If you’ve ever enjoyed the County-owned Wailua Golf Course, you know that it’s the best golf value on the Island – and perhaps in America for that matter. Swaying palms, ocean views, and neatly manicured grounds assure to that. And you’ve saved a few bucks playing there on a golf course that has hosted two USGA Men’s Public Links Championships. With that in mind, you might treat yourself to a gourmet dinner just a few miles north at on the Kuhio Highway in Kapaa. The spot of your culinary treat is called JO2. (pronounced jay oh two)
I’ve visited Kauai a handful of times and try to sample a different eatery every night. This changed recently when by chance I happened upon JO2. This is easily the best eatery on the Island and perhaps Hawaii as well – gourmet, and I give it an enthusiastic 5-stars. I broke my habit of dining around and the last day again revisited JO2 – much to my lady’s delight.
Jean-Marie Josselin is the owner/chef and has been called the most innovative chef in Kauai. JO2 transforms Kauai’s natural bounty into exquisite dishes incorporating Kaua`i-grown heirloom vegetables and the freshest ingredients from the sea. You will experience the chef’s native culinary French influences, clean flavors of Japanese cooking, and ingredients inspired by Hawaii’s multi-ethnic community. It is a chic dining atmosphere in the unexpected midst of sleepy Kapaa.
Small gourmet tapas portions will tickle your taste buds. The presentations are superb and fresh chips and tomato bisque comes to your table as you await your prepared foods. We particularly enjoyed the poached scallop ravioli, the Ono ceviche with coconut water foam, and the JO2 Seafood Sampler was exquisite. From the garden, the Jicama “Taco” composed of green papaya, avocado, heirloom tomato, the roasted cauliflower, and crispy duck salad are to die for. The biggest treat is to continue exploring and there is a full bar complete with a host of tasty tropical variations and the usuals.
About the only negatives are that the acoustics are bad. It can get a bit noisy (likely everyone is raving about the food), and there is not enough parking. (Second time around, we had to park a few hundred yards away and hike in the dark, but it was worth it!) The prices are reasonable for the quality and a bit high for the quantity, but quantity eaters will likely be best served by a chain restaurant. Suffice it to say, if you are discriminating with your meals, JO2 is the clear choice and good value.
The service and personnel attend in a most friendly and professional manner, and they are well-versed on all the menu items. Upon sharing our good find, others informed us that the owner has previously had another superb quality offering on the Island. This is a popular smallish establishment where I’d definitely recommend getting reservations. And even though Kauai is oh-so-casual, patrons are definitely a bit more cleaned up and dressed up for their special meal at JO2. And due to its size, it is not a good fit for children.
This is fine dining gourmet style yet a good value. And go slow as you near the small strip of stores on your left heading north. There is nothing on the outside to alert you to the treat that awaits you inside. My next trip to Kauai will definitely include at least one trip to JO2 regardless of where I am playing golf!
Bob Fagan features one of the most interesting backgrounds in travel and golf. Not only it is likely that Bob has played more American golf courses than any living person, he has been an accomplished player and instructor, holds a Ph.D. in Counseling, has been an innovative golf and life coach, PGA Section Executive Director, golf company executive, “Expert Golf Witness,” and, of course, a highly acclaimed travel and golf writer.