By Anni Caporuscio
I envy the residents of Kilauea for their wine bar. Palate Wine Bar and Restaurant is in the heart of Kilauea Town, at the site of the old Market. I imagine myself taking an early evening bike ride for a glass and a light meal, enjoying the sunset and the company of friends. Palate is indeed a neighborhood place, and it fills a need on Kaua‘i: the evening conversation.
The wine bar and restaurant itself is a small, intimate footprint with an open kitchen and bottles everywhere. The rustic deep wood is made mostly from upcycled materials, an interesting Old World feel that’s homey and hearty. Owners Matt and Mary Ensdorf (they also own the Kilauea Bistro) dreamed up the Palate on a tour through Europe and put it into action with the leadership of manager Drew Thoeny. Drew carries an extensive history with food and drink and talks passionately about food experiences.
“You break the laws of physics when it comes to food and wine. You introduce more combinations and the flavors multiply,” Drew said. Indeed, my biggest takeaway from my experience at Palate was how eager they are to experiment and encourage experimentation with flavors. They give you the opportunity to mix and match in some of their dishes.
The menu is set up as tapas style; and decently sized so you don’t mind sharing with your friends. They emphasize local goods and they change the menu every three months to account for the availability of certain produce, and also, hey, it’s fun. The menu is populated mostly with finger foods and Mediterranean comfort foods like olives and cheese and pressed meats and crisp bread. Palate features specials every evening: a flatbread, a salad and a soup. They make all of the sauces, dressings, and soups, and also their fruit compote and mustards.
Even if you don’t know wine, you’re still okay at Palate. The wine list is a profile of the whole spectrum of flavor, but Drew talks about wine as a completely subjective experience. How one person describes wine is exclusive to themselves, and what tastes good to someone is what matters. The staff is heavy on the education and they are talkative about regions, grapes, aeration, aging and pairing. The house favorite is currently a natural Tikal from Argentina, a blend of malbec (big and early, fruit forward) and syrah (clean finish) that ends up being a great paring wine for sharp cheese and pork. In a brilliant move, you can purchase your favorite wines directly next door, so you’ll remember what you tasted — novices like me tend to forget after a glass or two.
Palate features a wine tasting every Sunday from 5-6 p.m. It pairs an “amuse bouche” (a mouth amusing bite) with the wines and provides an unmatched education. They have a Coravin system that allows tasters to try amazing wines and maintain a budget. Coravin is a needle that pierces the cork and allows a two ounce pour without oxidizing the whole bottle. Argon gas replaces the liquid that came out. It is brilliant, and we tried a Petit Grand Cru, 2012, a very special wine that inspires me to better education.
“As we become more refined in what we eat and share, we still want a small town feel, not pretentious, serving with aloha,” Drew said.
All in all, Palate wants you to feel comfortable. Thank you, Palate. Find them at www.palatewinebar.net or call 212-1974 for information on events, specials and wine sales.
- Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.