Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi on Kaua‘i brings back the traditional flavors of Hawai‘i.
The words above are words of wisdom (“happy wife, happy life”) that occupy one wall within eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi.
It is also a mantra my husband lives by and with that wonderful attitude, he agreed to my suggestion that we dine at Eating House during our recent visit to the Garden Isle. We are big fans of Yamaguchi’s eponymous restaurants, and I was intrigued by Yamaguchi’s concept of elevating Hawai‘i’s comfort foods—dishes born from our state’s plantation history. Would lightning strike twice?
“The Eating House 1849 pays homage to Hawai‘i’s vibrant culinary heritage, named in honor of restaurateurs like Peter Fernandez, who as the story goes, opened one of the first restaurants in Hawai‘i called the Eating House, back in the mid-1800’s,” Yamaguchi explains.
A friendly, relaxed ambiance is evident in the attentive staff and the rustic setting, reminiscent of a large plantation-style house.
Walls are whitewashed wood and guests are seated at hardwood tables set with ice-cold water in jelly jars and dishes are served on cast iron.
The ceilings are high with open beams hung with bare bulbs. Chatty groups fill the dining room with conversation. Th e seating along the open windows calls to mind a wrap-around porch and offer not only gentle breezes, but also views of the surrounding area and Po‘ipu sunsets.
The demonstration kitchen is a sleek, modern contrast to the laid-back dining area. Abuzz with activity, foodies thrill at glimpses of Executive Chef Clinton Nuyda and his team.
“Just like Roy’s, the Eating House is an extension of myself,” Yamaguchi says. “…To capture the essence of what it was like back in the plantation days, I designed the concept to be casual and multi-ethnic with a little Portuguese flair. The restaurant had to have a feel of plantation-meets-industrial modern.”
The menu may look small, but it’s filled with a medley of cuisines to dive into.
We start with a classic: Roy’s Original Szechuan Baby Back Ribs (this is a Roy’s restaurant, after all!). It’s a familiar dish—still fall-off-the-bone tender—that would be a good choice for fans the chef ’s original restaurant.
The pupu menu is described as “island tapas” and indeed, the array of offerings make it tempting to return just to dine on various combinations of them all. Th e Sizzled Hawaiian Kampachi Sashimi is a great example of Yamaguchi taking a comfort food to the “next level.” Served with citrus soy and an island favorite—Hawaiian chili pepper water—on a bed of ogo and topped with tobiko. The chili pepper water is a great foil for the slices of buttery kampachi and the tobiko and ogo contribute delightful, briny pops of texture to the dish.
Other pupu standouts included the Pork and Shrimp Potstickers which were plump with shrimp and crisp lup cheong filling; the Huli Huli Style Spicy Pork Belly served on a bed of romaine lettuce with go chu jang sauce, kim chee and crispy garlic is a clear nod to Korean cuisine made fresh; and the Chili Pepper Chicken Wings are a nice statement on how an appetizer found on most menus around the country can shine with a Hawai‘i update.
Like Fernandez before him, Yamaguchi sources many of his ingredients locally. Featured purveyors include Makaweli Ranch, Kunana Farms, Kailani Farms, OK King Farms and Kilauea Farms.
Dishes like the Kamuela Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella salad that features Kailani Farms arugula and the “Hapa” Burger—a rich blend of Makaweli beef and Kulana wild boar are testaments to the bounty of the islands.
“The Hapa burger is made from a combination of Makaweli beef and local pork—thus the name hapa,” Yamaguchi says of one of his personal favorite menu items.
Another personal favorite is the 1849 Spicy Ramen. “Ramen was one of my favorite dishes growing up and I created a special ramen that brings me back to those days,” he says. “The broth is spicy with sesame flavor that is complemented with pork belly, shrimp dumpling, egg and perfectly cooked ramen noodles.”
Other Yamaguchi faves include the Garlic Tiger Shrimp Piri Piri and Kamameshi.
For pure drama alone, the Crispy Whole Tai Snapper is a winner. It comes to the table, perched upon the dish as if it just swam onto the plate. Served up with a choice of Thai Coconut Piri Piri Curry Sauce or Spicy Cherry Tomato Sambal this dish will have you throwing all decorum out the door to eat it down to its bones. My husband, who grew up on fishing boats, is persnickety when it comes to fish dishes. He loved both sauces, but really, the perfect preparation of this fish (crispy on the outside with tender, flaky meat) is such a rare occurrence, he was content to just savor the fish on its own.
For pure nostalgia, I chose the Tavern Style Fried Chicken. Yamaguchi likes fried chicken (so do I!), so he developed this recipe. Where the rest of the menu plays on Hawai‘i comfort food, this one stays close to its true nature. Hearty mashed potatoes made with Kunana Dairy goat cheese, wilted local kale and “1849” country gravy complement the fried chicken that manages to be at once delicately crisp yet juicy.
For full effect, pair your dishes with a selection from the wine list. “I have a wine list, 50 under 50, where we feature some of my favorite wines under $50,” Yamaguchi adds.
To end things on a sweet note, we went with the Honaunau Cinnamon & Sugar Dusted Malasadas served with Koloa Rum Sauce. You’ll want to use the pillowy malasadas to sop up every last bit of the sauce!
With Eating House 1849, Yamaguchi aimed to create a “place where [guests] can gather, share food and talk story” with an “unpretentious menu … and reminiscent of family gatherings.”
I’d say, mission accomplished.
Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi is located at The Shops at Kukui‘ula, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Road, (808) 742-5000, eatinghouse1849.com