They always say too many chefs ruin the pot, but I’ve definitely come across an exception to that at Three’s Bar and Grill in Kihei. In fact, you could say the more chefs, the merrier.
When I first met the chefs that put the three in Three’s–Cody Christopher, Travis Morrin and Jaron Blosser–I was intrigued by their initial three-way concept of mixing Southwest American, Pacific regional and Hawaiian grinds, but wasn’t sure how it would play out. Four years later, they’ve fine-tuned their concept by brazenly hiring more chefs, opening a food truck, adding to their catering business and dreaming of still more restaurant concepts.
“We all take on different aspects of the company,” says Morrin. “Cody is the executive chef, Jaron the general manager and I am the catering director. We all collaborate on menus and specials. Three chefs are better because we work together to solve problems and grow the company. We can count on each other to always be there for whatever the company needs.”
Three’s altered their menu over the summer, adding a sushi bar and some items like noodles and ramen. Morrin’s recent trips to Japan inspired additional dishes.
“We are always influenced by where we travel, gathering inspiration from everywhere we have visited,” says Morrin. “I personally love visiting new cities and seeking out the local top chefs and learning about the regional cuisine, where they source their products and so on. I love traveling to San Francisco, Seattle and Japan, just to name a few.”
The expansion of their sushi menu included building out a gorgeous and chic sushi bar that sits right inside the main entrance to the surf lounge. The sushi bar is manned by a raw bar team that includes sushi masters Thomas Shin and Brady Hutto, who crafted some incredible rolls while I was there. The Rock and Roll was one of my favorites, combining unagi, ahi, negi and black tobiko. Most of their specialty rolls all have something a little different added–jalapeno, sriracha aioli, mango or basil.
“Sushi is definitely eat with your eyes first, so we let the quality of the ingredients shine through first and foremost,” says Morrin. “Sometimes it’s as simple as ruby red big eye tuna and local avocado with sambal aioli. Other times we get crazy and develop fun specialty rolls, always taking into consideration the subtle nuances of each ingredient. For example, the creaminess of an avocado and/or crispiness of raw beets. Taste and texture are priority, and you’d be surprised how presentation just works after that.”
I also sampled a katsura muki roll–cored cucumber outside, a touch of shiso, raw salmon and cream cheese dressed with a sweet namasu style sauce made by Shin. These rice-less rolls are tres chic because of the gluten-free craze, but are light and crisp and stand delicious on their own.
“We do our best to balance quality fresh ingredients with texture, flavor and presentation,” says Morrin. “Our raw bar chefs are so talented now a days, that we pretty much give them free roam on specials. We want to see their creative side. We are firm believers that this brings out their true inspiration and a little bit of friendly competition. We use a high quailty Japanese short grain rice called Tamaki Gold. Our sushi rice is cooked daily and expertly made with care and proper technique–any sushi connoisseur knows, the rice is as important, if not more important than fish itself. Texture and temperature are key ingredients to the eating experience when it come to rice. Our sushi vinegar is also made in-house.”
I have always enjoyed a good roll, but I was really piqued by their addition of flat iron steak. Recommended by Chef Morrin for its garlic dried mein, it was the truffle yaki-marinated beef that was irresistible at first. Then the peppery garlicky noodle with sautéed kale, oyster shrooms and baby heirloom tomato stole the show. It’s really an incredible dish that looks benign on the menu. I will definitely return for it.
The ramen is another stand-out: a traditional six-minute egg sitting side by side with little stacks of veggies over noodles and a hefty 12-hour pork dashi. I could easily fall in love with the kim chee shiitake mushroom, by far my favorite veggie, but it was all the ingredients in a cohesive bite that was the best. We talk about texture in sushi, but it’s just as critical in ramen, but more subtle and fleeting. Everything worked together in their ramen.
“Our most popular lunch items are our traditional pork and soy dashi ramen featuring local Iwamoto noodles,” says Morrin. “For dinner, it’s a combination of menu favorites like our garlic and mustard-rubbed prime rib, signature sushi rolls and daily fresh fish specials. Guests love the ramen because it’s a taste of traditional Japan with a broth that’s literally simmered over night. The prime rib features Big Island beef and au jus with Maui Brew Co. Lahaina Town Brown Ale. And, of course, the sushi is always fresh and fun. We recently starting carrying fresh uni in house as everyone was demanding it.”
The team at Three’s also finds influence from other local chefs.
“Inspiration comes from just seeing Maui chefs do what they love,” says Morrin. “Sheldon [Simeon] of Migrant, Isaac [Bancaco] at Andaz, Kyle [Kawakami] with food truck Fresh Streatery, Lyndon [Honda] and Jeff [Scheer] with their catering companies–all the bad ass resort chefs and a ton more on Maui. It’s about supporting each others businesses and not about competing. Of course, huge inspiration comes from the Hawaii chefs who helped pioneer Hawaiian Regional cuisine–Mark Ellman, Bev Gannon, Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi and DK Kodama.”
They say they got the idea for Three’s out surfing, and the ocean is still part of their idea process.
“Surf is always important!” says Morrin. “Surfing is what originally brought the three of us together and we will never forget that. There was a period of about four years where we didn’t surf very much or at least together. We have an amazing staff now and we try to make time for it. Some of our best business and restaurant ideas have come from drifting around in the line-up. It’s important to still be connected to that, no matter what the future brings.”
Three’s does breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, 8:30-11am breakfast, 11am-4pm lunch and 5-10pm dinner. Check their quickie breakfast special of two eggs, your choice of meat and toast for $5.95. They have a food truck you will find at select events across the island. Three’s happy hour specials are half off select appetizers and sushi and $3.50 wells, drafts, Mai Tais, Margaritas and is offered twice a day: 3-6pm and again 9-10pm.
Three’s has live dinner music on the deck, their website has the complete schedule at http://threesbarandgrill.com/entertainment. The Surf Lounge also hosts great parties like their upcoming Hell Caminos 10th Anniversary show this Saturday. For Christmas and New Year’s, its full steam ahead in their kitchens, with a traditional turkey dinner, prime rib or Hawaiian fish special on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with New Year’s Eve four-course dinner and Champagne.
THREE’S BAR & GRILL
1945 S. Kihei Rd.