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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Hau Tree

Restaurant Insider

June 20, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

ANNE LEE speaks with Private Label Collection founder JONATHAN MCMANUS

The iconic 58-year-old Kaimana Beach Hotel was renovated during the pandemic by Jonathan McManus and his team. One of the magical touches of this hotel is the welcoming ocean breeze, the magnificent view overlooking the ocean and the famous hau tree, which is the namesake of its restaurant. I was curious to hear how a successful real estate developer also took on the role of a restaurateur. Here is his story about his passion for food, design and insight into the future of the industry.

Avocado Toast ($17; add soft-boiled egg for $3)

AL: How did you get into this industry?

JM: I was intrigued watching my father, John, open 30-40 restaurants in Waikiki. His most notable was Shorebird Waikiki at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. I have a passion to take older buildings and breathe new life into them. We did Bamboo Waikiki Hotel on Kuhio Avenue and Aina Nalu Lahaina, and, of course, Hotel Wailea. The development was a reconception into Hawaii’s only Relais & Châteaux hotel, a collection of 400 locales that have the top chefs in the world. Hotel Wailea is culinary driven, and that is my intention for Kaimana Beach Hotel.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($19)

AL: Tell me about your team.

JM: Chef Anthony Phillips is our creative force and the mastermind with holding the foundation of the kitchen down. This allows our sous chefs to create, with chef Anthony’s guidance on sourcing local produce. What we have been successful at cultivating is giving younger chefs the first shot of creating.

Our director of food and beverage is Justin Eddy. He was Thomas Keller’s general manager at Ad Hoc. Erin Dinsmore is the general manager of Hau Tree, and Haaheo Zablan is the general manager of the hotel.

Hau Tree Eggs Benedict ($23)

AL: Tell me more about the remodel.

JM: One of the great things that happened from the pandemic was a hiatus from Hotel Wailea and the restaurants, as they were closed for months. This allowed me to focus on the redesign with Alana Kobayashi, and how we would create the style of service that would predominantly resonate with the local community.

AL: What is Hau Tree’s newly developed dining concept?

JM: The style of the cuisine and service is what we refer to as conversational dining: casual dishes in an open-air setting — beach chic. We encourage guests to have three choices from the menu, and everyone tends to share. The overflowing joy that has come out of the pandemic is to see friends and families getting together to share a meal. Inspiration for our menu is from a London chef whose dishes are primarily clean foods, fresh produce and vibrant salads you can add proteins to.

Ahi Burger ($24)

AL: Let’s talk about the menu and beverages.

JM: For food, we have the Hau Tree Eggs Benedict ($23) on a La Tour Café English muffin; Avocado Toast ($17) on grilled semolina bread, tomato jam and smashed avocado (add a soft-boiled egg for $3); Ahi Burger ($24) with Asian slaw and fries; Maine Lobster Roll ($32) on a brioche bun with umami aioli; Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($19); and Chopped Salad ($20) with za’atar vinaigrette.

Our drinks include License IV ($12, glass; $80, bottle), that’s unique to Hau Tree. It’s distributed by former French Laundry wine director Greg Castells. Smoking Maria ($17) is bar director Jen Ackrill’s rendition of a bloody mary, made with El Jimador Blanco, guajillo-infused Nuestra Soledad Mezcal and more, and topped with Spam. Garibaldi ($13) is perfect for the beach, with Campari, and orange and grapefruit juice. Kapua Fizz ($17) is made with Roku Gin, apricot liqueur, calamansi and more. Hau Tree Highball ($13) is hibiscus-infused Pau Maui Vodka, yuzu and soda. Finally, Buena Vista Irish Coffee ($13) is Jen’s rendition of our San Francisco restaurant The Buena Vista Café’s Irish coffee made with Tullamore D.E.W. and Kona coffee.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

JM: My favorite thing about this hotel is walking in to see Jen mixing craft cocktails and a roar of laughter coming out of the lounge, incredible music playing and looking at the joy in the room. There’s a new concept in the former Miyako area, as well as a lounge concept. We are looking to evolve the restaurant to a seasonal fall/winter menu … a menu of options and flexibility.

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