NEARLY A DECADE AFTER TRANS- FORMING MAUNA LANI RESORT’S PRIVATE BEACH CLUB FROM CASUAL BEACHSIDE EATERY TO THE COMFORTABLY CHIC, FINE DINING RESTAURANT NAPUA, OWNERS BRANDON LEE AND LIFELONG FRIEND KEONI REGIDOR HAVE KEPT THE BUZZ GOING WHILE STAYING TRUE TO THEIR GUIDING PHILOSOPHY: KEEP IT REAL, KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Long before opening the restaurant in late 2010, the two Honaka‘a natives recognized that this dreamy location— set on a jewel-like cove with the pristine aquamarine and sapphire waters of Makaiwa Bay—was the authentic Hawaiian experience travelers worldwide long to find. In addition to the perfect, tropical setting, the restaurant building itself is reminiscent of a gracious, open and airy plantation home of Hawai‘i’s golden age. The relaxed, friendly vibe exudes aloha and creates the sense of dining at your best friend’s beach house.
“We grew up playing on this beach— swimming, surfing and paddling outrigger canoes just off-shore. We are happy to be associated with the team at Mauna Lani Beach Resort who through thoughtful and careful stewardship preserved the natural beauty and culture of this special place,” Lee says.
Named after owner/chef Regidor’s mother, Napua showcases many of her treasured family recipes using ingredients sourced almost entirely from Hawai‘i Island with many of the ingredients cultivated less than 50 miles from the restaurant’s kitchen. Chef allows these flavorful, high quality ingredients to shine using a skilled light touch in the diverse preparations of his ever-changing menu offerings.
“Our menu is constantly changing, although there are a few signature dishes—diner favorites over the years—that are always on offer,” Lee says. “Among them the calamari steak katsu-style; Keoni’s perfectly balanced sweet and tangy, twice-cooked barbecued pork
ribs; seared ‘ahi with a preparation that changes every three months, and, of course, daily fresh catch options featured in a variety of dishes including fish tacos, salads, a fish sandwich and perfectly grilled or seared with fresh veggies, rice or potatoes.”
The duo not only supports local farmers, ranchers and fisherman, in 2015 they began a journey that has taken their commitment to sustainable and secure food systems a step further.
“We know it’s increasingly important for people to know where their food comes from and how it is raised, so we applied and were awarded a grant through Kamehameha Schools for agriculturally zoned land near Hilo on the east side of the island,” Regidor says. “Of course, we can’t produce everything to fill our restaurant’s needs, so our long-time, local vendors are critical to our success.”
Roughly 22 acres in size with its own natural spring water, their Kuanamano Farms is currently home to Berkshire pigs (the most beautiful pigs you’ll ever see, according to Lee) all roaming free-range on a rotational open-pastures system of sustainable, organic farm management.
“Our pigs are grazing free and happy, and are spending so much time constantly moving from pasture to pasture that it literally changes their body composition. Instead of developing a huge gut, their fat goes into their muscle creating great marbling in the harvested product. The meat is clean, not at all oily or gritty,” Lee says.
Using a sustainable, holistic approach, they use fodder and feed from fruits and vegetables grown on the boutique farm to keep the soils healthy and fertile. And some of that “homegrown” produce also finds its way into Napua’s kitchen and onto diners’ plates.
Lee and Regidor credit Hawai‘i Island’s unique climate and volcanic soil for producing some of the finest livestock and produce in the world. Enjoy a meal in this gracious, home-style setting and it’s sure to confirm their claim. Local, organic and delicious Hawaiian regional cooking served up with genuine aloha to nourish both the body and soul is their mantra. We say, chant on!.
Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club, Mauna Lani Resort, 68-1292 Kaniku Drive, (808) 885-5910 or napuarestaurant.com