I’m kind of obsessed with Gannon’s right now. And not just with their new menu, which has quietly rolled out over the last couple of months–it’s the the whole package. The place has become a hotspot for nightlife in Wailea. Chef Bret Pafford shows great passion for fresh fish and all things made by hand. They recently won Best Restaurant with a View in our Best of Maui issue. And they have a fantastic happy hour, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Gannon’s A Pacific View is the third in Chef Beverly Gannon’s empire of restaurants on Maui, joining Hali’imaile General Store and Joe’s Bar and Grill. Gannon, credited as one of the founding chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, is a big personality to work with. When Pafford came on board as Executive Chef for Gannon’s last September, I was excited to see what direction he would take with menu and restaurant.
Pafford confessed to a bit of wanderlust in his past, but said his world travels have shaped his palate, mostly for fine tasting food. Little by little, he says, he’s created a menu that his kitchen can build from scratch.
“I like to downplay my menu,” says Pafford. “The bleu cheese in the gratin is hand-smoked, and so is the prosciutto. At lunch, our French fries are handmade. I love the art of saucier and the sauces and soups reflect that. We are getting a lot done in our kitchen back there.”
When I visited, I found the poke was succulent and a delicious starter. While it can be a simple dish, Pafford translated glorious cubes of ahi with cucumber, onion and avocado into a cultivated stack topped with tobiko micro greens. You scoop it all up with taro chips.
Pafford’s personal menu favorites are the fresh fish dishes. The sashimi is raw bar at its finest–an icy platter displaying cross sections of sliced yellowtail and ahi, all garnished with three different honey yuzu dipping sauces.
“The fish is just so beautiful right now,” says Pafford. “I work personally with our fish purveyor to choose only the best cuts for our poke and sashimi. Those dishes are so elegant because the fish is pristine.”
The miso-glazed walu on the pupu menu captured me as well. Imagine fat pieces of marinated walu grilled and then roosted on Gannon’s Asian slaw inside of a lettuce cup. I could eat it everyday.
The restaurant opens at 8:30am for breakfast, with Benedicts, omelets, pancakes, fresh fruit on yogurt and bread pudding. The steak and eggs are made with filet, and the hash comes from short rib. The croissant sandwich is the size of a football (ok, maybe not, but the thing is huge). It’s a dream breakfast menu served from some of the best views in Wailea. You can literally choose what beach looks best for the day from up there.
Lunch starts at 11am but the menu generously shares the the hours with a special brunch section that cherry picks from breakfast. Lunch is packed with comfort foods like steak frittes, Bev’s chili and cheese with corn chips, a Kobe burger and ribs borrowed from Hali’imaile. At lunch I gravitated toward the seared ahi panzanella and seafood Louie salads, which were quiet satisfying.
As for dinner, don’t start without a cocktail from Triston Rodrigues. He’s been with the Gannon family for years, coming down the mountain from Hali’imaile General Store. The Awapuhi is his Red Bar’s signature cocktail, and it’s zing of ginger liquor meets Kettle One in a martini. We also fell for the Mana Rita, which Rodrigues gently infuses with jalepeno overnight. The benefit is a mellow spiciness without an all-out burn. His creativity peaks in the Kai Thai, an unexpectedly fragrant lemongrass tropical with Shochu, basil and ginger ale. The happy hours at the Red Bar begin at 3pm with $2 drafts and $5 well drinks and lots of other specials. The Red Bar has a special happy hour menu that goes till 6pm, too.
At dinner, the Makai Menu features bliss from the sea. You can enjoy seared scallops with lobster butternut squash risotto, cashew crusted mahi with forbidden rice and fennel crusted ahi in lemon buerre blanc. All are served in gorgeous preparations. Delights from the Mauka Menu include pork chops lacquered in lilikoi, honey-spiced lamb and surf and turf with Poha Bordelaise. I couldn’t resist the rich ribeye, which is salt-crusted and accompanied by bleu cheese potato gratin and a red wine reduction.
As if a glorious menu isn’t enough to keep him busy, Pafford transforms the restaurant into a club once a month at Gannon’s After Dark. Last month’s 80’s Party was a huge hit. This Saturday, you can catch it again with DJs Joe Cortez and Jay J starting at 9pm. The theme is 80’s again, and dressing up in retro outfits is strongly encouraged. What’s more, designated drivers can have soft drinks for free, and you can reserve VIP lounge areas, too.
Kama’aina discounts at Gannon’s start at 5:30pm, and the deal is buy one entree, get a second one at half price. Gannon’s also recommends perusing their Facebook page (Facebook.com/gannonsrestaurant) for daily specials and updates.
100 Wailea Golf Club Dr.
Photo of Brett Pafford: Sean M. Hower