Ka'anapali Eats: 'Umalu

Venturing to the west side of Maui, on our last night on the Valley Isle, we had dinner with the Maui, Kauai and Vegas ohana at ‘Umalu in the Hyatt Regency Resort Hotel and Spa in Ka’anapali.

According to their menu, ‘Umalu is described as “a unique, upscale venue showcasing modern, contemporary Hawaiian cuisine. Escape under the Umalu shade to a chic 24-seat Poolside Bar or a beach-front perch.”

Speaking of pools, while the Grand Wailea may have the grandest pool of all, the Ka’anapali Hyatt’s pool ain’t nothing to sneeze at either, with similar rock-formed slides, waterfalls, and also just like the GW, a Grotto Bar.

Back to ‘Umalu, as their description suggests, you can dine barside, or have a more intimate moment under the umbrellas…

This place reminds me a lot of Duke’s Waikiki, where you can walk right in off the beach or pool in your swimwear, or dress up if that’s more appropriate for the occasion you’re there for. A musician plays nightly from 4pm to 6pm and 7pm to 9pm. On the evening of our visit it was Kawika Lum Ho, strumming and singing away soothing contemporary tunes.

Fitting in with the elegant-meets-casual ambiance is the menu (<–see them there), with selections ranging from what could be considered “upscaled pub grub” such as the Kobe Sliders and Ahi Poke Nachos, to more extravagant dishes such as the Volcano-Spiced Prime Rib and Pan-Seared Scallops, Prawns and Mahimahi.

Getting right to it, our order this evening included the Hawaiian Ahi Poke “Nachos”…

‘Umalu – Hawaiian Ahi Poke “Nachos”: uncle kimo’s ahi poke over taro and sweet potato chips edamame guacamole, lomi salsa and “surfing goat” chevre firecracker caviar, $18

The Snake River Farms Kobe Sliders…

‘Umalu – Snake River Farms Kobe Sliders: poi rolls with gorgonzola and caramelized maui onion harissa aioli, $18

Although ‘Umalu doesn’t normally serve a house dinner bread, one of the grandmas on our table requested some, which our server was so kind to fulfill that request by getting it from another restaurant on the property. Nice!…

Umalu’s Chop Chop Salad…

‘Umalu – ‘Umalu’s Chop Chop Salad: chopped iceberg and chinese cabbage served in a crisp rice paper bowl grilled chicken, snow peas, red pepper, scallions, orange, radish sprouts toasted almonds and soy-ginger vinaigrette

The Sesame-Orange Chicken Stir-Fry…

‘Umalu – Sesame-Orange Chicken Stir-Fry: crispy chicken breast stir-fried with fresh upcountry “vegetables of the moment” sweet and spicy sesame-orange shoyu, bamboo sticky rice with pickled ginger and cilantro, $28

The Italian Pie…

‘Umalu – Italian Pie: sausage, pepperoni, onion, green pepper, mushroom, mozzarella, $20

For dessert, the Big Chocolate Cake…

‘Umalu – Big Chocolate Cake: raspberry sauce and whipped cream, $10

How was it? EVERYTHING was absolutely delicious!

Just the Kobe Sliders alone were filling enough, where we had to take a “breather” before moving on to the next dishes…

Kobe Sliders and Ahi Poke Nachos

There’s no question these are genuine American-raised Kobe Beef patties, as it was packed with flavor and juiciness. Whatever’s in that “Harissa” Aioli sauce worked for me. Adding to that powerhouse of flavor in a tiny package was the Gorgonzola Cheese and caramelized onion topping, along with the slightly sweet, supple taro roll encasing it, these Kobe Sliders were gems.

The Ahi Poke, along with the guac, caviar and goat cheese was a wonderful combination, and it worked quite well with the taro and sweet potato chips. Although, like I mentioned with a similar poke dish we had at Tommy Bahama, I think crispy wontons would make a better chip for the ahi poke, ala Alan Wong. It would have been more interesting if they had made their own taro and sweet potato chips versus the store-bought stuff they’re apparently using. Still, this dish is ono just as it is. Thumbs up.

Here I have a serving of everything else…

Sesame-Orange Chicken Stir-Fry, Chop Chop Salad and Italian Pie

Save for Dim Sum, I’m not particularly a fan of Chinese food nor chicken, but this was a stellar example of the dish. The tender, moist pieces of battered deep-fried chicken, then stir-fried in that wonderfully sweet and savory sesame-orange sauce was just delicious.

The Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette flavoring the Chop Chop Salad was also delicious. My only complaint was that the rice paper bowl wasn’t fried crispy enough, having a softy, chewy texture to it, tasting kind of like a bland, stale shrimp chip if you’ve ever had that before. I wanted to be able to break up pieces from the rice paper bowl to use as “croutons” on my salad, but couldn’t in the state it was served. Next to the Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette, the chopped almonds and oranges were the highlight of the dish for me. Overall, a delicious salad, just fry the rice bowl until it’s crispy next time, please.

Then there’s the Italian Pie, which had a tasty, nicely-baked and browned risen crust. It wasn’t quite a thin crust nor a pan crust, but somewhere in between. The sauce flavor and toppings were all fairly typical pizzeria fare. While I can’t say this is the best Pizza you’ll find this side of Lahaina (and believe me, there’s A LOT of competition for Pizza in that area!), it’s up to par considering the type of restaurant ‘Umalu is.

With all that food, I was too stuffed for dessert so passed on the Big Chocolate Cake, but those who dug into it said it was very moist and decadently delicious, giving it a big shaka seal of approval.

