Restaurant: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii
Normally humidity and heat don’t get to me. I thrive in warmer temperatures, to be completely honest. But the sun, heat, and humidity that were brought to Hawaii by the hurricanes and tropical storms is a new level of humid. And it’s a level that, being so close to the equator, I am not used to yet.
I was melting. Literally. Melting at Pearl Harbor yesterday afternoon. But, myself and my traveling compatriots all survived and had quite the experience at Pearl Harbor. Totally…unforgettable. It was the one place I was making a requirement…and the other two also felt the same way. Despite the intense sun, the humidity, and the heat…it was all worth it.
All that being said, afterwards we headed toward Kailua, which was home to the restaurant we would be having dinner in that evening. The little restaurant is Kalapawai Café, this quaint little café and market. We were early, as they don’t start serving dinner until 5 p.m. So, while waiting, we scoped out a bit of Kailua. We went to Walgreens so Jenn could pick up more Ibuprofen (sunburns suck!). We dropped by this little bookstore called Book Ends. It was in disarray, but it killed a bit of time. And as we were heading out, it was time for dinner. Talk about timing, eh?
We were greeted at the door as we entered and were able to ogle the dessert case, where I spotted macarons immediately. Jenn noted the Flourless Chocolate Cake as well. Mmmm…dessert. But, our hostess guided us to a nice cool spot (we must have looked hot!) right under the air conditioning and got us situated with menus. Our waitress soon followed, bringing us glasses of water and asking us if we wanted anything besides water. We were all trying to rehydrate after Pearl Harbor, so we just stuck with the H2O. She went over the specials and over what the Auction Price Fish of the Day, Auction Price Fresh Fish for the risotto was, and what the Auction Price Fresh Fish for the Greek Salad was. She gave us a moment to peruse the menu.
Upon her return a few minutes later, we were pretty much set. We mentioned that I was a Celiac vegetarian and she said…”Okay…so no wheat no meat…” She asked if I did dairy…I said I can…but I don’t always handle it well. So she recommended the meal I had been eyeing in the first place due to the fact that it was labeled gluten-free AND contained no meat. She said she’d just have the chef leave off the cheese. Perfect. Jenn and Cathy put in their orders too…and we cooled off, chilled, and got to watch the kitchen work. I love open kitchens. Hearing the expediter call off the orders was awesome. Seeing the small line of chefs preparing at their different stations…yep…I love this stuff.
And soon…it was our order being made and being delivered.
Oddly enough, I had pegged what Jenn was going to order. I know my friends! Jenn ordered the Crab & Artichoke Dip ($12.00), which contained huge chunks (I mean HUGE) of blue crab, chopped artichoke (which didn’t overwhelm), fresh mozzerella, provolone, parmesan, red bell pepper, sweet onion, and served with toasted crostini. Her meal looked cheesy good. And it was delicious according to her. Especially since they used great care to put chunks of crab meat into the dish itself…instead of skimping on the prize protein. That was a huge plus. The plate got polished. She said she’d offer me some, but basically everything about the dish offended me. LOL!
Cathy had gone back and forth on what she wanted, opting between the ravioli and the shepherd’s pie. In the end, she ordered the House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15.00), served with asparagus, roasted grape tomato, and a lemon-thyme brown butter sauce. She said the pasta was okay (duh!), but the star of the plate was that sweet potato and goat cheese. The star of any ravoili should be the filling. That’s the entire point. The pasta…it should definitely be homemade and good…but it it simply a way to hold the delicious filling inside. She devoured her meal. In fact, for the first time, she was the first one done eating.
As for me, I ordered the House-made Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi ($16.00), served with grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom and tomato, ver’jus and a sauce romesco. It normally would come with Manchego cheese, but they left it off my dish since dairy and I are broken up. These “gnocchi” were toasted potato puffs. Sort of like…a naked tater tot. And to be honest…that’s exactly what they tasted like. This dish was like eating breakfast for dinner. The gnocchi had this great toasted outside, think…perfect hashbrowns, and then were soft like the inside of a tater tot, on the inside. The vegetables were grilled and cooked to perfection, pairing nicely with the breakfast-like gnocchi on my plate. And the sauces gave a nice hit and addition of flavor to be sure. I loved it…because breakfast is one of my favorite things in life. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Definitely less pasta more potato. And I was okay with that. It just wasn’t what my palate had been expecting. It was a nice surprise.
Afterwards we were asked if we’d like to see a dessert menu. As we never turn down looking at least, we perused and finally opted on splitting the macaron plate (it came with 3) ($5.00). Normally this was an assortment of vanilla, lemon, and lime ginger, but they were out of vanilla, and I wasn’t too sure on the lime ginger…so we went with three of the lemon macarons. They were retrieved from the case and…oh…oh yes…they were worth it. Little pillows of lemony flavor. Like…big lemon flavor too. None of this fake stuff or lack of flavor. It was like a lemon bar and lemon chifon cake. It was just…yummy. And we were happy that we went that way with the dessert in the end.
I was actually quite impressed with the service and the food that came out of Kalapawai Café. I would return there to eat in a heartbeat. I loved the dish I was served, even if it wasn’t what I expected. And having macarons on the dessert menu always wins, because they are a light option that still feels like a treat.
What a way to end the first night in O’ahu.