relish oceanside at the westin maui resort: you’ll relish the cuisine at this beachfront gem

Relish OceansideWhen you live Upcountry like I do, having dinner right next to the ocean is a special treat. Dining at Relish Oceanside at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa is about as close to beachside bliss as you can get. Smack dab on the Ka‘anapali Beachwalk, and mere steps from the sea, Relish Oceanside boasts the Maui-style ambiance people crave. And once you dine there, you’ll crave the masterful cuisine Restaurant Chef Jennifer Evetushick and her team produce on a nightly basis.

With more than 15 years of diversified experience in the culinary industry, Chef Jen is extraordinarily passionate about food, and enjoys being creative with different flavors to enhance guests’ dining experience. “My fellow chefs and I occupy the most interesting part of anyone’s vacation or lifestyle—eating!”

Susan and I sink into comfy wicker chairs at our wood slat dining table that’s situated under a canvas canopy. The ambiance is water, water, and more water at Relish: not only are we oceanfront, there’s a coursing waterfall and sparkling aquamarine pools close at hand. Who doesn’t feel instantly soothed and relaxed by the sight and sound of water? Thatched palapa umbrellas complete the tropical mood.

Our server Dalina suggests we begin the evening with Relish’s signature No Ka ‘Oi Mai Tai ($23) which, she says, is concocted with top-notch liquor so you don’t have a hangover the next day. I can’t vouch for Susan, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a Mai Tai, perhaps because I tend to view it as the cliched Island cocktail that’s often overdone at lu‘aus. My friends, Relish’s version is the bomb! Cruzan Pineapple Rum; Grand Marnier; coconut rum; pineapple and orange juices with citrus-infused cane syrup; plus a float of Old Lahaina Dark Rum are expertly blended into a burnished medley of silky goodness. Susan and I are reduced to sitting back in our chairs and murmuring, “Ooooooooh.”

For starters, Dalina has helped us select the ‘Ahi Tostadas ($16) and Turkey Gyoza ($13). The tostadas are composed of rich, creamy, chunks of ruby-red ‘ahi and slices of perfectly ripe avocados, sitting atop crisp wonton rounds, and bathed in a delectable Hawaiian chili pepper aioli. The flavors and textural contrasts are outstanding. For the gyoza, four silky, plump pot stickers filled with turkey and other goodies have been pan-fried to golden perfection. They’re served alongside a tasty kabayaki dipping sauce and edamame that’s been elevated with garlic and citrus.

For round two, Susan and I have chosen the Relish Kale Salad ($10) and Shrimp and Artichoke Flatbread ($16). For the salad, tender, fresh baby kale has been dressed with a pomegranate reduction and red wine vinaigrette, mixed with slices of bright Hawaiian oranges and Asian pears, and garnished with salt-roasted macadamia nuts and maytag blue cheese crumbles. It’s a surprisingly successful marriage of ingredients. The oval flatbread is crisp and nicely blistered from the oven. It’s topped with plump shrimp and succulent artichokes that have been enhanced with lobster bechamel, quattro fromaggio, meyer lemon, and chive pesto. What’s not to love here?

Although Susan and I are no slouches in the eating department, we have to confess it’s time to slow down a bit. So we decide to share an entree: Misoyaki Glazed Salmon ($28). The misoyaki glaze has rendered the tender, flaky salmon to a gorgeous burnt caramel color. It sits atop a lusciously creamy forbidden rice risotto, and is garnished with pohole fern salad, sautéed grape tomatoes, just-right al dente asparagus spears, and zesty sriracha vinaigrette.

For dessert, we’ve selected the Banana Cream Trifle ($10), and it’s the perfect way to end our meal at Relish. Layers of Maui rum soaked vanilla cake, banana slices, and vanilla bean pastry cream are presented in a chilled parfait glass. The sublime creation is sprinkled with teensy little toffee chunks that bring to mind Rice Krispies when you bite them, and finished with a generous dollop of fluffy whipped cream. At this point, Susan and I can only sit back and roll our eyes heavenward.

I caught up with Chef Jen a few days later to chat about her upbringing, cooking background, and what makes her tick as a chef.

The Maui Concierge: Did you cook when you were growing up?

Jennifer Evetushick: I did a lot of cooking with my Russian grandmother. She used to make halupki, halushki, poppyseed rolls, pierogies—very traditional, authentic things. My mom was more of a baker, and I used to love “helping” her. I also started making dinner for the family in 3rd grade to help out my parents.

TMC: What made you decide to become a professional chef?

JE: For me, food has always had great memories and celebrations attached to it. I did some research to see if I could turn my passion into a career. Turns out I could, but I didn’t realize what a crazy journey it would be. Cooking brought me from Philadelphia to Maui. I am one lucky girl!

TMC: Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?

JE: I graduated from the School of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. School was the best time of my life! Classes were grueling because I had to maintain two jobs in the industry while carrying a full class load. Eighteen months of busting my hump paid off, though, and I’d do it all over again in a minute!

TMC: Who is your idol in the culinary world, and why?

JE: David Chang [founder of the Momofuku restaurant group] for his continued creativity and culinary genius.

TMC: What is your favorite ingredient?

JE: I enjoy all fresh ingredients—they’re the best of the best. Fresh fish is the ultimate ingredient. As long as you start with the freshest, best quality product, your final dish will be the best thing you can put on a plate.

TMC: What’s the most essential item in your kitchen, and why?

JE: Professional flat tops, grills, and gas burners. They withstand the demand of our 2,500 daily covers.

TMC: How do you develop new menu items?

JE: It’s a long process of ideas filtered through tastings with the other chefs and managers. We like to integrate things we love to eat here, as well as what we think will appeal to the masses. It’s a hard job to eat and taste that much, but it’s a job perk for sure!

TMC: What do you consider to be your best creation, and why?

JE: Here at Relish Oceanside, it’s the Korean Braised Short Rib Bi Bim Bop. Every ingredient is perfectly balanced and delicious.

TMC: When at home, what do you like to eat? Do you do all the cooking?

JE: I usually do cook, but easy, fast things. I enjoy having guests over and cooking for them. But I enjoy eating out more than staying home. Someone can cook for me anytime!

TMC: There aren’t many female chefs on Maui at your level. How does it feel to be part of such an elite league?

JE: Honored and accomplished. I owe it all to my superiors who invested the time and consistency into my development. It’s not easy—it’s working long hours, missing birthdays and holidays, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. But it’s all definitely worth it!

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Relish Oceanside, serving fresh island fish, delicious steaks, and contemporary cuisine scrumptiously prepared and served in a tropical oceanfront setting, surrounded by waterfalls and blazing tiki torches.

WHERE •

At the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, 2365 Ka‘anapali Parkway, Ka‘anapali.

WHEN •

Relish Oceanside is open nightly for dinner from 5 to 10pm.

HOW •

For reservations: 667-2525;

http://www.relish.reservations@westin.com; or http://www.westinmaui.com.

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