BIG ISLAND BOUNTY
A traditional lū‘au includes an imu pig, shown being removed from the earthen oven where it is cooked. The lū‘au tradition in Hawai`i dates back almost 200 years. When first introduced by King Kamehameha II in 1819, it represented a complete break with ancient Hawaiian custom which saw men and woman eat their meals separately, and commoners and women of all ranks were forbidden to eat certain delicacies.
But in 1819, Kamehameha II abolished many of the “outdated” traditional religious practices, and to symbolize this break with the ancient ways, he brought men, women and ali‘i together for a regal feast, and the lū‘au was born.Today’s lū‘au are often spectacular affairs with Polynesian music, chanting and dancing, and of course bountiful plates of food. One of the best examples of the traditional lū‘au that resort guests can experience is found at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
“Our Sunset Luau is definitely traditional,” says Chef Jayson Kanekoa. “We do an imu pig that goes into the ground at 8:45 am and comes out at 5:45 in the afternoon… plus traditional poke and poi as well as comfort foods.” (Waikoloa Beach Marriott is renowned for their poke, having won first prize in the annual Great Waikoloa Poke Contest for three years running.) Following dinner, the Sunset Luau presents a Polynesian review during which guests enjoy traditional songs and dances from Hawai`i and elsewhere in the Pacific.
Born and raised near Waipio Valley on the north shore of the Big Island, Kanekoa says his love of cooking “inspired Hawaiian” foods and flavors comes from his grandfather, a taro farmer who made his own poi. “It’s great to be able to share the foods I grew up eating with visitors from around the world,” he says.
TASTES OF THE WORLD
In addition to excellent lū‘au, the cuisine of the islands offers a great diversity, reflecting the many peoples and cultures who have migrated to Hawai`i over the years. At Waikoloa Beach Resort, visitors can find authentic Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Italian cuisines among others, as well as a very popular and unique blending of local ingredients with traditional American preparations aptly called Hawai`i Regional Cuisine.
In all, Waikoloa Beach Resort features close to 30 different dining options, from sitdown meals in scenic settings, to grab-and go snacks and fast foods for busy schedules; from juicy burgers in the Kings’ Grille after a round of golf, to an aromatic cup of coffee enjoyed during a morning stroll. Some of Hawai`i’s best-known and well-established chefs have eateries at Waikoloa Beach Resort, including Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill), Peter Merriman (Merriman’s Mediterranean Café), and D.K. Kodama (Sansei Seafood, Steak & Sushi Bar).
Nationally known chains such as Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Dairy Queen/ Orange Julius, Marble Slab Creamery, Starbucks Coffee, and Subway Sandwiches & Salads share the Waikoloa food stage with local chefs and restaurants unique to the Big Island, such as Charley’s Thai Cuisine, Island Fish & Chips, Paradise Pizza & Grill and Lemongrass Express.
LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Two exciting new outlets opened within the past year under the direction of up and-coming chef Philip “Ippy” Aiona, who recently shined on Season 8 of Food Network Star: Ippy’s Hawaiian Barbecue (Queens MarketPlace) and The Three Fat Pigs Restaurant and Gastropub (Kings’ Shops).
“At Ippy’s Hawaiian Barbecue,” Aiona says, “we serve a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch. It’s a mix of food from all the different cultures that came to Hawai`i… foods I grew up with on the Big Island. We have Korean chicken, teriyaki beef, plantation-style beef stew…a mix of what plantation workers would have eaten, but dressed up a bit by me. And yes, we serve two scoops mac, one scoop rice,” he says, referring to the beloved side dishes of the traditional plate lunch in Hawai`i.
Aiona’s second eatery at Waikoloa Beach Resort is The Three Fat Pigs Restaurant and Gastropub. “A ‘gastropub’ is a place for us younger chefs to cook creatively, offer a great selection of craft beers, and do it in a fun setting,” Ainoa says. “At Three Fat Pigs the menu changes all the time, depending on what’s seasonal and local. We also have a big selection of craft beers from Maui Brewing, Kona Brewing, Sierra Nevada and elsewhere. It is really a place for me to share what I know about food and have fun doing it!”
BAREFOOT & HUNGRY
At the beachfront Lava Lava Beach Club you can get some sand between your toes and enjoy lunch or dinner prepared by the same folks who have been pleasing visitors and locals alike for many years at Kona’s renowned Huggo’s. Surrounded by swaying coconut trees and tropical trade winds, Lava Lava features fresh fish tacos and burgers as well as Chef Jeff Readman’s creative preparations of steak, Hawaiian seafood and more.
“Lava Lava is an absolutely perfect spot for a restaurant,” Readman says. “The water is right there in front of you. We’re a casual, fish tacos type of restaurant during the day, but more fine dining during the evening…even though you can still come in with no shoes and no shirt. In that regard, it’s unique in the state…the only four walls are in the kitchen…everything else is open to the outdoors.”
With a dinner menu that includes everything from hukilau chowder to ahi burgers to lobster tails, Lava Lava sources as much as they can locally. “The ingredients we find on-island are some of the best I’ve ever seen anywhere,” Readman says. “The lettuce, seafood, beef, mushrooms…it is all wonderful, and cooking with such fresh ingredients is a treat.”
A special beer dinner is planned (Nov. 9) with suds from the Big Island Brewhaus, and Readman says they are working on a series of wine dinners too.
RESORT FARE EXTRORDINAIRE
Over at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, in addition to a popular, thrice-weekly lū‘au , seven dining options range from the Lagoon Grill (casual dining overlooking frolicking dolphins in the Dolphin Lagoon) to Kamuela Provision Company, a Pacific view sit-down dinner restaurant where steaks and fresh seafood are featured along with a Wine Spectator-awarded wine list. For a great breakfast buffet with a lagoon view, Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge is the popular choice, and after a day of fun, several tempting options await you for dinner, including Dona & Toni’s Pizza, Imari Teppan & Sushi, and Kirin Chinese.