It was impressive to see all of the fun, new culinary offerings on Lanai, when we visited last weekend.
My husband and I boated over to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and we sure were in for a surprise when we arrived at the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay and started looking around.
For starters, the former Ocean Grill that was poolside overlooking Hulopo'e Bay at Manele was recently renamed Fresco with a whole new Italian concept that is casual and contemporary.
“At our new Fresco restaurant, if it’s a tomato salad, it’s bursting with tomato tastes. If it’s seafood pasta, it’s all about lobster, shrimp and scallops,” says new Executive Chef Kevin Erving. “Nothing is overfussed — just simple and fun. It says, ‘Eat me.’ ”
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Beverage Manager Jeremy Sidman holds the Prisoner pinot noir — all the rage with wine lovers. The Swiss native has also just launched a new cocktail program.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
The last time I was on the island, Hulopo'e Court was the Italian restaurant. Now, it's a bonafide steak house with thick and juicy USDA prime beef, steak fries with truffle aioli, crisp and crunchy salads, seafood and a host of gourmet sauces.
Then we discovered that Manele's Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge has a brand new menu, and Friday happy hour offers 50 percent off pupu and beverages.
I also met up with new Executive Chef Kevin Erving, a native of Seattle who has cooked everywhere from the Windy City of Chicago to Vancouver for the prestigious hotel chain.
At Manele Bay
* Fresco: New contemporary and casual Italian restaurant overlooks Hulopo'e Bay and Manele Bay's pool. Open daily. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner nightly from 6 to 9:30.
* Hulopo'e Court: USDA Prime and wagyu beef and Hawaiian catch are the focus here. Breakfast buffet is served daily from 7 to 10:30 a.m.; and dinner from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
* Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge: From 5:30 to 7 p.m. Fridays, you may enjoy live entertainment and get 50 percent off pupu and beverages.
* Cocktails for a Cause: Buy an organic Treetini made with acai spirit and Four Seasons will plant a native seedling on Lanai.
* For more details: Call concierge at (808) 565-2388.
"Chef Erving is a great addition to the Lanai ohana," says Tom Roelens, general manager of the Four Seasons resort there, which includes both Manele Bay, the Lodge at Koele and the two golf-course restaurants on the small island.
"He is well-respected in the hospitality industry and brings a wealth of experience and vision to our culinary team, particularly with sustainable practices."
Erving says that he uses 65 percent local products on his menus. Big Island Hamakua Alii mushrooms are well-represented, and so are fresh-as-it-gets fish.
"I have a couple of fishermen who call in every day with what they caught," Erving says. "They bring them in, we clean them and cook them up."
Sunday night at Fresco, I savored the fresh onaga. The delicate ruby snapper was baked in a crust of olive tapenade and served over a bed of al dente potato gnocchi with fresh tomato and olive relish. The fish was flaky and aromatic and cooked to perfection by Chef Henry Clay Richardson, who was filling in at Fresco.
Many of you may remember Richardson as the former chef-owner of Hotel Lanai and executive chef of Maui resorts such as the Westin and the old Kapalua Bay Hotel. This high-caliber chef is back on Lanai and he's raising the bar.
Other dishes he prepared that we are still raving about included the Barbabietole of Big Island beets, goat cheese mousse and ruby grapefruit; and the Caprese with heirloom tomatoes, Lanai basil and burrata-a super fresh and milky mozzarella.
"Basically, we've made it so the dishes are available in smaller plates, so you don't feel guilty ordering three courses. The pasta can be your middle course."
Pastas range from lasagna al forno to house-made lobster ravioli in vanilla butter with local seasonal vegetables to seafood pasta in parsley sauce.
Chef de Cuisine Junior Ulep is also back and cooking at the elegant Dining Room at the Lodge at Koele in cool Lanai City. He's another heavy hitter who went to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for awhile.
"He's rejoined our team and doing a really great job," says Erving. "He's got a wine dinner coming up on October 29 with Stoller Vineyards from Oregon with five courses, and a similar experience with Lewis Cellars of Napa Valley on November 19."
Every Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m., there is live entertainment in The Bar in the Lodge at Koele and at Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge lobby level at Manele. You'll find crispy calamari, pulled pork sliders on brioche with crisp onions and guacamole, Mainland cheeses and spicy poke.
The spicy poke is a blend of ahi, salmon, avocado and sesame seeds, and the chef says, "It's out of this world."
While there, you may sip the organic Treetini, part of the new cocktails for a cause program, in which the resort plants a native seedling on Lanai for every Treetini that is consumed.
Food & Beverage Manager Philip Clough, from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the resort's new beverage manager, Jeremy Sidman, from Zurich, Switzerland, have launched a farm-to-table cocktail program and all of the tonics and syrups for drinks are made in-house.
A good time to check out the new food and beverage offerings is Oct. 29 at the Tri Lanai Offroad Sprint Triathalon. "Whether you are a serious athlete or weekend warrior, TriLanai is a fun event that just everyone can enjoy in a unique and inspiring setting," says Roelens.
Kamaaina room rates are valid through Dec. 18, and you get 20 percent off dining. The new, and innovative culinary team will be there, ensuring that you have the best meal experiences ever.