There is a common understanding when it comes to an executive chef and his kitchen. It is a holy grail, a place more sacred than the confessional. Their kitchen is where they conceive recipes that melt women’s hearts and make men weak in the knees. Food has always been a universal art that everyone finds delight in, and now the curtain is being drawn for a select few who want to be swept away in an experience you will never forget (now exclusively at the Maui Tropical Plantation.)
To be a part of the most intimate details of their creative process is considered a privilege and an honor. Maui Chef’s Table has opened their kitchen to those that want more than a meal. You will sit court side to their prep table or stove range as they slowly unravel their food alchemy, course by course. Listen to their banter, as they chide the executive chef that posed topless for the latest edition of “Edible Hawaii”. Watch the flawless movements as they elegantly slice house made wild boar sausage or ladle a vibrant parsley, garlic and butter sauce over the fresh land taro stuffed ravioli. If you haven’t already raced to make a reservation for this mind-blowing 7-course dining experience, then let me entice you with my experience!
Remember hearing about those places that were so cool, they didn’t even need a sign to promote? There’s an elusive quality about the location of Maui Executives Chef Table. There’s no sign, or even a proper front entrance. Instead, you’re given directions to a nondescript door that opens to a very energetic and dynamic kitchen. They don’t waste time with pompous fanfare that most restaurants need to make your experience semi-complete. These chefs need no glitz or glamor as they will win you over with their infectiously good-natured personalities, front row seats to all the action and other-worldly cuisine. They encourage you to walk around, ask questions, get personal. This experience is as much for you as it is for them and your interest feeds their passion for what they do! Sitting at high top prep tables, the server will bring each course to you, making sure you want for nothing. The kitchen atmosphere shifts to steamy as they transition from the petit amuse bouche to their heartier courses. Watch their amazing ability to put on a show while preparing the dishes that will make your tongue dance with delight. Being a part of this kitchen experience feels like being the first kid picked for dodgeball. You feel lucky. Really lucky. And gloating about it is completely acceptable.
You’ve come for the food, so let’s get down to the meat! There are words in the English language for the dishes that they prepare. A few that come to mind are: swoon-worthy, epic, worth dying for, tongue Mardi Gras, heaven on a plate. Other than that, the rest of what you will experience has no words yet created. They create a unique 7-course meal plan each week, which means you’re the first human on the face of this earth to experience this particular magic. It doesn’t get more VIP than that! So, to further seduce you, here is a play-by-play of my adventure in the kitchen of Maui Executive Chef’s Table.
This delicate bite woke up my palate with a cacophony of flavors and textures. The base was a sorrel sorbet, gorgeously green and delightfully sweet. Crispy quinoa wreathed the dome and added a hearty crunch while the delicate mint leaf that balanced atop tied all the flavors together with it’s own distinctive flavor.
Trotters, eggs and peas. While this soul food may sound like it came straight from the countryside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more delicate balance between the local pastured egg yolk and it’s hearty trotter counterpart. If you are like me, you might need to look up trotter. And you will find that it’s the appropriate name for pigs feet. So, imagine my surprise when the flavorful nugget held only savory goodness, and I was able to inhale the entire dish in two bites. The creaminess of the egg or the richness of the trotter might’ve been too much had they not paired it with a pea puree as the perfect balancing act. The earthy sweet flavor made this first course ecstasy.
I’ve always been a beet’s biggest fan, ever since I accidentally tie-dyed my shirt in 2nd grade with its peppy purple color. This salad married the earthier red beets with lighter and brighter yellow beets. To make it even better, there was accompanying dollops of beet foam to add color and light-as-air texture. For those that aren’t familiar with food foam, it’s a process of molecular gastronomy. All you need to know is that it takes your dining experience to a new level! The salad also had braised radishes, and to my delight had lost most of it’s radish-like bite but kept its unique flavor. Fennel topped this salad, and cleansed my palate along with the slight vinegar dressing that peeked out at the end.
The charcuterie board had as much story as flavor. There were three types of meat, each cured between 2 months and 200 days. The coppa, the Hungarian salami and the rosa de pepe were each cured in this executive chef’s own charcuterie, turning these local meats into gastronomic gold. The added delights on the wooden panel plate were lightly pickled onion and cucumber salad, a poha berry jam and a house made crème fraîche, adding decadence to each bite. To add to this amazingness, their homemade sourdough crisps created the canvas for my creation.
I’ve been to Italy and experienced fresh ravioli, so this wasn’t my first rodeo with homemade pasta. And I have to hand it to those boys. They made a sensational ravioli stuffed with a mild and creamy taro, and topped with a sauce unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. They prepared it with parmesan rinds, the stems of mushrooms, onions, freshly juiced parsley, garlic and butter. It created this light yet rich sauce that perfectly complimented its hearty counterpart.
This dish combined a few uncommon flavors that made it all the more memorable. Parsnip puree, caramelized fennel and a purple viking potato medallion started off this dish, each rich and earthy. Then the bit of egg yolk added a complimentary creaminess. The squid ink sauce popped in color and mild saltiness. And the caramelized octopus was perfectly prepared, not too tough or pungent. But the star of the show was the rare Opae Shrimp that topped the dish. Eaten in whole, shell and eyes included, and this tender shellfish melted in my mouth.
By course seven, I couldn’t fathom that there could be anything more incredible than the last five dishes that I experienced. Until I was served the sixth course. As the masterminds of this kitchen could already knew, each dish added to the next, and this savory plate of delicacies made my night complete. When the chef found out that they had access to two small wild boar, he completely changed his menu to fit them in. Because of the size, they were on the leaner side. However, flavor wasn’t sacrificed because of this, and the wild boar medallion had been wrapped in Berkshire pig to create a juicy morsel. On the other side of the plate sat a melt-in-your-mouth house made wild boar sausage, infused with flavor without any heavy gaminess. The added pleasures that accompanied these included a mustard crème fraîche, crunchy sauerkraut and a perfectly prepared pretzel spaetzle. What a way to finish!
At this point, I found myself floating on a blissful cloud of happiness, replaying each plate and finding no regret at finishing each and every dish. As they brought the last course, my happiness went to the place of no words, where my cheshire grin spoke of my excitement over this dessert plate send from the heavens. The grapefruit panna cotta had been frozen, and then slightly softened to create a velvet smooth ice cream consistency. The lilikoi sorbet had a cleansing quality to harmonize with the rich panna cotta. To pep up the dish, darling cubes of bourbon gelée graced the outskirts. And to add a bit of crunch that every good dessert needs, the macadamia nut praline crumble tied the knot. And I finished off the lot with the juicy slices of grapefruit, restoring my palate’s vitality.
Any warm-blooded human should be chomping at the bit to get a seat at this award-winning dining experience! If you’re on Maui as a local, guest, alien or other, make a reservation today for this epic dinner. And remember, this meal is just a teaser. You will sit down to your own unique menu and make your own priceless memories. Still need convincing? I promise you a few good laughs with new friends, some delectable eye candy, and unfading recollections of your ravishing dinner in paradise!