THE RIM AT VOLCANO HOUSE
ADDRESS: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96718
For our sightseeing day to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, my family had initially planned to get some dinner in Hilo on the way back to our resort. After talking to our resort bellhop, however, he made a recommendation to check out The Rim restaurant, located inside the Volcano House. I called up the restaurant that night to find out if they had availability for window seating and, sure enough, a table was available so I got it booked up. This late-breaking dinner reservation meant that we had to re-plan out the entire day backtracking from the reservation time, but everything worked out great in the end.
The Volcano House is actually a hotel that you can stay at right on the state park grounds. It’s convenient if you’d be spending multiple days in the park doing hikes and you’d have a great view overlooking the active volcanic Halema‘uma‘u Crater. Here’s a look at the crater from one of the park’s overlooks:
The menu had several different meat and seafood options to choose from, with the restaurant working to source most of their ingredients locally on the Big Island. We were a little bit hungrier from walking around the park, so we started off the meal with two appetizers: the sashimi sampler and Hawaiian avocado dip. I was trying to dial back on eating meat after taking on the Loco Moco for breakfast that morning, so I decided to give the herb & macadamia nut pesto cavatappi with added tofu a try.
As a quick side note, one thing I would certainly recommend doing if you’re visiting the park is to stay after dark to view the Halema‘uma‘u Crater. The orange glow of the lava begins to reflect off the steam billowing out, making for quite a sight to see. A great place that we were able to view this was from the Jaggar Museum overlook, which is the closest point that you can observe the crater from. They even have a little telescope that you can use to look at the edge of the erupting vent. We got a chance to see some of the molten lava that was splattering around inside the crater; apparently that was only the fourth time since March 2008 that the lava was visible.
Since the restaurant wasn’t all too busy, our appetizers arrived fairly quickly. On the sashimi sampler, the kampachi was smooth and buttery, while the Ahi poke was a good mix between sweet and savory. The avocado dip had a bit of a twist to it from what I’m normally used to, incorporating bits of mango along with the red onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and lime, to bring forward another sweet and savory combo when eaten with the root vegetable chips.
As for my main course, the herb & macadamia nut pesto cavatappi, I thought that it was only okay. The pesto itself could have used a little more salt, and I thought that the amount of vegetables was not balanced with how much pasta there was. The added tofu, however, did have a nice infusion of the pesto flavor into it, and the goat cheese crumbles on top helped to add on another layer of flavor.
You can’t really beat a dinner view of an active volcanic crater; however, I do think that the uniqueness afforded by that location allows them to jack up the prices of their dishes. Given the opportunity to visit the park again, I think that I would skip the restaurant and instead venture back over to Hilo to find another local restaurant to dine at.
Let’s now take a look at the The Rim Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
Herb & Macadamia Nut Pesto Cavatappi
Corkscrew pasta tossed with pesto and organic local vegetables (baby beets, grilled sweet onions, fennel, tomatoes, red bell peppers, squash). Topped with goat cheese and a dash of cream. Pictured above with added tofu.
And finally, here are my rankings for The Rim at Volcano House:
Food: 3.75 / 5
Kind of a mixed bag on the food for me. I thought the flavors of the appetizers were good, but the main course was too underseasoned. The Ahi poke was the item I probably enjoyed the most out of what we ordered.
Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5
With the outward wall of the restaurant made of glass, a giant window was formed overlooking an active volcanic crater. It’s certainly tough to beat a view like that. From the way the tablecloths and silverware were laid out, the restaurant also felt like a more upscale restaurant, even though many diners were dressed in casual clothing from being in the park.
Service: 4.25 / 5
Our waiter John was very nice, coming back multiple times to check back on us during the meal. The food was also quick to come out of the kitchen, which was perfect since we were hungry from walking around the park for a few hours.
Price: 3.75 / 5
The dish prices are going to be higher given the location of the restaurant. That being said, my pasta dish came out to a steep $26, when there really didn’t seem to be any premium ingredients in there. You’re paying more for the view at this point and not as much for the quality of the food.