Plantation House

Landmark Kapalua restaurant fires up interest with Chop House Thursdays and monthly Beats & Eats, wine dinners

New Chef de Cuisine Maggie King hugs longtime Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

So many things are cooking at Plantation House in Kapalua that it’s hard to decide where to begin this story in the swirl of fun, food and activities.

Of course, longtime Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez, who has cooked for “Iron Chef” Morimoto and at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, is the calm in the middle of Cohn Restaurant Group’s landmark restaurant on the slopes of the West Maui mountains.

“We recently hired new Chef de Cuisine Maggie King and I just couldn’t be more pleased,” says Vasquez, who is featured in the new Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine that is hot off the press, but is humble in praising his staff first.

“Maggie’s designed her first wine dinner menu. Every month, we rotate the winery and serve a nightly four-course pairing menu with it. In April we’re presenting Roth Estate Sonoma County vineyards.”

Astute and intuitive, Vasquez is pegged by the magazine writer as “pure presence,” penning that Vasquez’s gourmet dishes are “deliberate, methodical, each ingredient like a carefully chosen word.”

Prime 24-ounce bone-in ribeye steak with a side of Hokkaido scallops. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Indeed, Vasquez runs a really good show and he knows how to back himself with top culinarians, such as King, who cooked at the famous Vintage Cave on Oahu and when it closed she moved on to the acclaimed Town in Kaimuki.

For this month’s wine pairing menu, she pleases palates with an amuse bouche of compressed watermelon, local goat cheese and micro cilantro.

Other courses are drunken shrimp with arugula, Thai green papaya and macerated strawberry; seared opah with grilled frisee and orange salsa verde; crisp pork belly with black-bean ragout, Big Island corn, Alii mushroom bacon and lime crema; and hot chocolate pot de creme.

King created one selection as a tasting for her job interview and Vasquez told her “you are a top runner now.” In addition, “her mushroom ‘bacon’ messes with your mind, it’s so good,” he adds.

“There are two women in my life right now. Maggie in the kitchen and my wife, Eliza Escano-Vasquez,” he says. “Eliza is the deejay for Beats & Eats that we do once a month, generally on the last Friday, and the last one was off the hook.”

Pea soup is flavorful. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof restaurant and “Top Chef” fame was guest collaborator in March and he brought a large following that spilled into the restaurant and out of Plantation House’s Bar Nineteen, where Beats & Eats is staged.

“Next Friday, April 28 we’ll have Isaac Bancaco, executive chef of Andaz Maui. It’s an organic movement, comprised of grinds that I like to eat. People can order all of the six savories and one sweet. I don’t like to charge more than $15 per dish and the prices start at $9.”

Now in its third year, Beats & Eats does new craft cocktails each month and it’s all about collaborations between Vasquez and the guest chefs.

Eliza’s play list will get you tapping your feet, for sure. Groove to “A Seat at the Table” by Solange, “We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service” by A Tribe Called Quest; “Oof” by Blue Scholars; and “Lite Spots” by Kaytranada.

Last but not least, meat lovers will want to sink their teeth into the Chop House pop-up on Thursday evenings.

Brussels sprouts entice. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

“Chop House has been going on for four months now,” says Vasquez. “I grew up in Chicago and it’s my take on loving steak houses. People can share the bigger cuts. We have lots of a la carte sides. And you may add on, surf it with seafood, or cover it with sauces such as Bernaise and au poivre or even gorgonzola cheese.”

Choose from a Wagyu porterhouse that weighs 24 ounces; prime bone-in ribeye weighing in at 26 ounces; or Australian lamb racks, Doroc pork tomahawks, top sirloins or filet mignons.

When you surf it you may add Hokkaido scallops, crab meat Oscar; or land-locked Hudson Valley foie gras.

Local harvest vegetable sides are plentiful and share worthy, including brussels sprouts fricassee, grilled asparagus Almondine, kale braised in coconut and ginger; roasted Kumu Farms beets, super creamy mashed potatoes and garlic fried rice.

Besides all of the fun evening promos, the Plantation House rocks it at breakfasts and lunches served all day. Just take your pick of when you want to enjoy it.

Server Tia D’Ambrosia does steak tartare in a tableside presentation.

Plantation House fast facts:

• Where: Located on Plantation Golf Course in Kapalua.

• Hours: The expansive restaurant is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for breakfast and lunch; from 3 to 5 p.m. for its grill menu and 5:30 p.m. to close for dinner.

• Chop House: On Thursdays for dinner, sink your teeth into prime cuts of meat, sides, add ons and sauces.

• Beats & Eats: On Friday, April 28, savor food by guest chef Isaac Bancaco and host Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez from 6 to 9 p.m. and groove to deejay music.

• Roth wine dinners: Through April on any evening, enjoy Roth wines with four-course feast and an amuse bouche for $105 or $75 without wine pairings, plus tax and gratuity. In May, featured winery will be L’Ecole 41.

• For reservations: You may call 669-6299 or visit