Banyan Tree

New menu, new chef smokin’ hot at Ritz’s signature restaurant

The Banyan Tree kitchen staff includes Brenner Duarozan (from left), Chef de Cuisine Alvin Savella, Virgie Cappal, RJ Tumpap and Kha Nguyen. Photos by Carla Tracy and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

Before I arrived at the Banyan Tree for dinner last week, I already knew that the meal would be off the charts in taste and presentation.

That’s because I was already familiar with new Chef de Cuisine Alvin Savella from when he impressed me at another top West Maui resort.

This time around inside The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s signature restaurant, Savella set a new standard. And I’m kind of jaded from having dined there over numerous chefs’ repasts in each of the 25 years that the Ritz has been in business.

For instance, Savella’s half Kona lobster in ramen hits it out of the ballpark in a black lava-like bowl with rich and aromatic broth, 63-degree egg, grilled maitake mushrooms and red miso butter.

“We actually do the broth tableside with a siphon device that is a hot infuser,” explains the creative chef. “It bubbles up and puts the aromatics at the top. It’s a real eye catcher and I come to the table and talk to you about it when it’s ready.”

The Banyan Tree’s manager Annie Harnish showcases a bottle from the cellar, 50 percent off on Wine Wednesdays.

Savella also serves an inspired ahi tuna poke in small sardine-like tins with togarashi seasoned aioli, tempura nibs, kaffir-lime oil and coconut-cilantro air; and Pacific oysters on the half shell topped with uni and shiso, flavorful to the max.

“I’ve been here for six years, and this is the best poke I have ever had,” says Annie Harnish, Banyan Tree manager. “Everything he does is phenomenal.”

“The Banyan Tree menu is mainly local seafood prepared with modern presentations and island flavors,” says Savella, who was born and raised on Maui, graduating from Lahainaluna in 2003.

But you’ll fall in love with the signature Hawaiian sweet bread, baked in house and served with Kula strawberry foie gras for an acidic boost along with Surfing Goat Dairy chevre and whipped Vermont butter to tone it down and balance it.

Beyond bread and seafood, Savella rocks it with a smoked ribeye steak with fresh Alii mushrooms, white cheddar potatoes, bone marrow and demi glace.

The chef’s new dishes are Kona lobster ramen; Pacific oysters with uni and shiso; ahi tuna poke in sardine-like tins; and five-spice duck buns and Hokkaido seared scallops.

“We have a little garden outside and a much bigger garden on property and harvest most of the herbs and some vegetables and fruits from them,” he continues. “We also have a garden-to-glass cocktail concept with local ingredients.”

Most recently chef de cuisine at Pulehu, An Italian Grill at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, Savella spent much of his culinary career in Southern California, most notably at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey.

He’s got an Associate of Science in the Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management from Art Institute of California-Los Angeles.

He’s the brand ambassador for “True Cooks” and does local televised cooking segments on “Living 808” on KHON2 News and a morning culinary show on KITV4.

“Savella brings a fresh perspective and boisterous personality to the already talented Banyan Tree team,” says The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua General Manager Mike Kass. “His creativity and passion for fresh, innovative cuisine results in the beautiful and strikingly flavorful dishes that elevate the dining experience for our guests.”

The outside patio of the Banyan Tree is open for lunch daily and for stellar dinners inside from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“We have a sunset menu that is like an early-bird multicourse dinner served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.,” says Harnish. “And our Wine Wednesdays offer 50 percent off of select bottles from our award-winning Wine Spectator list. Choose from, say, Sea Smoke pinot noir or Au Bon Climat chardonnay among the 120 bottles.”

Desserts of poha-berry turnovers with chevre ice cream; and forbidden salad with fruits and berries and dragon fruit sorbet will end the evening on a high note. So will the Like Water for Chocolate cocktail.

* For reservations, call 669-6200 or visit