Dad’s Day At Oasis On The Beach

A lot has changed since I wrote about Oasis on the Beach in the Jan. 26, 2011, issue of MidWeek Kaua’i. The farm-to-fork restaurant still showcases local produce, fish, pork and grass-fed beef, but there’s a new cocktail menu, a new executive chef, live music and pupu specials Wednesday nights and, as with every holiday, a special menu for Father’s Day.

Nestled along the Pacific in the back of Waipoli Beach Resort, you can relax outside and gaze at the ocean a few yards away. The cocktail menu changes seasonally, and if you’re there for happy hour, the $10 “Signature Cocktails” cost $5.

Today, mixologist Joel Downs has five hand-crafted spirits, as well as 15 house-made syrups, juices and elixirs behind the bar. In the three years he’s been at Oasis, about 85 house-made cocktails have been created.

Kaua’i-grown botanicals, cucumber and citrus infuse the “bathtub gin” that’s used in the Ka’ukama Gimlet ($12). Muddled cucumber is added along with elderflower liqueur and Triple Sec for a light, bright summertime cocktail. Downs also is working on a green tea soda with melon-infused bourbon for summer.

Mai Tais are typically made with canned pineapple juice, but not the Classic Mai Tai ($12) at Oasis. Made with three rums, Trader Vic’s Mac Nut Liqueur, Triple Sec, lilikoi, rosewater and house-made orgeat, it’s smooth and well-balanced.

“I learned how to make cocktails at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle,” says Downs, who was born and raised on Kaua’i. “We were the No. 3 ale house in the world and the No. 1 Scotch house in the U.S. That’s where I learned to build cocktails with fresh, local ingredients and not use any premade simple syrups or mixes.”

Downs, along with managing partner Stefan Mandel and executive chef Matthew Owens, shop at the Kapa’a farmers market every Wednesday. While Downs looks for cocktail ingredients, Mandel buys exotic flowers and Owens piles on the produce.

“The first time I went to that market, it blew me away,” says Owens. “There’s nothing but farmers!”

Before Oasis, Owens was at Vintage Cave in Honolulu. He cooked under executive chef Chris Kajioka, who’s cheapest menu item is a six-course tasting at $195. Prior to Oahu, Owens cooked in Portland, Ore., which he calls the poster child for farm-to-fork dining.

“Ranchers brought whole lamb to me in the back of a pickup truck, and farmers would drop off beets with dirt still on them,” recalls the young chef with a set of knives tattooed on the inside of his forearm.

“Kaua’i is the first place that I’ve been to that comes close to Portland,” explains Owens, “and it’s really close.”

Owens says burgers are big in Hawaii, but he resists offering them because they are difficult to source locally. Despite this, he’s put one on the lunch menu ($15) and 98 percent of its ingredients are sourced on Kaua’i.

Sweet onions from the farmers market are cut into thick slices and deep-fried. They are piled on top of an A’akukui Ranch burger that’s slathered with Kaua’i Kunana Dairy goat cheese and Rick’s Hawaiian Gold Mustard. Kailani Farm arugula is added, and the whole thing is tucked between brioche buns made by Passion Bakery in Kapa’a.

Per my request, Downs makes a cocktail to complement the burger. I have no idea what I’m getting, but I feel safe in his hands. I’m not disappointed. The spicy martini with charred fresh ginger, Hawaiian chili pepper-infused vodka, Orange Curacao and elderflower liqueur is garnished with a flamed orange peel “to add a smoky flavor.”

Full plates and half portions always are available, and the menu includes a straightforward bowl of saimin ($15 half/$28 full). The light broth is rich in flavor and studded with peppery scallions. Sweet pickled carrots and blanched baby bok choy sit on a pile of chewy noodles and slabs of seared opah rest against the side. A soft-cooked egg is placed on top and garnished with black and white sesame seeds.

“I believe in the simplicity of good food and the goodness of simple food,” says Owens. “Why source amazing products like we do and cover it up?”

This Father’s Day there are three specials that include a Kaua’i Shrimp Bloody Mary shooter for all dads. The All Day Special ($17) features Bass or Longboard lager beer with a burger and fries; dinner features hand-cut rosemary pasta with Omao lamb meatballs and tomato ragu ($18), and brunch features a side of bacon, and Eggs “Clyde French” ($13) with Kaua’i tomato ragu over Passion Bakery sweetbread toast.

Oasis on the Beach Waipouli Beach Resort, 4-820 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa 822-9332 OasisKauai.com

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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