Eating Low and High in Kauai

The food: plate lunches and plated dinners

The story:

I’ve been intrigued for a while by the contrast between high and low culture and the places where the two meet. That’s why the story I wrote for a soon to be published YA anthology is about the relationship between a downtown boy and an uptown girl who meet at a Toronto high school.

When it comes to eating out, a similar principle applies: I’m as down to try good simple food served in casual surroundings as I am to venture into more upscale restaurants. Okay, I’m more into casual spots.

Take, for example, the Hawaiian plate lunch (shown above) that I enjoyed from Pono Market, a deli/market with seating for maybe 6, at plastic-tablecloth-covered tables, in Kapaa, a town on the island of Kauai. For around $12, customers who line up at the deli counter choose a lunch consisting of a main (fried chicken in my case), steamed rice, a side (I had to try the traditional macaroni salad, even if it turned out to be of a taste I have yet to acquire), and if desired, some poke – marinated fresh tuna that comes in a few different flavours. I think this poke was shoyu (soy sauce) flavour, or maybe sesame. Was the food gourmet quality? No. But it was simple and good. And you have to love a meal that includes that much rice as a matter of course. Even if eating it means you’ll need to bike for an extra hour on the nearby bike path that leads to Kealia Beach.

I came across a slightly less traditional but equally satisfying plate lunch at Kilauea Fish Market on Kauai’s north shore, where the $11.99 chicken teriyaki plate (made with bottled teriyaki sauce, I fear) comes with brown rice and a healthy salad of made of fresh greens and vegetables. Here, I ordered inside at a counter, and ate my lunch at a high bar table on a patio.

Kilauea Fish Market Plate Lunch

Chicken Teriyaki Plate Lunch

While in Kauai, my husband E and I also sprang for a more upscale dinner at Bar Acuda a fine dining establishment in Hanalei, where, under a dramatic night sky, the well-spoken surfer/waiter applied not-so-subtle pressure on us to order bottled water, wine, and numerous small plates.

We succumbed, to the food pressure anyway, and started with a pretty, refined salad of grapefruit, fennel, frisee, black olives and peanuts, and a beautifully composed plate of high-grade seared ahi served with fingerling potatoes and green olives:

These starters were followed by beef skewers called bandilleras, which were pleasant, if plain, and not of the tenderest cut; and braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes.

After we’d eaten all of that, and some good bread and butter besides, the waiter brought the menu back so that we could order more small plates if we wished (as if). We tried to appease him by ordering one dessert to share, which I believe was an almond cake (sorry, the memory is dimming, this all happened two months ago, in February) that was made scrumptious by its cherry compote and ice cream accompaniments.

The bill for dinner for two at Bar Acuda, with no wine? $80, compared to $25 at the no-table-service plate lunch joints. And guess which place I’m sure to go back to on our next trip to Kauai?

Bar Acuda on Urbanspoon

Kilauea Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Pono Market on Urbanspoon

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