Saturday, February 28, 2009

Going to RapaNui (and I'm not talking about Easter Island)

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If you’ve ever been to “downtown” Kailua-Kona you know that it represents just about any and every cliché you could possibly come up with about the Hawaii experience. It is a tourist trap in every sense of the word. With its endless number of shops selling trinkets and tours, surf wear and sun tan lotion.

Most of the restaurants you find in this area are not going to be anything extraordinary. However, thanks to some research on KonaWeb and Yelp, we were able to find the exception - RapaNui Island Café. It's fabulous little restaurant serving up island fare that is as original and delicious as you’ll find in the area.

Named not after Easter Island, but a beach in New Zealand where the owner grew up, Rapanui offers an amazingly diverse selection of appetizers and entrees.

For appetizers we started off with the Spring Rolls. The dipping sauces they came with were awesome (Mango Mint and Soy Garlic Lime).

Regina ordered the Macadamia Shrimp Stir Fry which was composed of wok seared garlic shrimp and packed with a medley of vegetables (carrots, zucchini, broccoli, sprouts). It was garnished with a ton of macadamia nuts and served with a tasty peanut sauce.

I ordered the Tepuke Thunder Steak comprised of beef marinated in red chiles, black pepper and lime. Grilled to perfection and served with stir fried vegetables, rice, and cucumber salad. For me this was the best entrée I had on The Big Island.

Sides included a vinegar marinated cucumber salad and choice of rice. We both chose the House rice, which has added to it Coconut milk, lemongrass and onions. The rice itself is of the sticky variety and while both sweet and savory, it was the perfect pair to the garlic shrimp....don't even think about the white or brown rice, you want the House rice with your entree!

Many reviews we've seen have raved about Rapanui Cafe's condiment tray. Served with your entree, it consists of Sambal (hot), peanuts and Hawaiian chiles (very hot). If you were a heat freak, I could easily see how you'd love this little extra.

Portions at RapaNui Cafe are so generous that you could easily share an entree, or take half home. By the end of the night we were absolutely stuffed, so I took a Peanut Butter Bar and a couple of Wasabi Peanut Butter Balls to go.

While there, we took a few minutes to speak with one of the owners and discovered that, as with most local businesses, things have been slow lately. It's likely a combination of economy and location. RapaNui Cafe is in the Banyan Tree Mall on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona. The area is full of chocky shops and sub par restauants and unfortunatley, this little gem is tucked waaaay in the back, just off the main drag.

We fear that this place will fall victim to it's location and that would be a total crime. Those who aren't in the know, will continue to frquent less than ideal establishments on Alii Drive. RapaNui Island Cafe deserves your love....it's creative, tasty and well priced. If you're in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and seek them out.

We thought this was a really great dinner. No pretense, just really good food. If you’re looking for something excellent that won’t break the bank – this is the place.

RapaNui Island Cafe
75-5701 Alii Dr
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
(808) 329-0511

Rapanui Island Cafe on Urbanspoon

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