One of Hawaii’s top chefs, Peter Merriman gained popularity as a culinary pioneer, utilizing both an consummate creativity and a locally inspired way of thinking. Affectionately called “The Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine” by The Los Angeles Times, Peter maintains an indefatigable commitment to showcasing Hawaii’s breadth of local offerings, and in doing so, he is ever-advancing Hawaii’s thriving culinary scene.
In 1988, he and wife Vicki opened their signature upcountry restaurant, Merriman’s, in Waimea, which fast became a favorite among locals, tourists and your LA Travel Diva Nextcolumner. The restaurant n’s quickly developed as the culinary crossroads for Hawaii Regional Cuisine, earning critical acclaim from diners and publications worldwide.
It was at Merriman’s Waimea that Peter aroused the attention of the James Beard Foundation and as a result, he has been a finalist in the “Best Chef Northwest & Hawaii” category three distinct times. The easy going chef has since expanded his gastronomic reach to the Market Café, located in the Waikoloa King’s Shops on Hawaii Island, Merriman’s Kapalua, Maui, and Merriman’s Poipu, Kauai.
In addition to his Merriman’s locations, Peter launched a joint venture with TS Restaurants in 1994, to open “Hula Grill,” another favorite of this writer that is located on Maui’s famed Ka`anapali Beach. Hula Grill marked the first attempt to marry the traditional steak and seafood of Hawaii’s local fare with the beliefs and culinary excellence of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Hula Grill has been touted “the best fish house in the islands.
Which brings us to last night when the Diva and Richard sampled Merriman’s newest entry, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman in Wailea, Maui. We literally went ape over the lively place and the fantastic fare that is so typical of this perfectionist chef. Jammed with young locals and tourists of all ages, eagerly digging into signature wood fired pizzas, burgers, Merriman’s famous poke tacos and house cut fries and other yummy dishes.
In addition to some of the best food in the islands, the bar boasts 36 beers on tap that are kept at a temperature of 29 degrees (there’s a thermometer to prove it. There’s also a selection of those trendy tropical cocktails that are so popular among the young, and a good wine list (popular with the Diva).
We shared a plate of poke tacos (poke is a local fish served cold) that melted in the mouth and made our taste buds rejoice. The Diva opted for the mahi mahi special that raised the bar on preparation. It was coated with macadamia nuts and served with Maui pineapple relish and jasmine rice. Richard raved over his fresh local snapper which was sautéed and served over sweet potato mash.
We almost skipped dessert but the waitress tempted us with a chocolate cream pie that was better than any we ever tasted (do check out the slideshow).
We have known Peter Merriman for 20 years and have eaten at all his restaurants, each one has proven exceptional.
Patti Pietschmann's been plugged into the LA scene for years as author of Harper Collins' best selling ACCESS travel, former contributing editor to LA Magazine and various radio gigs. She has traveled the world with her husband Richard, on assignments and for personal pleasure, has enjoyed hundreds of cruises (she and Richard started young), eaten in restaurants around the globe, spa hopped, trekked, hiked and hit the ground running. The former Teen Editor of Newsday in New York, Patti was also a co-west coast editor of Departures Magazine, and a frequent contributor to such diverse media as Cruisecritic.com, LA Times, Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Virtuoso's Voyage, Luxurydomain.com, Bel-air Magazine, Priority Magazine, dozens of in-flight magazines, and more.