Maui's Mauka Makai celebrates the diverse culture of the islands and praises the distinct f lavors of Hawaiian herit age cuisine.
Mauka Makai on Maui offers up the true flavors of Hawai‘i
ATIVE HAWAIIANS ONCE THRIVED ON NOURISHMENT SOURCED FROM THE LAND AND SEA. THEY CRAFTED RECIPES TO quintessential staples like poi, laulau, kalua pig and squid lu‘au. This process of foraging, and gathering was a way of life and laid the foundation for what we call farm-to-table dining. Over time, much has changed, yet also stayed the same. Th e majestic Valley Isle's land and sea both serve to inspire the cuisine at Mauka Makai, located at the brand new Westin Nanea Ocean Villas.
Situated along Ka‘anapali's historic coastline, Westin Nanea pays homage to Polynesian heritage and curates an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience for guests. Th e open-air lobby is inviting, the warm trade winds offer a gentle welcoming caress and you feel a sense of history and serenity as you explore the grounds. Nestled on 16-acres along Maui's northwest shoreline, the property boasts luxurious oceanfront accommodations, a signature restaurant (Mauka Makai), pool bar (Inu Pool Bar) and market (Kauhale Market).
Th e term “mauka makai” is significant to native Hawaiians and those who call Hawai‘ i home. Translated, “mauka" means “toward the mountain” and conversely “makai” implies “toward the sea.” In ancient times, much of the harvesting was done
Nmauka makai as farmers gathered their produce, hunters sourced and sought freerange proteins and fi shermen would collect seafood from the abundant Pacific Ocean. At the helm in the Mauka Makai kitchen, Kaua‘ i native Executive Chef Ikaika Manaku crafts his contemporary Hawaiian cuisine inspired by traditional fl avors and mouthwatering dishes native Hawaiians once ate. He maintains a commitment to sourcing locally and (whenever possible) ingredients are harvested within a 20-mile radius of the resort.
“What would I want to eat?” Manaku asks. “My dad was a cook and throughout my childhood his dishes and culinary concepts, eventually influenced me to create food that brought people together ; that could be shared,” he says with pride. Th ese humble beginnings gave Manaku the foundation for his signature restaurant, along with visions of a place to call home nearly two-decades ago.
Manaku utilizes his vast knowledge of local produce and blends European culinary influences to construct a menu that is uniquely Hawaiian yet sophisticated. “I 've built relationships with the local farmers, they know what I am looking for. [Kalo, for example,] I like to know what strain of kalo it is, where it comes from, how old it is, is it the first leaf or the second leaf ? Th e first leaf after they plant the kalo is
WITH HAWAIIAN- INSPIRED CUISINE GAINING MOMENTUM ACROSS THE GLOBE, THIS CONCEPT IS ONE THAT IS TRULY AUTHENTIC …
really big, really hearty, it and takes a lot of time to cook. You lose that color—it gets very dull. So the second leaf is what we are looking for,” he says in reference to the kalo used in his Seafood Lu‘au.
Facing the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries in the distance, the restaurant, which opened in May 2017, spans 5,237 square-feet, seats 180 people and boasts a capacity of 317 (standing room only). A breakfast buffet in the morning and à la carte dinner menu at night, the ambiance is casual yet accentuated by island elegance. Dinner showcases small plates, salads, entrées and desserts.
While most restaurants serve freshly baked bread or dinner rolls, Chef Manaku creates a first taste that is aimed at tantalizing your tastebuds with house-made boiled peanuts and picked vegetables. Th e chef 's signature dish—Pork & ‘Ahi—is a tender pork belly served with fresh-caught and shichimi-seared ‘ahi, Maui onion jam, Yamasa (shoyu) caramel and Sriracha honey. Th e combination is a rich, yet fresh, salty and sweet with a hint of spice. But the history of this “Chef 's Choice” combination began many years ago and has evolved over time. “When I first put it together it was like me when I first started—kind of rough, not so elegant, not refined—but as I grew in my career this dish kind of stayed with me.”
Th e Natural Prime Rib Eye and Black Pepper Kaua‘ i Prawns are an innovative take on the classic Surf ‘ N Turf but with local familiarity. A favorite pastime spent cooking steaks on the grill are featured components as this steak is prepared over an open fire ( pulehu). Th e prawns are fried crisp and reminiscent of the classic salt and pepper shrimp commonly found in Chinese cooking. Th e accompaniment utilizes local produce from nearby farmers including
fresh-grown haricot vert and Ka‘anapali horseradish mashed potato. This version of steak and potatoes makes for a hearty, fullfl avored and not overly convoluted entree.
A showstopper, the Smoked Tako Ho‘ i‘o Salad is showcased tableside with the tako (octopus) elegantly smoked over a wooden block. Th e locally caught tako is delicately kiawe-smoked then served with pohole (fi ddlehead fern) sprouts, Kula tomatoes, Maui onion and blue ginger. The tako is tender, offers hints of a delightful smoky aroma and kiawe is iconically Hawaiian. Pohole grows in abundance on Maui and is similar to asparagus in texture; meanwhile Kula tomatoes are unbelievably sweet and bursting with sweetness and acidity.
With Hawaiian-inspired cuisine gaining momentum across the globe, this concept is one that is truly authentic, boasts familiar fl avors, while taking beloved local comfort foods to new heights. Th e inspiration comes from many centuries ago, but this new concept showcases the classics in a robust, awe-inspiring and innovative way. Every dish has a story and much of it is told from the land, the sea, the farmer, the harvest and now the experience of heading Mauka Makai.
Mauka Makai is located at Th e Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, 45 Kai Malina Parkway, Lahaina, Maui. For reservations or more information call (808) 662-6300 or go to westinnanea.com/ maukamakai
On t he menu at Mauka Makai is Chef Ikaika Manaku's Smoked Tako Ho‘ io Salad and Lavender Lychee Mar t ini
Mauka Makai's open- air dining room overlooks Westin Nanea's pool and beach. OPPOSITE PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Pohaku Natural Prime Rib Eye; Por k & ‘Ahi; Natural Prime Rib Eye & Black Pepper Kaua‘ i Prawns.