Side Orders • May 17, 2018

Leilani’s on the Beach hopes to reopen its main dining room in Kaanapali this weekend after a major renovation that took almost six months to complete. Leila Eliason (left) and Mariella Pascua give the shaka in approval. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

MAUI ON THE MOVE . . . After six long months, the main dining room at one of Maui’s top-grossing restaurants is targeted to reopen this weekend. Leilani’s on the Beach in Kaanapali plans to showcase its new look during regular dinner hours from 4:45 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Literally everything up there in the main dining room on the second floor is brand new,” says Leilani’s General Manager Jason Donez. “Chairs, artworks, fixtures, flooring and new teak tile wall. We did reclaim some of the koa tables and save the aa lava rock walls because they were such a big part of the restaurant picture.”

Owned by the TS Restaurant group that operates 13 top establishments in Hawaii, from Hula Grill Kaanapali to Duke’s Beach House, Leilani’s opened in its oceanfront spot at Whalers Village in 1982 and has been a hit ever since.

“Our renovation goal was to honor the Leilani’s of yesterday, today and tomorrow by incorporating traditional design with modern comfort,” adds Donez. “Guests will continue to enjoy the same great views and friendly hospitality for which we’ve been known since our opening.”

Executive Chef Ryan Luckey is running with a chef’s taster menu from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. It’s a three-course dinner sampling of appetizer, entree and dessert of special items that are normally not available on the regular lineup.

The big news this week running around restaurant circles is that Chef Jojo Vasquez has jumped ship from the Plantation House in Kapalua to helm the large kitchen of Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei. (See Dining Out story.)

“I want to make sure there’s craftsmanship in the touches and elegance in the plating,” he says. “I want to make sure people say, ‘Damn, I need to come back because I didn’t try the whole menu.’ “

Named “Chef of the Year in 2017” by a local magazine, Vasquez served as sous chef for two seasons on the hit TV show “Iron Chef” with Masaharu Morimoto and he also cooked for other Morimoto enterprises in Waikiki as well as at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui.

The Plantation House Kapalua is now rocking under the expertise of longtime chef de cuisine Maggie King.

While Sangrita’s closed down in January in Kaanapali, its sister restaurant is alive and well. Pizza Paradiso is jumping in its small location in Honokowai with Mediterranean delicacies, Persian kebabs and Lebanese falafels made from scratch.

“We have tabouli and hummus,” says owner Paris Nabavi. “Shawarma is meat on a skewer, and we shave it from top to bottom. We do lamb and we do chicken. For dessert, we bake baklava and we have creamy gelato as well.”

The Maui Chefs Table series continues to dazzle at The Mill House in Waikapu at 6 p.m. Saturdays. Guests are encouraged to get up, see the action, take pics and get to know the chefs. Call 270-0303.

* Got restaurant/dining-event scoop? Call Dining Editor Carla Tracy at 242-6342; or email