three’s bar and grill: wailea-style cuisine at kihei prices

Three's Photo ShootIt’s especially gratifying when young entrepreneurs do well. Such is the case with the three talented chefs behind Three’s Bar & Grill in Kihei’s Kalama Village: Jaron Blosser, Cody Christopher, and Travis Morrin.

I first dined at Three’s in January of 2011, when they’d been open for just under a year. Since then, the talented trio has celebrated their fifth anniversary, and their enterprise has expanded to include a food truck, located daily at Kihei Market Place, plus three out of the four Maui First Friday events and Saturday’s Swap Meet at UH Maui College; Three’s Bottling & Spice Co., offering delectable creations such as Mango Habanero Hot Sauce and Pineapple & Chipotle Chutney; and a partnership with Pacific Whale Foundation as the official caterer for PWF’s sunset dinner cruise offered nightly from Lahaina. And if that isn’t enough, they still operate their original catering business, which is how they got their start in 2009. Shoots…I’m exhausted just writing about how busy these guys are!

It’s a pleasant mid-winter evening when Charles and I arrive at Three’s. We’re seated on the spacious lanai in the shade of a ginormous monkeypod tree, while the ever-popular Bradda Francis plays his guitar and serenades the appreciative array of guests finishing up Happy Hour or, as in our case, beginning an early dinner. With his engaging voice and 300-watt smile, Bradda Francis pays tribute to the late, great Don Ho with his own rendition of “Tiny Bubbles.”

Server Sarah brings menus and helps with beverage selection. When Charles asks, “What do you have that’s non-alcoholic?” Sarah doesn’t miss a beat: “Whatever we don’t put it in!” Three’s selection of homemade flavored lemonades sounds tempting, so Charles opts for the strawberry version ($4). I lean towards the savory side of the cocktail spectrum, so Sarah recommends for me the Cucumber & Ginger Collins ($11), described thusly on the drink menu: Bombay Sapphire blesses this gorgeous collins created with fresh Upcountry cucumber and freshly manicured Big Island ginger, bruised to perfection with lime juice and a white cane sugar reduction strainer over ice, capped with seltzer and an aromatic ginger accoutrement. Someone had a lot of fun creating the cocktail descriptions at Three’s!

As we sip our delicious drinks, we nosh on a basket of munchies: a mixture of crunchy tortilla, potato, and taro chips served with a killer smoky chipotle salsa made by Chef Cody, the Southwestern flavors member of the Three’s culinary triad (Chef Jaron is the Pacific Rim guy, and Chef Travis is the “home boy” who specializes in Hawaiian cuisine), while Bradda Francis croons Bobby Vinton’s “Roses are Red (My Love), to get us all in the mood for Valentine’s Day, which is coming up in a few days.

Last year the three chefs beefed up their menu, so to speak, with more sushi choices, plus several ramen dishes. When Chef Jaron stops by, he makes some recommendations based on what he says have become customer-favorite, must-try specialty items (denoted with a wave icon on the menu). Never ones to argue with the expert, Charles and I decide on the Rock ‘n’ Roll sushi roll (unagi, cucumber, and avocado, topped with ‘ahi, spicy aioli, unagi glaze, negi [Japanese onion], and tobiko [flying fish roe]—$15.95). When Sarah brings it to our table, it’s one of the most lovely sushi creations we’ve ever set our eyes on. “The owners give our sushi chefs free rein, and they keep coming up with amazing creations like this!” Sarah enthuses.

The sushi roll is divided into eight luscious segments, each bursting with uber-fresh ingredients nestled underneath a blanket of succulent ruby-red ‘ahi, and topped with salty tobiko. It’s presented on a slab of black granite, which nicely accentuates the roll’s gorgeous colors. And it tastes even more amazing than it looks! Nicely done, sushi chefs.

When Sarah brings our next course—Tropical Salad (Ha‘iku organic mixed greens, local mango, Maui Gold pineapple, avocado, and baby heirloom tomatoes, dressed with cilantro-smoked chili vinaigrette, and studded with li hing mui candied macadamia nuts [$10.50])—it’s also a veritable work of art. Vibrant and juicy red, yellow, and orange chunks of goodness are interspersed with the freshest of greens, and the mac nuts add the perfect crunch element. The nicely balanced vinaigrette brings it all together. You can also order this salad as an entree with four coconut shrimp for just $4 more.

Bradda Francis finishes his set with the heartfelt “You’re the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me,” while Chef Travis stops by our table. When we express our congratulations on Three’s achieving their fifth anniversary, Travis beams, saying, “We really feel like we hit a milestone last week.” They did, indeed.

For our entrees, Charles and I are dying to try some ramen. He’s selected the Flat Iron Steak ($22.95), while I’ve chosen Three’s Traditional Ramen ($16.50). When the dishes are brought to our table, we pause for a moment to take in their beautifully presented steamy goodness. Three’s uses ramen noodles from Maui’s very own Iwamoto Natto Factory in Pa‘ia, and they’re cooked to a slightly toothsome doneness.

Charles’s entree is composed of tender, medium-rare slices of truffle-yaki marinated flat iron steak, sautéed local kale, oyster mushrooms, baby heirloom tomatoes, garlic, and balsamic sesame caramelized onions over ramen noodles. Every bite is an explosion of umami. My ramen bowl features smoked pork shoulder, braised local kale, six-minute egg, kim chee shitake mushrooms, nori, and green onion, and a spectacular soy pork dashi broth. What’s not to love here?

Musician Joshua on Maui has taken the “stage,” and opens with John Cruz’s ode to island living, “Island Style.” Joshua’s Barry White-esque baritone voice is positively mesmerizing. Charles and I decide on Macadamia Nut Bread Pudding with Bananas Foster sauce ($12.95). While Joshua performs a sultry version of “White Bird in a Golden Cage,” Charles and I happily dig into our pudding. Its custard-like texture is lusciously creamy, and it’s not overly sweet, which makes it the perfect finale to a predominately savory meal.

As Charles and I are finishing up our dessert, Chef Cody stops by with samples from Three’s Bottling & Spice Co. We remark on how the menu at Three’s has matured over the past four years. “We read a lot,” he says. “Successful chefs keep current on culinary trends and dine at good restaurants to see what others are doing.” Charles and I think the three chefs at Three’s have blossomed into seasoned restaurateurs who are doing things just right.

Three’s Bar & Grill’s Surf Lounge rocks with live entertainment Tuesday through Friday evenings (dancing Wednesday through Friday), with local entertainers like Katy Williams on piano, Salsa Night with Barbara and Ernesto, and Louise Lambert playing jazz. “Live entertainment adds to the island style of our restaurant, and we’re proud to support local musicians,” says Chef Jaron.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Three’s Bar & Grill, where three chef friends serve up sophisticated menu items incorporating three different styles of cuisine: Hawaiian, Southwestern, and Pacific Rim.

WHERE •

In Kihei’s Kalama Village, 1945 S. Kihei Rd., Suite G.

WHEN •

Three’s is open for breakfast, lunch, Happy Hour, and dinner Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 10pm; Saturday and Sunday 8am to 10pm.

HOW •

879-3133; threesbarandgrill.com.

 

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