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Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine with modern flair at Pulehu

By Staff | Sep 17, 2009

Pulehu’s team includes (from left) Manager Javier Barberi, Executive Sous Chef Adam Tabura and Harolyn Shimabukuro-Miyashiro, director of Food and Beverage. Photo by Rob Reed.

KAANAPALI — CIAO! BUON GIORNO! Picture an Italian Ristorante nestled on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius overlooking the shimmering Bay of Naples while dining on genuine Italian cuisine.

Well, in actuality, one can find the above and even more, right here in West Maui, albeit with a tropical theme and the ristorante overlooking a shimmering koi pond surrounded by lush tropical gardens while dining on authentic Italian favorites.

Welcome to the comforts of traditional Italian cuisine served with a modern flair at the new Pulehu, an Italian Grill located at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.

“Please emphasize this is not The Westin Maui but the new WESTIN KAANAPALI OCEAN RESORT VILLAS,” cautioned genial Manager Javier Barberi.

In fact, you would believe you are indeed at an Italian ristorante dining on authentic Italian favorites with genuine Italian newspapers and postcards covering the tables under glass table tops.

And who is the talented executive sous chef who created this superb Italian fare? None other than, as we say on Maui, Local Boy Adam Tabura from Lanai, who boarded at Lahainaluna High School for his last four years of schooling.

When I asked what influenced him to become a chef, he answered, “Growing up in Lanai, you learned to cook for your family, as there are no fast food services on the island. Hence, regardless of age, everyone picks up some form of cooking. Lanai is also a great place for fishing and hunting, so we ended up making a feast with our catch.”

Executive Sous Chef Tabura graduated from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, and has spent the last 16 years in the culinary industry, with the last two years as executive chef at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Wailea. He worked previously at Kona Village Resort on the Big Island and on his own island of Lanai at Manele Bay and the Lodge at Koele.

Besides being the executive sous chef of Pulehu, his responsibilities include overseeing the resort’s overall culinary operations, maintaining a dedicated workforce and working closely with the resort Director of Food & Beverage Harolyn Shimabukuro-Miyashiro.

Chef Tabura is also responsible for the menus at the resort’s three restaurants and bars, including Pulehu, Pailolo Bar & Grill and Ocean Pool Bar & Grill. Other duties include overseeing culinary teams handling the two delicatessens within the resort’s general stores (Pu‘ukolii General Store and Kai Ala Market), banquet dining, wedding receptions, in-villa private chef dining, culinary events and more. That is a lot on one chef’s plate!

Adam is highly passionate about creating new dishes, and we were the fortunate ones to share his exotic cuisine.

For the antipasti course, we thoroughly enjoyed the crusty Tomato and Garlic Bluscettas, followed by perfectly seared Scallops Cappesante with Cucumber-wrapped Baby Greens and Lemon Dill Aioli. The aioli and greens were so refreshing, we had to consume every last leaf!

Seafood aficionados will savor the extraordinary Prawn Risotto entree, with herb-crusted prawns surrounding the shellfish risotto — a magnificent presentation!

You will also love the hearty Pesto Opakapaka — succulent pink snapper, garlic pesto fettucini and sun-dried tomato butter sauce — while the Pacific Mahi Mahi Saltimboca is another incredible seafood offering combined with sage, pancetta, summer tomato relish and again, a prodigious parmesan risotto. Chef Tabura certainly is a master of fine seafood, pastas and risottos!

For another Seafood Spectacular, request the Frutti di Mare with a bounty of shrimp, scallops, clams, linguine and a lush white wine and garlic sauce so savory you’ll want seconds!

Spaghettini and Meatballs are always a hearty and popular offering — with marinara and parmesan, it is exceptional!

Fortunately, we saved room for two of their stellar desserts — luscious house-made Tiramisu so moist with Ladyfingers, Marscapone and chocolate, and Maui’s own Tahitian Vanilla Gelato served beautifully in an Almond Toasted Swirl (actually made in Wailuku by the Roxy Gelato Company).

Pulehu, an Italian Grill certainly offers classic cuisine with a modern twist. Most dishes are prepared over an open flame in the expansive exhibition kitchen.

“We have a private dining room that accommodates 14 guests,” said Sumithra Baleraj, director of public relations, “and we offer a promotional special for Hawaii residents only. For a Gold Card Membership of $195, there are many benefits, including dining and accommodations. Kama‘aina room rates are also available.” Call (808) 529-1660 for further information.

“The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas is all about families,” inserted Barberi. “We offer quality at affordable prices. We’re family friendly, and one can request half-orders from the menu. We also have a great wine list at reasonable prices.”

“Please let your readers know our location,” said Shimabukuro-Miyashiro. “The entrance is at Airport Beach across from the Sugar Train Station, then proceed to the North Tower. There is plenty of free parking and free valet service.”

Giving back to the community, at the grand opening of Pulehu, the resort donated 450 pounds of food to the Maui Food Bank.

For those who have a love affair with Italian cuisine, enjoy an evening of indulgence in the casual elegance of the new Pulehu, an Italian Grill at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. A vivere la dolce vita — here’s to living the sweet life! Buon Appetito! For reservations, call 662-2655.

Pau for now…