cane & canoe: gracious, refined dining at the montage kapalua bay

CaneCanoeKapalua boasts some of the finest sunsets on Maui. And when you pair a fiery orange and red light show with exquisite cuisine served in a refined, intimate setting, you’ve got yourself a winner in my book. This, my friends, is what awaits at Cane & Canoe—the signature restaurant at the Montage Kapalua Bay.

Situated on the site of the former Kapalua Bay Hotel, the property that was previously the Ritz-Carlton Club & Residences was rebranded in mid-2014 to Montage Kapalua Bay, becoming the first resort in Hawai‘i for this California-based hotel management company. The property underwent a $15 million renovation, converting it from all timeshare to 56 for-sale residences and a 50-room, all-suite hotel.

Viewed from the ocean, Cane & Canoe is a stunning open-air architectural masterpiece reminiscent of a traditional Hawaiian canoe house. Liberal use of rich, warm woods on the A-frame rafters and elegant scrollwork, coupled with woven-textured chairs and canvas market umbrellas, nicely complement the elegant stonework patio and tall pillars. Tables are perfectly spaced—once you’re seated, it feels so serene it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of a resort.

The first thing Janet and I notice when we sit down is how elegant the place settings are: stoneware and plate chargers in earthly hues are accompanied by gleaming stainless steel cutlery in a bamboo pattern. Sparkling glassware sits atop cork discs, and white linen napkins are encircled with copper-colored spiral rings. It’s obvious careful thought went into every element.

Server Nick, from Cleveland, Ohio, brings our menus and a cocktail list. The Kapalua Butterfly ($13), first created as the signature cocktail of the Kapalua Bay Hotel, beckons. It’s concocted with Myer’s dark rum, Maui dark rum, orange, pineapple, coconut, and fresh citrus, and served in a whimsical beige tiki glass embellished with an auburn-haired mermaid. It’s refreshing and fun! Janet has ordered the Puka-Puka Punch ($14): 10 Cane rum, Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, and liliko‘i. The frothy mixture has pleasant lime and spice notes, and is garnished with fresh pineapple and lime wedges.

While we sip our cocktails, Janet and I nosh on some goodies Nick has brought to the table: ‘ulu (breadfruit) hummus to spread on fluffy Moloka‘i sweet potato rolls, and sourdough buns with sweet cream butter and sea salt. We kick back and enjoy the sunset, while musician Scott Baird plays mellow Hawaiian-style music at just the right volume to be a perfect backdrop for the evening.

For starters, Janet and I have chosen the Cane & Canoe Hamachi Poke ($23) and the Calamari “Chow Fun” ($19). Served on ice and accompanied by crisp fingerling potato chips, the poke contains luscious nuggets of tender hamachi, and is finished with a dollop of briny caviar and creamy chunks of avocado. We quickly devour it, using gleaming stainless steel chopsticks as our instruments.

The “Chow Fun” is composed of calamari “noodles,” sautéed kale, bean sprouts, charred scallions, and slices of spicy lap cheong (Chinese sausage). We find it to be a masterpiece of opposing textures that attract each other perfectly.

Rather than order salads, Janet and I skip right to the main course, while keeping an eye on some appealing vegetable side dishes we plan to order as accompaniments. We take a “surf and turf” approach to our entrees: Janet opts for the Tempura ‘Ahi Tuna ($42), while I go right for the beef—Maui Coffee Crusted Beef Tenderloin ($47). For our sides, we’ve selected Brussels Sprouts ($9) and Kula Corn ($8).

The tempura ‘ahi is a beautifully composed dish. Glistening ruby-red rectangles of meaty fish have been deep fried in tempura batter that remains crisp (how do they do that?) while Janet happily consumes it. It’s like a seafood version of Beef Wellington. The ‘ahi sits atop smothered kale and a rich, decadent foie gras nage (broth), and is accompanied by sautéed shimeji (Japanese mushrooms) and asparagus spears. It’s a wondrous blend of complex flavors.

My beef tenderloin is spectacular as well. Seared to a perfect medium rare, the steak is juicy and tender, indicating it was both properly cooked and rested prior to being served. The Maui coffee crust lends a burnished quality and pleasant charred flavor to the meat. “Bourbonized” Maui onions, a blue cheese “pain perdu,” and a serving of fresh mixed greens round out this soul-satisfying dish.

Speaking of spectacular, let’s talk about the side dishes. The Brussels sprouts are like nothing Janet and I have ever tasted: tender sautéed sprouts are combined with macadamia nuts for crunch and a hint of sweet, while horseradish provides just the right amount of kick without being overpowering. The Kula corn is a take on Mexican street corn, but it’s served off the cob so it’s easier to eat (and it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth!). The flavor combination of corn, chili pepper, and one of my favorite cheeses in the whole world—cotija—is positively addictive.

The man behind the food, Executive Chef Riko Bartolome, stops by to make sure we’re enjoying our meal, which, we assure him, we are indeed. Chef Riko graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1989, then began his career at the Hyatt Regency Aventine in La Jolla, California. After various Mainland stints, Chef Riko was tapped to open Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a at what was then the Grand Hyatt Wailea. But Southern California wooed him back, and he and his wife and business partner Kim opened their own restaurant, Asia Vous in 2004, which they operated for three years.

“Some patrons of Asia Vous tapped me to move back to Maui to be their private chef,” Riko tells us. “I always knew I’d return to Maui some day.” So from 2007 to 2014, this talented culinary artist had an opportunity to try out recipes and source local ingredients. “I refer to my cooking style as ‘classic with modern twists,’” he says. At Cane & Canoe, Chef Riko strives for “the thoughtful balance of land and sea, from mauka to makai, as a reflection of modern Hawaiian cuisine.”

For dessert, Pastry Chef Tomoko Nohina offers a nice selection of confections ranging from Buttermilk Malasadas ($12) to Liliko‘i Panna Cotta ($14). Chef Riko had told us the malasadas were adapted from the recipe utilized at famed Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu, but are made with buttermilk instead of half and half. They’re served in a white Cane & Canoe logo “bakery box” with two scrumptious dipping sauces: maple-bacon caramel and mocha. The liliko‘i dessert features two Waialua chocolate sponge cakes, each topped with a quenelle of delightful liliko‘i panna cotta, accompanied by pistachio duxelle, mint gel, and fresh strawberries.

Cane & Canoe offers creative after-dinner drinks such as the Hawaiian Salted Caramel (Maui dark rum, house-made caramel syrup, Maui coffee, and Hawaiian sea salt—$14) and the Black Pearl (Koloa dark rum, Kahlua, Frangelico, Maui coffee, and whipped cream—$14). Their brewed coffee ($5) is roasted locally by Maui Oma.

Cane & Canoe is a welcome addition to the Kapalua dining scene, and well worth the drive to Maui’s outer reaches.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Cane & Canoe, a fine dining restaurant serving modern cuisine that celebrates Hawai‘i’s diverse cultural influences, while showcasing its freshest, locally sourced ingredients.

WHERE •

Inside the Montage Kapalua Bay,

located at One Bay Drive in Kapalua Resort.

WHEN •

Breakfast is served daily from 7 to 11am; dinner is daily from 5 to 9pm. The bar is open daily from 5 to 11pm, with Happy Hour from 8 to 11pm, and food service available from 5 to 10pm.

CHEF •

Executive Chef Riko Bartolome.

HOW •

For reservations: 662-6681;

http://www.montagehotels.com/kapaluabay

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