This Hualani's Kauai restaurant review is from my recent dinner, while attending a conference nearby. The restaurant anchors Timbers Kauai, vacation residences that are an 8 minute drive from Lihue Airport (LIH), which offers nonstop flights from DEN, LAS, LAX, OAK, PHX, SAN, SEA, SFO, SJC, and seasonally, PDX and YVR, in addition to interisland flights from HNL, OGG, and KOA.
Location, Hours and Reservations
Hualani's is located at Timbers Kauai, at 3770 Ala’oli Way. From the lobby, head down the stairs to the right.
Hualani's is the all-day dining restaurant, so it's open for breakfast 8-10am; lunch 11-3pm; happy hour (pau hana) 3-5pm; and dinner 5-8:30pm. It's possible to reserve via Open Table, but note that you'll be required to enter a credit card, and cancellations after 12 noon on the day of the reservation or no shows are charged $25 per person.
Hualani's Dinner Menu and Food
Since I was dining alone, I arrived without a reservation around 5:30pm, but was able to be seated, and given a menu.
A person who I thought was my server brought a menu and poured water, and I gave my order, but it turned out he wasn't my server. Only about 8 minutes later did my actual server appear and take my order. She seemed a bit peeved when I told her I thought I already placed my order; perhaps they should have their staff clarify their roles, or at least say “your server will be along soon to take your order.”
There was no complimentary bread basket, which I found rather lacking given the ~$50-70 price point for main courses.
On the positive side, the live Hawaiian music was enjoyable, at least for me since I was dining solo. I overheard another guest complaining to his server that the music was way too loud.
After about 20-25 minutes my Arare Crusted Opah arrived. Opah is difficult to find on restaurant menus outside of Hawaii, so I was happy to see it here. The crunchy crust and perfectly cooked fish paired with the silky miso butter sauce made this a winner, even with the cucumber relish, which I wouldn't normally care for. I used the garnish of Thai basil to enliven it a bit, as the flavors were subtle and benefited from a bit of the fresh herb. Local bok choy accompanied the dish, but there was no rice or other starch.
Thanks to the large portion, this was a filling dish, so I didn't order anything else. After the guitarist concluded, we were treated to hula from the keiki and kumu hula of a local halau. As a former hula dancer, I was especially happy to see them perform hula kahiko (traditional hula), with its stronger movements and accompanied only by the beats of the ipu and singing, instead of the more usual hula ‘auana (modern hula).
On a subsequent visit when I wanted a very light meal, I had the hostess seat me on the patio by the bar. I waited about 15 minutes without being acknowledged, so eventually I went up to the bar and asked for a menu. I realize that in post-pandemic times restaurants are short-staffed, but again, at a restaurant with prices this high, there should be some acknowledgement, ideally within 5 minutes of being seated.
I ordered the “Beets & Blue” appetizer, which seemed to take quite a bit of time to be prepared for a non-cooked dish, probably 25 minutes. This was a simple dish, as expected, but hit the spot, since I was craving beets with just a bit of piquant, creamy cheese.
Hualani's is a good choice for a nice dinner close to Lihue Airport. My opah was a fantastic dish, perfectly cooked, with great crunch and a silky sauce, and the beet and blue cheese starter, while simpler, was also satisfying. Expect to pay high prices, however, given that this is the only restaurant at Timbers and better quality-wise than most other options in the vicinity. Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai was better value. Service was fine if a bit inconsistent, but the live Hawaiian music, particularly the hula kahiko, helped make up for it.
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