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Iconic Sea House Restaurant stands as tribute to quality dining

By Staff | Jan 15, 2015

Executive Chef Craig Erickson displays his Ahi Poke Nachos at the Sea House Restaurant on Napili Bay. PHOTOS BY KAREE CARLUCCI.

NAPILI – Standing watch over West Maui’s most beautiful bay is the iconic Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai Beach Resort. For 50 years, this local favorite has delivered consistently delicious meals in a dynamic setting at the edge of Napili Bay.

I recently enjoyed dinner at the Sea House with Executive Chef Craig Erickson. Chef Craig joined the Napili Kai ‘ohana in 2007. He oversees all the culinary and catering functions for the resort and has played an integral role in bringing the Sea House to the forefront of Maui’s restaurant scene. This year, Sea House was honored as Best Breakfast Spot on Maui by the editorial staff of Hawaii magazine. It also won Maui No Ka ‘Oi magazine’s 2014 ‘Aipono Gold Awards for Best Bar and Most “Maui-est” Restaurant. Mauians favor the restaurant for its Happy Hour pupu menu.

When I asked Chef Craig why the Sea House remains a perennial favorite, he noted, “Where we are is important. Our employees cherish it, and that carries through to our guests. This is a classic place with great food at great value in a wonderful location.”

Over the past few years, Chef Craig has revitalized the restaurant menus, transforming them into a blend of Hawaii Regional and Pacific-Mediterranean cuisines peppered with diners’ favorites and locally sourced products. The chef has personal relationships with Maui fishermen and farmers. He feels that less ingredients with fresh, simple seasonings in his recipes result in more flavor.

“Flavor is one of my signatures. I like strong, bold, distinct flavors in my dishes,” said the chef.

Da Kine Caesar Salad and Tenderloin Bruschetta are just two of dozens of pupus on the Sea House Restaurant menu.

This signature style is particularly evident in his pupu menu. We sampled the Tenderloin Bruschetta, which is seared filet mignon cut into strips, seasoned with garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms in a rich, beef demi glace, and served over toasted asiago bread with balsamic syrup. It’s decadent yet light and was quickly devoured. Chef Craig surprised us with his Da Kine Caesar Salad; my partner said it was the best Caesar he ever tasted. Whole baby Romaine leaves are drizzled with classic Caesar dressing, sun-dried tomato puree and pomegranate balsamic syrup. The flavors in this unique mix are tangy, sweet and creamy, and a perfect complement to the salty parmesan crackers served with the salad.

The pupu menu is extensive with over two dozen items. Hawaiian Hippie Roll is made maki style with quinoa and fresh veggies, pohole fern shoots and pineapple. Maui Beach Balls feature rock shrimp and mahimahi with corn, pepper jack cheese and rice in a furikake-panko crust served with mango mustard. Ahi Poke Nachos on wonton chips and a limu bed have a delightful twist with wasabi aioli, sriracha cream and sweet soy sauce. Fresh seafood chowder is made with local ingredients, smoked bacon and potatoes in a New England style. There are so many choices, you can graze for hours.

We moved on to the dinner menu, which the chef describes as more contemporary and fun. He selected one of his favorites for us to try: Lawai’a Kupa (Fisherman’s Stew). The bowl is filled with savory lobster-coconut broth and hearty chunks of lobster, scallops, shrimp, crab leg and grilled fresh catch. Steamed wild rice is served on the side. We also delved into a Fire-Grilled Filet Mignon marinated in garlic and rosemary, and topped with blue cheese and bacon jam demi glace. It was served with seasonal squash and Maui onion mashed potatoes. We were immersed in a luxurious tapestry of flavors and textures.

I had my eye on the Maui Mac & Cheese, which is a playful combination of orecchiette pasta in a sharp cheddar bechamel sauce with artichoke, asparagus, grape tomatoes, roasted lobster, lump blue crab and parmesan-crusted mahimahi. It looked so rich and creamy; I made a note to come back and try it.

The desserts are handcrafted in-house and feature island produce like pineapple, lilikoi, mango and coconut. We decided on Banana Foster Lumpia, which was filled with caramelized banana slices and candied macadamia nuts, served with Roselani macadamia nut ice cream.

Feeling sated, we relaxed with fresh brewed coffee and gazed at the lights sparkling across the water, listening to the waves lapping against the shore. Our verdict is the Sea House is truly an experience for all the senses.

If you haven’t visited the Sea House at Napili Kai in a while, you’ve got many reasons to go back. Breakfast on the beach is a great way to start your new year; it’s served between 7 and 11 a.m. Lunch on the lanai is casual and laid-back; our friend insists they serve the best island fish tacos. Check it out from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or go for Whale Watcher’s Happy Hour from 2 to 5 p.m. Dinner is served between 5:30 and 9 p.m. accompanied by live entertainment with island musicians. For reservations, call 669-1500 or visit seahousemaui.com.