Story by Becky Speere
Hawai‘i’s mash-up of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican and Filipino cuisine takes celestial center stage at Huihui, the newest dining venue at Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel. Though the hotel’s footprint remains the same, the stars have realigned in the kitchen, thanks to executive chef Tom Muromoto.
The silhouette of a two-masted sailboat glides in front of a dazzling orange sunset as it passes by Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel.
“This feels like paradise,” whispers Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi publisher Diane Woodburn.
Diane, my husband Chris and I are at KBH’s newest dining venue, Huihui. In Hawaiian, huihui means “constellation,” or “to join, intermingle” — and it’s a fitting name: Ancient voyagers used those clusters of stars to guide them across the vast Pacific to Hawai‘i, and this restaurant is the ideal spot to connect with friends and family over great food. The decor pays homage to those wayfinders of long ago: majestic support beams, windows etched with sail-like designs, and tiny, twinkling ceiling lights that look very much like the skies above.
I open the cocktail menu and find it replete with local ingredients. Options such as fresh-pressed juices, Maui Bees honey and Ali‘i Kula lavender are proffered as mixers for Maui-sourced vodka, Big Island rum and Kīhei kombucha. For those of the beer ilk, the list includes selections from Koholā Brewery and Maui Brewing Company.
We select a rainbow of beverages — one blue (The Navigator), one pink (Hibis Kiss), one orange (Liliko‘i Mojito) and one gold (Li Hing Margarita). The latter is topped with a coaster filled with burning wood shavings which give the drink a smoky overtone. We sip happily as Julie Yoneyama, the sales and marketing manager for Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, approaches our table.
“I’m so happy to see you all,” she says. “Aren’t those cocktails wonderful? They’ve really stepped it up at the bar with fresh juices and exciting mixology. And chef Tom Muromoto has been tightening up [the recipes] in the kitchen, training his cooks and really nailing the flavors.”
Moments later our appetizers arrive, and we see — and smell — first hand that chef Muromoto has indeed nailed it. Lobster dumplings dressed with delicate Southeast Asian lemongrass cream and a drizzle of chili oil are perfectly steamed. The kō‘ala (barbecue) sticky spareribs are fall-off-the-bone good, and we lick our fingers so as not to waste a single bit of the incredible banana-lime barbecue sauce. The wok-seared Maui venison with citrus-soy sauce is divinely smoky, and an ocean-blue ceramic platter filled with thin slices of kāhala (yellowtail) and ‘ahi (tuna) carpaccio topped with red ogo (seaweed), capers, olives and Muromoto’s signature turmeric dressing is a raw-fish eater’s dream come true. When we’re done with our first course, not a bite is left behind.
Restaurant manager Madeline Rabago arrives at our table to introduce our entrees.
“Here, we have fresh ‘ahi caught in Maui waters, the pua‘a (pork) shank simmered in miso-soy sauce, and our signature Seafood Huihui,” she says.
I marvel at this last dish that features a galaxy of ingredients: fresh island ‘ahi, ula (lobster), scallops, ‘ōpae (Kaua‘i shrimp), zucchini, bok choy, wai niu (coconut milk), tomato broth and roasted kukui (candlenuts).
“We also have the miso-peach-glazed grilled tofu salad with local island vegetables, and a New York sirloin steak cooked medium rare,” concludes Rabago. The perfectly prepared steak is topped with an umami chili-soy dressing and comes with my favorite sides: broccoli rabe and oven-roasted Moloka‘i sweet potatoes.