Pulehu, An Italian Grill
Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii 96761
The Big Deal: Keiki eat free! Terrific wines by the glass for under $10.
Hours: Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday
Waist Whittler: Insalata Arugula with feta and radicchio $10
I’ll Work Out Twice Tomorrow: Chef’s Lasagna $21
Vegan Delight: Quattro Formaggio Wood Flamed Pizza $12
Editor’s Fav: Pesto Opakapaka on Fettucine with Sun-dried Tomato Butter Sauce $30
Kale Raves: Filetto de Manzo (grilled filet) with Truffle Potato Puree $30
Super Nouvelle: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Cranberries, Shallots, Macadamia Nuts $22/17
Better than expected: Just about everything!
Don’t Expect: A big ocean view or to be able to order all you want in one seating.
Insist On: Returning a few times to taste everything.
Italian cuisine is the world’s most popular. French may be as tasty, Greek more exotic, and Indian more flavorful, but Italy grabs the gold when it comes to the je ne sais quoi of putting it all together to create la dolce vita. Pulehu seeks to be the Maui expression of that concept.
To achieve the sweet life — or a great dish, or successful business — one must meld passion and practicality; develop an appreciation for the rules and exhibit loving acceptance when they are broken. The other night while dining with Chef Adam Tabura at Pulehu, where he serves as Executive Sous Chef, he shared stories of the people who influenced him during culinary school and beyond. From one he learned to cook with zest and abandon; another taught him the importance of precision in his work; and from yet another celebrity chef he learned about marketing and business. Balancing these elements in a restaurant (or life) are tricky but Chef Adam was dedicating to learning all he could from as many source as possible throughout his sixteen year career.
As a result, we have a passionate young master of the culinary arts in our midst. Growing up on Lanai created the necessity of making ordinary food taste good – the island being devoid of many dining options. After graduating from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, Adam aligned himself with Chefs displaying best practices, often working without pay until he felt accomplished enough to grab leading roles at impressive venues like Kona Village, Manele Bay, The Lodge at Koele and Ruth’s Chris in Wailea.
Six months ago, recruited by Harolyn Shimabukuo-Miyashiro, Kaanapali Ocean Villas Director of Food and Beverage, Chef Adam was called upon to help reposition Pulehu into an expression of Italy, Maui-style. Pulehu means “grilled” in Hawaiian, and the flame in the logo burns bright in the eyes of Chef Adam, who accepted the challenge with dedication and zeal.
In keeping with the Italian tradition of hospitality, Chef Adam sat with us all evening, guiding us on a culinary journey while sharing the insights and secrets that go into creating such an appealing dining experience. Use of local ingredients; hand selected beef; artistic renderings of the presentations; even the size of the breadsticks had been carefully thought out.
We started with an antipasto platter almost too pretty to eat – but not quite! We dove into the bruchetta, garlic shrimp, cheese wrapped salami and pickled delights with abandon and nibbled alternatively on a fried calamari with garlic aioli and marinara dipping sauces. Next up were luscious mini-crab cakes, floating in a sweet bell pepper sauce, followed by lip-smacking Pesto Opakapaka with garlic fettucine and tomato butter sauce that quickly became a personal favorite. The Prawn Rissotto is a beautiful dish; with the panko-crusted prawns flayed open in the shell, which Chef Adam explained helped keep them moist and tender.
Night had fallen over the koi ponds just beyond our table. Basking in the glow emanating from the open-view kitchen and warm hued bar, we sensed an overall hum of satisfaction from fellow diners, whether families with children sharing large tables or loving couples tucked into the cozy booths in the back. True to form, Chef insisted we indulge a bit further and presented a collection of signature desserts including raspberry gelato piled into delicate almond tuille, molten chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla gelato, and the piece de resistance, deconstructed Tiramisu, the best I’ve had in ages. Soon we were reminiscing about memorable meals in Cinque Terra, Venice, Lake Como – yet amazingly, we were only minutes from home.