monkeypod kitchen by merriman in ka‘anapali: business is brisk at new whalers village location

Chef/Restaurateur Peter Merriman seemingly has the Midas touch. With 30 years of creating memorable meals in Hawai‘i under his belt, and 10 successful restaurants sprinkled throughout the four major islands, you never know what to expect next from this culinary giant.

Chef Peter’s latest venture, with his Handcrafted Restaurants brand partner Bill Terry, is Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman at Whalers Village in Ka‘anapali, which opened this past October adjacent to another of the chef’s enterprises, Hula Grill. It joins two other Monkeypod Kitchens—one in Wailea, and the other in Ko Olina on O‘ahu—whose motto is “Lucky Live Hawai‘i.” Amen. Monkeypod’s mission is to be “a place where foodies, beer lovers, and families ­­­escape the stress of their day-to-day lives by enjoying an ice-cold beer and a great meal while surrounded by people who consider them honored guests and friends.”

To say that the space which formerly housed restaurants like D. K. Kodama’s Maui Fish & Pasta, and before that Jerome E. Metcalfe’s Rusty Harpoon, has been remodeled would be a gross understatement. The transformation is positively astonishing! The sizeable expanse has metamorphosed into a sleek, industrial-chic version of the Monkeypod concept, softened by liberal use of wood and Monkeypod’s trademark upholstery fabric that’s bursting with cheerful flowers in bright, colorful hues. A ginormous bar, that must seat at least 30 patrons, runs along the shopping center side of the restaurant. Seating is mostly indoors, with some tables outdoors that are protected by stylish canopies. And, of course, there’s the spectacular ocean view out front, complete with swaying palm trees in the foreground and the neighboring island of Lana‘i looming in the background.

The ambiance at Monkeypod Ka‘anapali is lively the evening Janet and I dine, with the bar seating fully occupied, several long tables accommodating large groups in the mood to party, and numerous smaller parties seated at four-tops. Server Robert tells us he transferred to the Ka‘anapali Monkeypod from Wailea, along with Executive Chef Corey Waite, and eight others to help “instill the culture of our brand.”

Handcrafted culinary cocktails are $14 apiece, and The White Walker catches my eye: Aviation American Gin, crème of coconut, lime, lemongrass-cardamom syrup, and kaffir lime. This heavenly white concoction is served in a playful tiki glass, garnished with a slice of that kaffir lime. The limey notes render it surprisingly refreshing, and I like it waaaaaay too much. Janet has opted for a glass of Anthem Cherry Cider, a craft beer that’s finished with Oregon cherries, which she finds to be delightful.

We begin with Poke Tacos ($21.95). Chunks of glistening ruby-red raw ‘ahi are served in oh-so-crisp wonton shells, topped with generous dollops of a dreamy avocado cream sauce, and finished with ginger, shoyu, and cabbage. Each bite is an explosion of flavors and textures, and a squeeze of fresh lime takes it over the top.

I’m a sucker for deviled eggs, and Monkeypod’s version ($16.95) features farm-fresh eggs and Big Island lobster. No, that isn’t a typo. They are quite possibly the most decadent deviled eggs on the planet! Fluffy egg yolks mixed with my favorite condiment— mayonnaise—are topped with tender, succulent morsels of lobster. Flecks of fresh dill bring it all together.

Next we dive into the Avocado & Cucumber Salad ($13.95), composed of organic greens, tomato, Maui onion, jalapeno, cilantro and, of course, avocado and cucumber, all dressed with a chili-lime vinaigrette. It’s like a garden party in the mouth with a subtle spiciness that makes our lips buzz in a good way. A triangle of uber-yummy focaccia bread helps cool things down.

For the main event, we’ve chosen the Banh Mi Burger ($13.95) and Pete’s Fresh Fish & Chips ($23.95). The burger is a juicy and flavorful ginger soy-glazed Maui beef patty, topped with sliced tomato and cucumber, cabbage, cilantro, and sriracha, and served on a pillowy house-baked Portuguese sweet bread bun. Alongside are tangy kim-chee style pickled vegetables. The fish portion of the fish & chips is two generous hunks of day-boat, troll-line-caught mahi mahi fried up tempura style, sitting atop a pile of golden-brown chips (fries), with ramekins of ketchup and a dangerously addictive malt-vinegar aioli.

Dessert offerings are straightforward: four different pies by the slice—strawberry, banana, chocolate, and coconut ($9.95 each)—and Tropical Dreams Gelato & Sorbet ($6.95). Unfortunately, we didn’t follow the instructions on the menu to “save your fork for pie,” but I’ve previously had the pleasure of indulging in a slice of Monkeypod banana cream pie at the Wailea location. I still remember it as being the stuff dreams are made of.

Peter Merriman has done it again with yet another culinary success story. “We believe simple can be great, and the passion that goes into our handcrafted food and drinks is the most important ingredient,” he says.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman in Ka‘anapali, where foodies, beer lovers, and families escape the stresses of their day-to-day lives by enjoying an ice-cold beer and a great meal.

WHERE •

In Whalers Village Shopping Center on Ka‘anapali Parkway. Parking validations available.

WHEN •

Open daily 11am-11pm. Happy Hours are daily 3-5:30pm and 9-11pm.

HOW •

Reservations highly recommended: 878-6763; monkeypodkitchen.com; opentable.com.

 

 

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