As reported yesterday, Kona Cafe has reworked their lunch and dinner menu, adding sections for both “Dashi Bowls” and “Burgers & Sandwiches” among other new offerings. A more important shift is new pricing with up-charges on several items, including old favorites. So is this new menu worth that little extra sacrifice to the Kona gods? It depends on what you get, as the outcome varies greatly.
Note: Never fear – the sweet rolls and macadamia nut butter you’ve come to love remain untouched.
Fire-Roasted Pork Wings – $12.00
Served with pickled rainbow carrots and honey bacon, this was a favorite of the night for its juicy smoked flavor. Much of this is accomplished by an excellent sauce that has notes of both brown sugar and soy sauce. Our only wish is for four instead of three wings to make it more of a table share. We know no one will forgive them for getting rid of the Sticky Wings though.
Sauces and Sides
Green Peppercorn, Poly-Churri, Togarashi Hollandaise, and Horseradish Cream – $3.00/per sauce
A new offering to the menu are four sauces sold individually, each with its own set of unique flavors. While the menu suggests by design that these are to be paired with the steak selections, the waitstaff was a bit more laissez-faire—suggesting they work well with several other items on the menu. This provides the creative eater some room to play, but, for the sake of this review, we tried dishes as served and the sauces separate. That being said, I’ve never been to a steakhouse that charges for sauces.
The Green Peppercorn (top right in the photo) tasted very much of peppery white gravy. It did not stand out among the sauces, but may still combine well. The Poly-Churri (bottom right) was parsley and onion heavy, but agreeable if you enjoy those flavors. The Togarashi Hollandaise (bottom left) had a subtle tanginess to it, but overall left the table wondering how it would compliment much. Lastly, the Horseradish Cream (top right) surprised as the classic spice was lessened with the addition of the cream. A welcome change for those at the table who never enjoyed the condiment before.
Lobster and Crab Macaroni & Cheese – $15.00
Now this is a side you can share! A rather large offering, it’s recommended to not take this on by yourself or you may find your whole entree in a doggy bag. With extra creamy cheese, the seafood flavors take the lead, but are nicely complimented by a garlic aftertaste. Due to the nature of the dish, some small flecks of hard shell were found in a bite. We weren’t warned of this, but if you’re mindful of the possibility, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Duck Fried Rice with Leg Confit – $32.00
With shiitake mushrooms, togarashi, and grilled box choy, this fried rice is overall a rather unimpressive dish. With a rather standard fried rice flavor, it lacked much dimension and the crispy duck spring roll was mushy to the touch by the time it came to our table. The best part was finding some sort of sauce clinging to the underside of the leg. If that had been mixed into the entire meal, it would have elevated the whole plate, but alas this is a pass.
Big Kahuna Burger – $24.00
I know what you’re thinking – “Is this a tasty burger?” Layered with sautéed pastrami, corned beef, and pepper jack cheese, this burger tops off with a mustard aioli and tangy cucumber. It’s a succulent offering with some extra spice textures peppered throughout thanks to the pastrami, but it has its downsides. Upon arrival to the table, the bottom bun was already soaked in grease and overall the experience is an impossible task without the help of a fork. The major downfall of the plate were the fries. While you can expect these to be less than stellar at some counter-service, you don’t come to Kona for the same. A little island-inspired seasoning could change these completely and for next to no effort.
Surf and Turf – $28.00
A kona coffee-spiced filet with cucumber, chili-spiced lobster, crab, avocado, yuzu aioli and sriracha. A great take on the traditional surf and turf, the steak was cut nice and thin – giving it a tenderness similar to a traditional sashimi texture. The additional lemon wedge also allowed for an extra citrus tang if one desired.
Polly Lolly Roll – $26.00
A spicy mix of fried soft shelled crab, shrimp tempura, crawfish tails, grilled asparagus, chives, spicy mayo, and tobiko, this dish brought some lasting heat. While the tempura was soft, lacking any crunch, the rest of the dish combined well and was a favorite of the table.
Upon review, Kona had yet to release their new desserts, but we were told they will be six small shooters in jars and should be released Thursday, January 24.
Overall, we appreciate Kona Cafe and its efforts to keep their menu always fresh and new. While the new menu seems inspired enough, it appears not much thought went into some of these dishes, or that certain elements were somewhat of an afterthought. We still recommend the restaurant’s tried-and-true specialty rolls and appetizers.