Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Kona Brewing HawaiiRestaurant Insider
February 14, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
speaks with Kona Brewing Hawaii executive chef ROBERT OSET
Kona Brewing Hawaii — formerly known as Kona Brewing Co. — first opened its doors in 1994 in Kailua-Kona. So successful was its inauguration, that just four years later, a second locale opened in Hawaii Kai to much fanfare.
This week, executive chef Robert Oset shares with Dining Out readers what’s new and exciting with the restaurant.
AL: When did Kona Brewing Co. transition to being an independently operating restaurant as Kona Brewing Hawaii?
RO: October 2020. This allows Kona Brewing Hawaii to be more nimble (especially during this crazy time) and also allows us to cater toward local tastes.
All the beer is now brewed locally here in Hawaii. This allows us some independence to brew more local styles of beer, such as backyard batches.
On the food side, we can make our own decisions to create dishes based on our clientele who surround us here in Hawaii Kai and Kona.
AL: Kona Brewing Hawaii is typically known for craft beer. What else does the restaurant offer?
RO: Kona Brewing started 25 years ago as a beer company, and the food piece was a natural pairing to that. We are beer-centric but food-focused. It makes sense to offer menu items while pairing it with a refreshing cold beer. The evolution of the pubs was just the extension of that.
Over 60 percent of our sales is food at the Hawaii Kai location; people do really enjoy the food we serve here. A lot of our menu also incorporates beer, such as several of our sauces. And, we recently transitioned our popular Kona Longboard into our dough (pizza dough, pepperoni rolls, etc.). It gives it a very unique flavor. We are a from-scratch kitchen.
Many families come to our restaurant and we have ample outside seating available overlooking the marina.
AL: What are the items we are featuring today?
RO: The Pawai Pepperoni Rolls ($12), as we mentioned earlier, are one of our popular appetizer items.
We are also featuring our Sliders ($15). These are a steak-blended patty (ground beef comprised of all steak cuts: tenderloin, sirloin, New York, ribeye). It’s very rich and buttery, with caramelized onions and pickles on a locally baked taro bun.
The Bruschetta ($9) is a new item that will be on the menu in March. We have it as a special currently. It’s a classic garlic crusted crostini with bruschetta mix (comprised of Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, red onion, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper) and some Parmesan to finish it off.
Our Ahi Salad (market price) is one of our bestsellers. It has Arcadian blend greens and seared ahi tuna with a mango pineapple salsa and soy lime vinaigrette with some wontons and cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes.
Pescato Vera Cruz ($24) is a new item with white fish Veracruz style. We are running nairagi over traditional Vera cruz sauce, which is more of a Spanish-Mediterranean influence with tomatoes, capers, green olives with lots of garlic and onions — all in a tomato base with wine.
AL: Is there anything specific that you wanted me to share about the restaurant?
RO: We can’t be everything to everybody, but it’s nice to have a broad range of items. We have some vegetarian and vegan options, and we are conscious of gluten sensitivities now.
One of the things we are particularly proud of is how our teams adapted to the pandemic.
The company was really cognizant of wanting to take care of the staff and the community and donated close to 4,000 meals.
For beer-lovers, we have 32-and 64-ounce growlers. We also created a craft cocktail menu that traveled well. There is also free delivery available in Hawaii Kai within a 5-mile radius with a purchase of $40 or more.
AL: Let’s talk about the new Kona Spiked Island Seltzers.
RO: Seltzer is big in the market. It’s an option for the carb-conscious and an option for people that want a lighter alternative to beer. There are four flavors
— Tropical Punch, Starfruit Lime, Strawberry Guava and Passionfruit Orange Guava. Our version is not as sweet. It’s like flavored seltzer water with a kick. The Kona Spiked Island Seltzers are available in our restaurants and in most stores across Hawaii. Prices vary ($7.99-$9.99 for six-packs of Tropical Punch, or $14.99-$16.99 for a variety 12-pack).