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Enjoy great comfort food at Village Cafe & Sweet Shoppe

By Staff | Mar 17, 2011

Debbie and Stuart Katz sit with Chef de Cuisine Michelle Respicio with their lavish display of fine cuisine (from left): front — Trio of Village Sliders, “My Favorite Omelet,” Sticky Toffee Pudding and Surf Duo; back row — Old Fashioned Meatloaf, Shrimp Louie and Village Crab Cakes. Photo by Rob Reed.

KAPALUA — Overlooking a panorama of Kapalua Golf Academy’s manicured lawns, with the verdant, rolling hills of the West Maui Mountains and the Cook Pines of Pineapple Hill, the new Village Cafe & Sweet Shoppe has one of the most majestic views in the world.

For a couple who love fine dining and golfing, it was natural for Deborah and Stuart Katz to open their own casual, refined restaurant at the Village Center in the heart of Kapalua’s Golf Academy just mauka of the Ritz-Carlton.

On their annual visit to their Kapalua condo, the couple would always stay a little longer each year. They finally decided to retire from their high-tech backgrounds and live permanently on Maui.

After a year of retirement and wanting to be more involved in the Kapalua community, they opened their new Village Cafe & Sweet Shoppe. Graciousness has always been identified with Kapalua, and the new restaurant reflects that conception.

And talk about views! Remember the bi-fold solid door that formerly covered the floor-to-ceiling windows? They have been removed, and the entire wall of glass now offers a 180-degree panorama of tropical foliage.

Upon entering the restaurant, the immaculate Sweet Shoppe greets you. One is lured to view the baked goods and the 12 flavors of Roselani Ice Cream awaiting your choice.

The dining area is airy, refined and comfortable with a view from every table!

“We want to present affordable home-cooking — comfort food, so to speak,” said gracious Debbie. “We are looking forward to providing a dining experience focused on quality and comfort, whether it is for coffee and a pastry, a full meal or just a scoop of ice cream.”

And, of course, there is a casual seating area to enjoy excellent 100 percent Maui grown coffee, pastries and ice cream.

The talented chef creating the soul-satisfying comfort food is Chef de Cuisine Michelle Respicio, originally from the island of Guam.

“I grew up on Guam and I am of Filipino descent,” said Michelle. “My grandpa’s cooking was a huge influence on me when I was young. I had my first job in a restaurant learning and working in the pantry.

“I had on-the-job training at several restaurants in Guam and then on Maui for several years. I’ve worked for European and Asian chefs, so I’ve been able to take the best of both worlds to develop my own style. From a chef friend who attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, I learned French cuisine.

“My first job on Guam,” Michelle continued, “was at the Old Hagatna Grill for five years, where I learned every aspect of restaurant operations. When I moved to Maui, I was part of the opening team at Lahaina Store Grill and Oyster Bar on Front Street and then was sous chef for two-and-a-half years. I eventually became their chef.

“I also worked as line cook for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the large chain that provided me with experience in a high-volume, fast-paced restaurant. Here at the Village Cafe, we want to provide high-quality comfort food that is familiar, but I hope to add a little zest from my years of experience. Cooking is hard work, but I love what I do.”

And from our tasting experience of Chef Respicio’s fine cuisine, she really loves what she does. Each entree was beautifully arranged on the serving dish — fine, fine comfort food! In fact, the display of the wholesome dishes was not only artistically arranged but reminded me of my own mom’s home cooking!

We began our feast with the excellent “My Favorite Omelet” — three eggs with choice of meat, veggies and cheese, accompanied with toast and a choice of garlic roasted potatoes, jasmine rice or a small seasonal fruit cocktail. It was totally satisfying.

There are several fine breakfast items to choose from — even Hawaii’s favorite Loco Moco!

The moist, zesty crab cakes on the Appetizer Menu are served with tropical salsa and delicious mango butter sauce — outstanding!

A trio of Village Sliders is also offered on the Appetizer Menu. Stuffed with Angus Chuck, Angus Beef Brisket and Blackened Mahi Mahi, it’s a popular choice.

The cool, refreshing and mammoth Shrimp Louie is beautiful to behold with plump shrimp, spring mix and romaine lettuce, avocado, tomato and asparagus tossed with a creamy Thousand Island Dressing.

Another splendid seafood choice is the Surf Duo consisting of succulent grilled mahi mahi and choice shrimp in a smooth Mango Beurre Blanc Sauce served with jasmine rice and steamed seasonal veggies. We enjoyed the crisp asparagus, red pepper and eggplant on this healthful entree.

The hearty Old-Fashioned Meatloaf was supreme! It was quite possibly the best we ever tasted on Maui — so moist and flavorful. It is served with garlic roasted potatoes, gravy and fresh seasonal veggies. It is a HUGE serving! We certainly will return for that entree!

Prices are surprisingly moderate for such fine cuisine in Kapalua, with nothing over $20 on their Dinner Menu.

We finished the banquet with a “Died and Gone to Heaven” dessert! Do not pass up ordering the Sticky Toffee Pudding saturated in caramel sauce.

While the owners were in Scotland playing golf at the famous St. Andrew’s Golf Course, they discovered this extraordinary dessert in a small inn located in the Village of Nairn. Chef Michelle, through trial and error, has duplicated it perfectly. She makes it with dried oats, butter and other mysterious ingredients, then soaks it with the smooth sauce and crowns the top with vanilla bean ice cream. Oh, we’ll certainly be returning for this creation!

An unusual occurrence date-wise will happen for the couple on Nov. 11, 2011, for they will be celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary — 11/11/11! Shouldn’t they place their money on number 11 on a roulette wheel?

Village Cafe & Sweet Shoppe opens for breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner at 4 p.m. — a lovely time to witness the lengthening shadows on the hillside beyond Kapalua’s Golf Academy. For reservations, call 665-1122.

Pau for now…