It’s been a long 3.5 months. Trying to keep ourselves healthy and COVID-19 free, we have had to temporarily give up things that most of us took for granted, for instance, dining out. The upside is that our Island has done very well in keeping COVID at bay, and in doing so, many of us have upped our home-chef game (anyone else make homemade soup dumplings and manapua? No? Just me?).
The downside is that many of our beloved local restaurants, including many of our favorite places for Big Island dining, have taken the closures and restrictions extremely hard. Several of them have been able to scrape by through take-out and delivery options, but some restaurants are just not suited to put their masterpieces into eco-friendly takeout containers. We ordered out from several restaurants throughout the closures, but I must admit that when the date approached for dine-in to reopen at approved restaurants, I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Where to first for a Big Island dining experience? We decided on lunch at Pineapples on a Friday. I was so excited for an actual outing that I forgot my phone to take photos of our meal. Trust me, even without the pictures, it was excellent. We shared the calamari appetizer (I LOVE the strips even more than the rings and tentacles) and I had the mussels. It was so wonderful to enjoy tasty food and then have others take it away without me having to cook or do the dishes! Since then, we’ve been to Café Pesto (seafood risotto!!) and Ken’s House of Pancakes (oh how I missed my mushroom omelet smothered with gravy!!), and each time my excitement led to me forgetting my phone or forgetting to take photos of our food before it was pau.
Last week a friend and I went to lunch at Miyo’s. The softshell crab tempura appetizer was fantastic, as were our lunches (combo plate C for me, tempura for her). And last Friday, we went to The Temple for lunch and beverages (for me, not him). I absolutely love the creativity at Temple. For this visit, I ordered the torched tako salad, the Kumamoto oysters, and gouda flatbread for the table. My co-diner had the ribeye with smoked mushrooms and fried yucca. The tako was incredibly tender and lightly charred, and I loved the fried kalo bites. The oysters (one of my favorite foods in all of the world) were a perfect mix of briny, spicy, and tart, and the ogo underneath them was probably the best ogo I’ve had here so far.
The flatbread was light and crunchy, with the gouda, tomatoes, and chiffonade of fresh basil hitting all the right notes (no runny tomato juice to ruin the crispness!). The smoked mushrooms with the ribeye were the fungus of my dreams – they even inspired me to order a cold smoker from Williams-Sonoma for myself as we were driving home!
Each place I have been has been very clean with the necessary questions asked and precautions taken before we were allowed to enter. Seating has been properly distanced in Big Island dining rooms, and all servers and restaurant professionals have worn their masks throughout each meal, demonstrating that our local restaurants are taking the CDC and County guidelines and requirements to heart. We also took care to sanitize before entering each place, kept our masks on until served and when using the restrooms, and sanitizing again as we left. The feeling is certainly different than pre-COVID dining, but I feel like there is more kindness and appreciation now than before. It truly is a privilege to have someone cook for you (even when you are paying), and I am so grateful that some of my favorite places are opening back up. I cannot wait to continue to support our local businesses as more and more of them start to responsibly re-open.
Lisa Atkinson is a foodie and the owner of Paradise Hand Pies. She makes incredibly delicious food, so she knows a good plate when she sees one. Find more of her food reviews here.