We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

gsr
Illinois
Level Contributor
27 posts
97 reviews
Save Topic
Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

I have read the mixed reviews on the Imari restaurant at Hilton Waikoloa. I need several questions answered before I make a decision. How "Japanese" is the whole experience? I mean, do you take your shoes off? is there seating at low tables or regular tables? I would be OK with the tepanyaki style although I think my wife would like a more private venue.

Price is not an object, although I want to try to get what I want for what I am going to spend. My wife and I will be travelling alone. I want a more traditional Japanese experience, with private dining with subtle service. Is this the place to go? We will be at the Hilton for 2 days at the end of Jan, but will be on the Big Island for several days before. Our schedule within a couple of days is flexible.

Mentioned in this post
Waikoloa
Waikoloa
Island of Hawaii, HI
Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,184 posts
312 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

I do not think it is the best Japanese food in the area. Look at reviews for Monstera (more informal setting but better food), as well as Norios at the Orchid. Look at Yelp as well as TA. If it turns out Imari has the physical seclusion you want, the price is food quality. Frankly, we find all the Hilton dining to be physically attractive but food meh.

Edited: 10:30 am, January 13, 2013
Mentioned in this post
Monstera
Monstera
610 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
California
Level Contributor
7,091 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

And the bad news....The Hilton Waikoloa is sold out during the end of January. That means a couple thousand convention guests wanting the same restaurant and pool chairs. Very unusual for the Hilton in January. I would also check-out Sansei in the Queens shopping center for dinner.

Mentioned in this post
Waikoloa
Waikoloa
Island of Hawaii, HI
gsr
Illinois
Level Contributor
27 posts
97 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

I think we are leaning towards Sansei or Ulu @ the Four Seasons.....

We are open to more suggestions.....

Thanks to both for your recomendations.

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
31,576 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

Sansei is an ok, reasonably priced sushi/Japanese place in a mall. Ulu is a gorgeous, beachfront, very expensive, premier fine dining restaurant, with a rising star chef, at the best hotel in the state. I'm unclear how you arrived at those two selections, lol.

It's been a long time since I was at Imari, but no, you don't take off your shoes. There are both normal tables and pits where you sit down on benches so it looks like you're sitting on cushions but you're not. There are koi ponds and it's kind of Disneyland Japanese, in typical Hilton Waikoloa fashion. The food was mediocre when I was there. I haven't ever heard people rave about it.

Ulu isn't Japanese although it has lots of sushi and fish, I'd call it Asian/Hawaiian/Polynesian/resort fusion. It's a really great dining experience from top to bottom with the price tag to match.

For very good food, cheaper, without the atmosphere, Monstera is probably the best Japanese on the island. It's in a mall, but has a sushi bar which Chef Norio is usually behind, and has many sakes, sushi offerings, whole tempura fish, etc.

Mentioned in this post
Waikoloa
Waikoloa
Island of Hawaii, HI
Monstera
Monstera
610 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
gsr
Illinois
Level Contributor
27 posts
97 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

Shea - We are arriving at what I call sensory overload. I've got an idea of what we want, but there are so many good choices, my original idea is getting ripped apart. When you plug into some of the services (TA, Yelp, Open Table, et al) and don't ask price, everything comes up.

The atmosphere is going to be a big part of the decision. It's going to be towards the back end of our vacation, kind of a send off of sorts, so I want a special occasion/place/meal. I thought the Japanese selection would be easier to find due to the influences of the region. After doing some research, I am leaning more traditional island/Polynesian as well as a quiet ambiance/romantic. As I finish my research, your post has helped me immensely.

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,184 posts
312 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

Have not yet been to Ulu, but Four Seasons is a safe bet. If Ulu is out of budget, Beach Tree is excellent but more casual.

Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
40,247 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

When you consider Japanese influence -- you have the Japanese Americans who immigrated here, whose lives were humble and a world away from the sophisticated Japanese dining of modern Japan. Most came to work in agriculture. Now they are in government.

The most Japanese culture on the island is found in Hilo. There are a few places that are authentic in that that are patronized by Japanese descended residents. They are not fancy at all. They put on no airs and are simple.

Secondly we have a good amount of Japanese tourism here, although not so much as Honolulu. The Hilton caters very much to Japanese visitors, and I've always assumed that's a big reason why Kirin is one of their main restaurants. There used to be a place at Kings' Shops (Hama Yu) where I always saw Japanese visitors going in to eat.

Point being, present day Japanese tourists and the descendants of our immigrants are not really on the same page when it comes to style.

The Hilton produces second rate food.

For something upscale that feels island and is refined I would go with fusion, and I would trust Shea.

My experience at Sansei was that it's tasty enough but not at all refined. Lots of people come for early bird and rush to order. Lots of families and seniors. Maybe it changes, but it didn't strike me in any way as romantic or sophisticated. It's a sushi tempura family restaurant with just OK service. It feels a need in the resort for moderately priced food that is good without being great and a lively atmosphere that is friendly to family groups of some size.

Four Seasons has sophisticated service and of course the cuisine is special.

Edited: 8:04 am, January 14, 2013
Mentioned in this post
Hilo
Hilo
Island of Hawaii, HI
Honolulu
Honolulu
Oahu, HI
Kings' Shops
Kings' Shops
202 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
40,247 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

PS. Sorry about the auto complete errors. Fills the need not feels it. ;-)

Kona
Level Contributor
2,598 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

I think that in order to find the kind of Japanese dining experience you are hoping for, you'll have to travel to Japan or to a large metropolitan area. You won't find anything like that (shoes off, low tables, subtle private service) at any of this island's Japanese-influenced restaurants. It's either casual local-style Japanese comfort food like Teshima's in Honalo, sushi (of which there are many), Asian fusion, or some sort of blend of any and all of the above.

I would never dine at the Hilton Waikoloa in any case - we find the frenzied Disneyland atmosphere very annoying and the food mediocre at best.

However, a quiet, romantic ambiance is not that hard to find. Both Ulu and the Beach Tree are wonderful and would fit the bill, but of course on busy nights neither will be exactly "quiet."

Kenichi Pacific (sushi & Pacific Rim) is all the way down in Keauhou, but the food is excellent and may fall into the category of what you're looking for, except that it's not traditional Japanese.

Mentioned in this post
Teshima's
Teshima's
318 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
Waikoloa
Waikoloa
Island of Hawaii, HI
Kenichi Pacific
Kenichi Pacific
177 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
31,576 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Imari restaurant @ Hilton Waikoloa Village

I personally find Kenichi overpriced and mediocre corporate food. YMMV, but no way would I drive from the Kohala Coast to eat there, especially when Monstera is authentic Japanese and way better, IMO, with the chef usually there to talk story. But that's just to get a Japanese fix, for the special atmosphere night, as I said, Ulu would be a good choice. My 11-year old completely whacked her big, Kona coffee rubbed steak when we were there for my birthday last week, and I had a fantastic assortment of sushi, Dungeness crab pot stickers in red curry, furikake encrusted ahi, and really ridiculously good lilkoi malasadas.

Mentioned in this post
Kohala Coast
Kohala Coast
Island of Hawaii, HI
Monstera
Monstera
610 Reviews
Island of Hawaii, HI
Kailua-Kona
Kailua-Kona
Island of Hawaii, HI