Story by Becky Speere
“Monsieur Tarzan and Madame Jane, this way please.” Grabbing onto monstera vines dangling from giant mango trees, we sail over “elephant ear” colocasia, corkscrewed pandanus and orchid trees, traversing the property lickety-split to land in a romantic, candlelit clearing. Chef de Cuisine Zach Sato greets us, whisk in hand. “Welcome to the Treehouse.”
His words snap me out of my fantasy. I’m not, in fact, Mrs. Lord of the Jungle, but your faithful dining editor. My husband and I have just arrived at the newly renovated Restaurant at Hotel Wailea, whose private “tree house” (actually an elevated dining room surrounded by trees) is taking haute cuisine to a new level.
In 2016, Hotel Wailea became the first property in all of Hawai‘i to be accepted into Relais & Chateaux, an international association renowned for its luxury hospitality and art de vivre. Worldwide, only 530 restaurants and hotels have been invited into this prestigious community . . . and Tarzan and I are here to experience that luxurious hospitality for ourselves.
We nibble an amuse-bouche of crisp rice crackers topped with sweet Kaua‘i shrimp, pickled daikon and kim chee. Mynah birds and turtledoves chatter and coo in their roosts as a tropical breeze rustles the mango leaves. Chef Zach reappears at our table with a smoke-filled glass cloche. As he lifts the cloche, sweet hickory smoke fills the air and dissipates, revealing a single freshly shucked Kushi oyster with a whisper of citrusy yuzu foam. Next to it, a truffled deviled egg topped with a generous spoonful of French sturgeon caviar provides a quintessential marriage of land and sea. (Yes, this elegant presentation has me, Jane, also cooing rhapsodically.)
Pastry Chef Marko Krancher presents us with an assortment of breads, from buttery lavosh to a molasses-topped rye. The lavosh mysteriously disappears as Tarzan dusts crumbs from his lap. (Hmmmm.) The bread is exceptional, and we ask Chef Zach whether we can purchase some. When he gently tells us no, we exchange a few words and concur that we’ll be back in the morning for the breakfast breads in the main restaurant.