Bringing the Best Forward
Three ‘Aipono Award-winning restaurants share their recipes for success.
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At a torchlit table tucked into Capische’s meandering herb garden, I dip my spoon into the house specialty. My bowl of cioppino fairly overflows with Kona-raised Maine lobster, Moloka‘i shrimp, and giant scallops. I inhale; the exquisite scent of saffron envelops me. Beneath the shellfish, ribbons of capellini lie curled in a spicy tomato-saffron broth. My new definition of heaven: this seafood stew plus an endless supply of garlic sourdough to sop it up with.
Capische, voted “2011 Restaurant of the Year” by readers of this magazine, ably sets the stage for such transcendent dining experiences.
Celebrating its ninth anniversary, Capische at the Hotel Wailea is the little restaurant that could. Chef Brian Etheredge was just twenty-six when he took over the small North Italian eatery, then in Ma‘alaea. Relocating it to well-heeled Wailea, he quietly slipped in amidst such big shots as Wolfgang Puck and Beverly Gannon.
Before long, Capische was collecting high praise. Rumors of perfect truffle risotto, delectable carpaccio, and meltingly tender lamb shank drew foodhounds up to the nine-table restaurant perched on the lanai of an off-the-beaten-path hotel. Nods from Fodor’s, Wine Spectator, and The Maui News readers’ poll were followed by a tip of the toque from fellow chefs, who voted Etheredge “Chef of the Year” in the 2008 ‘Aipono Awards.
Capische doubled in size, sprouting tables in the downstairs garden. Etheredge brilliantly transformed the attached teppanyaki restaurant into Il Teatro, an exclusive dining room where guests feast on four to fifteen courses cooked at their table. The expanded restaurant retains its intimacy, but that doesn’t stop the staff from hosting rapturous parties for 500—complete with lobster boils, Kobe beef stations, and fresh-shucked oysters shimmering on a carved ice bar.
“The guys in the kitchen know that when we’re busy, I get to cook sautée,” laughs Etheredge, who still gets a buzz from working the hot line.
Refreshingly, the chef-restaurateur is a collaborative force in the kitchen. He embraces fellow chefs—giving his right-hand man, Chris Kulis, the lead in Il Teatro, and partnering with Dan Fiske of Private Maui Chef on catering events. (Etheredge and Fiske also jointly support a school garden at Kïhei Elementary, lending both money and muscle to the project.)
“Everyone brings something to the table,” says Etheredge. “At Capische it’s not your traditional brigade system, with your dishwasher and prep cook at the bottom rungs. Everyone knows every station.” As a result, service is seamless.
The restaurant’s deceptively casual name is fitting—Italian-American slang for “get it?” Dine at Capische and what you’ll get is simply the best.