Take a Bite

Exciting things cooking on Maui

April 6th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Rosemary panna cotta with kumquat marmalade and chocolate bark dessert at Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia.

On Oahu, it's easy to develop a myopic view of the Hawaii dining scene, putting Honolulu at the center of the universe in terms of progressive ideas.

But on Maui, where resort restaurants have received the most attention in mainstream media, the food scene is being transformed by a new generation of chefs and collaborators.

Earlier, I popped into a Wailuku popup presented by Rua Catering.

A followup visit found "Top Chef Seattle" fan favorite Sheldon Simeon putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof restaurant in Kahului, which opened Monday.

When I was on Maui a few weeks ago, Sheldon Simeon was putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof eatery in Kahului.

In the spot that was formerly home to Ko Ko Ichiban Ya, Simeon said he hated to see another mom-and-pop close, "so this is the next generation mom-and-pop," he said. "I hope it'll be a hang-out spot for everyone."

Much more casual than what he had been offering at Migrant, a sample menu included rice bowls, poke bowls, ramen and "kau kau tins" of such local favorites as mochiko chicken, garlic shrimp and chop steak.

Customers will be able to dine in at communal tables or pick up food to go. He also plans to create Chef's Table events that will seat 12.

The setting at Mill House Restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

Next up, a peek at the new Mill House restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, on the day of its grand opening celebration, March 17.

Housed in the plantation's former banquet hall, the restaurant and surrounding grounds and farm are envisioned as the hub of an ambitious development plan that will include several residences.

On the lunch menu there were small plates of root vegetables sourced from the plantation's own farmland, gnocchi ragu, and a range of burgers and sandwiches.

But what I loved most were desserts of "Milk and Honey" olive oil cake and chili-spiced doughnuts with thick chocolate cremeaux.

A coffee-roasted beet salad at Mill House Restaurant.

But the main attraction on that day was a drive to Paia to visit Hana Ranch Provisions, a sustainable restaurant started by Hana Ranch as an experimental key to survival in the 21st century as the ranch moves beyond the commodity business into value-added pursuits.

You can read all about it in our new Crave food section that launches today. Here are the links:

Review: staradvertiser.com/food/simple-local-fare-stars-at-hana-restaurant/
Some background: staradvertiser.com/food/hana-ranch-enlists-help-to-pursue-sustainability/

Forget all that you imagine a sustainable restaurant is. The vibe is more sophisticated than rustic, but it's nevertheless a place that embraces a philosophy of honoring the work of farmers and food producers, respecting nature, and eating food that is certified organic, sustainable and nurturing for body and soul. If successful, the venture could serve as a template for other farmers across the globe.

Hana Ranch Provisions is at 71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, Maui. Daily hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Its to-go shop offers coffee and pastries from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. Call (808) 868-3688.

Here's a look:

Your destination.

Pickled vegetables are among the value-added products produced by Hana Ranch.

Great bread is hard to find in Hawaii, and here it's well worth the $5.50 for a bowl of crusty, tender-crumbed house-baked bread served with fresh-churned cultured butter sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt.

A curry kabocha squash soup ($11.50/$12) warms the heart with its creamy texture and a balance of natural sweetness and touch of spice. It's topped with an ulu chip, pipitas and a drizzle of cilantro oil.

The menu changes with the seasons and availability of ingredients. This wonderful beet carpaccio ($14 day/$14.50 evenings) featured yellow striped Chioggia beets sliced as thin as sashimi and was just as satisfying in their silkiness. Topped with mustard greens and dill, then accented with the sweetness of sliced kumquats. A great introduction to farm freshness.

More salads are available, but you're likely to get your day's ration of vegetables no matter what you order, even with Vietnamese beef meatballs ($15) seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass and chili peppers, served over a Thai-style salad of green papaya slaw, graced with chopped peanuts, cilantro and basil leaves.

Both lunch and dinner menus feature the restaurant's signature Hana burger ($16/$16.50) made with Hana Ranch grass-fed beef, and served on ulu brioche that is comparable to a pretzel bun. The juicy burger is finished with caramelized onions, lettuce, cheddar and horseradish aioli, with more greens on the side.

Kauai shrimp tagliatelle ($32) is a simple, satisfying dish, with the shellfish beautifully arranged, heads on but otherwise shelled—the best of both worlds—over the housemade pasta, all tossed with a Hawaiian chile-spiced tomato sauce.

My favorite dish during a dinner visit was the seared ahi ($35). Again, not a typical favorite because many restaurants also overdo the searing so the ahi often ends up cooked through. Here, the ahi is in block form so stays rare inside. The blocks are arranged with stalks of Kula cauliflower around a bed of braised chicories topped with a soft-poached egg. Every bite felt like magic.

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