The Plantation House is in the farthest reaches of the upper northwest countryside. To get there, you zoom past Kapalua, tear by DT Flemings and pull a right at the big Plantation Golf Course sign. It’s not hard to find, and it’s certainly well known for its incredible list of signature eggs benedicts served from 8am to 3pm, but it’s more than just a stopover on your country drive.
Chef Alex Stanislaw has been there from day one, creating fresh and simple dishes on an extensive menu that has a timeless quality. There are Mediterranean influences on top of regional Pacific fusion standards. Plantation House doesn’t forget its golfers either, providing plenty of the heavy hitters like burgers, sandwiches, steak and eggs and loco moco with elegant overtures.
But Stanislaw says what really gets him fired up though is fish. “Fish is so wonderful to work with,” he says. “I want everyone that comes in to try our fish. It’s one of the last healthy animal proteins. Fish is a delicacy [but] we have to respect what we are getting from the ocean.”
His Ahi Nicoise (“ahi in the style of Nice” on the menu) is a sleek example of what Stanislaw can do with seared ahi and fresh farmed goods. He calls ahi ubiquitous, but his entree fish dish includes local arugula, organic tomatoes, Kula green beans and citrus vinaigrette. Everything on the dish is Maui-sourced, save the balsamic.
Stanislaw holds similarly strong views about wine as well.
“The most under-utilized herb is the flat leaf parsley and the most under utilized wine is the reisling and pinot,” says Stanislaw. “You hear a lot about cab; it’s always described in masculine terms–big, bold, leathery–and pinot is described in more feminine terms, and is less tannic. Reisling is balanced, very food-friendly and not too high in alcohol.”
Each page of his dinner menu has suggested wines, and the wine program–driven by managing partner Norm Schuhardt–is impeccable. Stanislaw says there’s a lot of trust in his restaurant with the staff. When he talks about the teamwork, he really gets passionate.
“Chef Maro [Gjurasic, Chef de Cuisine] has an amazing energy with the food,” Stanislaw says. “He loves big and bold flavors. He has great hands and is extremely capable of finesse. The broccoli dish is his–Upcountry broccoli cooked in a hot pan till it gets a bit of char on it with garlic, then he adds some chili and lime. I’m thinking there is no way that works, but it is amazing. Maro is also getting our seasonal ‘fresh sheet’ menu program going.”
Plantation House has a robust “Come Join Our Table” wine dinner program that joins guests with winemakers over incredible paired dishes. This is where Stanislaw and Gjurasic get to branch out into the creative, hoisting prized ingredients to treasured grapes. This Saturday, their dinner with winemaker Fred Scherrer is no exception: four courses and pupus are an opportunity for both wine exposure and food adventure. The ubiquitous ahi shows up in rare form with fennel and ‘07 pino at its side. There’s also Calabrian sausage in the croquette with Scherrer Chardonnay and garlic prawn in walnut aioli and dry rose. (Call for reservations: 808-669-6299).
“The braised pork cheeks are served with a potato cream and old and mature zinfandel,” says Stanislaw. “Potato cream is mashed potatoes whipped with as much butter as they can take. It’s fantastic and rich. Fred Scherrer is an integrity-driven winemaker. He released his zinfandel late because it wasn’t ready. Even if he needed to release it to sell, he wasn’t going to do it until it was prime.”
The Plantation House menu skimps on nothing. If you want Angus beef, it’s there. There’s also creamy risotto and pasta, shrimp and scallops all highlighted by simple sides, well-paired wines and a full bar. The restaurant has an astonishing way of feeling welcoming, like you’re going into a beautiful home to dine next to the fire place.
The decor takes its notes from the name–historic plantation-style with a few modern touches that make it cozy and comfortable, but you might be too awed by the views to notice. The open air dining room looks out onto the wild Pailolo channel and Molokai’s east end.
“We don’t do food manipulation here,” says Stanislaw. “You won’t find the fish that looks like a kiwi and tastes like a duck. That is not for us. We like the food to show through. It’s the KISS philosophy: keep it simple, stupid. You can throw a bunch of this and that into the dish, but I want every ingredient to matter.”
The Plantation House
2000 Plantation Club Dr., Lahaina