A Safeway shopping center is an unlikely spot for a gourmet restaurant, but A Pacific Cafe, owned by chef Jean Marie Josselin, has achieved fame for blending the culinary traditions of Europe and the Pacific Rim, while emphasizing fresh ingredients from Kauai.
As you enter the air-conditioned dining room, you will see the chefs hard at work behind a tall counter pass-through. That is appropriate, for the kitchen is the centerpiece of this restaurant. You will be delighted with the ingenious, sometimes whimsical, artistry of each dish.
For example, sashimi served tempura style ($10.50), the ahi wrapped in seaweed, then deep fried and sliced in elegant, dainty medallions, the fish cool in the center, the wrapping crisp outside. Poached scallop ravioli ($7.75) is wonderful, the won ton shaped noodles delicately flavored and the lime ginger sauce delicious. Even an ordinary dinner salad ($6.50) looks like kaleidoscope of colors.
Familiar entrees appear in arresting fashion. Fresh fish can be almost magical‹sizzling hot, meltingly tender, and enhanced with wonderful sauces. Try wok-charred mahi mahi with garlic sesame crust and lime ginger sauce ($25.50), or delicate opah (moonfish).
Ahi appears in a huge portion with stir fry vegetables, rivaling even the steamed fresh ono, our favorite island fish. Among the inventive desserts, chocolate lovers will adore the hot chocolate tart, and sorbet aficionados will love fresh lichee. Toasted Hawaiian remains a family favorite, and the macadamia nut tart with coconut ice cream will please anyone nuts about nuts.
The dining room is attractive, with black lacquer chairs surrounding polished wood tables, set with black bamboo placemats and shining crystal. Many plates are whimsical creations by Sophronia Josselin, and they frame the appetizers and entrees like culinary paintings.
The only disadvantage in the air-conditioned room is noise. This cafe is really best on a night when its not busy, if you can find one. When a restaurant on Kauai is featured in Sunset Magazine, you should expect it to be jammed.
Chef-owner Jean Marie Josselin splits his time among his other restaurants on Oahu and Maui. Some readers and also local residents have complained about uneven quality in food and service due to staffing changeovers and the loss of his on-site supervision.
Hes currently considering plans for a new ocean front location across the street. Despite occasional disappointments, our own experiences have been largely excellent. A Pacific Cafe has a loyal following, and everyone seems to agree that its special, even four Horowitz children who cant seem to agree on much else. Theyll all tell you: Dont miss this one!
For more restaurant reviews, consult your Kauai Underground Guide.