Pulehu, An Italian Grill
Westin Kaanapali Resort
6 Kai Ala Dr., Kaanapali
As their recent win in Best of Maui for Best Resort shows, the Westin properties go the extra mile to cater to kama‘aina. My recent visit to check out Pulehu, An Italian Grill revealed an array of amazing options for residents, from the free valet parking to the the 50-percent-off nights (Thursdays after 8pm). You probably don’t associate going out to dinner with a trip to a resort, but sometimes enjoying a meal is about the whole experience—and the package offered at Pulehu is just right.
Reservations are recommended to get the best seat in the house, which would be along the koi pond and water garden in the open-air dining room. Sunset and ocean views peek out at you from beyond the buildings; the Italian music adds a nice touch. The restaurant is modern, with simple but comfortable dark, natural wicker chairs and dark wood, glass-topped tables. The understated elegance lets you focus on the food.
Pulehu has two formats for their dinner service: on Thursday through Sunday you can order from their Italian menu, on Monday they do an Italian all-you-can-eat buffet. The menu is impressive, a balance of traditional pasta with inventive Italian dishes. It’s almost impossible to avoid starting with the antipasti and a cocktail. The rich rustic crab dip, designed by Chef Brian Reilly, begs to be ordered and enjoyed with an adult beverage while you peruse the rest of your meal plan. It’s served in a black cast-iron pan and the texture and taste are reminiscent of crab dynamite. Pulehu’s signature cocktail, the strawberry limoncello martini, pairs well with the first course. Their mai tais are also spectacular, and they have three different specialty styles to choose from.
As you move on with your meal, remember no one is rushing you. This is Mediterranean-style dining, in several courses. The menu features a wine pairing suggestion for each dish. The wine list is extensive, but a great way to get familiar is their offering of flights of wine, Ferrari or Italy. Executive Chef Francios Milliet has taken the time to perfect the flavors; it’s your job to discern and enjoy them. The wood-stone pizzas are a great place to linger. The cappannone pizza combines smoked apple bacon, Point Reyes blue cheese and arugula and walnuts, a surprising and fantastic medley. All of their breads are baked in the rustic wood-burning oven, creating an authentic smoky flavor and crisp textures.
ationships and connections with local food producers and is extremely proud of Pulehu’s close connection to Hirabara Farms on the island of Hawaii. “We are lucky to work with them so closely, we have have the freshest greens, picked immediately on request and air-shipped over,” he says. That means the greens’ delicate flavors are at their oldest while on your plate. Chef Milliet is Swiss-trained in the culinary arts, having been born and raised in Switzerland. He joined the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort with experience from Hyatt and restaurants like the Tower Club 300 and The Cliff House in California, and most recently served as executive sous chef of the Westin Maui Resort and Spa.
His vision for the entree portion of the menu features pasta speciales, where you’ll find zucca ravioli, a pocket of butternut-squash filling enclosed in an envelope of homemade sundried tomato pasta, topped with infused sage brown butter, cranberries and macadamia nuts. It’s a symphony of flavors and textures that plays perfectly together. Several of their pastas can be enjoyed in a full or half order.
The grigliato features grilled entrees like the filet mignon, veal parmigiano and the risotto crusted pesce. The risotto, served over roasted veggies and with a pesto butter sauce, is surprising as a crisp crust around the flaky fish, but it succeeds in keeping the fish succulent and adding flavor dimensions I hadn’t tried before. In the Pulehu classicos there is a mix of highlighted dishes, like the Kona lobster and braised shortribs. The Kona lobster is served with a nice plain flat noodle and roasted veggies, allowing the lobster to be the focal point of that dish.
The buffet features an amazing assortment of highlights from the regular menu, plus unique additions. The greens come two ways in the antipasti portion of the buffet, chopped romaine or mixed greens. You can prepare a classic Caesar—their dressing is outstanding—or just sample the fresh greens. They have added platters and bowls of salami, capicola, prosciutto, roasted bell peppers and olive tapenade, fresh mozzarella and crackers. The roasted tomato soup was delightful and the mac and cheese, featuring housemade cheese sauce, is surprisingly spectacular.
At the buffet you’ll have the chance to sample most of their pastas: ravioli with pesto, spaghettini, alfredo, Italian sausage-baked penne and lasagna. The shrimp scampi orzo is not on their regular menu, but it’s a standout at the buffet. Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite dishes and it’s done exceptionally well here. The lasagna features spinach, Italian sausage, mushrooms and pomodoro covered in cheese and baked to a golden brown.
Pulehu recently won as Maui’s best-kept secret in the Aipono awards, but with their kama‘aina specials and palate-pleasing offerings, the secret is sure to get out.
Got a hot food scoop? Contact Jen Russo at 808-280-3386 or fax to 808-244-0446.