Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii)

Our last day in Hawaii was a very long Saturday spent touring coffee plantations, doing some light hiking, checking out the old Kona airport and the Kona Brewery, and finding a last relaxing dinner before heading off to the airport for a 10:30pm flight. Earlier in the trip, we had passed Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill on the Kuakini Highway just outside of Kailua-Kona, and it looked like a great place to have a nice, relaxing dinner before watching the sun set.

While the location itself is next to a highway, it’s actually nicely designed, with a long building with wrap-around windows that give the dining area both a nice airy feel and good view of the nearby ocean.

It’s obvious stepping in the door that Jackie Rey’s is quite the popular weekend spot: on a mid-summer Saturday afternoon the place was packed solid, and we were glad I had called in reservations since it was running around a 40 minute wait for those without. But since we had reservations, they were able to quickly seat us at a nice table right by the window where we could see the late afternoon sun. Jackie Rey’s menu leans towards “fine dining”, with a nice blend of both Hawaiian specialties and more traditional mainland entrees, all prepared to showcase locally sources ingredients. They’ve also got a full bar with a nice selection of both cocktails and local beers.

We started out with an order of their rosemary bread. As I mentioned in my review of Kingdom Taproom, I usually don’t both to take pictures of the bread, but Jackie Rey’s had a surprisingly good rosemary bread: nice crumb, a really good crust, and just enough salt and rosemary to give it a nice herb flavor. I guess 2023 has been a year of most excellent bread.

Next up was a lemongrass Caesar. This was basically just a nicely-executed classic Caesar salad, with one nice twist: the addition of a bit of lemongrass. Somewhat offsetting the usual lemon juice, it gave the same basic flavor profile but with a bit of an interesting Asian twist, and was quite delicious.

Carol opted to try out Jackie Rey’s fresh seafood, going for one of their regular specials, the Seafood Trio. Jackie Rey’s constantly adapts this dish based upon season and ingredients, but on this visit, it was a structurally-impressive stack of seared fresh ahi, a crab cake, and a small shrimp kabob, served over a bed of Molokai purple sweet potatoes, and topped with a Thai coconut sauce. Everything here was good: the ahi perfectlly seared, the crab cake one of the better I’ve sampled with a nice crust, the shrimp cooked perfectly. The Molokai sweet potatoes gave a nice sweeter and starchy note to things, and the Thai coconut sauce was nice, bright, and flavorful. This was definitely a winner.

I was in a mood for a lighter meal, and opted for the pasta (probably the first non-Asian noodles I’ve ever had in Hawaii). This was a nice bed of perfectly al dente linguini in a fairly bold garlic sauce, with nice chunk of grilled chicken and shrimp (pretty much the same shrimp as the trio: nicely blistered and seared, still tender inside), served up with a medley of tomatoes, basil, grilled squash and asparagus. Overall, a nicely-composed dish as well.

Jackie Rey’s was a great way to end our trip. The dining room pleasant, the staff extremely friendly and efficient, and the food flavorfully showcasing some of the great local ingredients. I definitely can see why the place was bustling, and would happily come back on another trip.

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