Coconut’s Fish Cafe is Bananas. B.A.N.A.N.A.S.
By Vanessa Wolf
In the six relatively short years since first opening, Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kīhei has become a top-rated area restaurant with a burgeoning string of franchised locations on the mainland.
Named after the owner’s cat, the Coconut Shrimp ($10.99) might be shocked to learn it’s not all about them.
Six medium-sized shrimp arrive coated in sweet, shredded coconut and accompanied by a sweet, yet garlicky Thai chili sauce.
The net result is SWEET–intensely sweet–in the realm of coconut cream pie.
There is a fairly well-known secret recipe involving the pina colada base Coco Lopez, and we suspect they’ve got a copy. If your sweet tooth calls the shots, this is one sure fire way to get on its good side.
Meanwhile, the Fish and Chips ($12.99) are not anything you would find in the country that invented them.
If you’re expecting a light, fluffy, beer battered coating, well, bullocks.
Rather, two very thin slices of ono and mahi mahi, respectively, are coated in a heavily seasoned breadcrumb layer and fried, resulting in something more reminiscent of a chicken nugget than a trip to an English pub.
Although a bit dry, it’s probably healthier than the British namesake anyway.
We thought maybe the dish was just misnamed–“Fish Cutlets” lacks sex appeal, but captures the spirit of the flavors rather profoundly–but the accompanying packet of vinegar implies the moniker is intentional.
Not bad, not great; we imagine it often elicits sighs of “this wasn’t what I was expecting.”
The chips more than pull their weight: The pile of slender, well-seasoned fries give a jolly good showing all around.
Service is friendly and helpful, which is admirable considering the restaurant is often a madhouse. Familiar faces from Stella Blues are mixed in the bunch and folks go out of their way to compensate for the often inevitable “finding a place to sit” hiccups.
With limited seating in a fast-food style setting (order at the counter and find a spot to sit) and unparalleled popularity, expect to crash with strangers or take your meal to go.
We ordered our Grilled Mahi Mahi Salad ($15.95) prepared with butter, salt and pepper and served atop a Caesar salad, and boy howdy, did we get that.
The dressing is loaded with Parmesan to the point of being chunky and ladled on avalanche-style.
Sadly, this led to the greens quickly deflating in soggy surrender.
Although we couldn’t discern the more delicate flavor notes through the heavy-handed dressing, the fish was beautifully grilled.
Tender, flaky and extremely generous in portion, this was the hands-down highlight of our dining experience. Better yet? The two accompanying garlicky grilled shrimp.
Ask for your dressing on the side and this is a delightful meal… for two.
Let’s talk about portions.
Serving size is bananas. B.A.N.A.N.A.S.
It’s almost an unspoken theme, a la “go big or go home.”
Don’t believe us?
Bring your crampons and carabiners before you attempt to scale Mount Seafood Pasta ($16.95).
A literal pound of spaghetti is mixed with a garlicky, slightly chunky Alfredo sauce; mushrooms; long strands of onion; capers; a jaw-dropping amount of ono and mahi mahi chunks and two shrimp.
It’s big, rich, heavy and way over the top.
We found ourselves seeking out the chunks of seafood before collapsing in total defeat, the pasta mountain still towering ominously before us.
Although it’s nice to see such generosity, the portions are simply too big. We’d love to be able to order a half-size portion with lower pricing for some of the larger or more popular dishes.
Like the Fish Tacos ($11.95).
At first, you may balk at the cost for what amounts to nothing but two tacos (the menu mentions cole slaw, but we didn’t realize that – or its absence – until just now.)
Then you see how ginormous these things are.
Then you are told that in addition to the ono and mahi mahi, these beastly tacos boast “17 fresh ingredients!” and that you should “eat them with your hands!”
Although you may now be thinking “Thanks for the tip, Captain Obvious,” we’d actually like to see footage of someone eating one of these puppies with their hands without wearing a third of it as a necklace.
Ease of access aside, it’s fresh and flavorful and somehow light despite the copious amount of ingredients (wild guess on the 17 would include mango, cabbage, tomato, cilantro, red onion, mayo, cheese, relish, lemon, dill and maybe coconut mokl… And that’s still six short.)
It’s like a salad bar threw up on a corn tortilla.
In a good way.
Sell it as a salad with a couple accompanying corn tortillas and well, now we’re locked in a love triangle with the Mahi Mahi Salad.
Thanks for nothing, Coconut’s.
And see you soon!
Coconut’s Fish Cafe is located at 1279 S. Kīhei Road in Kīhei. They are open 10 a. m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.