Since Plantation House merged with Pineapple Grill in January, things have been picking up steam at both Kapalua restaurants.
"I really want Plantation House to become a food and wine destination," says Managing Partner Chris Kaiwi, who runs both restaurants. "We're getting it back on track after the fire here in March 2013. It's really been transformed."
Kaiwi brought on board Chad Hubbard as assistant general manager. He's got a wealth of food and wine experience at several of Wolfgang Puck's Spagos, along with Five Sixty in Dallas and the source in Washington, D.C.
Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez gets ready to pour fresh Napili Flo Farms pea shoot soup tableside as part of his stellar new menu.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Warm Kula strawberry and Simpli Fresh Farms fig cobbler is arranged artfully with vanilla ice cream as part of the Grgich menu.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Grilled tenderloin with rolled zucchini, gorgonzola stuffed peppadew pepper and fig-port demi is off the charts with a 2011 Grgich Zinfandel.
Nighttime manager Michel Roy is another name many of you will recognize from his days at The Ritz and the Mai Tai Lounge.
But it's really Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez who is pleasing diners with his new winemaker dinner series as well as his new spring and summer menu - both off the charts in taste and presentation -and full of fresh, local ingredients.
"I'm really excited that we now have people in the front of the house, who understand the workings in the back of the house," says Kaiwi. "They educate our staff on food and wine pairings, and what certain unusual food items are."
In May, the new monthly winemaker dinner series features Grgich Hills Estate in celebration of the 91st birthday of Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, a Napa Valley, Calif., legend.
Grgich first earned worldwide recognition for the Chardonnay that he crafted for Chateau Montelena, which won the 1976 Paris Blind Tasting, the first American wine to beat the best of France, essentially revolutionizing the wine world.
Grgich then partnered with Austin Hills to open his family winery in 1977. Always committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, Grgich Hills farms five estate vineyards without artificial pesticides or herbicides, relies on wild yeast fermentation and uses passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines.
A repeat visitor to Maui, Grgich has been a beloved participant at many Kapalua Wine & Food Festivals, always sporting a French beret, a sheepish smile and with compliments for the ladies.
"With my five course prix-fixe meal, I pay homage to the legendary winemaker and the great wines of Grgich, while paying respect to Simpli-Fresh Farms white Kadota figs."
The figs are grown on Maui, and all five courses in the wine pairing dinner feature them as a component. When I first saw the menu, I thought it was fig overkill, but NO. Each course was phenomenal and the tastes were masterfully and artfully prepared by Chef Vasquez. We began with roasted fig and Kataifi tartlet with caramelized Maui onion and mascarpone. Kataifi is basically shredded phyllo. Tempura soft shell crab was next with jicama carpaccio, avocado and fig chutney, paired with Grgich fume blanc. The next course was steelhead salmon with cauliflower, sugar-snap peas, tempura prosciutto fig and honey gastrique paired with Grgich chardonnay. The other courses are pictured. The cost for the feast is $75 per person; with wines, $105.
Mark your calendars for June, when Plantation House flows with Silver Oak throughout the month. It will present a Morgan dinner as part of the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival June 15; and in July, David Ramey wine dinners will flow.
"We're trying to make an impact with really good bottle prices," says Kaiwi.
The good news is, the new spring and summer menu may be ordered anytime this season. We loved the Kauai shrimp etouffee with Adoboloco's hot sauce. "Etouffee means to 'smother,' " says Vasquez. "I make a robust stock from the prized local shrimp with heads on. It's served on a scallion-polenta cake with lime creme."
I could eat the shrimp etouffee daily. Ditto for the spring pea soup; the Kumu Farms roasted organic beets in pomegranate syrup and toasted pistachios; and the kampachi tartare with housemade dashi soy with fried shallots and minced chives. Did I mention views? Plantation House dishes up some of the best on island. For reservations, call 669-6299 or visit www.theplantationhouse.com.