As many of you know, Maui Prince Hotel turned into the Makena Beach & Golf Resort in September. In January, its popular Hakone Japanese restaurant morphed into Zen Zen Restaurant Pacifica.
It's been in the news lately that the hotel will go on the public auction block Friday - and no one knows who will end up owning it. But according to managers, for now, it's "business as usual."
On a recent visit, we ran into Glenn Beadles in the lobby. He was the location go-to guy for "Just Go With It" filming here with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. He was in a group huddle about a shoot.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Sushi Chef Ivan Bersamin still rolls creative sushi, but Zen Zen’s menu continues to evolve into Pacific Rim favorites.
We said, "hi," walked past them, and took the elevator down to our destination of Zen Zen. What we found was a new and lighter ambience as well as a new Pacific Rim menu. It was lively and vibrant, with groups of families and friends enjoying dinner.
"We're still here. We're on the map. And we're moving forward," says Director of Food and Beverage Michael Blaksteen, who works for Benchmark Hospitality, which is managing the resort.
Benchmark also runs Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, and its signature 21 Degrees North and Palm Terrace restaurants there are in demand.
At Zen Zen on Maui, the lighting is different and the room's ambience has changed more to neutral tones. Of course, many of the seats still have oceanfront views and it's still as comfortable and zen-like as ever with tables set wide apart for privacy.
"It's an ever-evolving restaurant," says Executive Chef Greg Gaspar, who's run the kitchens of the resort for many years. "In fact, we're launching a whole new menu the first week of June. It draws on fresh local ingredients, such as Hawaiian fish and shellfish, as well as premium beef and poultry selections."
"Of course, fans of the old Hakone will still find Sushi Chef Ivan Bersamin behind the counter, rolling favorites such as the turtle roll that looks just like a ninja turtle cartoon character. But there is nothing cartoonish about the taste and texture. His sushi-and-sashimi bar still offers custom-made items from a selection of fresh seafood, including nigiri-style tuna, assorted tempura and freshwater eel.
Sip from a selection of cocktails, sake, sho chu, beer and exceptional wines.
As for the new menu, there are appetizer plates called "something to share." Bring your friends and enjoy kalua pork sliders with tomato-scallion relish, Hawaiian ahi poke nachos on taro chips, and Makena south-side quesadilla with pulled pork and guacamole.
In June, you'll also find pizza, from fresh Caprese pie with vine-ripened tomato and buffalo mozzarella cheese with roasted garlic and fresh basil; to the Sicilian pie with pepperoni, sausage, Maui onions, bell peppers and plump mushrooms.
Salad lovers may crunch a fresh Makena wedge of iceberg lettuce with Mendez Ranch bacon, Kula tomato, crumbled blue cheese and creamy chipotle dressing. Sandwiches and burgers come in all tastes and budgets. Ask for the Makena Gold Card for dining deals.
New entrees include seafood mix on jasmine rice cake; taro-crusted mahimahi; and filet of beef and lobster with sweet potato mash. Mama's homemade chocolate ice cream "wich" is icing on the cake.
Give Zen Zen a try - it's an evolving adventure.
For reservations, visit www.makenaresortmaui.com or call 874-1111.