Is Everybody Happy? Half-Price Hell

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You'd think Clean Plate Charlie and friends would be chillin' all the time now,  the way restaurants are rolling out the happy-hour specials, even extending our ecstasy well beyond the usual 5 to 7 window. Kona Grill, for example, the national chain offering a menu where "East Meets West: They Party." Their new outpost at CityPlace in West Palm Beach, serves a half-priced happy-hour menu of appetizers, pizzas, and sushi rolls in its lounge daily from 3 till 7 p.m. and then a "reverse happy hour" from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Clean Plate Charlie stopped in late last Friday and bit off way more than she could chew. For some reason, this China Doll was thinking Kona's $4 and $5 dishes were cute lil' "small plates," as sweet and compact as yours truly. It turned out they're in fact regular appetizers for half-price. So when the food started trundling out of the kitchen -- a Kona Pizza for $5.15, an avocado egg roll, calamari, and pot stickers for $4.75 each, and a vegetable roll for $3.15 -- there was barely enough room at the bar table to fit the feast. For about $23, this spread would have comfortably fed six people.

Well, let's revise that. Maybe not so "comfortably." On a scale of 1 to 10, Clean Plate Charlie gives the Kona food a solid 3.5. CPC couldn't, wouldn't, didn't wanna finish it. That paltry score is due in part to Kona's bizarre concept -- not so much an East-Meets-West Party as East Meets West: "It's a Train Wreck."

Take the "avocado egg roll." Some brainiac in corporate must've had the notion that all you need for great food is to combine every possible flavor and texture: crunchy egg roll, soft and creamy avocado, salty sun-dried tomato and pungent red onion, sweet honey-cilantro dipping sauce. What you end up with is a disaster of greasy fried stuff wedded to huge mouthfuls of warm avocado (CPC just wants to throw this out there: warm avocado is gross.)

As for the rest of it, the pot stickers were stuffed with mystery meat (says "pan-seared chicken"; CPS says: tastes like arse, which is to say, cheap soy sauce.) Kona Pizza topped with sliced hot dogs (supposedly "andouille" -- HAH!), canned mushrooms, way too much cheese, on a lousy crust (CPC spied these preformed crusts stacked in a plastic container in the kitchen). Calamari? Only cal was in the calories. A vegetable roll was gummy, but at least it was one thing CPC didn't regret eating.

But hey: At these prices, you could order a bunch of food, drink a $5 Cosmo or a $3.50 Bud Light while you're waiting, take a bite or two of your satay or sliders, then wrap up the massive leftovers to take home to the kiddies. Easy way to feed a big family on a budget! And believe it, they'll get even bigger on this diet! Your porcelain princess is always thinking ahead here. So Aloha a hui hou! (Just practicing, I'll get my Hawaiian foodie fix in Honolulu next time).

Kona Grill
700 Rosemary Ave. (at CityPlace)
West Palm Beach

--As told to Gail Shepherd

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