Chef inspired by recent vacation elevates menu at famous Napili Kai Beach Resort landmark restaurant morning to night
Do you know that Sea House is so close to Napili Bay, it’s just a rubber slipper toss away? Its close proximity to this scenic and pristine beach is unrivaled anywhere on the island of Maui.
The location was grandfathered in when Napili Kai Beach Resort first opened more than 50 years ago as a private club for some Canadian snowbirds.
But the resort’s been open to outsiders for as long as I can remember and whether you stay at the resort or not, Sea House is one of Maui’s top dining destinations.
Many people who go to Napili Bay to swim, boogie board, snorkel and surf end up at the resort’s Sea House for a bite to eat, to sip a cool drink and to listen to live music performed nightly.
Executive Chef Alex Stanislaw gives us another really good reason to dine there. His cuisine is creative, sustainable and flavorful and he’s inspired from a recent vacation to really continue to ramp up the Sea House in more ways than one.
“How can I say this delicately?” he asks on my recent visit. “Happy hour generates a good buzz, good energy. But there’s a lot more going on here.”
Indeed. Breakfasts and lunches are pretty much served all day and there is literally something for everyone.
“So you can come in and have a glass of bubbly and eggs Benedict at 1:30 p.m. and you don’t have to rush,” says Stanislaw. “Then we have a lot of golfers who come in and order an early lunch. The staff doesn’t have to change mind sets and it’s a win-win for everyone.”
All-day breakfast specialties include Thai omelets with crab; fresh corned beef hash; cinnamon rolls warm from the oven with mac nuts and cream cheese; and signature Molokai sweet-potato frittata with spinach, caramelized onions, shredded cheese, Kula Dave’s tomatoes, Sriracha hollandaise and fresh asparagus.
Since the Whale Watchers’ happy hour sells itself, I’ll gloss over it to say only that the Kula onion soup and seafood chowder are comforting starters and the kalua pork tacos, crisp calamari and Maui Beach Balls with rock shrimp, mahimahi, corn, pepper jack cheese, rice and scallions in a furikake crust are all crowd pleasers as you watch the beach action.
“At dinner, I want to keep promoting what this restaurant is all about — and that is fresh fish,” says Stanislaw. “I’ve got onaga today and I don’t know when I will see it again. I have great connections with the purveyors and they take care of me with papio, mahi, ahi and kamana, known as the ‘poor man’s hamachi.’ “
Right from the starters, you may dive into seafood with poke nachos, traditional ahi sashimi, crudo sashimi with lemon-infused EVOO, 60-second ceviche with jalapeno and cilantro; island shrimp and classic coconut shrimp with Asian slaw.
Salads are crunchy and plentiful and range from butter-lettuce wedges to Tuscan kale with goat cheese to Caesar with pecorino and romano cheese crisps.
“Our panko-crusted Hawaiian fish is so popular with orzo pasta, asparagus, fresh peas, Pacific shrimp, and pine-nut and golden raisin agrodolce,” says Stanislaw. “We also do a porcini-dusted Hawaiian ahi seared rare and served with braised winter greens and a beurre blanc.
But it doesn’t stop there. You may order a basil-crusted Hawaiian fish and three-cheese risotto with caramelized chili beurre blanc and shrimp and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese perfect for adult tastes with guava-smoked bacon and blistered corn.
“I want every person that comes in the restaurant to eat fish. It’s the last wild animal we can eat,” explains Stanislaw. “It’s not full of chemicals and hormones, it’s clean and fresh, and there are a million things you can do to enhance it.”
There are numerous gluten-free as well as signature items. Meat lovers and vegetarians will also find their fill with pasta with fresh Haiku tomatos and garlic; huli-huli lamb chops; truffle fries and fresh-rolled parmesan gnocchi with seasonal mushrooms and rich truffle cream.
“I’m also participating in the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival in early June,” says the veteran chef, a native New Yorker who’s made Maui his home for decades. “I plan to do Niihau lamb there. It’s nice to be a supporter of local producers.”
In fact, Stanislaw says that he plans to go hunting with California winemakers Fred Scherrer and his pal from Martinelli on Haleakala Ranchlands sometime after the wine festival.
Hmm . . . wonder if Haleakala venison will be added to the stellar menu?
Sea House at a glance:
• Where: Oceanfront at Napili Kai Beach Resort near Kapalua on the Lower Honoapiilani in Napili.
• Hours: Open daily for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; lunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. happy hour from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and dinner is from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly.
• Tap your feet: Seatings are from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays for the slack-key dinner show with George Kahumoku Jr. and friends at Aloha Pavilion. Call 669-3858. More music is played in the Sea House nightly from 7 to 9 p.m.
• Cuisine: Pacific Rim dishes with an emphasis on fresh fish.
• Nightly specials: Prime rib on Mondays and Wednesdays; lobster tails on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and surf and turf on weekends.
• For more details: Call 669-1500 or visit www.seahousemaui.com.