Staying at an all-inclusive resort has never appealed to us. We like to explore the areas where we stay, and that usually means looking for good restaurants. We've heard reports from friends who have stayed at all-inclusive places and we've all heard the food isn't bad, but it's not great. It's generally sanitized and dumbed-down for the tourists. While our hotel - the Hilton Waikoloa Village - wasn't an all-inclusive resort, it did feature a number of restaurants to choose from. We were sort of thinking that we should spend some bucks in at least one restaurant for dinner during out stay there and we chose the Kamuela Provision Company.
Actually, we almost didn't go to the Kamuela Provision Company. We really didn't know about it until we stumbled upon the place during a walk around the property at the resort one afternoon. It was situated about as far from our room as you could get at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. We were walking around the pool at the Lagoon tower and we sort of stumbled into it along a path that traced the rocky, black lava cliff that jutted out into the Pacific. It had a wonderful little patio that looked out onto the sea and the sound of waves crashing up against the rocks gave it a great tropical sea feeling. And it was a popular place for dinner when the sun would set into the sea. We stopped to look at one of their menus they had posted by the front of the restaurant and it featured primarily steaks and seafood. Cindy said, "Well, this place certainly looks interesting."
We had been thinking of going to an Italian restaurant at the Hilton that we'd heard about - Donatoni's. The restaurant wasn't far from our room in the Ocean tower, but we noticed that there was a two-sided sign out in front of the restaurant. On one side it said, "Donatoni's", but you could spin it around and it said, "Bella Vista". One day the sign would say, "Donatoni's", but later in the day or the next day, we'd see "Bella Vista" on the sign. We were sort of confused about that. But we'd read so many good things about Donatoni's that we really wanted to give it a try. But once Cindy saw the Kamuela Provision Company, her choices of hotel restaurants began to waver.
After a long day of doing nothing - the perfect type of day for me on a vacation - we decided to hit the Malolo Lounge for a couple drinks before dinner. Our favorite waitress, April, was asking us what we were going to do for dinner that evening. I said, "I think we're gonna try Donatoni's for some Italian tonight."
She sort of stopped and said, "Oh! Donatoni's is closed."
Cindy said, "Closed?!"
April said that it had been closed for about a year. "Their lease ran out with the hotel," she explained. "That space is now used for like private parties and private dinners, primarily for the weddings that we have here."
I said, "Oh, that explains the double-sided sign that said 'Donatoni's' on one side and 'Bella Vista' on the other."
April said, "Yeah, I don't quite understand why they do that or why they even have 'Donatoni's' still on the sign."
Cindy turned to me and said, "Good! Then we can go to the Provision Company for dinner."
April replied, "The Kamuela Provision Company here on the property? Oh, that's really good." And she smiled and said, "And it's really romantic." Cindy was hooked.
We asked April if we needed reservations and she told us that there wasn't a lot of people staying at the Hilton, so we probably didn't need to worry about that. We had noticed that all week long that it appeared there wasn't a lot of people staying there the week we were there. April said, "I think our occupancy rate has been way down because we've been slow here in the lounge all week long. But it's supposed to get busy starting this weekend."
(Clayton Homes out of Tennessee - which is also a Berkshire-Hathaway company - was scheduled to begin a convention of sales managers the next week and each sales manager could bring their family with them. A lot of them were coming in on Friday and Saturday. I think they brought something like 800 people.)
We went back to our room to freshened up and change clothes and we took a leisurely walk through the lush tropical grounds of the hotel over to the Kamuela Provision Company, stopping to watch the sunset dive into the ocean. Hawaiian sunsets are just spectacular.
We checked in at the hostess stand and she asked if we wanted to eat inside or out. Cindy wanted to eat outside and the hostess said we'd have about a 15 to 20 minute wait. We sat at the bar and Cindy got a glass of white wine while I enjoyed a couple of - you guessed it - Kona Big Wave Golden Ales.
