It’s late. The last, lingering couple sits at a table just past ours, their hands touching, enjoying the vestiges of their vintage selection from one of the state’s best cellars, a collection boasting over 450 selections and 4,500 bottles. At the close of a long night, Executive Sous Chef and Kitchen Manager Rory Butts graciously takes time to sit and speak with us while we finish a decadent dessert of his doing.
Nestled at the end of South Kihei Road, Sarento’s On The Beach is quintessential Wailea-style dining. One of Tri Star Restaurant Group’s tetrad of establishments, everything oozes effervescent South Side chic—crisp, rich, intimate, comfortable. The restaurant’s low makai wall reveals its hallmark open-air panorama that seems to spill you right atop the sands of Keawakapu, a choice view for diners as they dive into the culinary fusion waters of Mediterranean meets Pacific Rim.
The genuine hospitality of its superb team makes this acclaimed upscale experience delightfully warm and unpretentious.
Chef Butts speaks with candid sincerity about the opportunities and challenges of a chef’s trade. He details his commitment to topnotch product—sought out domestically and abroad—as well as the careful orchestration that’s needed to balance seasonal offerings with his own epicurean innovation. Yet no matter where the conversation takes us, Chef Butts always relates his own passions back to the vision of the company at large. “We hire by the heart. If someone comes to me and says, ‘Chef, I’m here for the food. I’m here to learn and to use the best product . . . That’s the guy I want in the kitchen,” he says.
From the kitchen to the table, the staff works to make the food the star attraction. After all, service and view aside, I am here for fine dining.
And dine finely I do. Were a rainbow distilled into a sweet and savory dish, it would be Sarento’s Mango & Avocado Ceviche. A Molokai sweet potato chip towers from the martini glass, an indigo obelisk nestled at the edge of a spring pallet mound of creamy avocado and mango, delicately cubed and contrasted against the crunchy bursts of tart lilikoi. Bridging the colors and flavor of the deep, dusky chip and early morning avo are bold toppings of spicy heart-shaped microgreens and—a personal favorite—the garnet flesh of vibrant blood orange, a late-season treat.
The roasted beet carpaccio was the table favorite; I found the hazelnuts to be the most delightful element of the golden pea sprout and daikon salad, atop the Venn Diagram of ultra slim slices of burgundy and gold beets, dressed with a horseradish vinaigrette and sprigs of watercress. The al dente Butternut Squash Risotto, with highly complementary pumpkin seed oil, an orange pistachio gremolata and slivers of shaved shiitake mushrooms, was a close second.
Named for Placourakis’s granddaughter, the Gabriella salad is a lovely chopped mix of Maui onions, cherry tomatoes, feta, baby artichokes and bay shrimp. My taste buds rejoiced with the salad’s crown jewel: a long, thick slice of avocado, first lightly grilled with the charred outsides carefully cut off, leaving it soft and sweet but permeated with a savory smokiness.
If you save room for dessert, the Chocolate Profiterole and Tiramisu with a teardrop-cut ladyfinger sent straight from heaven, is purely divine.
If Sarento’s seems like a treat out of reach, fear not. The recently intorduced Starlight Menu, offered from 8pm until the last seating at 9:30pm, allows diners to indulge on three courses from a select menu—salad, entrée and dessert—for a mere $25.
Economic options aside, Sarento’s offers a dining experience with flavor and heart that’s worth every penny. MTW
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