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Good Eats: Mauka Makai

From the mountains to the sea, Mauka Makai is a new contemporary Hawaiian restaurant located at the recently opened Westin Nanea Ocean Villas. With a passion for paying tribute to the island’s ahupua’a, ingredients are often harvested within a 20-mile radius of the property. The menu takes familiar flavors (like Hawaiian, Chinese and iconically local cuisine) to new refined and innovative heights. With a team of local chefs, who bring to the table a strong culinary background focused on classic techniques, the food boasts authentic Hawaiian dishes (and island favorites) crafted with fresh products which are then presented in an elegant/modern way.

Mauka Makai takes familiar authentic Hawaiian cuisine to the next level.

“As a resort, we aim to deliver a culturally rich, authentic experience. Taste is one of the strongest senses, which gives us the opportunity to use our cuisine to create a connection to Maui for our guests. For the locals, Mauka Makai will be a spot to enjoy familiar favorites presented with Chef’s distinct approach,” said Ricky Hamasaki, assistant director of food and beverage.

Open for breakfast and dinner, located in Kaanapali.

So what do the crew in the kitchen love to eat from the menu? Specifically, what are their favorites and why? Here’s an inside look along with a little backstory on culinary inspirations.

Executive Chef Ikaika Manaku
Pork & Ahi
“This dish has been with me from the beginning and (like me) has evolved over time. Everybody is familiar with sashimi, everybody is familiar with seared ahi, and as well as roast pork. If you are from here you have gone to Chinatown, the char siu, duck and roast pork. It’s familiar, but you haven’t had it together. What pulls it together is the Maui Onion jam, everything has its purpose in the dish and it didn’t happen overnight, everything was thought out and everything has its purpose.”

Pork & Ahi: Shichimi seared ahi, pork belly, Maui Onion jam, Yamasa caramel and Sriracha honey $17

Sous Chef Ben Marquez
Seafood Luau
“It’s a mixture of new, modern, Hawaiian cooking but yet utilizes an old type of cooking method and a very old household recipe of a local hawaiian dish. The way we prepare it is the new craze, a deconstructed item — meaning you take the ingredients of the item and kind of break it down on the plate. It’s a new way of presenting the food. Its got the sauce, it’s got the coconut, it’s got all the seafood that would actually go into the dish but you get to see it differently, and the luau mix itself comes with the coconut cream on the bottom this has a sweetness which cuts the tartness of the taro leaves. It’s the components for the ancient Hawaiian luau dish but it’s all broken down for you to see the comments and mix it all together.”

Seafood Luau: Local taro, octopus, snapper, Kauai prawn, coconut creme fraiche. $12

Sous Chef Kirk Areola
Smoked Tako Hoio Salad
“Hoio Salad is my favorite dish because it reminds me of home. Just growing up, diving for tako and preparing it, putting it on the grill. The pohole salad was basically on our dinner plate, not every night, but for family gatherings which was nice. To me, all the components work well together texture wise with the nice crisp pohole salad and the soft tako.”

Smoked Tako Hoio Salad: Kiawe-smoked local octopus, pohole fern shoots, Kula tomatoes, Maui onion and blue ginger $18

Here’s an inside look at The Westin Nanea and their signature restaurant Mauka Makai.

Personally, I loved this creative, delicious and modern-spin on authentic Hawaiian food. The plates were expertly prepared, presented with style and grace and the flavors were spot on.

As a kama’aina, born and raised, it pleases me to see something as innovative as this; utilize ancient staples to progressively enhance familiar flavors.

I’ve dined at modern Hawaiian restaurants on the mainland that utilize this style of cooking as a trend, but this is truly comforting and (although resort prices) leaves me with a great sense of pride and a heartfelt nomination for Maui’s Best New Restaurant.

Promotional Considerations:
Inter-Island Travel for Olena is brought to you by Island Air.
Accommodations provided by Maui Coast Hotel.
Ground Transportation provided by Advantage Rent A Car

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About Olena Heu

Olena is Executive Editor, Food & Lifestyle at MAUIWatch. The founder of Olena Heu Communications, a social media, digital marketing, consulting and freelance writing company, Olena holds a BA and MA in Communication and Speech from Hawaii Pacific University. An adjunct professor, lecturer and motivational speaker Olena is also an award winning journalist, writer, photographer and avid traveler.

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