Shearwater Tavern opened about three months ago, but it’s already won over a following with local residents. Tucked into the most mauka corner of Azeka Mauka, this casual comfort food restaurant has indoor climate controlled seating, an outdoor lanai, nightly entertainment and happy hour. It’s the first gastropub concept that chef/restaurateur DK Kodama has created and it’s the eighth restaurant in his DK restaurant group.
“I’ve visited a lot of gastropubs all over the country,” says D.K. “When the location became available (locals will remember it as the old A Pacific Café, then Stella Blues location in Azeka Mauka), I thought a gastropub would be a perfect fit. The menu is a collaboration of ideas from many folks in our company.”
General manager Reed Robertson says they worked out the menu details with tireless tastings with D.K.
“The amount of work that D.K. has done, tweaking little elements of this menu from the actual size of the hamburger buns to the amount of ounces in it, has been incredible,” says Robertson. “D.K. has done an amazing amount of tinkering, making everything just right. His passion for the quality of everything that comes out of our kitchen is incomparable. Consistency is very, very high. We tasted this burger probably 20 times with slight modifications. We tried with pancetta instead of bacon. It was fun and very filling. Some days we were tasting the burger five times. The bun was a big thing: we tried probably 10 different buns. These buns are from Homemaid Bakery, same thing with our lobster roll. We have a Hawaiian sweet bread roll coming from Homemaid bakery.”
Some items were borrowed from Vino.
“There’s a good part of our menu that’s from our sister restaurant Vino,” says Robertson. “Our fresh made pastas, a lot of the veggies and salads. Chef Keith Endo does amazing work over there and he’s helped us create a lot of this menu. The other thing is there were just gastropub items that we thought should be on our menu. Things like nachos, wings and burgers. Obviously with the fried egg on top, nothing screams gastropub more than that.”
Shearwater Tavern is done in dark wood tones with red brick and cast iron details. It’s a completely new build-out. Trendy chalk board menus on the wall call out their current craft brews. There are high tops and communal tables near the bar and a more intimate dining area with four tops. Dimmed lighting and some flat screen TVs round out the pleasant man-cave vibe.
“We are very, very focused on craft beers, obviously,” says Robertson. “We have 15 taps constantly rotating and I believe we have 32 bottles and cans right now and those are in rotation as well. For our specialty cocktails, the master mixologist from Southern helped us design our menu. Lanui Villalon and I tweaked it to made it our own. We have added a few cocktails that have been really great sellers. We created the Tai Me Down, that’s all Lanui. And the Moscow Mule uses my own personal ginger beer recipe. Those are our two top sellers and we are very proud.”
Shearwater packs a lot of items into their dinner service, from burgers and sandwiches to house-made pasta to a category they call “Large Plates.” Appetizers, salads and side dishes start it all off, but in addition to the regular menu their is a clipboard of specials courtesy of Chef Carl Yeh.
“On the burger we have a cave-aged sharp cheddar sauce,” says Robertson. “There is also Maui onion jam, bacon and a fried egg. There’s a Hawaii rancher’s burger patty, with no hormones–just good stuff in it. Hawaii Ranch has been very consistent with their products and that’s why we use their beef. Chef Carl makes all the pickles here in house, I urge you to taste them. It has that little something extra. We are the best value around. That burger is 11 bucks, you can’t get that anywhere else. I eat it at least a couple times a week.”
Another dish that has taken off is the bao.
“The pork belly bun is super simple,” says Robertson. “It has two nice thick slices of pork belly with kimchi, cucumbers, pickled jalapeños, cilantro and hoisin barbecue sauce on a deep-fried bao bun. Just simple elevated comfort food. It’s on our happy hour for $2 a piece. People are going nuts and ordering like 20 of them. It’s one of those things that just took off. We didn’t expect it to be as popular as it is. Same thing with the Brussels sprouts. The Brussels sprouts are flash fried a little bit crispy. They have a konbu seaweed aioli. Then it’s got the green apples, pickled jalapeños and Parmesan cheese. You toss that all up in the aioli and it’s just amazing.”
The large plates include a giant turkey leg dish inspired by one of America’s beloved amusement parks. The pastas are outstanding, their truffled mac and cheese and jumbo pesto prawns were winners. One evening at the bar, bartender Damion Emeson directed me to the filet and gnocci special. After my plate came out, my neighbor had to order one. Then it went the other way, with my neighbor ordering a lobster roll and I had to have one. The kale salad is also bomb, as were the wings. For dessert, the warm apple strudel was incredible, and they had a panna cotta dessert special with Irish cream.
“These chicken wings have a really, really nice herb breading, says Robertson. “It doesn’t even need sauce, it’s just so good by itself. It’s tossed in the herb gremolata. It has a Sriracha kochujang sauce–that’s a Korean spicy chili sauce. That sauce is good on just about everything. The wings don’t need it but it’s good. I actually put that sauce on my burger.”
Shearwater Tavern has a great line-up of local musicians that starts at 5pm every day. On Friday and Saturday they even have a late night set from 10pm to midnight. They also have happy hour from 5 to 6pm everyday and a late night happy hour from 10 to 12pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Happy hour specials are half off veggies and appetizers and $2 off signature craft cocktails and draft beers.
“We like to call this place a gathering place,” says Robertson. “Groups will come and hang out and spend a lot of time here. They don’t just eat and go–they will sit around and talk and have fun for hours at a time.”
1279 S. Kihei Rd.