It wasn't quite 20 minutes when the hostess came and got us at the bar. The dining room at the Kamuela Provision Company was sort of cozy, but the two main rooms weren't small. The lights were subdued and the motif was sort of a high-end tropical theme. But there was - maybe - four tables filled in the dining room. All the action was, indeed, outside on the patio.
We were seated outside at a table that looked out onto the ocean. The sky was becoming a deep violet with the last light of setting sun on the horizon and a bright moon rising above Mauna Kea to the east. We noticed there were about four tables for two people set up on what was the walkway that we had passed on our first journey past the Kamuela Provision Company. Even though it had an unobstructed view of the ocean, people could easily just walk past, just inches from their table. Cindy said, "God, I'm not certain I'd want to be sitting out there with people walking past all the time."
Turned out that not a lot of people were out walking along the point at that time of the evening. And only two fof the four tables along the walkway were occupied.
We were looking through our menus when our waiter for the evening, Oly, came to introduce himself. He was a personable young guy who was born in California to Samoan parents. He was a pretty well built guy and said that he was a pretty good football player in high school. "I had about a dozen scholarship offers to some big schools, but I blew out my knee in my second game of my senior season. I never played football again," he told us later that evening.
He said his father and mother had divorced when he was young. After high school he moved out to Hawaii to live with his dad and go to college. "College lasted about six months and I moved out on my own soon after that," he told us. "That was about 11 years ago. Now I have a wife and two beautiful daughters and I can't imagine doing anything else than what I'm doing right now." He certainly seemed to like his job.
We started off getting a bottle of the Grgich Hills Fume Blanc that was reasonably priced at around $55 bucks. We noticed wine prices in Hawaii were about 10 to 15 percent higher than what we'd see in restaurants on the mainland. But we sort of expected that when we were in Hawaii.
Oly came back to explain some things about the menu. He said all of the seafood was fresh catch, usually earlier that day. The steaks on the menu featured Hawaiian grass-fed beef, or they would fly fresh beef from the mainland and cut their own steaks two or three times a week. Their featured entree was an 8 oz. grilled beef tenderloin filet with tempura lobster. They had a number of appetizers and salads to choose from, as well.
He gave us the specials for that evening and one was a striped sea bass, caught fresh that morning, fileted and grilled in a butter sauce, then topped with sauteed butterfly shrimp and finished with a light cream sauce. Cindy perked up when she heard that. Buttermilk mashed potatoes came on the side. Or Oly said that we could substitute the side with any one of their signature sides they offered such as sweet potato hash, wilted spinach or edamame succotash. Cindy ordered the special with the buttermilk mashed potatoes.
I was sort of thinking either steak or seafood. I asked Oly, "What's the most popular seafood item on the menu?"
He didn't hesitate when he answered, "The KPC ocean platter." It featured the catch of the day, which was ono that evening, along with oysters, shrimp and scallops. And you had your choice for either grilled or fried seafood on the plate. He said, "Get it grilled and we put this house made remoulade sauce on top of everything. It's my favorite." I ordered that with a side of sweet hash potatoes.
A salad came with the dinner - Cindy got a small traditional Caesar salad, while I asked Oly if I could substitute my salad for the KPC tomato salad - locally grown heirloom tomatoes with sweet Hawaiian onions, topped with crumbled feta cheese and a white balsamic macadamia nut vinaigrette. He said there would be a slight up-charge, but I didn't care. Hawaii had some of the best tasting tomatoes I've ever had in my life.
And my tomato salad was excellent. There's something about the taste of tomatoes while we were in Hawaii that just set me off. They were juicy and flavorful, not acidic like tomatoes on the mainland can be. I really liked the white balsamic macadamia nut vinaigrette, as well. It was a great compliment to the tomatoes and sweet onion slices.
Cindy said her Caesar salad was very good, as well. The Caesar dressing was very good and definitely house made. The lettuce was crisp and crunchy, the way Cindy likes her salad greens.
