Command Performance


Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Nina Kuna

Maui chef Chris Kulis

Located below Capische?, Hotel Wailea’s romantic and inquisitively named Italian restaurant, Il Teatro is an intimate venue, with seating for twenty diners. Those seats surround a giant plancha, or flattop grill, where Chef Chris Kulis gives command performances with seven- to nine-course prix fixe meals.

“Tonight I’m going to demonstrate a crispy-skinned fish with a kale-, sorrel-, and bone-marrow emulsion,” he says.

Locally sourced ingredients drive Il Teatro’s menu. “Fishermen bring just-caught fish to the kitchen every day and I buy all of it,” he says. Deftly wielding a saber-sharp Japanese fish knife forged of blue steel, Chef fillets a five-pound ‘opakapaka (pink snapper), all of which will eventually be used for crudos, entrees and fish stock. For tonight’s primi (first course), he reserves four of the thickest fillets, shallow diamond shapes scored with the razor-sharp knife, barely discernible on the pink skin.

“Since the beginning, I’ve used classic French chef’s knives, but recently switched,” he says. The Japanese knives “are so much better for their sharpness and design.” He’s such a fan, the new Market by Capische? in Wailea Gateway Center will carry the knives.

Coins of rich bone marrow undergo a quick sear before they are added to the kale-sorrel emulsion. They release spoonfuls of fat onto the griddle; Kulis sears the ‘opakapaka to a golden crunch in this marrow oil. As the fish cooks, he happily expounds on The Market — still some weeks away from opening as this issue goes to press. “We’re going to offer takeaway breakfast, lunch and dinner with barista service,” he says. “Panini sandwiches, dry-aged salami flavored with preserved kalamansi [Philippine lime], fennel and chili pepper, speck [Italian cured and smoked pork], prosciutto, gourmet foods, Capische? label wines.” In short, Capische?-quality items he’d serve at the restaurant will now be available for your home.

“The seared marrow is to enrich the emulsion,” Kulis says. It creates “a balanced roundness, while the kale, sorrel and Meyer lemon oil add bright earthy flavors, complimenting the crisp-skinned fish.” He spoons the jewel-green emulsion onto a slab of midnight-black slate and gingerly nestles the fish in its richness. Oven-caramelized cipollini onion, Kumu Farms leeks, tomatoes, seared Kipahulu hearts of palm, delicate embellishments of periwinkle-blue borage flowers, bright tangerine-orange nasturtiums, sprouted fennel and mustard seeds finalize the dish.

“Each flower and sprouted green not only adds beauty to the dish, but contributes bursts of flavor,” he says.

Get the Opakapaka Recipe


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