For some unforeseen reason I suggested to two colleagues that we venture to Kona Grill after 10 straight hours of meetings. Parking was easy on a Tuesday night and there was a 20-25 minutes for a table but one was opening in the bar area so we grabbed it. The place was filled with 20-30 year olds, with lots of energy and it appeared that everyone was enjoying both the vibe and the food.
Our server arrived at the table with menus. Her enthusiasm was fantastic as she described many of the specials that she liked. I love it when the enthusiasm of a server truly believes the food at her restaurant is fantastic and my server at Kona Grill fit that bill to a tee. As I looked through the maki combinations I had a bad feeling since most of them contained the words “spicy,” “cream cheese” and “mix.” The chefs were definitely placing an interesting mark on dishes.
We started with a few appetizers including the “potstickers,” the “kona calamari” and the “beef bulgogi tacos.” For a salad course I ordered an eel and avocado roll and for my entrée I chose the “miso-saké sea bass.”
From the top. The potstickers were filled with seared chicken and vegetables, served with Asian slaw and a traditional dipping sauce. The plate was extremely hot when it arrived at the table so be careful. The dough was gummy and flavorless and the filling was bitter and off-tasting. One bite and I was done. The calamari was served with a spicy aioli and I strongly suggest you take advantage of the dipping sauce as the fried calamari were also flavorless and lacking any seasoning. The tacos (I know…what was I thinking?) were two deep fried flaky shells filled with marinated beef and Asian slaw. The kitchen was attempting to re-create a beef version of Peking Duck and they failed miserably. The Hoison sauce was over-applied, overwhelmed the other ingredients and the three of us barely finished one of these shells. As we were eating the appetizers, our salads arrived, so the table was getting crowded. The eel and avocado roll was divided into eight small pieces and then the kitchen doused the pieces with the fish sauce. It was sloppily constructed, falling apart as each piece was lifted with chopsticks and the fish sauce overwhelmed the dish. After I ate three of the eight pieces I decided to stop and wait for my entrée.
The food runner arrived with the entrées while there was not a spare inch of table geography available. It was almost amusing watching the staff pile dishes in one hand, move plates around, place one down and begin this dance from the top. It was like a teenage Keystone Cops routine. I sat back and watched as they successfully completed the food exchange.
My sea bass was served with shrimp & pork fried rice and pan-Asian ratatouille. It is hard to decide which of these three items I disliked the most, since they were all equally inedible. The texture of the fish was horrible, it was probably frozen with the marinade since the flavor of the miso-sake marinade was overwhelming. The fried rice was probably prepared earlier in the day and scooped out of a cafeteria chafing dish and likewise with the overcooked and incredibly limp vegetables. Two bites of fish and one bite of each of the sides and I was done with dinner.
To the server’s credit, on her third pass of the table with my entree entire uneaten and after delivering the bill she asked about my fish. When I used the word “inedible” she was spot on in removing the check from the table and removing the uneaten fish from the bill. Maybe checking in earlier would have been a good idea. It was not her fault that the kitchen prepared some of the worst food I have eaten in many years. She was enthusiastic from the moment we arrived in her section until she removed the inedible fish from our bill.
Overall, I cannot see one reason to return to Kona Grill. From the first bite to the last it was one of the worst meals I have eaten in quite some time.