Kauai Ono IS Ono!
We had an interesting and unusual dinner the other night seated with people we didn't know on picnic tables, under a tent on a grassy field here in Hanalei. It was the best dinner we have had on Kauai.
Kauai Ono is Justin Smith's gourmet food wagon. He does catering and events and sometimes the wagon is open for business along the highway. Just recently he started having what he calls "FarmFishForage" dinners on Wednesday and Thursday nights for twenty lucky people. The focus is on fresh, local and unusual food in a super laid back atmosphere consistent with the vibe of the island.
9 out of 10 on the ONOlicious scale.
Five courses. BYOB. Reservations necessary. $50 a head.
First course: Fried Ulu (Breadfruit) cake served with diced red beets and mango in a light dressing. Think of a small one inch thick crispy fried potato pancake, except made with breadfruit. The bread fruit was wonderful and delicate.
Second course: Wild boar sausage served on a bed of fried kale leaves with carmalized onions. Another winner. The sausage was flavorful and seasoned perfectly. This guy is not afraid to use salt when needed!
Third course: Seared Tombo, which is a type of Albacore tuna served on a bed of wilted greens of some sort with a macadamia nut/wasabi crust/scattering. The fish was wonderful. The portion size was small. The real winner with this dish was the macademia nut/wasabi scattered over the fish. It was AMAZING. Wasabi and I don't get along so well, but the zing was perfectly toned down and didn't get in the way of the flavor of the fish.
Fourth course: Mixed garden greens dressed in a nice light dressing. Nice.
Fifth course: Chocolate torte with cardamom pickled mango and whipped cream. The cake was really good, but the pickled mango was perhaps the best part of the entire meal. Never tasted ANYTHING like it. Wow. One of our fellow diners threatened not to eat the rest of her cake unless she got more of the mango. This is inventive cooking.
We met Justin after dinner and it is clear after talking to him for a few minutes that this guy LOVES food, LOVES Kauai and LOVES cooking for people.
We have done the communal dining thing and don't mind it, so that was not a deterrent. Actually, it was fun as the couple next to us were local folks and lots of fun. The husband turned out to be Pat of Pat's Taqueria down by the pier. We are fans of that place too.
The food was spectacular, but if you are not a fan of set menu outfits, you might want to pass. That would be unfortunate though. Since there were five courses, the portion sizes were not huge, but in all cases except for the fish, more than adequate.
Value was right on the money, so to speak. While $50 might seem a bit pricey, it really isn't. To compare: Last night we had mediocre fish at the Dolphin with mediocre appetizers and that cost us around $125.00 with tip. Our dinners at Postcards come to well over $100 and while we like it, the food quality and taste doesn't compare to this.
So...we liked it.
If you are here on a Wednesday or Thursday night and want something different and have $50 per person in your pocket, this is the place.