While we waited for dinner, we noticed the tables had begun to turn over to new diners. A lot of the people who were there earlier for the sunset had begun to leave and a number of Japanese diners came to the patio deck to enjoy their dinner. The Hilton Waikoloa Village catered to Japanese tourists with signage and menus printed in both English and Japanese. We were suddenly a minority on the patio with Japanese diners, but that was no big deal at all. Cindy said, "Maybe Japanese people are like Europeans and like to eat later in the evening."
Oly brought our food out and I was sort of surprised with the size of the plate for the KPC ocean platter. It was larger than what I expected. The ono was grilled with a seasoning and butter sauce, and there were five large butterflied shrimp, about the same number of grilled oysters and about a half dozen medium sized grilled scallops on top with the cream sauce poured over all that. And it was just excellent. The ono was light and flavorful, and the cream sauce went very well with the seafood, especially when I squeezed some lemon juice on top of everything. The sweet potato hash was *OK*, but I was much more interested in the seafood.
Cindy's striped sea bass was also very good. We exchanged bites of our food and I think I liked her sea bass better than my ono. As we were eating, Cindy said, "God, Will, I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to eat seafood when we get back home. This is just so fresh and flavorful. We'll never get anything like this back in Iowa."
After we finished our meals, Oly came out to tempt us with dessert. He was talking about their coconut cream pie and I told him I didn't like coconut all that much. I love the smell of coconut, but not the taste. Cindy does like coconut and she was interested in that. He said, "Listen, I never really liked coconut either until I had this pie when I first started here about 8 years ago. Now it's my favorite."
He described a few other desserts and I stopped him when he was described their Hawaiian lilikoi cheesecake served with passion fruit. I said, "Ooooo... That sounds great. I really like lilikoi and anything that has lilikoi in it." We ordered that with two forks.
When Oly came out with the dessert he had the cheesecake - and a piece of the coconut cream pie. He said, "Look, I'm not gonna charge you guys for the coconut cream pie. I just want you to try it. If you don't like it, leave it and enjoy the cheesecake."
Well, I did try the coconut cream pie and it was very good. It didn't have the overpowering coconut taste that I've had in similar pies in the past. But I have to tell you - the Hawaiian lilikoi cheesecake was just outstanding. Oh my God! Lilikoi, to me, was fast becoming like heroin to a junkie. There's just something about the sweet fruity taste of lilikoi that sends me over the edge.
After we finished, Oly came back to the table to talk with us for a few minutes. I told him that the coconut cream pie was surprisingly good, but the Hawaiian lilikoi cheesecake was to die for. He told us, "Look, I know there are a lot of great places to eat around here, but I'd really like you folks to come back before you leave. Even if it's just for dessert. And dessert will be on me, my treat." He said he didn't work Sunday or Monday nights, so he said we could come back on the weekend and he'd take care of us. I couldn't pass up a chance at another piece of that Hawaiian lilikoi cheesecake.
Unfortunately, that Saturday was the tsunami warning and after the hotel let guests back on to the property none of the restaurants were open. They had a free buffet in one of the ballrooms to feed people who didn't want to leave the property to go get dinner. So we never went back to see Oly and get our free dessert.
The food at the Kamuela Provision Company was very good - surprisingly good for a hotel resort restaurant. Oly's service was very personable and efficient. He was a talker, but he knew when to let us enjoy our food and the surroundings. We were overly happy with our meal and Cindy said, "Geez, could you imagine if we'd gone to Donatoni's instead of this place? I'm glad Donatoni's was closed or we wouldn't have found out how good this place was."
We dawdled a bit after dinner, enjoying the waves crashing onto the rocks, easily visible from a nearly full moon coming up from behind us. Oly wasn't in any hurry to kick us out to turn the table, we had spent a lot of money with him and gave him a handsome tip for his service. And it was a great, relaxed and slow walk back to our room well across the resort property. Life couldn't get much better than that evening in Hawaii.