When is a luau, not a luau? The answer is when it is at the Mediterranean Gourmet in Hanalei, Kauai. Having done several reasonably good interpretations of this feast made legendary by the royal luaus of the Kamehameha kings, my wife and I had the good fortune to try an intimate luau at the Mediterranean Gourmet last year while at our timeshare in Princeville, Kauai.
This year was a first for us; returning for a second luau at the Mediterranean Gourmet. We also were celebrating our thirtieth anniversary. That was a first, too. There are four reasons why I recommend this so highly; the location, the food which is always fresh and good, the intimacy which brings us closer to the performers and the Hawaiian family that performs here every year.
Family Hula Halau is authentic, fun to watch and steeped in the traditions of Kauai. Coppin Colburn, the patriarch of the family, is a good musician and performer who connects with his audience as soon as he takes the mike. He also enjoys playing with fire, twirling twin-lit batons so fast a ring of fire appears at each hand. They even performed a special dance to honor our 30th anniversary, which made our celebration even better.
The Mediterranean Gourmet has an imaginative wine list that is well-paired to the cuisine. After our tropical drinks, perfectly made, we ordered a bottle of Don Olegario, Albariño, which soon became two. This Spanish white is one of my favorite wines. The Albarińo grape comes from the Rias Biaxas region of Spain, which is just above Portugal on the Atlantic coast. The coastal influence yields wines with great acidity, minerality and bold fruit flavors. I’m reminded of French Sancerre when I drink these wines, but at a much lower price point.
Imad Beydoun, the owner, takes personal charge, overseeing that all the dishes are in place and continually replenished. From first pass through the line until last there will be freshly made dishes of Kahlua Pork, various seafood and chicken dishes and an array of Mediterranean cuisine-inspired entrees. The servers are well-trained and attentive, which enhances the intimate feel of this luau.
At the end of their performance, everyone is asked to join hands while we all sing Aloha Oe. If you are not deeply moved by this rendition of one of Hawaii’s most beautiful songs, you should check your pulse. Hearts are warmed, new friends are made, and everyone leaves with their spirits lifted. This is the only luau I’d return to time after time because it is Kauai’s best luau.