Most nights when hunger strikes, Dave and I go on the hunt for something quick, delicious and cheap. But someone wise once said that variety is the spice of life, so last Wednesday we decided to treat ourselves to a meal that was both elegant and extravagant, one that wouldn’t involve ordering over the phone or using plastic cutlery.
We ventured up to Kapalua and arrived at the Banyan Tree Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton just after sunset. The impeding nightfall smothered everything in a hazy blue, from the palm trees and luxurious cabanas surrounding the pool to the long, manicured lawn, across the choppy West side waters to Molokai, which was just a shadow of its daytime self.
The restaurant was a lively center of activity in the otherwise quiet setting. Live music played gently but audibly as we took our seats along the front window. We were given our choice of still or sparkling water and when a busser in a crisp uniform placed my infolded napkin in my lap I knew we were in for a special evening.
Wednesday, as we discovered, is the day to dine at the Banyan Tree. Once a week on this day they offer 50 percent off all full bottles of wine with purchase of an entrée. At the price they were offering we couldn’t afford not to go with a luxurious bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay.
Wine poured, we dug into our menus, which were a work of art in themselves. Handcrafted and heavy, the wooden books unfolded like beautiful old journals, the kind I like to imagine the captains of big, important ships would keep. They were stunning, but it was what could be found inside that I was looking for.
After Chris, our delightful and very knowledgeable server, satisfied my curiosity about nearly every item on the menu we made our gastronomical decisions.
We were struggling over what to choose from the extensive list of gourmet pupus, but we got some help from the chefs here with the trio plate. We each chose three pupus that were paired down slightly in the kitchen to create a perfect manage-a-trois of appetizers for one.
Clams in a rich, buttery miso sauce, local goat cheese and lavender-infused Kula strawberries on a crispy little mac-nut tulle and the most amazing, ruby red ahi sashimi I’ve ever seen were Dave’s picks. I chose the carpaccio and tempura mushrooms, roasted beets with a tender crab salad that was dressed lightly in rice wine vinegar and seared scallops, which were served over a light, citrusy sauce with tiny fried tomatoes.
We lingered over our appetizers, but once the plates were cleared and debates over whose pupu selections were superior had been settled (we agreed to disagree), we turned our attention to our entrees.
Elegant presentations are one thing the brilliant minds in the Banyan Tree kitchen have down to an art. Dave ordered the Kona lobster (no big surprise there) and we had been musing over how the chefs would make the removed meat of a two-pound crustacean look pretty on a plate. Apparently, this isn’t a problem for them, because just then a beautiful plate of succulent pink and white lobster meat came, and underneath that a risotto cake infused with carrot and ginger. Dave demanded I try a claw, and it was by far the sweetest, most tender lobster I have ever had the pleasure of eating, complimented by a sweet sauce of the lobster’s own juices, tarragon and butter.
My own entrée was a very close second. I chose the lamb, served medium in small, perfect medallions over quinoa pilaf and a cilantro chimichurri. When it came to the table it was almost too pretty to eat and I began to delicately devour it while trying not to destroy the beautiful presentation. In the end my efforts were in vain, because my plate ended up empty.
As usual, Dave wanted something chocolate for dessert and I wanted something different. We’re used to facing this problem and ordered the chocolate tasting dessert with creamy dark fudge, a miniature chocolate and peanut butter cake and white chocolate sorbet. We also ordered the pineapple caramel cake, which came with a scoop of lavender sorbet.
We left perfectly satisfied. Our cravings for amazing food in a beautiful, elegant atmosphere had been satiated and our expectations surpassed. MTW