Living in a tourist destination has some perks, like an amazing assortment of fine dining options. While I try to get to all of these establishments, my recent visit to Tropica at the Westin Maui Resort was a pleasure. This hidden gem of modern and sophisticated dining is nestled in Kaanapali and it has some of the best views of any restaurant I have been to on the island; it’s as close to dining right on the beach as you can get. The interior seating has a charming pond, making every seat waterfront dining. Their modern look is juxtaposed with Tiki torches and lava rock, bringing an intriguing ambiance to the experience, whether you’re stopping in for some pupus and cocktails or settling in for a fusion feast.
It’s very apparent that the island’s bounty is Chef Bart Umidi’s muse. His menu design at Tropica is contemporary, fusing premium local produce with fresh island fish and seafood, as well as local beef selections, with a wide array of preparations and presentations. His menu also makes no assumptions about your wine knowledge, which I can really appreciate. A wine amateur like me can order expertly as every dish is presented with its recommended pairing.
I started off with the prosciutto- wrapped sea scallops served with polenta and greens and a basil sauce with a 2005 Russian River Chardonnay from Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards. I love polenta served with anything but this dish was a hit because the sea scallops were expertly cooked; their texture was perfect. Next I tried the pohaku seared beef that appears sizzling on a hot stone at the table with a ponzu sauce and a fantastic beet and ginger preserve. I also took their pairing recommendation with a glass of the 2004 Clancy’s shiraz, a Peter Lehman wine from Australia.
Now that a buzz was setting in it was time to get busy with my dinner selection. My palate was telling me to go with the Pacific Boullabaisse, and I was happy I did. My server explained it was Chef’s signature dish. This and several selections on the menu are specially marked to indicate they are lower in calories and fat content to highlight the Westin’s mind-body-spirit theme. The tasty bouillabaisse broth was brimming with Kona lobster, scallops, shrimp, fish, clams and mussels and completed with a delicious focaccia crostini to dip in the broth.
According to my fine dining playbook no meal is complete without dessert. Tropica has an after-dinner option called the chocolate heaven, an aptly named, irresistible rich chocolate cake with a gooey center. It was a glorious evening of fancy food, but I would also recommend visiting Tropica for some informal dining. You could sit at their elegant bar and try their stone baked flat breads like the spicy lobster, roasted peppers and lemon pressed olive oil version for $13 with a glass of wine or cocktail, or drop in for one of their irresistible desserts with a glass of port. And parents take note: Tropica is offering a special “Kids Eat Free” promotion for adult-accompanied children five and under. MTW