son’z steakhouse at the hyatt regency maui: new menu, new look, still first class

BW_SONZ_06One of Maui’s most romantic dining experiences has recently undergone a profound transformation: Son’z at Swan Court at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Ka‘anapali is now Son’z Steakhouse, offering a brand-new elevated menu focusing on classic steakhouse dishes, as well as popular standouts from sister restaurants Nick’s Fishmarket and Sarento’s on the Beach.

Charles and I feel positively regal as we descend the dramatic curved staircase leading from the Hyatt’s lobby level down to Son’z. The restaurant’s interior has received a complete renovation: earth-toned woven shades, exotic tortoise-shell, and carved driftwood wall panels all tie together in an abstract, contemporary Hawaiiana theme.

After being seated, we are greeted by dining room manager Angela Eades, who remembers us from previous visits. “I’m really excited about our new menu,” she says. “We’ve added some great new appetizers, plus signature items from our sister restaurants. The side dishes are all ample portions, served family style.”

We begin the evening with beverages: Island Essence green tea for Charles and a Lemon Drop martini for me (Ketel One Citroen Vodka, Triple Sec, rock candy, and fresh citrus juice). We settle into our chairs and take in the soothing ambiance—what is it about dining near a lagoon and waterfall that lulls you into a state of utter relaxation? Soft jazz music from days gone by playing in the background provides the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Son’z and its sister restaurants are renowned for having some of the finest, and most extensive, wine lists on the island. At Son’z you can peruse 21 pages of wines “selected by our staff because of their unique qualities, terrific value, and global notoriety.” And the stunning mahogany-framed glass walled wine cellar, with its tumbled marble floor and exotic tortoise-shell chandelier, is the focal point of the restaurant.

We watch as swans glide silently over the glassy lagoon, and notice some new animal pals have taken up residence: a flock of ducks waddles around the “neighborhood,” between periodic dips into the inky water. In the background, a sailboat floats lazily by, seemingly disappearing into the sunset.

Charles and I are escargot fanatics, and are ecstatic when server Miko brings our steaming bowl of goodness to the table. Son’z version of escargot ($15) resembles French onion soup. It’s prepared with six French escargot, white wine, housemade garlic butter, and shaved parmesan, and served with buttery, cheesy garlic toast. After devouring the six tasty morsels, we mop up the decadent sauce with garlic toast.

One of the ducks (we find out from Angela the restaurant staff has named him “Huey”) decides to go holoholo from the lagoon. He saunters up to each table quacking for tidbits. When it’s our turn, Huey comes right up to our table, eyeing our bread plate. As he continues making his rounds, displaying proper restaurant etiquette, the keiki at the next table giggle and take Huey’s picture. This duck really knows how to work a crowd.

Charles and I are ready to dig into our salads: Beet & Farro ($14) made with organic Upcountry beets, farro, goat cheese, and baby arugula—it’s dressed with pomegranate vinaigrette; and The Wedge ($13), a classic steakhouse salad composed of iceberg lettuce, avocado, Olowalu beefsteak tomatoes, and succulent crispy pork belly, with a creamy gorgonzola dressing. The beet & farro salad is presented beautifully with a farro, goat cheese, and arugula medley garnished with watercress in the middle of the plate, surrounded by medallions of roasted red and golden beets. It’s a delightful explosion of flavors and textures. We expected the wedge salad to be on the heavy side, but the creamy gorgonzola dressing is subtle, allowing the fresh flavors of the vegetables to shine through. And the pork belly is a pleasant alternative to the usual bacon bits served at most steakhouses.

“All of Son’z steaks are hand rubbed with Hawaiian salt and cracked pepper, and finished with Maitre D’Hotel butter.” Just reading that statement on the menu makes Charles’s and my mouths water. Son’z offers a choice of five different sauce accompaniments: béarnaise, brandy-peppercorn, chimichurri, Son’z Mauishire steak sauce, or Meyer lemon beurre blanc. Charles has selected the prime New York steak (14 ounces—$41), while I can never resist filet mignon (10 ounces—$39). For sides we’ve chosen grilled asparagus ($12) and potatoes au gratin ($10).

After sunset, Son’z takes on a bronze glow, kicking the romance factor up a few notches.

In preparation for the serious meat eating to come, Miko has brought us gorgeous Tramontina “Porterhouse” steak knives with Brazilian rosewood handles. These knives are the “real deal,” and the finely finished handles are oh, so smooth in our hands.

Both of our steaks are cooked to a perfect medium rare. Charles has chosen the brandy-peppercorn sauce—it’s bold, full-flavored, and stands up well to the robust New York steak. I’m a fan of sauce béarnaise, and this one doesn’t disappoint—rich, buttery, herbaceous, and classically French—it’s the ideal complement to a tender and juicy filet.

Our asparagus spears have been grilled to a superb al dente, and they’re nicely seasoned. The potatoes au gratin is a square of layer upon layer of sliced potatoes that have been rendered perfectly tender in the oven. A homemade potato chip stands sentry in the middle.

Those who shy away from steak can choose from other offerings such as New Zealand rack of lamb ($42), double chicken breast ($29), spiny lobster tail ($55), or fresh mahi mahi ($38). Complete plates from Son’z sister restaurants are Nick’s Fishmarket Maui Island Snapper ($38) and Sarento’s on the Beach Spaghetti & Snake River Kobe meatballs ($34).

Huey the duck returns to the dining room for his second round of mingling with the guests. Unfortunately for him, the pickings are slim, so he retreats to the lagoon and, along with the bevy of swans, heads out in to the darkness to do whatever water fowl do at night.

Son’z offers regular desserts as well as “liquid desserts.” Tiramisu ($12) seems a fitting end to a dinner suited for a king and queen. Made with Kahlua, dark rum, and espresso-soaked lady fingers, mascarpone cheese, and cocoa powder, this sweet treat is garnished with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and decorated with a cookie wedge that tastes just like an ice cream cone. The tiramisu is creamy and decadent—just like it should be.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I’m driving home, I’d have ordered a glass of Sandeman 20-year Tawny Port ($17). I’m a sucker for a good port, and Sandeman is one of the finest with its light intense body, and aromas of vanilla and dried fruits. Ah, next time….

Son’z founder/CEO Aaron Placourakis was raised around great food. And like all Greeks, he was instilled with the belief that family isn’t just limited to close relatives, but to anyone who’s gathered around the table. This uncompromising style has been the key to the success of his restaurants for 35 years.

–heidi pool

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