Go­ing Na­tive

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


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.

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