KAANAPALI - The burger is quintessentially American and a comfort food for many of us, so when the folks at The Westin Maui on Kaanapali Beach did some research, they weren't too surprised to learn that the burger was a top choice for their guests. The alfresco restaurant in a tropical setting by The Westin's pools was reopened this summer as Relish Burger Bistro.
Restaurant Chef Jennifer Evetushick explained the new dining concept: "Previously, although the restaurant offered a little something for everyone, there was no distinction or anything special to us. So when we found that burgers were our top seller because guests liked to get something quick and delicious, we decided to take the Relish brand from The Westin and make it higher end. We call it the 'Burger Bistro.' "
I found this reinvented restaurant both playful in its menu and delightful in the quality of food. You can order any style of burger you want, and the meat is all-natural Kobe Beef. The buns are house made in a soft, brioche style, and the list of fixings is long: seven types of cheese, bacon, onion rings, fried egg, avocado, Kula onions, grilled pineapple and even kim chee. You can also choose a gluten-free bun or a bed of fresh island greens to hold your burger.
"We're serving the Cadillac of burgers," added Chef Jen.
If you're not into beef, don't worry; Relish Burger Bistro also features a Surf's Up burger made with mahi mahi, Huli Huli Chicken breast burger, a Salmon BLT burger and Turkey-Yaki burger. Each of these includes an innovative ingredient, like popcorn shrimp, Maui Gold pineapple salsa, watercress, caper aioli, pickled ginger remoulade or teriyaki mayo sauce. The flavorful sauces and fresh produce really enhance the protein, making each bite a savory blend of texture and taste.
Relish is not only about burgers, though. I highly recommend coming for dinner and sampling the starters. We couldn't wait to dig into Chef Jen's latest creation, Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter Fondue. The combination of dark Coconut Porter beer and rich Gruyere cheese makes the taste buds pop. Chef Jen adds slivers of Portuguese sausage and sauteed Kula onions to the fondue, which complement the flavor intensity. The fondue is served with triangles of taro pita bread for dipping - so 'ono!
The Spicy Ahi Poke Tostadas are another great starter to share. Large won ton chips are layered with avocado slices and ahi poke cubes and served with a cilantro slaw and spicy sauce. They quickly disappeared from the plate.
Chef Jen said, "We wanted to do fun stuff, and the menu has been well-received. We'll also be doing 'Totachos' - tater tots that are nachos."
But that's not all. Crispy tater tots are served with each burger. There are also a variety of side choices, from Brussel sprouts wok-fried with Portuguese sausage and ginger glazed heirloom carrots to sweet potato fries and tempura mac 'n' cheese. Salads are available in both small and large sizes. Choose from Chop Chop Salad with Haiku greens, Asian ginger chicken and rice noodles, Romaine Wedge with grape tomatoes and Asiago cheese in classic Caesar dressing, and Lomi Lomi Cobb, featuring watercress, Romaine, tomatoes, avocado, boiled eggs, chicken breast and pipikaula beef. The produce is locally-sourced from Upcountry, Haiku and Olowalu.
Entree plates are also part of the menu. The Seared Ahi BLT includes crunchy bacon, fresh spinach and tomatoes served with sushi rice and yuzu dressing. The alae salt-rubbed Rib Eye Steak comes with house made sauce and a baked potato. Maui-style Baby Back Ribs feature pineapple BBQ sauce and Hawaiian chili pepper corn bread. Wok-fried Paia Noodles are sauteed with tofu, edamame and local vegetables.
As you can see, Relish Burger Bistro offers something for every palate and supports Maui agriculture. It's a winning combination. Don't be hesitant to try it because it's in a resort. The Westin Maui offers free parking with validation. The ambiance is relaxing with waterfalls flowing, koi swimming and birds chirping. Each table is covered by a thatched palapa-style umbrella.
"It's beautiful here and affordable," remarked Sumithra Balraj, director of public relations for The Westin Maui Resort and The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort.
When you order two burgers or entrees, you receive a free Whoopie Pie mini dessert. Happy Hour features $4, $5 and $6 drink specials and 50 percent off the starters.
"This is something special to us now and to everyone else, too," said Chef Jen.
Try it for lunch, happy hour or dinner. Relish Burger Bistro is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call The Westin Maui at 667-2525 or visit westinmaui.com/dining.