A Review of Kamana Kitchen: Vacationing foodies might be skeptical of the idea of finding top-notch Indian food being served in Hawaii, much less on the largely rural and sometimes insular Big Island.
But somehow, out of the dearth of exceptional ethnic cuisine on the island (besides East Asian food, of course), there is one restaurant found along Ali’i Drive in the town of Kona that offers up a truly authentic Indian culinary experience that could go toe-to-toe with the best of Rome, Singapore, Seattle and even traditional eateries on the subcontinent itself. Kamana Kitchen
That is perhaps the word that lends itself to Kamana Kitchen most: authentic. For those who’ve ever adventured through that part of the world, all it takes is one taste to bring on the nostalgia. The enticing smell of slow-cooking curries, roasting tandoori meats and fresh-baked buttery garlic naan meets diners seated at tables in the small open-air patio found on the first floor of Ali’i Drive’s Waterfront Row Shopping Center.
Servers stream in and out of the adjacent building’s double doors with large silver trays of steaming plates; everything from piles of aromatic rice to stacks of seasoned flatbreads to bowls of stewed vegetables and meats cooked in thick, creamy, colorful sauces. There are biryanis (rice cooked with spices, herbs and nuts) with veggies, shrimp and lamb, as well as fish curries made with coconut milk, and slabs of fried pakora with its seasoned batter and mixtures of cheese, potatoes, meats, herbs and vegetables. For appetizers, both vegetarian and meat samosas are served up with their triangles of crispy pastry and heavily seasoned fillings (think Indian Hot Pocket).
One of Kamana Kitchen’s most popular dishes is the tandoori mixed grill; basically a meat-lovers ideal with an assortment of chicken, lamb, shrimp and kebab marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices and cooked inside a special Indian clay oven known as a tandoor. The portion size of the mixed grill is in essence two meals, especially when combined with side dishes of rice, naan and the green onion, cucumber and yogurt-based side known as “raitha” – traditionally eaten to cool the palate from the hot, spicy tandoori dishes.
The restaurant caters well to vegetarian and vegan diets, too, with dishes likes mixed vegetable curry, the chickpea-based chana masala, and the cumin-heavy cauliflower and potato dish called aloo gobi. Then there’s the host of paneer dishes, made with large juicy chunks of homemade cheese cooked with veggies like peas, spinach and tomato, as well as plates of daal (lentils slow-cooked with herbs and spices).
How To Get There:
Kamana Kitchen can be found right off of north Ali’i Drive on the first floor of Waterfront Row Shopping Center, across the street from the daily Kona Farmers’ Market. Follow the red and orange signs for the restaurant past an open-air jewelry seller until the dining patio with its enclosing white fence comes into view. The dining area is right at the edge of the wharf, offering a great view of the adjacent bay, open ocean and the occasional arriving and departing cruise ship.
Kamana Kitchen is open for lunch from 11:00am to 3:00pm, and then for dinner from 5:00pm to 9:30pm Wednesday through Monday, and is closed on Tuesday. Dine-in, takeout and delivery options are available with typically fast service. A full menu with prices included can be found at https://www.kamanakitchen.com/our-menu/