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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: The Hanalei Dolphin

Restaurant Insider

May 29, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Anne Lee

ANNE LEE speaks to The Hanalei Dolphin co-owner BEATRICE ALLEN

The Hanalei Dolphin was opened by a group of surfers in the early 1970s, and at the time, it was the only restaurant in town (Tahiti Nui was only a bar back then). Located in the historic Trader Building at the entrance of Hanalei, it was named after the dolphin pods surrounding the island of Kauai.

The ownership of the restaurant changed over the years. In 1996, Doug Allen was the general manager, and it was when Beatrice first met her then-to-be husband. In 2000, they became partners and in 2007 the sole owners of the restaurant, adding the fish market in the ’90s and the popular sushi bar in 2008.

The Hanalei Dolphin has countless offerings at its fish market.

I met with Bea and shared some of the best sushi in town and learned more about her popular restaurant.

AL: There is also your namesake restaurant B’s Kitchen in Princeville, as well as the fish market. Can you tell me about those locations?

BA: The fish market is in the back of the building adjacent to the restaurant. This is where you can buy your favorite fish cut fresh daily, as well as other seafood, some meats, fish, salad and greens, sushi rolls and poke. There are fantastic grab-and-go options like a great selection of sushi rolls, poke bowls and fish salad sandwiches. We also offer cheeses and accoutrements and other food items and drinks for a one-stop shop. In 2017, we opened our other restaurant in Princeville, a free-standing building part of the Princeville Shopping Center. B’s Kitchen was named after me, as my husband and friends thought it would give the location a warm and welcoming feel.

Fried Calamari (call for cost)

The wood-burning pizza oven sets the “barn glam” ambiance. The reclaimed wood elements of the interior give you a feeling of comfort as soon as you enter the building through the big red barn doors. The menu is Italian inspired and a lot of locally sourced foods are incorporated in the menu (the flour and a few other key ingredients for our menu items are imported from Italy, though).

The building also shows a sign with the name Bar 56. We are hoping to create a hub for music and maybe some events in the future once gatherings become more popular again.

AL: One of the best sushi experiences that I have ever had was at your restaurant. Tell me more about the sushi counter.

The Hanalei Dolphin prides itself on finding the freshest fish in town.

BA: To tell you the truth, I could eat sushi every day. A sushi bar and a fish market are a marriage made in heaven! We have the freshest fish delivered daily by local fishermen, supplemented from the block in Honolulu. You can watch the whole fish being weighed and brought in. Every morning our master fish cutters do their magic. The sushi chefs basically go in and pick their favorite cuts to create. It’s like going to a candy store, and it doesn’t get any fresher than this. Our sushi chefs are enthusiastic and love what they do — that you can taste — and their creations look beautiful.

AL: With so many changes in the hospitality industry and people leaving the industry all together, how are you able to retain staff?

Hanalei Roll (call for cost)

BA: There are and have been so many changes and challenges for our industry over the last few years. The North Shore of Kauai has been experiencing multiple disasters since 2018 — flooding, landslides and then the unpredictable impact of COVID-19. We are so blessed to have a strong and dedicated team — the “Dolphin family.” We could not have made it through these years without each other’s support. We all got each other’s backs.

AL: Is there anything happening for Father’s Day?

Seared Ahi (call for cost)

BA: We do not run a special menu, but our sushi chefs always come up with a wonderful omakase (the chef selects, creates and personalizes a special sushi roll or poke). Fathers love to come to the Dolphin on Father’s Day!

AL: What is the most popular drink and entrée on the menu?

BA: The most popular drink is the NoKaOi, our signature mai tai. Our most popular entrée is the Teriyaki Ahi. Sushi aficionados love the Flyin’ Hawaiian and the Hanalei Roll.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

BA: Unfortunately we are currently not offering lunch service on Sunday (before the pandemic we used to serve lunch daily). But the fish market offers a variety of sushi rolls, poke and poke bowls, sashimi, fish salad sandwiches and drinks, and we are inviting our customers to picnic at the tables in the garden by the Hanalei River.

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