On the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii, along the island’s northern shore, within the 9,000 acre resort community of Princeville at Hanalei sits The St. Regis Princeville Resort. Deep within this sprawling resort lies Nalu Kai Grill & Bar, a relaxed and casual restaurant situated next to The St. Regis’s infinity pool and overlooking Hanalei Bay. Grabbing a bite to eat at Nalu Kai is a comforting way to while away the afternoon—dine under the gazebo, at one of the tables nestled in the tropical gardens or under a romantic cabana.
Despite the fact that, at its core, Nalu Kai is essentially a pool bar, the menu is fresh and interesting, albeit on the pricey side of the dollar bill. With The St. Regis being the sister hotel to the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort, which was my home away from home for a week while on the island, the major advantage was the discount we received at the property’s restaurants, which helped to take the sting out of the final lunch tabs.
There’s no beating around the bush here: Nalu Kai is comparatively costly. Lunch for two, inclusive of an appetizer, a couple of cocktails or beers, and two entrées could make your wallet $100.00 lighter, which is a significant amount to spend for a mid-day meal. However, when you consider that you’re enjoying that meal in gorgeous surroundings in a beautiful tropical setting and you get to stay planted on American soil, well, you’re still paying $100.00. Simply try to enjoy the meal.
One days’ lunchtime visit saw Tomato Gazpacho on the starter portion of the menu; however, the special gazpacho of the day was Maui Gold Pineapple Gazpacho, which sounded much more colorfully inventive and appealing. Turns out, it was an excellent choice—cool, refreshing, filled with pineapple goodness and served in a martini glass. On our subsequent visit to Nalu Kai, the menu had received a makeover. Gone was the tomato gazpacho and in its place was the pineapple gazpacho. Brilliant move, Nalu Kai.
The Pita and Dips was a four-part treat. Three different dips—a vibrant pesto rosso, a distinctive goat cheese tzatziki, and a rich and creamy house-made hummus—were served with insanely crunchy pita chips that were hard enough to nearly break a tooth. The dips, each distinct and unique in their own way but equally flavorful, were the perfect complement to the thick and crispy chips.
If beef floats your boat, a suggested entrée is the Signature 5520 Burger. Fully assembled, this hand formed sirloin hamburger with its accompanying accoutrements is one big delicious bite. The chargrilled burger is smothered with pepper jack cheese and covered with a sweet soy glaze that simply dances in the mouth. Fresh leaves of butter lettuce and a thick sliced tomato anchor the burger which is then topped with crispy Maui onions. Snuggled lovingly between toasted slices of a brioche bun, you almost want to stare at the creation instead of eat it. But eat it, you will, as did I. Every last bite.
The Fish Sandwich was almost outdone by poppy seed bun overload. But oh, what a decidedly tasty piece of monchong it was. Grilled and blackened, the fish was complemented nicely by the orange tarragon aioli slathered across the bun, arugula, thick sliced tomato and thinly sliced strips of pickled cucumber.
Nalu Kai is a decent enough place to eat. Scratch that, for the experience was not nearly that negative. To be fair and not do it a disservice, recent excursions to Nalu Kai have proven it to be above average. However, what detracts from the wonderfulness of it all is the price point. While they may cater to the big spenders who call The St. Regis home for a week or two while on vacation, and the food is good, one has to wonder aloud whether the prices constitute a value-based meal.