Here’s some dishes that my girlfriend and gang enjoyed when they dined at ‘Umalu back in December of last year…

‘Umalu – Pan-Seared Scallops, Prawns and Island Mahi Mahi: snow peas, baby bok choy, hamakua mushrooms, red curry coconut cream and flat rice noodles, pineapple/macadamia nut chutney, $38

‘Umalu – Certified Angus Filet of Beef: umalu’s signature kona coffee rub, maui onion marmalade, merlot reduction, $41

‘Umalu – Sake-Seared Ahi Steak: snow peas, baby bok choy, hamakua mushrooms, red curry coconut cream and flat rice noodles, pineapple/macadamia nut chutney, $38

‘Umalu – Mac Nut Ice Cream Sandwich: house made chocolate cookies filled with macadamia nut ice cream
smothered with hot fudge, caramel sauce and whipped cream, $9 (special order family portion shown at a higher price)

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Ka’anapali
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, Hawaii, USA 96761-1985

Tel. (808) 661-1234

Business hours (daily):
Breakfast 6am to 11am
Lunch 11am to 4:30pm
Light lunch 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Dinner: 5:30 to 9:30pm
Cocktails served until midnight

Download ‘Umalu menu PDFs here

The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)


6 thoughts on “Ka'anapali Eats: 'Umalu

  1. Pomai, I am a dessert freak and those desserts were awesome. From your last entry your shopping bags got lot of interesting stuff from Maui. The pan seared scallops is must order for me when I there next time.

  2. We’ve only had snacks and lunch at the bar area of ‘Umalu. Looks like you guys had some awesome dishes. Ahi nachos are awesom! I always get confused on the Ka’anapali vs. Lahaina. I thought Hyatt was in Ka’anapali until the Mister said, “Wait, isn’t it in Lahaina?” Ka’anapali, Lahaina, whatever, just wish I was there right now eating some of yummy looking food!

  3. Look da ono! I haven’t eaten yet here either even though I from Maui. But I know of Kawika…dat guy can play some uke.

  4. Great site! Thanks!

    The food looks good, but $18 for those nachos and $18 for the slider plate is excessive, even if you were a recipient of a massive AIG bonus! The entrees seem overpriced too. I trust that it was delicious. A value though? I think local food is generally a good value and that is part of what makes island dining and your blog so much fun and interesting. The dishes you focused on here were not what I would call “local” or a value. My guess is that this is because it was at a Resort restaurant. I appreciate seeing both sides of the price spectrum though!

    I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Mom-and-Pops. For me, when getting home, I would rather hit a local drive-in as a first stop rather than an upscale Resort restaurant. Simple uncontrived local food is craved out here in the Mainland. With all due respect, ahi nachos at $18 seems too forced and expensive, even for an upscale restaurant where you expect to pay more for elegant food, perhaps in smaller portions. But those prices for those meager portions? Yikes!

  5. Alan from Madison, very good points. Being a restaurant in a resort – especially one on Maui – such excessive pricing hardly becomes shocking when that’s what you’re surrounded by (such as the case in Ka’anapali and Wailea). Although paying more than $15 for appetizers does begin to raise red flags, I gotta’ admit. And $28 for a less-than-large size pizza is also eye-popping.

    If I were to base my “SPAM Musubi Rating” on value at Umalu, then easily 3 of those Musubi points would have been taken away. But since this is a resort hotel, I left that criteria out of the picture (when is anything a “value” in a resort?). The 4 SPAM Musubi rating I gave was based strictly on quality and flavor of the food, service and ambiance.

    What was a relatively good value for resort dining were those $39 prix fixe menus offered for the Restaurant Week Wailea promotion, such as the ones we took advantage of at Tommy Bahama’s and Humuhumu.

    What’s kind of a bummer is many resort restaurant and bars in Hawaii don’t offer Kama’aina (local resident) discounts, which I can’t understand, as they offer it for their rooms, why not the restaurants? Sometimes I’ll get it if I ask, usually when the manager on duty is cool about it, but still, it should be a permanent policy and part of their advertising campaigns. Especially now with the economy the way it is. If they want the locals to patronized their SLOW (lacking tourists) restaurants, gotta’ give da’ discounts. Gotta’.

    Oh, and I’m not an AIG bonus recipient. lol

    Speaking of local restaurants and value, hopefully you’ve read my review at Sam Sato’s. Now THAT’s LOCAL VALUE right there! I highly recommend that place to every tourist who visits Maui. And finish it off with a refreshing Tasaka Guri Guri Maui Sherbert right down the street!

    C, Kawika sounded great. The bar area here looked like a popular spot for the Lahaina locals, appearing to equal or outnumber tourists (like Duke’s Waikiki). I heard Hula Grill’s (same owner as Duke’s) barefoot bar is a popular spot as well, with tables right on the beach sand.

    CAB, some folks may get Ka’anapali confused with Lahaina as their right next to each other (see Google Earth), and Ka’anapali’s street address falls under Lahaina’s zip code. One thing I noticed while walking down Front Street in Lahaina is that there’s many taxi cabs there, which I’m guessing they do good business shuttling tourists to and from their hotels in Kaanapali and Kapalua. You hardly see any cabs in the Kihei and Wailea areas. Really though, I can’t see staying on Maui without a rent-a-car. Everything is so spread out and there isn’t a frequent bus system.

    John Book, see what I wrote regarding Alan’s comment.

    Betty, I love a good dessert myself. My problem is, almost every time I dine out, I’m totally stuffed after my entree and usually not in the mood for dessert at all after that. I’ll usually just take a few bites off my girlfriend’s dish and that’s about it. Even that scrumptious Humu Pie with the Kona Coffee and Macadamia Nut ice cream on the oreo cookie crust…. I only ate about half of it before calling it quits. Shame. Such a waste of a great dessert! If our room had a freezer, I’d have taken it to go, but we didn’t. Only one of them mini reefers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s