In the Hawaiian language, mele is the word used for poetry and songs. At the Grand Hyatt Kaua’i, which earlier this year announced initiatives in line with an across-the-brand revamp of food and beverage concepts at properties worldwide with the roll out of the tag Food. Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served, the hotel’s gastronomic mele hits all the right notes. Locally sourced food not only stimulates the local economy, it’s fresher than produce shipped by air, and more environmentally friendly, as long journeys by air to remote islands produces a great deal of carbon waste.
The Garden Isle of Kaua’i, like the rest of the chain, enjoys a wealth of edible treasures from both the land and the sea, but the island’s rich volcanic soil and abundance of fresh water conspire to produce high quality food and drink of great variety, from Kōloa Rum to Kunana Dairy. Hyatt rolled out the new corporate food and beverage philosophy worldwide in 2011 which includes sourcing and serving meat without supplemental growth hormones or antibiotics, cage-free eggs, sustainable seafood, and fresh local ingredients with a focus on celebrating local flavors and reducing the use of ingredients high in sodium and additives. Supported by the three pillars of Healthy People, Healthy Planet, and Healthy Communities, the program focuses on providing options not only for environmentally savvy guests, but also on supporting the unique and vibrant economy, community, and environment of Kaua’i, all of which require careful stewardship to remain sustainable.
Of course, that all looks good on paper, but a visit to Kaua’i’s sunny south shore was the only true test of the new program as it looked “on the ground”. The dining outlet Tidepools, one of several available at the resort, is a cluster of open air hale pili (thatched huts) nestled among several of the eponymous koi-filled ponds among the rustling palms, expansive swimming pools, and fragrant plumeria trees that dot the immaculately landscaped complex, which is tastefully designed in the open-air style of the Mediterranean Revival.
The menu is a diverse-yet-practical songbook for the chef’s mele, opening with several unbeatable fruits de mer. It all looked so tempting it was difficult to come to some final decisions, but ultimately settled on the Hamachi & Compressed Watermelon. The watermelon is compressed which condenses and intensifies the flavor, for a sweeter, moister taste, and also turns the flesh of the fruit bright ruby red, standing out from the creamy white fish and sauce and shocked under the neon green of the thinly sliced jalapeno. The subtlety of the fish sits well in between the salt of the soy and the rich sweetness of the fruit, finished with a burst of heat courtesy of the jalapeno. Simply sublime.
During dinner I learned that many of the herbs and vegetables served in the resorts restaurants were grown in the onsite garden, located on a terrace immediately above Tidepools, and that other fresh produce was often procured from local farmer’s markets, which had increased in popularity on Kaua’i during the past two decades. The resort also works to reduce wet kitchen waste by redirecting much of it to local pig farms as feed.
Up next was Romeo’s Ahi Poke, which was presented on an elegant terrine of wasabi-edamame puree crowned with a nest of crispy sweet potato from Moloka’i and surrounded by lomi salsa, tobiko, and an absolutely superb chevre (the very same served at the 2009 inauguration festivities of Hawai’i-raised President Obama) from Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui. Followed by simple Kula greens and hearts of palm from the Big Island tossed in an almost indecently decadent lilikoi-coconut-papaya seed vinaigrette.
The fresh catch came next, presented with prawns from Australia, Kona Cold lobster (which is raised off the Big Island in conditions designed to replicate the waters of coastal Maine), coconut-jasmine rice, and a heavenly beurre blanc. After all that, it might have seemed impossible to find a home for any more wayward cuisine, but Da Fat Elvis (a nod to the closing scene of “Blue Hawai’i”, which was filmed on Kaua’i) called out a fitting denouement – an appropriately gut busting parade of chocolate peanut butter parfait with caramelized bananas, coconut-macadamia nut streusel, strawberry compote and whipped cream, which washed down nicely with a cappuccino accented by macadamia nut liqueur.
The Takeaway: Hyatt lives up to its moniker of thoughtfully sourced, carefully served food. Our professional server was ever-present yet not intrusive, knowledgeable and ever-willing to pass our questions along to the chef. The Pacific Rim cuisine showcases the best of all the islands, with a special call out to Kaua’i, and is well portioned so that our marathon meal was satisfying, yet not overfilling or laid to waste by oversized servings. Menu pricing is competitive with similar establishments in Poipu, and the setting is simply unmatchable anywhere in the world. Open daily for dinner from 5:30 to 10. Reservations recommended and available by phone or via Open Table. Free parking (including electric vehicle charging stations). Valet available. Mains $25 – $42. 808-240-6456
Disclosure Statement: The meal presented in this article was provided by Grand Hyatt Kaua’i, to whom we extend our most gracious Mahalo Nui Loa and warmest Aloha.
Have you been to Tidepools or Grand Hyatt Kaua’i? How was it? Share your comments below!