Kailua’s best kept secret is a barn-like structure, in a prominent, yet slightly out of place location. Kalapawai Cafe stands alone upon entering the town of Kailua, as well as in culinary distinction. If you plan on dining at Kalapawai, be sure to get a big table (even if its only two of you). The cafe space is intimate, but the menu and wine list is quite large.
As a starter, I had the Island Chop Salad. Fresh local ingredients consisted of Big Island heart of palm, Hau’ula tomato, Ho Farms cucumber, artichoke, Maui onion, chickpeas, Kunia sweet pepper, Kahuku corn, Kula romaine, radicchio and creamy “Nalo” basil vinaigrette. Proteins included bacon and hard-boiled egg. The best part of the salad was the cornbread hidden under the greens. The bread absorbed just enough dressing and was a nice touch with the bacon and egg.
After my refreshing greens, I evaluated the menu. My eyes were slightly larger than my stomach as I ordered a side of gnocchi, mushroom risotto and crab cakes. The gnocchi was pan fried and delicious. I’m used to a doughier dumpling but this was a very innovative approach to the dish. The mushroom risotto was different than I had anticipated. The fungi flavor dominated the risotto and gave it an earthy taste. The crab cakes were lightly fried and golden brown in color. I am pleased they didn’t attempt to smother it in sauce and kept it simply delicious.
Upon receiving the pork chop, fish of the day, and ravioli my side order got lost in the crowd. The cider-brined Shinsato Farms pork chop was my favorite. Unlike any run of the mill cast iron skillet pork chops, the double-cut pork chop with roasted peach compote, braised kale w/Hamakua mushroom, and home-style Idaho Russet mashed potatoes is a dish that is visually pleasing.
Overall, I appreciated the honesty in food, presentation was amazing and so was the flavor. The flavors were bold but they weren’t over powering. The amount of food was in proportion to true American style, but the flavors were a bit of a Euro mix. Looking forward to dining again!
Tip: Don’t order too much, revisit and try different items-the leftovers do not compare to the original plating and taste.