You are on Kauai. You’ve spent the day driving around to scenic sites like picturesque Hanalei Valley where time seems to be stuck before the invention of the internet. You explore pristine beaches not littered by strip malls or the high-end shops you would find along Waikiki. And then you find yourself in Poipu, surrounded by a million orchid flowers, crisp air, and the aroma of island cooking. Just a few feet away, you are lured to a plantation-style house and one of the best dining experiences you will find on the island.
Welcome to Plantation Gardens Restaurant and Bar.
A truly memorable dining experience for me starts with the ambiance and aesthetic vibe of the restaurant; the entrance and dining room of an establishment is the prelude to the meal.
Plantation Gardens is nestled within the famous Moir Gardens at the Kiahuna Plantation resort, Poipu Beach. The restaurant itself is a restored home of a plantation manager during the golden age of sugar plantations in Hawaii. I recommend dining on the lanai, which overlooks the gorgeous gardens and serenity of the resort.
Details are very important to me and the more a restaurant pays attention to the details, the more impressed I am with the meal. There are details that are seamless, and often invisible, to the dining experience, such as the flow of the kitchen or the preparation that goes into opening for the day.
All details, visible and invisible, impact the dining experience and Plantation Gardens hit every single one for me on this night. The servers were friendly, helpful and efficient; the cleanliness of the dining room would impress my mother; and then the star of the ensemble…the food…was quite exquisite.
If plating is an art form, Chef Ken Morikawa, Jr., is a world-class artist. I wish I had my Canon camera to capture the beauty of every dish that came out of the kitchen. Even more impressive was how the flavors worked so well on the plate.
I had the grilled pork chop with an apple bourbon glaze atop a bed of roasted butternut squash, leeks, and brussels sprouts. I’m a very picky eater and I was skeptical of the sprouts, but after my first bite I fell in love with the fresh flavors and preparation. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I cleaned off my plate; every bite was a symphony in my mouth, harmonious and uplifting.
I also tasted my friend’s pot roast on a kabocha mash and I instantly knew what I will get on my next visit. Each dish is unique and the taste is rich with the flavors of the islands that you must experience for yourself.
If I could make one recommendation, it would be about the Moscow Mule, which I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on the menu. Perhaps a slice of fresh ginger in the drink will elevate the flavors one more notch and it would marry well with the local flavors of the dishes.
Just as it should be in a perfect dining experience, the dessert should close the meal with the same level of artistry as the main attraction.
If you love chocolate, the Chocolate Decadence with an organic raspberry coulis is for you. For me, the tour de force was the Lilikoi Cheesecake: light, creamy, and delicate. Each dessert is big enough to share between two people but sharing is not required.
2253 Poipu Road
Koloa Kauai, Hawaii 96756