A neighborhood gem, and new favorite, in Kaimuki, Hawaii
To my dismay, due to the pandemic and other factors, my favorite restaurant in Boston, Craigie on Main, and my favorite restaurant in Hawaii, 3660 on the Rise, both closed. I enjoyed many fine meals and celebrated many occasions at these establishments and they both hold special places in my memories. Recently I found a new restaurant that has quickly become one of my new favorite restaurants.
Kapa Hale is not far from my home and I am sorry to say, I wish I had visited sooner. I pass it almost daily, have looked at the menu, but never quite made it in for a visit. It wasn’t until a good friend and fellow foodie came for a visit that I decided it was finally time to try it out.
One of the first things that struck me is the quirky names on the menu like the bread service called Naan Ya Business and Let’s Taco ‘Bout It, a dish that plays on the Hawaiian name for octopus.
The menu is full of locally grown produce. One of the most beautiful presentations is the Haku Lei Po’o salad that we saw served at many tables. We enjoyed the chicken liver mousse that is served with a colorful array of pickled local vegetables.
The first time I visited Kapa Hale I had the I Love You a Laksa Risotto – a dish that highlighted a delicious blend of Asian and Italian cuisines and featured a beautiful array of seafood. On two occasions, my sister had the Happy Cauli-days, a vegetarian pasta that was so nice, she had it twice (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
However, it is the You Chick’n Me Out dish that I dream about and will keep me going back. If you write off the roast chicken, like I did on my first visit, then you are denying yourself a truly wonderful experience. The chicken is juicy and the skin is perfectly crisped. It is highlighted by a green harissa and pickled grapes, providing surprising bursts of flavor in each bite. My friend ordered this dish the first time we went and I admit to having food envy. I couldn’t wait to go again to have the dish for myself. And as I enjoyed my dish, I kept thinking of Julia Child’s statement:
“A well-roasted chicken is the sign of a really fine cook.”Julia Child
from “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home”, episode, “Chicken”
And finally, dessert – da Kahala Shuffle. This chocolate Kahlua mud pie is so good that “after you take a bite of this chocolately goodness, it makes you wanna shuffle.” ‘Nuff said.
The menu changes with the season. I’m looking forward to seeing the different iterations throughout the year.
One of the things that makes a truly great restaurant is its staff. And if the staff is warm and friendly, I have to believe that they are being treated well by the chef and owners. Even on a night when it was clear they were getting slammed, the front-of-the-house staff was attentive and cheerful. The chef and his wife were chatting with diners, serving dishes, and clearing tables. It is a hard-working and committed group that cares about providing a great experience for its diners.
After my experiences at Kapa Hale, I’m not surprised that Chef Keaka Lee was a James Beard Semifinalist for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific for 2023. I look forward to introducing new friends to this lovely gem and making new memories at Kapa Hale.
In case you were wondering, I am receiving no compensation of any kind from Kapa Hale. These are my own, personal opinions.