Resort food can be tricky, especially for those whose diets are somewhat restricted. Often their menus do not venture far beyond steak and lobster. For the vegan, whose diet bars them from consuming animal products including dairy and eggs, options are often limited to comatose salad, slippery French fries and the undead pineapple slice that adorns his or her tropical beverage.
Prior to my recent visit to Umalu, the Hyatt’s new outdoor restaurant, I called to make sure there were options. The voice on the other end told me it shouldn’t be a problem.
Of course I couldn’t go solo; I had to bring someone to test out the non-vegan options and thus help me get a full picture of what the place has to offer.
So I dialed up coworker Brittany and off we went.
Upon arrival we were struck by the place’s atmosphere. While it’s an open-air establishment it maintains an air of swank. From our table we could see and hear the hotel’s man-made waterfall. Streaming throughout was the sound of live classical guitar.
The drink menu, which I snatched up upon sitting down, featured a sizable wine list, tasty beers on tap and a colorful selection of mixed drinks. I went for the Mutiny on the Carthaginian, which by name alone is worth ordering. It’s basically a Long Island Iced Tea with a guava twist. Very tasty; a bit sweeter than the standard-issue Long Island. Brittany ordered a small carafe of the house chardonnay.
For first course I tried out the hummus and the vegetable lumpia; my non-vegan counterpart went with Umalu’s signature ahi poke nachos. One can’t really go wrong with hummus, and I could sense that this one was fresher than most. It was accompanied by assorted olives, marinated limes and sesame crackers. The lumpia, which are similar to spring rolls, were light, non-greasy and paired with a sweet Vietnamese dipping sauce. Brittany seemed to be digging the nachos, which were served with firecracker caviar, taro and sweet potato chips and edamame guacamole. Even though I could not partake I did find the dish to be one of the prettiest arrangements of food I’ve seen.
For the main course I went with a meatless version of the sesame-orange chicken stir-fry. Brittany ordered the Angus filet of beef, which featured a Kona coffee rub, glazed onion marmalade and a merlot reduction sauce.
My Mutiny went pretty quickly, so I ordered a second drink; this time it was the Hot Maui Nights. Invented by one of Umalu’s own, this delightfully boozy concoction contains Pyrat rum, Plymouh gin, Triple sec and lime; not one of those beverages one should attempt if planning to skip dinner.
The drink list had quite a few other appealing options, including the Tsunami, which contains Captain Morgan, Cruzan dark and coconut rums and pineapple juice.
The entrees came out quickly. The sesame-orange sauce was phenomenal—sweet but not overpoweringly so. The veggies were cooked to a perfect consistency—not too crisp yet not overcooked. A tower of sticky rice accompanied the dish.
As for Brittany’s steak, even though I feel like I’m violating some kind of vegan code by writing this, I have to admit that she said it was possibly the best she’d ever had. She said it was “like candy, and not the cheap kind.”
She went on to order mango-lilikoi cheesecake for desert; I chose to nurse my potion.
This is definitely one of those places where even the pickiest of individuals can find a meal that is not only substantial, but also quite tasty. The staff was extremely kind and helpful with their recommendations. Location and aesthetics are of the canpossibly-go-wrong variety. My only regret is that we didn’t show up early enough to catch the sunset. But there’s always next time. After all, I still need to sample the Tsunami. MTW