Cane & Canoe — Inspired by culture and sense of place
KAPALUA – From the moment you walk under the great longhouse roof toward the idyllic setting of Namalu Bay, you realize that Montage Kapalua Bay is an experience for all senses. The resort’s new restaurant, Cane & Canoe, is a perfect blend of tastes, textures, sights and sounds in dining. The unfolding drama of its open-air patio overlooking a wide expanse of green lawn, swaying palm trees and the sparkling blue Pacific completes the sensory experience.
In its architecture, Cane & Canoe represents Hawaii’s unique mix of multicultural influences from old Hawaii to the plantation era. Warm woods in the rafters and on scrollwork screens are enhanced by cool stone pillars and walls. Paintings depict scenes of sugar cane workers in the fields. Soon, a handcarved Polynesian canoe will be on display.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Montage Director of Food & Beverage James Proctor to learn more about the restaurant’s concept and Montage philosophy.
“Although we never forget where we are with this phenomenal view, we don’t shy away from being food-driven. At Montage, we highlight the regional cuisine. Our service is the key; it’s highly personalized, because we know that not every guest wants the same experience,” James explained.
Cane & Canoe’s culinary team is led by Executive Chef Riko Bartolome. Chef Riko is no stranger to Kapalua Resort, as he was a private chef for resort residents and guests for over six years and has nurtured relationships with local farmers. He offers a contemporary approach to Hawaii Regional Cuisine infused with Asian influences and classic training.
“We know what we use and where it comes from; it’s natural and the right thing to do. We get produce from as many local farms as possible, including three here in West Maui. We’re trying to promote Maui [in the dining experience],” said Chef Riko.
When my partner Tom and I sat down to dinner, we asked Chef Riko for a starter that best illustrated his culinary style of simplicity and clean flavors, highlighting each element of texture and color in one combination.
He presented us with the Octopus Grille: tender, young octopus from Spain was braised in lemon juice, thyme and saffron and served in a creamy coconut veloute with spicy duck chorizo, cubes of purple Molokai potatoes, crunchy radishes, Kahuku sea asparagus and NapiliFlo micro greens. This dish was an explosion of savory tastes in an authentic display of textures for the mouth and color for the eyes. Tom said that he had never tasted a combination that worked so well.
Chef Riko noted, “If you enjoy what you see, it translates to taste. I like to present a well-rounded menu with something for everyone, from adventurous to simple.”
The chef is playful with his menu, offering unique yet familiar dishes. Other starters featured on the menu include Hudson Valley Foie Gras in a cocoa nib streusel with kabocha mochi rice and pickled pear, and Calamari Chow Fun made with lop cheong, bean sprouts, charred scallions and smothered kale.
For entrees, we chose Tempura Ahi and Kurobuta Pork. The ahi was rolled in nori and tempura in a Wellington style, served with foie gras nage, shimeji mushrooms and asparagus spears over a bed of kale. The result was a sensuous blend of texture with rich flavors. A large Kurobuta pork shank was braised in confit with cider-garlic reduction accompanied by fresh green veggies. The tender pork fell off the bone to be dipped in the seasoned sauce.
Chef Riko’s entree selection includes a Herb Crusted Lamb Loin with carrot-cauliflower cous cous; Blue Marlin and Kauai Shrimp with gnocchi; Maui Coffee Crusted Beef Tenderloin with bourbonized Maui onions; and Vegetarian Turnip “Scallops” made with oatmeal verde and kabocha squash in porcini tea.
We were surprised with a side dish that was one of the most delightful I’ve ever tasted: Lobster “Mac & Cheese.” It was gnocchi made with lobster and drenched in creamy brie and sharp cheddar cheeses.
The table service was excellent. Our servers took care of the smallest details yet were not hovering, so we enjoyed conversation over an excellent Heitz Cellars Cabernet. Cane & Canoe’s wine list is not only extensive but impressive. Restaurant Manager Jim Hansen is known for his well-balanced and eclectic wine lists. There are at least 60 red wines, ranging from Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir to Nebbiolo Barbaresco. The white wines include Deutz and Krug Champagnes, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Kosta Browne Chardonnay and northern Italian blends.
Lingering over the intense sunset and island music serenade, we opted for dessert. Pastry Chef Tomoko Nohina prepared Hawaiian Chile Chocolate Mousse Cake with hazelnut streusel in mango emulsion that was a perfect ending to the luscious meal. The dessert menu is a reflection of Chef Riko’s playful philosophy: Buttermilk Malasadas are drizzled with maple-bacon caramel and mocha sauce; Lilikoi Panna Cotta is served over Waialua chocolate sponge and mint gel.
After dinner, we stopped in the Canoe & Canoe bar, which has a warm, clubhouse ambiance. Friendly bartenders serve classic and handcrafted cocktails. The grand piano and pool table are surrounded by original Pegge Hopper paintings from the former Kapalua Bay Hotel. Residents and returning visitors will appreciate the nostalgia.
Cane & Canoe offers kama’aina 10 percent off regular menu items everyday. On Mondays, you’ll get 25 percent off the bar and restaurant menus all day. Dinner is served nightly from 5 to 9 p.m. The bar is open daily from 5 to 11 p.m. with happy hour service from 8 to 11 p.m. For reservations, call 662-6681 or visit montagehotels.com/kapaluabay.