Chef Isabelle Toland’s remarkable talent finds a home at Kapalua’s Banyan Tree Restaurant.
Island-style ceviche, prepared with coconut, cane vinegar, serrano chile and jicama, served with papaya sweet potato crisps for dipping
One would be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave sublime and heavenly Hana. But when chef Isabelle Toland was asked to lead the newly transformed Banyan Tree restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, the former executive chef at Travaasa Hana chose to spread her wings and move west.
Toland’s cooking philosophy gives a nod to her French and Filipino-Spanish upbringing, with a steady devotion to local farms and game. A childhood in Bordeaux, France, and teenage years in Manila are reflected on Pinoy-style barbecued pork belly on a stick, lacquered with sweet soy and served with spicy patis. The ceviche wakes the palate up with a mix of fresh catch in coconut milk, cane vinegar and serrano chile jicama by way of perfectly crisped sweet potato chips. Thoughtful touches like the umami-laden, garlic-abundant fermented black beans is meant to amp up anything on the table, like the aforementioned ceviche, for example. The vibrant farmer’s tomato salad rests on delicate Surfing Goat Dairy and house ricotta with sweet avocado, papaya, Maui onions and preserved lemons.
From top: Take a seat at the bar for craft cocktails and striking views; chef Isabelle Toland.
A Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group alum, Toland worked in Las Vegas and Los Angeles before joining Spago at the Four Seasons Resort at Maui. Her bold take on Filipino and local cuisine is also evident on Kona Maine lobster lumpia with garlic fried rice and a calamansi sweet chile sauce that lends perfect acidity to cut through the plate’s hearty richness. Homey and ingenious dishes include the Give Me the Beef main dish, with slivers of perfectly cooked ribeye meant to be wrapped in Waipoli butter lettuce cups, assembled with charred onion and shishito peppers, and topped with a smoked chimichurri to tie it all together. Her version of tako salad is lovely: finger limes and soy-glazed charred octopus on velvety poi, with thinly shaved kraut carrots, radish and greens—nicely calibrated layers of flavors and textures where each ingredient sings.
Calamansi Caddy concocted with Patrón, curacao, sour and calamansi jam
At sunset, a Tiki torch lighting and fire-knife performance commences while guests sip on lavish drinks from the gorgeous bar, like the Pulelehua—made with Maui’s Organic Ocean vodka, mixed with local lilikoi jam, ginger honey syrup, fresh lemon juice and Maui Gold pineapple crowned with Kapalua butterfly-stamped foamy egg whites.
The He‘e Salad’s focal point is its fresh lime and soy-glazed octopus.
The Banyan Tree
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Lahaina, 699.6200
Hours: Nightly, 5-9pm; Tiki Hour, 5-6pm