Thursday, December 20, 2012

Urban Eats @ Hula Grill + Tropica in Ka'anapali

Dinner by the beach wasn't the only highlight of dining at Hula Grill. For me, it was definitely the crave-inducing poke tacos made with raw Ahi and shoyu, Maui onions and chili flakes. Scrumptious! Poke is a popular Hawaiian pupu comprised of bite-size pieces of raw fish doused in seasonings. Pokē actually means "to slice" or a "cut piece" in Hawaiian.

Chef Chris Schobel graciously put together a delicious sampler of Hula Grill favourites including tasty Kalua pork potstickers, fresh tomato soup with a local Surfing Goat cheese sandwich, and poisson cru (similar to ceviche) with fresh taro chips. By the time our entrees came, we were almost stuffed to the brim! But somehow I made room for the macadamia-nut crusted mahi mahi. 

You'll notice on the menu that there's a section titled "Fresh Hawaiian Fish," but it doesn't actually say what kind of fish it is. That's because they wait to see what's fresh and available each day rather than promising a particular fish that may not be in season or one that's being overfished. So, your server lets you know what fish is on the menu when you arrive, and you simply choose the preparation you'd like. I do recommend the macadamia-nut crusted fish. Unsurprisingly, it's their most popular preparation. Crunchy outside with a flaky juicy inside? Sign me up.
And like his fellow chefs, Chef Schobel subscribes to locavorism. "We've always been doing farm to table," he affirmed. "It's just more well known now and a lot more farmers are on board." Several menu items reflect this such as the Localicious salad for which a portion supports the Growing Future Farmers of Maui.

Urban Eats @ Tropica, Ka'anapali

Our last supper in Maui was at Tropica, which continued the custom of combining fresh seafood with fine local produce. We kicked things off with a visit to the bar—last night after all and mama needed a drink! Barman Freddie hooked me up with an attractive Okele Wow beverage. It's made with Okolehao hawaiian liqueur (which is 80 proof so watch out as it could potentially put hair on your chest!), muddled Maui Gold pineapple, lime, hibiscus reduction, and soda, garnished with an edible hibiscus bud. 

Freddie also came up with the award-winning Dragonberry Bomb made with bacardi dragonberry rum, elderflower liqueur, blackberries, fresh squeezed limes and sugar cane syrup. Let's just say they take beverage-making seriously here!

For dinner, we started with the chile grilled tako, which Chef de Cuisine, Jennifer Evetushick told me they "tenderize, boil in beer, then grill." Definitely worth the effort as the octopus is tender and succulent. Served with a cucumber citrus salad, it shows a contrast in textures and flavours—crisp, clean, creamy and citrus. 

For my main, I went with Chef Evetushick's reco of the pacific seafood "pho". She adds a Hawaiian twist to a Vietnamese staple using lobster, mussels, clams, and fish with rice noodles and a light but satisfying red curry tomato broth. Hubby decided that he had to have the surf and turf, given that it would be a while before we were near any surf again. His steak was grilled to perfection and his lobster divine. 

It was bittersweet watching the beautiful sunset with our wonderful meal, knowing that it was our last night in paradise. That said, we couldn't have asked for a better way to end our culinary journey in Maui. Mahalo!

--- Colleen Seto

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