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A symphony of food harmony at The Plantation House

By Staff | Sep 1, 2016

Wagyu Sirloin with Summer Truffle Butter creates the “wow” factor. PHOTO BY KAREE CARLUCCI.

KAPALUA – The Plantation House Restaurant in Kapalua Resort has long been a favorite of mine. From its postcard setting on the famed Plantation Course to its friendly staff and award-winning cuisine, dining at this clubhouse restaurant is always a treat.

Now under new ownership as a member of the Cohn Restaurant Group from San Diego and the culinary creativity of Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez, The Plantation House should be at the top of your list of places to revisit.

Each month, the restaurant features three special wine-and-dine experiences; Moonlight Dining is perfect for couples.

When you dine between 8 p.m. and closing, you get a three-course meal with your choice of appetizer, entree and dessert (four selections of each) and a full bottle of wine at one price of $79 per couple, which is almost unheard of in West Maui. If you feel like grooving to music while you dine, try Beats & Eats on the last Friday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m. A seasonal pop-up menu of small plates are served in the lounge to soulful tunes spun by Deejay Eliza. Prices are affordable at $6 to $11 per plate. For an epicurean experience, try the Winemaker Series Tasting Menu, which is available any night. Five courses are created by Chef Jojo to complement that month’s winery selections. During this well-timed dinner, you receive three glasses of premium estate wines for $105 per person.

When I learned that Grgich Hills Estate of Napa Valley was the featured winery, I couldn’t wait to see what eclectic dishes Chef Jojo concocted to pair with these classic wines. I asked him how he gets inspired.

Kampachi Tartare with Dragon Fruit exemplifies food harmony. PHOTO BY KAREE CARLUCCI.

“We take the time to taste the varietals and create our own tasting notes. I am blessed to have a wonderful variety of local produce to work with, and the harvest selections help take the lead on how each plate is designed. We brought in dragon fruit, edible herbs and flowers, and cauliflower [for this menu]. Grgich Hills Fume Blanc had tropical fruit notes with a long citrus finish, so I paired sashimi grade kampachi and diced it for tartare, releasing its natural oils, which gives the guest a sense of fattiness as it coats the palate. This beautiful pairing assisted each other without creating like flavors; this is the harmony I am always in search of,” Jojo explained.

The amuse bouche starter of Napilo-Flo Farms diced kimchi and potato salad with its sweet-sour profile paved the way for the following course of Kampachi Tartare. I found the magenta dragon fruit was a delightful balance to the kampachi in ponzu sauce. My second course was Crispy Calamari Salsa Verde. A delicate, tempura-like batter coated the calamari ringlets, which were served over a white bean and Portuguese sausage cassoulet and topped with arugula micro-greens. In this dish, the mix of textures was a nice surprise along with the range of flavors in the salsa, stew and seafood. Grgich Hills’ 2012 Chardonnay, less buttery and more fruit-forward, rounded out the explosion of tastes.

For the entree, I was treated to Wagyu Sirloin with Summer Truffle Butter. What can I say other than “heavenly!” Medallions of Wagyu beef were joined with cauliflower crisped in miso puree, crunchy frisee greens and a rich macadamia nut-herb gremolata. The underlying truffle butter and surrounding red wine glaze contributed to the “wow” factor, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon with its spicy notes was a perfect match.

While I was raving over these dishes, my partner Tom was delving into his selections from the regular menu, starting with Hawaiian Bloody Mary Shrimp, cooked in herb-garlic and served with avocado and ogo in an Ocean Vodka mist. The next course was the chef’s Pea Soup made from fresh pea shoots and apple wood smoked bacon enhanced by lime creme and cumin crumbs. His entree was a tantalizing Braised Beef Short Rib that fell off the bone and into its tomato-rosemary ragout over creamy polenta. He found that these flavor combinations were complex and delicious.

Chef Jojo noted, “My cuisine is approached with respects to locality, diverse cooking techniques and contemporary presentations. It is inspired by our beautiful bounty in Hawaii as well as interesting styles from around the globe.”

Jojo Vasquez is the talented executive chef at The Plantation House. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PLANTATION HOUSE.

As the sun melted over the Pacific and twilight painted the sky, we shared a colorful dessert named Peanut Butter and Jelly. It was a kaleidoscopic blend of peanut butter mousse over dark chocolate cake topped with strawberry gelee and served with fresh cut berries, peanut butter pearls and strawberry sorbet on a swirl of strawberry puree. It was another example of an eclectic dish using local ingredients and creative ideas.

General Manager Chad Hubbard summed it up best when he remarked on the chef’s cuisine, “As soon as you think you’ve seen it all, the next month he surprises you.”

Treat yourself to a surprise at The Plantation House Restaurant. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Call (808) 669-6299 or visit theplantationhouse.com.