Pure Palate
April - May 2013
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West Side Story

by Alana Folen

After its success on Maui, Peter Merriman’s Monkeypod Kitchen now comes to Ko Olina.

THERE IS A LONG LIST OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS THAT GREAT RESTAURANTS MUST UPHOLD, YET THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK of any renowned restaurant these days is to provide a place of escape, a realistic fantasy that’s free of troubles, where all that matters is you and your palate. And the newly crafted Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman in Ko Olina on O’ahu, as well as its sister restaurant in Wailea, Maui, fulfills this vital responsibility.

Photos courtesy of Monkeypod Kitchen

Hand-tossed pizza pies, fresh island fish and homemade cream pies, not to mention the 36 craft beers on tap-each served at an optimal 29 degrees are prime examples of the fact that Monkeypod Kitchen has truly mastered the art of food, drink and merrymaking, served with aloha.

Peter Merriman has long been regarded as a culinary pioneer and one of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, who draws inspiration from the people and products around him.

“Everything on our menu is locally sourced and of the highest quality. Patrons love that we are a socially conscious company. We are dedicated to limiting our impact on the environment and we always try to do the right thing,” he states. “We celebrate the art of craft in everything we do.”

By offering fish that is caught that same morning and using vegetables harvested that day has resulted in a premier gourmet interpretation of local ingredients as well as a commitment to the local producers and economy.

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman made its mark on Hawai’i's dining scene in 2011 in Wailea, and the recent move to O’ahu this past January only expanded and elevated the restaurant’s reputation.

“I love casual dining with great quality food and drinks, and a fun experience,” Merriman says. We wanted to bring Monkeypod Kitchen to O’ahu because that’s where all the people are-so it seemed only Thtting.”

Merriman, chef Todd Constantino and the rest of the kitchen staff have a firm grasp on perfecting classic cuisine with a modern flair. Constantino especially brings a fresh take on international favorites to the menu.

For instance, there is the best-selling lunch appetizer of Pumpkin Patch ravioli ($9.95), which features kiawe-roasted squash, chevre, spinach and sage brown butter, and a superlative selection of makai fresh day boat fish, including sesame-crusted mahimahi ($32.95) served with coconut mashed Molokai sweet potatoes drizzled with spicy lilikoi sauce. Monkeypod Kitchen’s meatier dinner entrées boast a persuasive grass-fed, hormone-free, peppercorn-rubbed filet steak ($34.95) beautified with Kona coffee honey butter and spicy paniolo onions, accompanied with the local vegetable of the day and jasmine rice or wood-roasted garlic rosemary red bliss potatoes. And for a taste of Italy, opt for fresh gnocchi ($18.95) presented with local chard, sautéed mushrooms, tomato coulis and chevre.

The list of American classics spans the realm from Hamakua wild mushroom wood-fired pizza complemented by white sauce and truffle oil and garnished with Parmesan and thyme, to a myriad of flavors exquisitely brought to life in the restaurant’s Pete’s Classic Burger ($16.95) with Maui beef, umami mushrooms, gruyere cheese, arugula and horseradish cream. Yet, it’s always best to go with the chef’s recommendation, especially if it’s from Merriman himself.

“My favorite item on the menu is the saimin ($13.95) because I love noodles, and we buy fresh local noodles and serve our saimin with organic broccoli and kalua pig,” Merriman says of the saimin, which consists of Iwamoto family noodles served in a dashi soy broth garnished with green beans, bean sprouts, red onion, cilantro, mint and peanuts.

“Our interpretation allows the predominant natural flavors of the food to come through. If you combine too many flavors, you’ve disguised the food and you’ve confused the palate,” says Merriman, who caught the attention of the James Beard Foundation with his initial restaurant, Merriman’s Waimea, and earned his place as a finalist in the “Best Chef Northwest and Hawai’i” category on three separate occasions.

But Monkeypod Kitchen’s handcrafted entrées shouldn’t overshadow the decadent desserts for which the restaurant is acclaimed. In pursuit of the perfect pie? Save your fork to dig into one (or more)

of the various cream pies: chocolate, banana, coconut or strawberry. Tropical Dreams gelato and sorbet also can make for an even sweeter ending to your meal.

And while you’re sipping on one of the many beers from top breweries and microbreweries from around the world or enjoying your pick from a list of wines or culinary cocktails made from unique ingredients such as açaí spirit, coconut water and Kula lavender, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the company of A-list celebs, who, according to Merriman, often frequent the restaurant.

“[On Maui,] there have been quite a few celeb sightings at Monkeypod,” he confirms. “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Owen Wilson, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper are just some of the most recent celebrities who have dined with us.”

“But celebrities aside, we have a strong clientele of both locals and visitors. Many people come back two or three times during their vacation to try out different menu items,” Merriman adds.

Monkeypod Kitchen is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (happy hour runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m.) with live musicians entertaining guests well into the evening.

Merriman says, “Like the monkeypod tree, Monkeypod Kitchen thrives on the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands. The aloha spirit nurtures everyone that acts under its canopy. By living aloha, and recognizing how lucky we are to live in Hawai’i, we hope that the grass is always greener under the Monkeypod Kitchen tree.”

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Ko Olina, O’ahu, is located at Ko Olina Station, 92-1046 Olani St. and Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Wailea, Maui, is located at 10 Wailea Gateway Place, Unit B-201. For more information, call (808) 891-2322 (Wailea), (808) 380-4086, or visit www.monkeypodkitchen.com.

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