Beverly Gannon cooking on Lanai, you say?! No, she's just assisting her pal Mary Charles, the famous Hawaii event planner who bought the Hotel Lanai last year with her husband, Tom, and their nephew Mike Charles, who is on site running the show.
"Beverly is our culinary consultant," Mike said after we boated over to Lanai and drove up to his cool environs. "All of the recipes and the menu go through her. Even her famous ribs and meat loaf she sells at Hali'imaile General Store and Joe's are on our menu."
Situated under magnificent Norfolk Pine trees within walking distance of all of the shops and the galleries in Lanai City, the historic Hotel Lanai has always been a haven for kamaaina because of its moderately priced rooms and casual, laid-back atmosphere.
“Beverly will taste everything, yet she pretty much gives me free range except on her signature items,” says Executive Chef Mike Davis, a Boston native who was formerly with Four Seasons Lanai.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Former owner-chef Henry Clay Richardson did quite the respectable job with the food and I remember his game meat entree with fondness. But he didn't pour much money into fixing up the property.
Since the Charleses have taken over, Hotel Lanai has been upgraded to the nines and it's taken on a whole new dimension. Its newly named Lanai City Grill easily keeps up with the competition - that being Four Seasons Resort Lanai's prestigious restaurant outlets at Manele Bay and the nearby Lodge at Koele.
"We redid everything," says Mike. "We basically kept the shell and the frame. Everything else we tried to take back to the plantation days. This was the first executive hotel for Dole Pineapple Company. We even redid the fireplaces with white coral. We have all new fans, light fixtures, new bar (looks like koa), took the floor back to its natural state and all the artworks are by local artists. It was dark. Now it's bright and cheery. Everybody comments on how great it is. It changed the whole atmosphere."
Behind the hotel, they added an open-air tent with heaters and seating for 50 people. Alapa Drive plays Fridays, and other local musicians perform Saturdays.
Along with Beverly, Mike's girlfriend, Michelle, put in feminine touches throughout with turquoise glasses, colorful napkins and starched tablecloths.
Executive chef is Mike Davis, who used to live on Lanai many years ago, then he moved back to his native Boston to open the Hyenas Club at Boston Yacht Harbor. Lured back to the islands by Four Seasons Lanai, he was then hired by Beverly and the Hotel Lanai. We were literally floored with every last bite of the meal he cooked.
"I wanted to reconnect with Hawaii," he says. "I fell in love with this hotel. There's a lot of character here. I can pay attention to detail, unlike at the Four Seasons, where I had to produce breakfast, lunch, dinners and group functions. I?like to keep my guys interested and involved. I tell them it's not my menu but our menu."
Their marinated rack of lamb with braised root vegetables and green peppercorn demi glace is classically stylish and off the scale in taste. So is the grilled filet mignon with warm potato salad, baby bok choy, oven-roasted tomatoes and pinot noir demi glace.
Maryland-style crab cakes on chipotle remoulade burst with flavors of the sea. Even the iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing and crisp applewood bacon utters crunchy and creamy refinement all the way.
"I'm always looking to better the presentation, to refine the sauces," says Davis. "I like to work a lot with the local farmers and fishermen, too."
Pan-seared venison over mushroom risotto with dried fruit compote and port-wine reduction gives a nod to Lanai in a big "wow" way. The elegantly presented tuna tartare is from fish caught offshore served with avocados plucked from local trees. Parmesan garlic bread is served with local mango-lime butter. Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya designed the wine list. Desserts such as pecan pies are baked from scratch. Their dinners are as good as it gets on Lanai. We'll be going back for more.
For reservations, call Hotel Lanai at 565-7211.