Haute Spot: Pahu i’a at Hualalai

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The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu is known to be one of the most luxurious resorts in Hawaii, with its unassuming bungalows, swanky villas, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and a world-class spa.

But it’s also got an exceptional award-winning restaurant that boasts a menu of which an impressive 90 percent is made with local ingredients.

Pahu i’a, named the best restaurant on the Big Island by the 2011 Zagat Survey, sits right on the ocean facing the Kona-Kohala coast and boasts a menu that showcases the island’s best produce and meats.

There are small plate options, which allow you to sample a variety of dishes, from the Keahole lobster done two ways to the popular farmers’ market salad with local carrot-ginger dressing to ahi poke served tableside.

The restaurant features a nice array of special sushi rolls, including the Hawaiian Roll (with ahi, mango and avocado), crunchy shrimp roll (with tempura shrimp, jalapeno peppers, avocado and cucumber) and the popular spicy Hualalai Roll (with unagi, avocado, tempura shrimp all wrapped in crab meat, then deep-fried, shown above).

Its seafood offerings are sumptuous as well — Dungeness crab won tons with red curry coconut sauce, tapioca-crusted local shrimp with a yuzu-ogo butter, Kona abalone with coconut and kaffir lime.

But don’t overlook the beef and pork options here. Both are locally sourced and prepared in unexpected ways. There’s a beef carpaccio done sushi-style with local root vegetables and a black garlic vinaigrette. Or the Big Island beef cheek terrine with Japanese mushrooms and kiawe-smoked potatoes. Or prime New York steak crusted with Kona coffee and paired with sauteed chards. Or the local beef short ribs with a Fuji apple potato puree (shown above).

On Saturday nights the restaurant offers a barbecue on the beach, with an elaborate spread of salads, seafood dishes and desserts, plus grilled steak and lobster stations. There’s live music and even an astronomer on hand to point out constellations.

Pahu i’a is a must on your next stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai — or a recommended detour on your next visit to the Big Island.

Pahu i’a, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, 72-100 Kaupulehu Dr. in Kailua-Kona. Hours: Breakfast, 6:30-11 a.m. daily; dinner, 6-9 p.m. Sunday through Friday; outdoor barbecue, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday. Phone (808) 325-8000

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