Hotels are like movie stars. Sometimes they need is a bit of a makeover as they get older. A couple of years ago the Kona Kai Resort was in desperate need of a refurbishing, a lovely resort in a gorgeous setting but looking just a little tired. Noble House came in and sunk more money into the refurbish than they spent on the entire resort and recently unveiled their new flagship restaurant, Vessel. Was it a success or is Kenny Rogers saying "I told you not to do it?" Let's see.
Sorry Kenny, this facelift is a winner! The Kona Kai Resort looks fresh and modern, the pool is now a tropical paradise and the bar is simply beautiful and lively with live music most nights. The rooms are also fresh and contemporary and the things we loved about the Kona Kai - the fire pits on the beach, the marina view on one side, Point Loma on the other - still remain but no longer overshadowing the resort itself. Total success!
That said, dining in even the best resorts is sometimes disappointing so when Kona Kai sunk their faith into Vessel and chef Roy Hendrickson you wondered if they bit off more than they could chew. But let's see how they did with their summer tasting menu.
Dinner at Kona Kai's Vessel Restaurant
48 Hour Pork Belly with plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, anise, bitter chocolate was melt in your mouth delicious and the presentation stunningly beautiful. I would marry it if I didn't eat it first, that's how much I loved it. This was paired with a nice Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter. Wait, you want to see the beer?
That's what I'm talking about. Kona Kai has a lot of great beer and cocktail offerings as well as a wonderful wine list so don't be shy, try them all.
Next up was the Roasted Pear with borage flower, Cowgirl Creamery Smoked Bleu Cheese with a fine herb medley and a caramelized black pepper vinaigrette, paired with an Alesmith .394 Pale Ale. This one was so beautiful I didn't want to disturb it. Is it just me or does that look like a painting? Whoops, ate it all.
That pear was going to be hard to beat but the Corn Dusted Albacore with Serrano custard, bacon powder and onion jam was a fine follow up. I'm sorry pear, I've loved you but already forgotten you once I took a bite of this albacore. It's not you, it's me. What was it paired with? Sorry, I totally lost track since I drank all the beer out of order by this point.
I'm getting pretty full and then they have to put down a Dry Aged Ribeye topped with foie gras butter and a bordelaise cause, cooked perfectly and decadently indulgent. Now I know you're thinking "where are the frites?" because that's what I was thinking but look at this oddball side they brought.
That's right, popcorn to go with the steak! And not just any popcorn but a Blue Cheese popcorn that was so incredibly delicious that I hope they offer it as a side in the bar. Please listen to me, I want more popcorn! I really liked how the chef took a huge risk with this one and knocked it out of the park.
As if this wasn't enough there was one more dish, a Confit Game Hen with anise scented couscous and roasted grapes. So. Full. Must. Lay. Down.
In the end it was an amazing meal and proof that Kona Kai Resort is back on the right path and quickly establishing itself as one of the top resort destinations in San Diego, thanks in a big way to Vessel Restaurant. Good job!
And here he is, Chef Roy Hendrickson. All I can say at this point is thank you for a great meal - I'll be back soon!
Come try Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa for yourself and let me know how you liked it - 1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, 619 221-8000.