New: Monkeypod Kitchen at Ko Olina
Our dinner at the new Monkeypod Kitchen at Koolina is proof that what you order at restaurants matters. If we had ordered only the pumpkin ravioli, the fish and chips and the saimin, I would have deemed Monkeypod an excellent restaurant: a well-executed menu to match a lively, rustic chic atmosphere. Had we ordered only the burger and the pizza, I would have written off Monkeypod as a restaurant not even worth the trip out of town.
Monkeypod Kitchen is the second Monkeypod location of Peter Merriman's growing empire, which includes a Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea, his original Merriman's in Waimea, and additional locations on Kauai and Maui. Expansion plans for Monkeypod include California.
The formula could work well: a long, convivial bar with 36 beers on tap, and comfort food with just a touch of Hawaii or something else unexpected to keep the dish fresh and interesting. Crisp, battered fish and chips come with a bit of housemade kimchi; the saimin with tender, smoky kalua pig (though barely any broth).
But I imagine the recipes will need to be tweaked if it's to become a successful chain: The classic hamburger is only good if you like teri meatloaf between a bun. The pizza, even when laden with lobster and truffle oil, is on par with California Pizza Kitchen, which certainly has its fans, but probably won't convince anyone to drive out to the West side (nor to pay $25).
But as the local, homegrown version of CPK, with an added emphasis on local ingredients and day boat fish (one of Merriman's crusades), I could see Monkeypod being a fun stop for the many people who live on the West side, at least for those who know what to order.
Entrees $11.95 (Big Island cheese burger) to $30.95 (Macadamia nut crusted fish)
Monkeypod Kitchen, 92-1048 Olani Street, Ko Olina, 380-4086. monkeypodkitchen.com