ROCKsalt

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali is shakin’ with new food concept in former Black Rock Kitchen

The Sheraton Maui team behind the ROCKsalt menu is Executive Sous Chef Chris Lederer (from left) Sous Chef Zac Coltes and Executive Chef Lyndon Honda — all pleased as pie and giving the shaka at their recent media event. CARLA TRACY photo

As someone who has written about resorts and restaurants here for decades, I find it fun and interesting to see the evolution of iconic resort properties such as the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa.

It opened in 1963 as the second hotel in Kaanapali, and it retains its prime spot on 23 lush acres surrounding the legendary Pu’u Keka’a, or “Black Rock,” where countless travelers have enjoyed adventure, romance and family fun.

While the Sheraton has undergone many renovations since then, its newest restaurant concept, ROCKsalt, debuted this month. A table full of food writers from here and as far away as Canada were invited to come check it out. Our general consensus is that we love what globally inspired cuisine ROCKsalt is shakin’ out, and the fact that many of the dishes incorporate local farm-fresh produce with eclectic preparations.

Spearheaded by Executive Chef Lyndon Honda, ROCKsalt features sides, small and large plates and desserts that are all playful, flavorful and alluring.

Exotic spices and ingredients meld well with the local products to create satisfying dishes that excite the palate. ROCKsalt now replaces Black Rock Kitchen as the resort’s signature restaurant.

Char-siu duck rillette starter. CARLA TRACY photo

“The name ROCKsalt came in thinking about the history and importance of salt across cultures, combined with our resort’s iconic location at Pu’u Keka’a,” explains Honda.

“In addition to being used to flavor food, salt was traditionally used for commerce, and is viewed as sacred in many cultures. We took inspiration from vibrant Hawaiian sea salts that are signature to the islands, like black lava salt and red alaea salt. It’s an ingredient that represents a harmonious blend between land and sea.”

Comfortable seating allows diners to get together, share an array of memorable food, connect and talk story while enjoying the open-air views of meandering streams and Pu’u Keka’a in all its glory. During dinner, you may watch the cliff-diving ceremony at sunset. ROCKsalt is also open daily for breakfast, when you may watch the brave doing daring dives and leaps into the waters below the rocks.

At our dinner table, we devoured the fresh chipotle cornbread with cinnamon butter like there was no tomorrow. Then we moved on to sides of harissa-roasted root vegetables with saffron yogurt, vadouvan and savory granola. Vadouvan is a French derivative of Indian masala spices.

Small plates turned out to be equally as impressive as the sides. We couldn’t get enough of the titiyas: Guamanian coconut flat bread with pipikaula, or dried beef with pickled green avocado, baby arugula and lime crema. Ditto for the house char-siu duck rillette that we slathered on braided bread with abandon.

Vegetarians rave about the mojo verde tofu laced with calamansi lime and snow peas. Sheraton Maui photo

Large plates included the fresh catch that changes based upon what fishermen bring in that day, mojo verde tofu for vegetarians among us, and a rich chef’s porridge with a saucy ragout.

“A fresh cocktail program, extensive wine list and craft beer selections complement the menu,” says Katelyn Mayer, Sheraton Maui director of public relations.

“Developed by the resort’s Director of Restaurants and Bars Sarah Brown, featured cocktails incorporate Hawaii-produced spirits, house-made infusions, innovative syrups and shrubs, dehydrated garnishes and more,” continues Mayer.

Sip craft cocktails with fun names such as Thyme to Let Go, Maui Salty Sailor and Night Swim.

Desserts take taste buds on a journey around the globe with Italian panna cotta flavored with mango and coconut chips; chocolate torte with French cremeux; and poi donuts of Hawaii.

“Sweet plates elevate flavors reminiscent of childhood, like the ‘Nutter Butter’ with Arlette pastry, candied pecans, vanilla bean ice cream, dulce de leche and peanut-butter dust,” says Mayer. “And the poi donuts, with salted lilikoi caramel that are dusted with powdered sugar at the table.”

With deep kamaaina discounts and music in the lounge, ROCKsalt has quickly been attracting a local crowd.

“Our culinary team has been having a lot of fun collaborating on ROCKsalt’s menu,” says Chef Honda. “We hope that locals and visitors bring their friends and family to the restaurant for a lively atmosphere where they’ll get the opportunity to try our playful, innovative dishes with a global flair. We’re excited to bring this new dining experience to Kaanapali.”

• Hours: ROCKsalt is now open daily for breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m., and for dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Music is Fridays and Saturdays in the lounge.

• Kamaaina deals: Those with valid state ID get 25 percent off food and beverage for breakfast; and 25 percent off beverages for dinner with a buy-one-get-one large plate for free.

• For reservations: You may call the Sheraton dining line at (808) 921-4600. For the full menu, visit www.rocksaltmaui.com.

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