Grand Wailea’s signature restaurant now rebranded
Grand Wailea: A Waldorf Astoria Resort rolled out its revamped signature restaurant over the holidays for its guests, and now it’s poised for the general public to come and savor it.
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is still its official name, but it’s been rebranded as Humuhumu. The name of the tiny Hawaii state fish turned out to be a big mouthful for visitors to say and now it’s more manageable.
Saedene Ota Design firm of Maui created the inspiring new logo and menus; and Roger Gagon of Island Design Center, also a Maui company, handled all of the impressive renovations.
But after a recent visit, I’m not sure whether the design or the new menu by Chef de Cuisine Michael Lofaro made my heart sing more. So I’ll talk about both, and I say that the new Humuhumu is at the top of its game in both ambience and culturally conscious cuisine.
The million-gallon saltwater lagoon that the thatched-roof restaurant is situated on was drained and refilled; all of the original fish were either set free or given to Maui Ocean Center; the restaurant and kitchen were gutted; and the huge aquarium in the bar taken out.
Designer Gagon added subtle touches of the ocean such as blue glass fishing floats, and wooden sails that harken to the voyaging canoe, Hokule’a.
“The renovation of Humuhumu is one of the final steps of a complete resort refresh of the guest rooms, restaurants, suites and Spa Grande,” says Director of Public Relations and Communications Yvonne Biegel. “Shane Komini, our director of restaurants and bars and a former professional baseball player, oversaw the refresh.”
And Chef Lofaro also knocks it out of the ballpark with flavors and presentations that jump off the plate and make your taste buds soar. He calls his cuisine “modern Hawaiian seasonal” and goes beyond the sustainable issues to create a cultural connection.
Lofaro is the current Best Chef on Maui according to a Maui magazine, and he was a past winner in The Maui News’ Best of Maui contest. He’s also co-host of “Search Hawaii: Where Food Meets Culture” that won an Emmy Award in 2016.
“Filming our television show ‘Search Hawaii’ has opened my eyes about food,” Lofaro explains. “I put my energy into the path of the ingredients and what is important here in the islands.”
For instance, his Niihau lamb meatballs utilize meat from the private isle near Kauai and it’s a big statement for a chef in such a huge resort to cook with it. The meatballs have a wow factor with spicy harissa sauce, Greek yogurt laced with cucumber and pita bread.
His ulu, or local breadfruit, risotto is also off the charts as is hamachi carpaccio with ginger shave ice; hearts of palm and beet salad; and Puna Chicks hen with scallion pancakes and dipping sauce.
“It’s about bringing attention to a breadfruit or any other ingredient that is grown here, showing respect to ancestral knowledge of this place and holding that up as an example to the rest of the world.”
The triathlete and expert waterman paddles in ocean races and spearfishes to sustain his family. The seafood is plentiful on the menu, including seared ahi with avocado and toasted garlic; whole roasted fish with Manila clams and lop chong; crispy mahimahi with forbidden rice and baby bok choy; and other stellar tastes.
For dessert, you must try the Humu chocolate garden with chocolate “stones,” pistachio “moss” and cocoa gelee and his housemade sorbets and ice creams. The bottom line is, anything you try at the newly rebranded Humuhumu will be worth every bite.
Humuhumu fast facts
• Where: Set on stilts in a million-gallon lagoon oceanfront at Grand Wailea.
• Hours: Open for bar bites daily from 5 to 9 p.m. and dinner in the thatched-roof restaurant starting at 5:30 p.m.
• Grand reopening event: Benefit for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 10. Cost is $100 per person and 100 percent goes to the nonprofits. Modern Hawaiian seasonal dishes will be served from the new menu.
• How much: Bar bites $15 to $22; signature cocktails from fresh-squeezed juices and custom syrups, $15 to $19; entrees $31 to $90 for 26-ounce Delmonico ribeye; desserts are $12 to $14; and keiki menu is $12.
• For reservations or more details: Call Grand Wailea at 875-1234.