We heard from many locals that ‘ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge was the best restaurant on the Island of Hawaii, so we knew that it was a must stop on our recent trip. ‘ULU is located on the beach at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, but even if you are not a hotel guest, you should make a dinner reservation. The setting is magical, as the waves are lit up by the lights from the restaurant, so you can enjoy the waterfront setting late into the evening.
Executive Chef Thomas Bellec and Chef Chad Yamamoto run this incredible restaurant, and during our visit, Chef Bellec (a native of Brittany, France) sat down with us to share more about what makes this restaurant so special. ‘ULU sources the majority of the fish and produce served at the restaurant from over 160 local farmers and fishermen, and they also get certain fish directly from Japan and New Zealand. For example, the salmon on our sashimi plate was flown in directly from New Zealand, and it was by far the best salmon we’ve ever tasted. It was melt-in-your-mouth perfection — the fish equivalent of a well-marbled wagyu steak. Chef Bellec is working with purveyors who are practicing new sustainable fishing methods right off the island using open-ocean aquaculture. When you fly into Kona, look for the triangles above the water – those are the nets!
In addition to incredible sushi, the ‘ULU team offers inventive fine dining versions and twists on Hawaiian classics. The Ahi “Loco Moco” was a favorite of ours. As Chef Yamamoto explined a traditional Loco Moco is made with white rice, hamburger, and brown gravy. Their version features ahi tartare, a quail egg, kabayaki gravy, and a squid ink crisp. We also loved the roasted Mahi Mahi with brown butter kabayaki and pickled heirloom carrots. Fish isn’t all they serve at ‘ULU. The Berkshire pork belly, with whipped tofu, Hilo corn, edamame, and garbanzo beans was outstanding. We were surprised to find out that there was no actual tofu used in the dish, but instead chef uses tofu ingredients to make the puree in a multi-day processes. Everything was beautiful, inventive, and delicious.
No fine dining experience would be complete without dessert. Ours were two of the most gorgeous pastry creations we’ve seen in a long time, so be sure to save room. Pastry chef Kalani Garcia made a beautiful apple tart using a long thin strand of apple. He explained that he used a specialized mandoline like this to make the apple strand.