During our anniversary trip to the Big Island, Husband and I stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa resort. This hotel was built when I still lived on the island and I remember taking family trips to this place to ride the tram and boats and watch the dolphins; it was a treat and a trip down memory lane to stay here.
This natural lagoon is filled with a reef and lots of fish. People can rent kayaks, snorkel gear, paddle boats and other water gear. Husband and I went snorkeling on our last full day and saw eels, angelfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a (reef triggerfish) and even a sea turtle! Very cool…
There’s a dolphin encounter type type deal at the Hilton Waikoloa. We didn’t do it due to the prices but we did watch some people and kids take part.
One of the perks of staying here was the availability of several fine dining options for dinner. Since we arrived late Thursday afternoon, we decided to stay on the resort grounds for dinner. We chose to eat at Imari which serves Japanese cuisine. For some reason, I thought we ate here on Saturday but apparently not based on the photos’ dates. I’m getting old…
Built to look like a traditional tea house, this place offers a sushi bar, a teppanyaki style experience, or regular table dining. Since we ended up arriving for a late meal due to the time difference between California and Hawaii, we could not partake in the teppanyaki fun and Husband doesn’t do sushi so…
Everything on the menu looked really good so I decided to go for the Omakase Bento which ended up being a 3-course meal and had variety. Since I didn’t realize just how much food the Omakase Bento would end up being, I also got a side order of abalone nigiri (something I don’t often see and have never eaten) and the seared ahi tuna appetizer which was a special that night. Husband got edamame to munch on, one of the few vegetables he will eat.
My first course arrived – zaru soba, a few slices of sashimi and a bit of other stuff – seaweed, tofu, edamame and a crab mixture with a sweet sauce. The soba noodles were perfectly cooked, retaining a bit of firmness without being hard.
The sashimi was fantastic…beautiful fresh cuts of fresh tuna and hamachi (yellowtail).
The crab mixture was delicious. I think the black stuff in the foil cup was a type of seaweed and the green stuff down on the bottom was another type of seaweed salad, both yummy.
The seared tuna arrived and oh my goodness! I’ve had “seared” ahi before where the fish was just shy of being fully cooked. This was not the case with Imari’s version. The fish looked like it had been gently touched by flame and had a wonderful peppery crust that made each bite burst with flavor and gave it a kick. It did mask the ahi a little bit, though. I convinced the husband to try a little bite and even he liked it! Shocking, considering he doesn’t like raw/rare and cold meat. This dish was the best one of the meal.
The abalone nigiri was delivered, beautifully plated. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I was caught off guard by the crunchiness of it. But it was delicious, delicate in flavor.
For my “main course”, I got a piece of grilled Hawaiian Opa with a sweet potato-taro mash, asparagus spear and tempura. The fish flaked easily and had a nice light flavor. I enjoyed the mash but the asparagus was tough.
The tempura was lightly battered, crispy and was not heavy with oil.
They also brought out rice and a little dish with daikon and other pickled vegetables.
My husband had ordered a steak which was served with mashed potatoes and shiitake mushrooms (which he quickly off-loaded onto my plate). The bite of beef I got to try was flavorful, tender and moist despite being well done (I’m a medium-rare/medium type of gal…).
To end the meal, the Omakase Bento comes with a choice of ice cream flavor. I opted for green tea. I was expecting a small bowl with a single scoop but ended up with a bowl containing 3 scoops and crisp fan-shaped wafers. The smooth and creamy ice cream had really good green tea flavor. Sadly, I was so stuffed that I couldn’t finish off this dessert and ended up leaving half of it. I tried…
If you ever find yourself in the Waikoloa area, I highly recommend stopping in at Imari for dinner. It’s a lovely dining experience. The food is top-notch and the service impeccable. It is pricey, with main courses costing around $35-40 on average. I found the Omakase Bento ($45) to be the best quantity for the cost and it was pretty tasty.
5 NOMs for Imari!
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr.
Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738
Reservations: (808) 886-1234
Filed under: 5 NOMs, fine-dining, Hawaii, japanese, sushi Tagged: | 5 NOMs, abalone, asian, bento, dessert, dinner, fine-dining, green tea ice cream, Hawaii, Hilton Waikoloa, Imari, japanese, nigiri, omakase, restaurant review, sashimi, seaweed, soba, steak, sushi, taro, tempura, teppanyaki