When we visited the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Kaanapali last week, it was a sea of Aussies.
We heard lively Down Under chatter when we walked past sold-out venues at Halona Kai Martini Lounge lobby level, and at Son'z at Swan Court lagoon-side.
"It's really an exciting time to be here," said Executive Chef Matt Smith, when we caught up with him at the poolside 'Umalu. "The hotel just did a $15 million renovation on its guest rooms and Regency Club. A lot of energy and money are being put into the restaurants, too."
Executive Chef Matt Smith (left) and ‘Umalu Chef Kevin Boyle clank beer steins as they get ready to present Oktoberfest at ‘Umalu.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Saturday, 'Umalu will set the stage for its second Oktoberfest. Wear slippers and beach attire for the casual happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Or come later for the all-you-can-eat German and island-style buffet from 6 to 9 p.m. with live music, beer stations, door prizes and more. So this week, it's all about the Germans.
"Oktoberfest will mark 'Umalu's second anniversary," says Smith. " Ever since we opened, it's been wildly successful - more than we thought it would be. It's attracted more of a local market than we ever thought it would, too.
"This is our way of saying 'thank you' to locals on Maui while celebrating our second anniversary at the same time. The party goes from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m."
Oktoberfest: From 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Drink specials offered throughout. All-you-can-eat German and island grinds buffet for $20 from 6 to 9 p.m. Live music, Malibu Rum girls, door prizes and more.
'Umalu early bird: The oceanfront restaurant just launched a special of four courses for $40 from 5 to 6 p.m.
Halona Kai: Martini lounge on the lobby level pours $4 elixirs at 4 p.m. $5 drinks at 5 p.m. and so on until 10 p.m. nightly.
For Hyatt details: Call the hotel at 661-1234.
Nuffsedd will perform reggae music and beverage specials will be Widmer Okto and Gordon Biersch beers for $4; and Absolut Vodka and Malibu Rum will be poured as West Side Mai Tais and others for $6.
"We'll have a bicycle blender, the Malibu girls will be there, and we'll have a real keg tapping ceremony," says Smith. "There will be a lot of German and Austrian beers and local beers as well."
The buffet will be heaped with Bavarian bratwurst cooked in pale ale, sauerkraut with rustic rolls, assorted mustards, pickles, relish, bockwurst, German potato salad, shredded cabbage salad, Berlin hot wings, apple strudel with creme Anglaise and Black Forest chocolate torte. Cost will be $20 per person, plus tax and tip.
A late-night menu of German-style franks and Bavarian bratwurst with fries will run from 9 to 11 p.m., while the bar at 'Umalu will stay open until 1 a.m. with the drink specials mentioned above.
Speaking of drink specials, if you can't make it to Oktoberfest, do check out the new Halona Kai Martini Lounge offering deals on its drink menu daily.
Get there at 4 p.m., and you'll find $4 martinis. At 5 p.m. the cost is $5, 6 p.m., it's $6, 7 p.m. it's $7, 8 p.m. it costs $8 and 9 p.m., $9. It's a progressive happy hour with hand-picked drinks such as the Lemon Drop, Woowoo, Razzmatazz and Mandarin-flavor Cosmopolitan.
No wonder the Aussies bought the whole place out last week! Pupu include artisan cheeses and antipasto along with signature marinated olives, and desserts of Heavenly Hana brownies and cupcakes.
Halona Kai means "on a bluff, or looking out," says the chef. "It really does feature incredible views. While 'Umalu means under a shaded area."
Starting today, 'Umalu offers an early-bird dinner special from 5 to 6 p.m. for $40 per person. The four courses include fresh salad or tortilla soup, choice of mahimahi, grilled rib-eye or chicken stir-fry; dessert and one nonalcoholic beverage.
"We continually strive to serve fresh, farm to table ingredients and much of our menu lists these local products," says Smith. "I'm really proud of that."
However, the restaurant Chef Smith is most excited about is Japengo. It's targeted to open mid December in the former Cascades.
"Company-wise, it's a real rebirth. Very cutting edge," says Smith. "The first one was in La Jolla and another was in Lake Las Vegas. But this one will be the coolest restaurant around. I'm not just saying that because I work here."
Japengo's food concept will be authentic Pacific Rim, bearing roots from old Asian recipes but with modern techniques. Jay Ledee will be back as sushi chef at the newly transformed sushi bar. Ultra chic table settings were designed by the Heath company in Sausalito, Calif., and the menus have been continually tested since March.
"I've never had that amount of time in my entire career to test a menu," says Smith. "This will not just be another Pacific Rim concept."
In addition, JAS Rrestaurant Group's Son's at Swan Court has a new general manager, Ron Panzo. He started with the company decades ago and worked his way up, then left to be a partner in Lulu's Lahaina Surf Club & Grill.
"It's been eight years since I've done fine dining and I'm excited to be back," says Panzo, who will continue Son'z a Swan Court's awesome daily early bird special of $5 pupu and drinks at 5 p.m., and $6 pupu and drinks at 6 p.m.
"There's just a lot of stuff going on at the Hyatt Maui," says Smith. "Positive energy is flowing. The economy may be slumping down, but we are certainly weathering it well."