The Seaside Restaurant & Aqua Farm - Hilo, Hawaii
Since the early 90's, the Seaside Restaurant has been my final stop in Hilo before heading to the airport for the short flight home. On this trip, I didn't deviate from the usual routine. Located in Keaukaha, right near the beach, this has got to be one of my favorites dining destinations in this quiet town.
Open since 1921, the Seaside Restaurant is in a converted house surrounded by 30 acres worth of fishponds on one side and Kalanianaole Avenue on the other. You wouldn't expect too much from this place if you were to judge it on looks alone, right?
Entering the dining room shortly after 5:00 pm, I the first one in the dining room. After getting settled, I ordered something to drink, then made my way outside to take in a view of the fishponds.
Two of the most popular menu items, the steamed mullet and the fried aholehole, are prepared using fish caught daily from these very ponds. Other types of fish, are raised here as well and you will often see them appear as specials on the menu.
To start, I decided on the escargot (US$7.95).
These tasty snails aren't often found on local menus, and though these weren't served in the shell, the were succulent and tender. Rich and creamy, they were a luxurious treat that complimented the crunchy ovals of toasted garlic bread quite well.
Since I couldn't decide on what I wanted for dinner, I asked for the volcano shrimp as an appetizer (appetizer, US$18.95; dinner, US$21.95).
Thin ribbons of phyllo dough were wrapped around skewered shrimp before being deep fried. The result was a perfectly cooked shrimp inside and a nice crispy, deep-fried exterior. Served with a dish filled with sweet mango mint chile dipping sauce, I'm glad I decided to try this.
For the main course, it was the Chinese-style steamed Kona kampachi (US$26.95).
The skin-on fillets were first steamed before being coated with some hot oil and shoyu. The fillets were then garnished with slices of shiitake mushroom, matchsticks of ginger, slivers of green onion and a huge fistfull of cilantro. The fish's firm, white flesh was mild yet slightly buttery and it was well suited to this style of preparation.
Next came the pan-fried moi (US$26.95).
Once raised in fishponds and reserved for royalty, these days the moi seen on local menus is harvested from cages of the coast of the Big Island. The delicate flavor of this fish is enhanced perfectly by this simple cooking technique. A tiny squirt of lemon or a light drizzle of shoyu proves to be just the right accent for the crispy skin and flaky flesh of the fish.
After all of that, it was time for some dessert. On this visit it was the taro and sweet potato bread pudding (US$4.50) and a scoop of Hilo Homemade gourmet ice cream (poha berry, US$3.00).
The moist and dense bread pudding was studded with tender chunks of taro and sweet potato. I found the caramel/haupia sauce overly sweet, making this a rich and decadent dessert. The ice cream, on the other hand, was tart and sweet with a smooth texture that was accented by bits of crushed poha berries.
The Seaside Restaurant & Aqua Farm
1790 Kalanianaole Avenue