KAANAPALI - I'm sure longtime Mauians have noticed the subtle changes along the shores of West Maui - some of their favorite beaches and secluded snorkeling areas have been replaced by steel and concrete high-rise condos and resorts.
Ah, but there is still one never-changing, low-key Hawaiian-style amenity: the Kaanapali Beach Hotel! Yes, this is where one can still experience firsthand the old Hawaii - the Aloha Spirit, the former island lifestyle - and it is located right in the heart of Kaanapali Beach!
Welcome to Kaanapali Beach Hotel, where the warmth and hospitality flow from their never-ending quest to live by values inherited from the original people of these islands. Their dedication to preserving these precious values has earned them the title of "Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel."
Executive Chef Tom Muromoto displays his exquisite cuisine: (clockwise from top center) Banana Carmel Eruption, Beef & Shrimp Kabobs, Beef Rib Steak, Chef’s Sampler and Ko‘ala Lamb Chops. Photo by Rob Reed
And it is certainly true - from the aloha greeting at the entrance to walking into the lobby, one feels an atmosphere capturing the essence of a former, gentler way of life. And to make it 100 percent Hawaiian, their executive chef is a local boy, born and raised in Honolulu.
Meet Tom Muromoto, who at age 16 set his goal to become a chef.
"I wanted to be part of a great food service class we had at Farrington High School," said Tom. "I gained most of my experience through on-the-job training and opportunities with great chefs who gave me a chance. My first break started with Stuart Anderson Black Angus Cattle Company in 1980. They taught me a lot about managing, accounting and controls. From there, I knew I wanted to go further."
Tom worked at many Honolulu restaurants, and upon arriving on Maui continued his career at the Royal Lahaina Resort, Grand Wailea Resort and Planet Hollywood. Since 1999, Tom has been the executive chef of Kaanapali Beach Hotel's Tiki Terrace Restaurant.
Being a local boy, as a young man Tom excelled as a surfer. He was featured in top surf magazines on the Mainland and Japan. The North Shore of Oahu - Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay - were inspirational grounds for a soon-to-be professional chef.
From sampling an array of their exquisite cuisine to their devilish desserts, it's clear what a talented, professional chef Tom Muromoto is! Along with his capable sous chef, Chris Napoleon, they are two of Maui's finest chefs!
We began our festive feasting with the Tiki Terrace Chef's Sampler, a trio of succulent beef tenderloin, lush lobster and plump scallops - a fantasy of flavor and texture.
Another noteworthy entree is the perfectly seared Ko'ala Lamb Chops: grilled Australian lamb chops marinated in an Indonesian marinade. In-season, they offer local Mango Mint Relish, and off-season a Papaya Mint Relish. It is lamb at its best!
A delightful combination of Beef and Shrimp Kabobs are marinated in sweet soy flavored with herbs, while the succulent Beef Tenderloin is grilled and basted with tangy garlic butter and topped with sauted Maui onions and mushrooms.
Oh, such choices from the Land or the Sea!
One more remarkable land entree is the Beef Rib Steak - a hefty Certified Angus Beef Rib Eye grilled and served with sauted Maui onions and mushrooms.
I know... after such elaborate dining, who has room for dessert? Well, don't miss out on the devilish Banana Caramel Eruption. OH MY! Share if you must, but do experience this one tall avalanche erupting from a hot fudge brownie with a melted milk chocolate center, topped with macadamia nut ice cream cascading down the sides, caramelized bananas, roasted macadamia nuts and whipped cream. You better order your own, for nobody will want to share this extravaganza!
But Kaanapali Beach Hotel is not only noted for Executive Chef Muromoto's splendid cuisine. Do you know about his elaborate Sunday Champagne Brunch?
This brunch is one of Maui's favorites, and reservations are a must. It is absolutely a sumptuous affair with an unending selection of traditional brunch items, Hawaiian specialties, an extravagant Seafood Bar, delicious desserts and champagne continually flowing.
Well, one would think that Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel had enough to offer with the above, but have you heard about their Magic Dinner Theatre, Kupanaha? No? Well, prepare yourself for a treat:
Well-known as Maui's most amazing magic show, Kupanaha is an evening of illusion by Jody and Kathleen Baran and a performance of excitement, fascination and amazement!
Jody the master magician has spent most of his life performing his award-winning magic around the world, starting at age 10! We literally gasped as he sawed his beautiful wife, Kathleen, in two and heaved a sigh of relief when she appeared whole again.
The show is prefaced by a world-class three-course dinner with choice of mai tais, beer or wine, and Pina Colada Cheesecake or fresh fruit plate for dessert. And while you dine, enjoy the hula and table side magic.
After dinner, prepare to be amazed as the Barans take the stage, putting on a unique show filled with classic magic, Hawaiian culture, cutting-edge illusions, audience participation and laugh-out-loud comedy. The production is made even more personal as Jody includes children from the audience in several of the magic acts - a thrill they will long remember.
Besides the thrilling, cutting-edge illusions, the legends of Hawaii's extraordinary Demigods are illustrated through the hula and chant of the Kupanaha dancers.
Believing in the importance of 'ohana - which Kaanapali Beach Hotel is noted for - Kathleen and Jody proudly incorporate their grown children, Robert, Katrina and Crystal, in the production of Kupanaha. It is truly a magical evening!
Call 667-0128 for magic show reservations, and call 667-0124 for the Tiki Terrace Restaurant and Kaanapali Champagne Sunday Brunch.
Pau for now...