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Pupu Picks
Pupu Picks

Plumeria’s Blooming Starters

By Steve Murray Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
May 19, 2013

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The Kahala Hotel & Resort is home to a number of restaurants without walls. That may seem like a strange description, but with the hotel’s “anything for the customer” philosophy, it’s actually quite fitting. The elegant hotel offers a number of comfortable and scenic places to sit and enjoy the surroundings, and from those seats you can order off any menu on property. Want to sit poolside and dine on the elegant cuisine from Hoku’s? Not a problem. Like bar food far from the bar? Simple. Just ask.

First of all, the bar menu at Plumeria Beach House is anything but traditional bar food. It’s new and outstanding.

A good beginning to your tavern fare journey is with the Sampler Platter ($24) — a selection of tasty finger foods including Spicy Chicken, Shrimp Cocktail, Crispy Egg Roll and Salmon Musubi. Each element is presented in a very simple, yet flavorful way. The chicken is tossed in a soy, garlic and chili sauce and fried. Shrimp cocktail is set off with a mango cocktail sauce. And Salmon musubi features smoked salmon wrapped in sushi rice and rolled in furikake. It’s not complicated cuisine, it’s just good, light and flavorful. By the way, if this combo platter doesn’t meet your desires, the talented culinary staff will create a sampler to order.

As part of the restaurant’s re-creation of its menu, the bar menu has been transformed with more healthy dining options. A great example of this is Wild Mushroom Poke ($8). It may even be the best thing on the menu. You decide. The vegetarian dish features Hamakua mushrooms roasted in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; fried tofu mixed with Maui onions, chopped ogo, sesame oil,

shoyu, chili garlic sauce and shaved hearts of palm. The earthy mushrooms are so meaty and the textural component of the ingredients are so familiar you won’t miss the fish at all. Thinly sliced cucumber adds a fresh crunch to the mix that you wouldn’t miss, but will be grateful it is included.

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Wings ($7) is another pupu worth investigating. Wings and drumettes are marinated overnight in a mixture of ginger, garlic, lemongrass, soy, sugar, salt, pepper and green onion. The chicken is then roasted in the oven and grilled to order. What arrives on the plate is a moist, perfectly charred piece of crispy-skinned chicken. Outstanding.

Among the more familiar appetizer items are Blue Crab Pot Stickers ($8), Spicy Edamame ($6.50) and Crispy Calamari ($7). Familiar, yes, but like everything on the menu, executive sous chef Daniel Uyejo includes a few unexpected twists that make the typical, atypical.

Uyejo does this by using oolong tea jelly in Blue Crab Pot Stickers. He starts out with blue crab, carrots, won bok cabbage, chives, Maui onion, fresh garlic, and then adds the jelly. The jelly remains solid until cooking, at which time it releases a cool flavor and condensed moisture into the interior of the roll. It’s like having the dipping sauce already packaged into the appetizer. The orange ponzu dipping sauce makes it even better.

Edamame is edamame. However, Plumeria Beach House tosses the beans in a chili oil with fried garlic, shallots, peanuts and coconut, served warm. Spicy, but not painful, the simple bean flavor is elevated by the flavored oil.

Calamari is so simple, many of us make it at home. But not quite like this. The half-pound portion of tender calamari is marinated in salt, pepper, chili garlic sauce and corn starch. Upon ordering, it’s dredged into corn starch and flour, and fried a golden brown. This is when the special ingredients make an appearance. As soon as the calamari is pulled from the fryer it is topped with shaved Manchego cheese and served with two outstanding dipping sauces — a garlic black olive aioli and a fire roasted tomato salsa. The cheese is an unexpected surprise, and the sauces not only complement the calamari, but are equally beneficial to other appetizer items. I personally recommend the aioli paired with the wings and the the tomato salsa spread across the spring rolls.

Plumeria Beach House

The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
739-8760
Monday–Tuesday, Thursday–Saturday, 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Wednesdays, Sundays, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m.