Pulehu, an Italian Grill at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Villas, recently won the `Aipono Award for “Best Kept Secret” in Maui. Now that the secret is out, expect this hidden gem to garner even more awards next year.
Best Buffet? Best New Chef? Best Open-Air Dining Venue? Best Deal on Maui?
We could predict a slew of additional awards that might soon grace the walls of the chic eatery.
The new Monday Night All-you-can-eat Italian Buffet may also be Maui’s best kept dining secret – but it won’t be for long. Already hotel guests are flocking to the extensive selection of antipasti, salads, pastas, pizzas and Italian specialties, eager to fill their plates as soon as the doors open at 5:30 p.m.
What’s Cooking Maui recently sampled nearly everything on the menu and found the Shrimp Scampi with Orzo to be divine; the fire roasted Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo absolutely delicious; and the pepperoni Pizza surprisingly addictive. Even the generally humble Spaghetti Marinara is a stand-out with vine ripened tomatoes enhanced by essential Italian seasonings that allow the fresh flavor of the lycopene rich fruit to stay true to its origins; a rarity in my experience.
Pulehu’s authentic flavor standouts are the result of new Chef Francois Milliet’s deft skills and refined palate. Born in Switzerland near the French border, after exploring his craft in such upscale and creative locations as Zermatt, the famed Cliff House in California, the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek and others where truffles, caviar and rare ingredients graced the menus, the Chef’s kitchen philosophy has come full circle to conclude the best meal does not necessarily come from expensive or exotic imported ingredients; rather, it’s simple, locally sourced foodstuffs that allow him to deliver, “simple, well executed food using the best ingredients I can use. When you eat the food, you should taste what it is you’re eating.”
Pulehu has presented Chef Francois with the perfect opportunity to execute his notions; I had guessed his cooking philosophy from the first bite of that Marinara sauce! Or take the Tomato Bisque – no overly thickened soup, as one typically finds on buffet menus, this was a bowl of delicate but rich flavors that truly satisfied. Another delight is the Four Cheese Ravioli with Pesto Cream sauce, amazing with the perfect combination of basil pesto which doesn’t overpower the fluffy cheese filling in the light pasta pillows.
There is more to the menu – authentic Italian capicola and prosciutto (which would be great mixed with some of the luscious melons also offered); olive tapenade and roasted peppers, fresh off the farm mixed greens to deck out with your choice of ingredients, and a classic Caesar that, like everything else on the menu, caresses the palate rather than smack you in the mouth. And yes, Virginia, there is also dessert, or dolci as in “la dolce vita.” Here is classic Tiramisu, rich cream laden layers of ladyfingers laced with espresso; light as heaven Cheesecake, possibly the fudgiest chocolate chip Brownie I’ve ever had outside my own kitchen, and homemade almond Biscotti that I wanted to stuff into my purse for breakfast the next morning. No, I didn’t. Instead, I made reservations for next Monday.
Italian Buffet at Pulehu, $29.95 per person; $15.00 children 6-12, keiki under 5 are free.
Also try the Thursdays Kama`aina night special after 8 pm, or the Tramonto Menu, Thursday-Sundays 5:30 – 6 pm, three courses for $37.95.