayah said.
Their specialties are Halohalo, Kona Coffee Special and Noelani’s: haupia ice cream with mango, pineapple and coconut natural syrup, condensed cream and haupia topping.
Known for multiple locations on Oahu and in Japan, Island Vintage Coffee has been brewing 100 percent Kona coffee since 1996. Their first shop on the Big Island will feature the same menu items as the Oahu and Maui locations — acai bowls, breakfast fare, plates, poke bowls, salads, rice dishes, lunch sandwiches and fresh local fruits — in addition to a cup of joe, hot or iced.
“They’ll be a fantastic addition, a new local option to have,” said Kings’ Shops General Manager Lynn Rostau. “They’re planning to open sometime in the first quarter of 2019.”