Cane & Canoe

As the saying goes, “man cannot live by bread alone.” But once you bite into the plump and oh-so aromatic frybread at Montage Kapalua Bay’s new Cane & Canoe restaurant, it may be impossible to convince you otherwise.

“Ever since culinary school, when I tried my first Navajo bread, I was hooked,” says Executive Chef Riko Bartolome, who adds color and depth to the naan-like bread with Molokai sweet potatoes, then tops it with ulu hummus, mashed from roasted breadfruit grown on property.

“We have five breadfruit trees here on property and I just planted an herb garden,” he says of Maui’s newest all residential-suite resort on Kapalua Bay. “We like to pay our respect to canoe crops here, the ones that came via the first settlers over the ocean from Polynesia.”

While the posh Montage opened June 1, its signature restaurant just started taking diners at the end of July. The roofline is a striking modern take on a Polynesian longhouse. Its vaulted ceilings soar to new heights; and the open-air dining room spills out into garden seating with cushy benches. Two areas look like giant Asian opium beds with canopies and billowing draperies, providing intimate seatings for private parties.

“People are starting to trickle in more and more each day,” says Bartolome, who has been described by Gourmet magazine as, “Inquisitive and free thinking – a chef who never met an ingredient he didn’t like.” At Cane & Canoe, he bears this out with taste combos that haven’t been seen here before, but will dazzle you.

A case in point is the octopus grille with duck chorizo meatballs in saffron coconut veloute with Molokai purple potato chunks and micro flowers.

“I got my inspiration from a tapas bar,” says Bartolome. “I knew I wanted to put tako on the menu. I went out diving with Tom Muromoto, chef of Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, and the tako we caught I used for a tasting to get this job.”

Bartolome braises the octopus, barbecues it on kiawe wood, and the duck leeches out fat to make it rich. Saffron adds a spice element and the micro flowers take it over the top. Seafood lovers will also want to order his hamachi poke – more like a ceviche with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Fresh monchong is an inspiring spinoff of clam chowder with braised radishes and turnips and nasturtium flowers for color.

Fun appetizers range from the fresh Kula strawberry panzanella with burrata cheese, braised walnuts and pickled fennel; to the Hudson Valley foie gras with kabocha mochi rice, cocoa nib streusel and pickled pear compote.

“I love having foie on the menu,” says the San Diego native. “Especially for our guests from California who are missing this. We do it with an unusual twist.”

Bartolome and his Chef de Cuisine Dylan Montano also do justice with sides, such as caramelized, peeled Brussels sprouts with shaved mac nuts and fresh horseradish; and Kula corn with cotija cheese.

“I have a great relationship with local farmers. If I want heirloom carrots from Kula, no problem,” says the chef, who also like to use vegetables in desserts. Pastry Chef Tomoko Nohina bakes calamansi-lime poppyseed cake and serves it with basil ice cream she turns from scratch and beet-and-strawberry compote. “We want to be a little different and get people excited when they dine here,” concedes the chef.

Believe me, he does get people excited. Maui chefs are talking it up – and I can’t want to go back for more.