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Napili Kai Beach Resort offers innovative Tapas Menu

By Staff | Sep 22, 2011

Executive Chef Craig Erickson shows off (from left) the Polynesian Chopped Salad, Seafood Chowder and Pork-Stuffed Mushroom Raviolis. Photo by Rob Reed.

NAPILI — It’s been over three years since we featured Maui’s most unique breakfast menu created by that Norseman, Executive Chef Craig Erickson, down at the old Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai Beach Resort.

In the meantime, the restaurant has been awarded Maui’s “Best Breakfast Menu” by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine and “Best Pupus” by Maui Time readers.

Born and raised just outside Chicago, Craig had an opportunity at age 13 to work at a local Italian restaurant managed by his brother.

“I worked my way up to lead cook by the age of 16 and loved the excitement and variety that the kitchen offered,” said Craig.

“I came from a family that had dinner together every night,” he continued. “Monday was always Beef Stroganoff, Tuesday was usually a pasta dish and Wednesday was a casserole. Mom said if we didn’t like what we she was making, we could make our own. Eventually my dinners became more popular than hers,” he laughed.

Craig began working at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport’s Marriott Hotel, then he became chef de cuisine at the Chicago Stadium, where he was involved in the building of a new stadium with four new restaurants, six kitchens and over 150 culinary employees.

His career continued at Chicago’s United Center, where he led a team of 80 cooks at four restaurants servicing 216 luxury suites.

“For the next four years, it was a whirlwind of events,” said Craig. “Championships, concerts, charity events for 3,000 — even serving U.S. presidents!”

His career continued at a new growth company, Gordon Biersch, an upscale brewery concept based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I started as a development chef and soon was promoted to corporate executive chef,” Craig continued. “I came on with five restaurants and after seven years expanded to 25 restaurants.”

During his career, he was introduced to the American Culinary Federation, and through the years, he continued going through the process of earning his certification, acquiring the title of Certified Executive Chef.

“I came to Oahu as corporate chef and spent a lot of time at our restaurant in Aloha Towers. I fell in love with the culture, the beauty and the real personalities of the people,” he commented.

With Craig’s extensive culinary background, it is not surprising he has brought a new concept to a Pupu Menu. This talented chef has created a Tapas-Style Menu available from 2 to 5 p.m. with miniature portions of the selections offered on the Dinner Menu. No item is over $6!

We began our Tapa-Style feasting with one of the finest Seafood Chowders we’ve ever enjoyed anywhere on Maui! Served in a large bowl, this freshly made soup is brimming with local fish, clams, shrimp, veggies, smoked bacon and potatoes in a veloute with a touch of cream. This heavenly creation is so ample, it has served as our entire lunch.

Have you ever tasted a Maui Beach Ball? No, not the rubbery kind — the attractive Sea House kind! It is magnificent stuffed with rock shrimp, mahi-mahi, scallions, pepper jack cheese, Kula corn and rice in a crispy furikake crust with mango mustard and remoulade dipping sauces. A sheer delight, they are cleverly presented nestled in a copy of the 1901 edition of the Honolulu Tribune!

Want a light, refreshing pupu? Try the Crab and Shrimp Summer Rolls with the seafood combined with sprouts, veggies, herbs and Upcountry greens in delicate rice paper, served with a variety of Dipping Sauces.

A heartier pupu is the zesty Toasted Pork-stuffed Mushroom Raviolis in a Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce with spinach and local mushrooms. But the heartiest of all is the Tenderloin Bruschetta — almost like an entree with sliced tenderloin sautéed with garlic, shallots, local mushrooms and tomatoes in a rich Peppercorn Demi Glace over roasted asiago bread and finished with Balsamic Syrup. And remember, these superb pupus are only $5 or $6!

In the words of an old French philosopher, “Live each day as though it was your last.” Do not leave the Sea House Restaurant until you have ordered the Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream Pie! It’s a three-layer ice cream creation four inches high! The top layer is Kona Coffee Ice Cream (covered with whipped cream of course), the second layer is chocolate and the third layer is Tahitian vanilla ice cream nestled on a crisp Oreo Cookie crust, surrounded with caramel sauce and with hot fudge dribbling down the sides. We share this exquisite dessert at lunch after relishing the seafood chowder.

Of course, West Mauians already know the Sea House Restaurant has one of the most pristine locations with rustling palms just steps from the sparkling sea. Truly God-created with no frills or fake scenery — just nature’s own Hawaii at its best.

After dining at Napili Kai Beach Resort, one is certain to return to try other intriguing classics on the Sea House menu prepared by Executive Chef Craig Erickson, an award-winning chef! For reservations, call 669-1500.

Pau for now…