RumFire Is Heating Up Po‘ipu

The Sheraton Kauai Resort in Po`ipu opened three new restaurants last November after spending $13 million dollars in renovations. The popular oceanfront luau has returned, and you can learn more in an upcoming article. RumFire, the signature restaurant, boasts two 10-seat communal tables fronting an open kitchen with a brick oven.

Recessed into a low ceiling, “C” shaped blue track lights arch around picture windows. A 180-degree view of the ocean includes Poi`pu Beach, and palm trees that burn as they dip into the sunset.

Sister restaurant RumFire Wakiki offers more than 100 rums. At RumFire Kauai, there are 15, and disappointingly, no Koloa Rum. My spirits are lifted however, when I take a sip of the RumFire Mango Mojito ($8) made with freshly pureed mango, and loads of mint.

Executive chef Leanne Kamekona incorporates ingredients that are usually found at a potluck. A high-end potluck that is. Breadfruit, taro and pohole (fiddlehead fern), meet li hing mui, Portuguese sausage and sea asparagus. Mango, lilikoi, and pineapple are combined with fresh fish, shrimp and beef, that’s accented with savory sauces and fiery rubs.

Kamekona was born and raised on the Big Island, and she’s the only female chef I’ve met on Kaua`i. Her pedigree is as big as her heart. When I meet her, she wraps her tall frame around me, and gives me a warm hug. As we walk to a quiet table in the back, Kamekona stops to talk story with diners from Hanapepe. As I take my seat, I hear her cheerful laugh. Looking out the windows, a rainbow springs from the ocean.

The menu features three types of flatbreads, fresh from the brick oven. The Pipikalua ($15) is filling, and loaded with peppery beef, juicy cherry tomatoes, Kula onions, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and Parmesan cheese.

Kamekona’s Big Eye Tuna ($16) is spicy and unique. Three generous slices of raw tuna are topped with slivers of fiery serrano chili peppers, a drizzle of basil oil and citrus, and a sprinkling of crunchy Hawaiian sea salt. Surprisingly, the salty tang of Kunana Dairy feta cheese marries beautifully with the fish.

Hawaiian brown sugar and dried chilies are baked into crisp bacon slices that top the Bacon and Beets Salad ($13) made with Kilauea beets and arugula. Nuggets of Kunana Dairy feta cheese cling to a creamy honey dressing and complements the sweet beets. Baby corn shoots garnish the top, adding a playfully sweet component.

As some of you may know from reading this column, my mother is from Barcelona, Spain, where paella is the national dish. I’ve savored my aunt’s ambrosial paella, filled with plump grains of flavorful rice, and I’ve politely eaten gummy renditions, made by friends of my aunt. This dish is easy to mess up. RumFire’s Hawaiian Paella ($27) is delicious. Loaded with chunks of freshly caught fish and shrimp, the tender rice is cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce spiked with Portuguese sausage, corn and chayote squash.

Kamekona won best seafood dish at this year’s Taste of Hawaii with her Crab Crusted Opah ($28). Opah is naturally rich and buttery, and she combines this with sweet crab, and a rich sauce. This triumphant dish is one wicked indulgence.

Six Taro Malasadas ($10) rolled in cinnamon sugar surround a cup of warm local honey. Two bites, and the chewy balls quickly disappear.

RumFire’s ocean view, fresh cocktails, unique menu and reasonable prices offer an upscale taste of Kaua’ithat can be experienced on any occasion.

RumFire 2440 Hoonani Road, Koloa
Dinner 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.