Short Pump's West Broad Village and one of the sprawling, still-under-construction development's spiffier new tenants, Kona Grill, are seemingly perfect bedfellows. Just as the former is working toward corralling just about anything one could ever desire into a single convenient campus, the latter — part of a higher-end national chain — is taking a stab at the culinary equivalent by offering its diners everything from sushi and meatloaf to pizza and omelets. Trouble is, juggling too vast an array of cuisines and dishes can easily result in a sea of gastronomic mediocrity, and unfortunately this sleek, spacious West End eatery seems poised to stand as a perfect case in point.
The theme here is "East meets West. They party." And with the regular bustle of the bar and adjoining sun-splashed patio, it's easy to see why. The place hops with thirsty hipsters and business folk alike, particularly at happy hour, when drink specials help take the sting out of what can be fairly steep beverage prices.
Good bar- and patio-area food deals abound as well, thanks to daily specials offered during certain hours (Monday to Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.; Monday to Thursday, 9 to 11 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 10 p.m. to midnight; and Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.). During these times, half-priced appetizers, pizzas and sushi rolls are there for the taking.
My on-the-cheap Kona pizza's enticing mélange of button mushrooms, andouille sausage, roma tomatoes and mozzarella started out with great promise, but ultimately it fell short due to a lackluster crust that was both overly thick and lacking in any sort of yeasty goodness. The accompanying bowl of ranch dip was unnecessary and, frankly, a bit of a surprise to receive since the pie didn't arrive at my front door in a box.
A standout among the gaggle of bargain eats is the pot-stickers appetizer. Plump with chicken and veggies, appropriately crusted on the undersides and served with a piquant soy dipping sauce, they work as a relatively light starter and offer enough for two to share. While appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizzas and entrées dominate the lunch menu, more money-savers can be found then as well. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekday diners are invited to personalize a combo from various soups, salads, sandwiches and sushi.
Piping-hot and generously stocked with tofu, seaweed and green onion, the miso soup (one element of my Japanese-inspired combo) hit the spot. I couldn't say the same for the inside-out spicy-tuna and California rolls: Both sported more rice than filling and were loose, messy victims of a sloppy rolling job. Further worsening matters, the rice was unpleasantly dry and bordered on being crunchy in spots.
Dinner entrées, too, were hit and miss. While the Pan-Asian noodles offered a harmonious marriage of ramen noodles, juicy beef-tenderloin morsels and al dente mixed veggies, they would have been more of a hit had the accompanying black-bean-and-garlic sauce contained a bit less sweetness and a bit more of the advertised bite.
It was in the orchestration of Kona's signature macadamia-nut chicken, however, that the wheels really came off. Apart from the crisp, colorful mixed-vegetable sauté, everything else sharing the plate was a shambles — from the overcooked, desiccated chicken breast and its sparse, mushy macadamia crust to the cloying, out-of-balance mixture of white-cheddar mashed potatoes, salty shoyu cream and pineapple-papaya marmalade. If ever a dish screamed for better execution and less over-the-top blending of ingredients, it was this one.
Working hard to rescue matters at meal's end however, was the terrific passion-fruit crème brûlée. Served in a wide, shallow dish to allow for caramelized sugar aplenty (and ease of sharing), this generous finale was at once wonderfully tart, sweet and ultra-smooth. Popping in again for another and a companion cup of coffee sounds like a good plan.
Cutting such a wide swath into the global culinary landscape is a daunting task indeed, and Kona Grill, at least so far, isn't up to the challenge. Enticing specials, a happening scene and frills such as valet parking at dinner are all fine but can't, in the end, do enough to salvage inconsistently prepared fare, especially when so many menu items run in the $20 to $30 range.
11221 W. Broad St., 364-5660 Prices Lunch: Appetizers and salads, $3.95 to $13.75. Pizzas and sandwiches, $9.50 to $13.95. Entrées, $10.25 to $32.95. Dinner: Appetizers and salads, $3.95 to $13.75. Pizzas, $11.25 to $13.25. Entrées, $12.75 to $32.95. Sunday brunch, $5.25 to $9.95. Hours The dining room is open Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (The bar stays open until midnight every night.)