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A Kona Brewing Co. Redo

Jo McGarry
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - January 26, 2005
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Sometimes eating your words can be fun. Especially when you’re a food writer.

Last year I reported that the newly opened Kona Brewing Co. in Hawaii Kai was perhaps one of the worst-run restaurants I’d visited in a long while. The staff was disorganized, the menu inadequate and the service just awful. I suggested that the only way this restaurant would survive would be if it closed its doors and started all over again. And it almost did just that. A few months ago they hired a new general manager, retrained the staff and brought in an experienced executive chef. I couldn’t wait to sneak in and see what changes were afoot.

The location of Kona Brewing Co. is just beautiful. On the waterfront in Hawaii Kai, it affords diners a relaxing view of boats at dock and is undoubtedly a great place for a good beer. On my previous visits, though, I had been almost bored to death by a menu that featured sandwiches, salads and uninspired pizza selections. I complained loudly, wishing that someone would create a menu more suited to the clientele — and to its excellent beverage selection. That someone came along in the shape of Liam Martin. Ex-corporate chef for Gordon Biersch, Liam knows a thing or two about food and about pairing food and beer.

“We had to rethink the menu,” he says graciously, “and we’ve added items that I think will be well-received.”

The new menu is a huge improvement on the old with everything seeming brighter and better. Entrees include some good, fresh poke, excellent ahi, and crab cakes that are positively full of crab. Sandwiches are robust and packed with flavorful fillings, including kalua pork and cabbage and a fabulously hearty porterhouse dip. I was especially impressed with the New York pepper steak, served medium rare and complemented by mashed potatoes, asparagus and a pepper cream sauce. The fish was good too, although I asked them to un-crust the macadamia nut crusted mahi.

I went over the other day to congratulate Liam on a job well done, and he seemed happy and relaxed in his new home.

“We’re trying to use local ingredients here as much as possible, “ he says, “and we’ll soon be serving burgers made from North Shore Cattle Co. beef and using even more fresh, local produce in our dishes.”

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