Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Urban Eats @ The Pineapple Grill, Kapalua - Hawaii

Courtesy of The Pineapple Grill
On my recent trip to Maui, I did a lot of culinary research. That is, I ate my face off. 

A real trend is happening that wasn't quite as evident even a few years ago—the focus on sustainable food and grown-on-Maui ingredients. That may seem like old news, but "Hawaii tends to be a bit behind the trends on the mainland," explains Pineapple Grill's executive chef, Isaac Bancaco. "Everything comes to the islands a bit later whether it's Hollywood movies or culinary trends. We're on Hawaii time," he says with a smile.

That's not to say that people haven't been eating local on Maui before now. Twenty years ago, Chef Peter Merriman was the first chef in Hawaii to go directly to local farmers and ranchers to source his menu. Merriman’s restaurants have continued to be great practitioners of the “locavore” movement, and use 90 percent local products.

Now, the movement has taken a real hold of the island, and Maui diners get to enjoy the fruits of this labour—literally! Come along with me as I recap a few of Maui's top restaurants and share what they're serving up. 

Since Chef Issac Bancaco returned to his native Maui a few years ago, he's worked hard to develop partnerships with farmers for the produce in his menus. "It wasn't easy convincing farmers to expand their repertoire or change how they grow," he says. "Many of them had been growing the same thing for years and to change what they do without knowing if it would pay off was a risk." It's clear now that everyone is benefitting—most of all, the diners!

Chef Bancaco also wanted to cook exciting dishes with Hawaiian ingredients, not just Hawaiian dishes. And that's just what he's done with the menu at Pineapple Grill.
We started our meal with the uniquely presented caprese salad featuring fresh local ingredients: mini heirloom tomatoes, macadamia nut pesto, li hing mui radishes, Ho’o Pono Farms' arugula, and Maui Olive Company extra virgin olive oil. It was a light and refreshing opening to the meal. 

We washed that down by sharing the Thai Coconut Lobster Bisque. It had the richness you expect from lobster bisque, but the Thai component gave it added zing. 
Next, I went with the pistachio-and-wasabi crusted Ahi (left) that several people had recommended to me. The Ahi was rare (the way I like it!) and it did not disappoint. 
My hubby had the Chef’s daily seafood feature. That night it was a delicious local mongchong fish (similar to mahi mahi) served with amazing macadamia nut crusted gnocchi. 
The Mongchong has a white flaky texture and a buttery flavour—it's also only available in Hawaii.
Finally, we couldn't leave without the restaurant's signature dessert—pineapple upside down cake. Diners all around us were gobbling it up so we followed suit. Made with fresh Maui Gold pineapple, the cake comes swimming in a thick rum-caramel sauce topped with delicious locally made macadamia nut ice cream. Seriously good. 
200 Kapalua Dr. Maui, HI at Kapalua Resort

Stay tuned for more Urban Eats reviews from the island of Maui, Hawaii!

--- By Colleen Seto

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