A Poolside Mother’s Day Brunch

Da Spida and Royal Ali‘i from Toro Tei sushi bar

It’s because of my mom that I love food so much. She is from Spain, and the Spanish take their food very seriously. For two days before every holiday she sets to work at 6 a.m. Soon, the kitchen bulges as cakes and pies are stacked on the table, appetizers and sides wait in the refrigerator, and a turkey fights a ham for oven time.

When Mother’s Day comes, it’s our chance to spoil her. We take her someplace where she can enjoy her favorite food – because none of us can cook like she can – and relax. If she were on Kaua’i this year, I’d treat her to a leisurely day with a poolside brunch and free-flowing champagne.

In the heart of Kaua’i’s Marriott at Kalapaki Beach, along one of the largest family resort pools in Hawaii, is Kukui’s Restaurant. Water sprays from the mouths of giant Fu dogs, dragons and rabbits, splashing into the pool. Palm and plumeria trees rustle lazily as diners, shaded under a flowing rooftop, enjoy a meal in the open-air dining room.

Kukui’s bartender Katie Madden, restaurant manager David Perry and server Ana Lyn Manzano. Daniel Lane photos

“Families like to come in for special celebrations and the local kids like to come here for prom,” says restaurant manager David Perry, who grew up working in his grandparents’ Louisiana restaurant. “People like to get dressed up and come to a resort and have a nice meal.”

The menu is elegantly designed by executive chef Guy Higa and features entrées such as tender Wine Braised Boneless Short Ribs ($25). It’s generously appointed with fresh baked bread, buttermilk mashed potatoes or rice and wok-fried vegetables, so even Dad is sure to be satisfied.

Kukui’s expertly prepares fresh fish dishes ($26-$28), which are offered according to availability. Tonight there is delicate mahimahi, swordfish and salmon. The fish is moist and sweet; every bite a succulent morsel. Crispy wok-fried vegetables make the dishes deliciously light.

The dessert menu is distinctly Hawaiian and includes a cobbler made with taro. Chewy, bite-sized chunks are surrounded by a sweet cinnamon sauce, topped with a soft crumble and served with vanilla ice cream.

Short ribs with pan sauce, buttermilk mashed potatoes and wok-fried vegetables

“It’s a soft, crisp outside, and the inside is warm and moist,” says server Ana Lyn Manzano of the Chocolate Lau Lau ($10). It’s a neat little package of flourless chocolate cake, haupia pudding and chocolate mousse wrapped in filo dough. The dessert oozes creamy comfort when cut into. “It’s my favorite because it just smooches in your mouth,” she adds.

Kukui’s will accommodate any type of dietary need “whether it be lactose intolerant, kosher, nut allergies or gluten-free,” says Perry, who suggests asking the servers for recommendations when ordering. There is a 10 percent kamaaina discount, and on Saturdays and Sundays folks can buy one entrée and get another for half price.


For pau hana, the Bar Grinds menu features an extensive list of pupus and 150-calories-or-less “skinny drinks.” For a “healthy” alternative, try the Superfruit Mojito ($10) made with mangosteen, goji berries, green tea, yuzu and ginseng.

On Friday nights there is a Japanese dinner buffet ($37, $18 keiki). With more than 25 items, the menu includes poke, sushi, chicken katsu with vegetable curry sauce and green tea panna cotta.

If Sunday is spoken for, a weeknight dinner with the family, pupus for two, or an all-you-can eat Japanese dinner buffet are fun ways you can celebrate with Mom. If not, treat her to Kukui’s Mother’s Day brunch ($49.95, $24.95 keiki). Along with an extensive salad bar that includes chopped quinoa salad and an omelet station, the buffet is fully loaded with hot entrées such as pepper-crusted prime rib, king crab legs, zucchini and mushroom kabobs, chicken and Hamakua mushroom hash as well as an array of desserts. And for an additional $7, Mom can enjoy unlimited glasses of champagne.

Open-air dining at Kukui’s

Happy Mother’s Day! Kukui’s Inside the Kaua’i Marriott Resort

3610 Rice St., Lihue 245-5050 Open 5:30-10 p.m. Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. kauaimarriott.com mlane@ midweekkauai.com

Chocolate Lau Lau, a tasty little package