Tropica Chef’s Dinner, Westin, Kaanapali Maui

Searching for outstanding food and wine on a value seeker’s budget?  How about a gourmet value priced meal with wine pairings served directly on the ocean’s edge prepared by one of Hawaii’s top young chefs?

Chef Rich Hinijosa of Tropica at Westin Kaanapali

Chef Rich Hinijosa of Tropica at Westin Kaanapali

Since your wish is Westin’s command, diners with good taste can revel at the exclusive Chef’s Dinner, served every second Thursday of the month to twelve lucky guests by Chef Rich Hinojosa and his staff at Tropica, Westin, Kaanapali.

Guests gather at two separate round tables adjacent to the main restaurant with views of the exhibition kitchen back near the expansive bar where they participate in a night of fun, inventive food, and new-found camaraderie. (Arrive early and try bartender Fred’s award-winning Dragonberry Bomb with elderflower liqueur and fresh blackberries.)

What’s Cooking Maui staff and friends have participated twice now in the monthly affair and each time come away jubilant, a result of Chef Rich’s obvious passion for hospitality and culinary skill. Although the price tag is only $59/pp including four course dinner and wine pairings, guests are treated like royalty with the Chef coming to each table with each course explaining his choices and preparations. It’s a personal touch that makes you feel as if he’s cooking only for you in your private domain.

January’s dinner featured a stellar line-up of courses including New Caledonia Prawns served over Belgian Endive highlighted with luscious Kapalua Pink Lemon essence, maytag blue cheese and opal basil. Served with a Spanish Brut, Cava (NV Castellar) we already knew we were in for a special evening. Then the staff presented an outstanding dish of Braised Veal Cheek, super tender, served over amazing polenta with radicchio, tomato and surprising addition of local green beans. The flavors resembled foie gras (to me) and when I bit into one of the tomato slices I could have sworn it was rhubarb as it had taken on the slow-cooked sweet pungency of the veal cheek. We savored the dish alongside a Pinot Noir from Oregon, 2007, A to Z Vineyard which was superb.

Next up guests still managed to put away a hearty serving of Beef Tenderloin with risotto, kula onion, fennel and sea beans – amazing little veggies that resemble pohole ferns in texture and flavor.  The medley worked great with a 2006 Cliff Lede Cabernet from Stag’s Leap.

Sea Beans - Delicious!

Sea Beans - Delicious!

Chef Rich claimed the dessert was intended to be “not so heavy” but for me the Brioche Pudding with vanilla, caramel and braised apple took a backseat to the Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port that accompanied it. All in all, it was a fantastic meal which drew applause from the guests.

Every month the menu changes as Chef Rich has fun teasing the palate with “a winning combination of Maui’s famed local ingredients and Westin’s branded cuisine that promotes a complete sense of renewal.” I couldn’t have said it better myself as it explains why I heartily recommend this special monthly event to anyone who appreciates good food and wine.

To make a reservation phone 808-667-2525.

Tropica Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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