I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia from my Maui friends over the last few months. They weren’t just raving about it; they were claiming it was their favorite Maui restaurant. That’s a pretty big statement to make, especially with so many awesome eateries on the Valley Isle to choose from.
I go to Maui a lot, but rarely drive to Paia, despite the many great shopping and dining spots there. Olivia Maki and her brother Morgan, who — in a nutshell — oversee some of the operations of the restaurant and Hana Ranch, decided to fix that and flew me to Maui specifically to try the restaurant, tour the ranch, and get a preview of their new food truck in Hana. How good was it? Let’s put it this way: I flew back on my own to have dinner there. That’s pretty good.
There’s a lot of creative farm-to-table dining happening on Maui, since they are surrounded by farms and very progressive farmers to complement the talented chefs. But there’s nothing quite like Hana Ranch Provisions in Maui … or Honolulu, for that matter. That’s not to say they’re so different they don’t fit; Morgan, who was raised in Louisiana and was a chef in San Francisco before moving here, took Paia’s hippie-chic vibe and elevated it to the upscale hippie chic that you might find in, say, Hayes Valley or The Mission.
When the restaurant first opened, Morgan brought chef Jon Watson, with whom he’d worked in San Francisco, to develop the menu. That should give you a hint as to how the food looks and tastes. Once the restaurant got up and running, they brought chef Gary Johnson (you’ve seen him at high-profile Maui restaurants) to lead the team so they could spend more time in Hana getting the food truck going.
You can see more photos of the restaurant and the ranch in the gallery below. I know you want to see more of the food, so here’s what you can expect to see when you head to Paia, although the menu does change frequently.
The non-alcoholic ginger beer is straightforward and nicely balanced, not too sugary or spicy.
They use vegetables (and sometimes fruits) that they grow on the ranch for their house pickles, which are a great accompaniment to the food — especially the sandwiches. I like that the pickles are not too vinegary, but are mild and crunchy with a slight sweetness. And yes, they are working on being able to sell these in jars to go!
A lot of places have pumpkin soup, but here they give it a layer of curry flavor and a little crunch from pumpkin seeds. It’s not too sweet at all, and even with the curry, it tastes a lot like Thanksgiving. This is perfect with…
…the house-baked bread, which is fresh and has a slight chewiness. For those of you who like crust, that crusty layer is very sturdy, too! They even make their own butter and sprinkle it with local lava salt. It’s very addicting.
What genius thought of beet carpaccio? Fresh, sweet beets from the farm are sliced paper thin and served with kumquats, mustard greens and dill, and topped with deep fried shallots. Although the beets are the focal point of the dish, the kumquats lend the strongest flavor and are what pull everything together. You get sweet, tart, crunchy and bitter in each bite.
You can’t leave Hana Ranch Provisions without having their signature burger. Split it with someone if you have to, but get it. The patty is juicy, and although their beef is grass-fed, you don’t get that grass-fed funk in the flavor. It’s served on a house made ‘ulu brioche with cheddar, caramelized onions and horseradish aioli. Don’t waste the bread and butter pickles, as these are some of the best we’ve had. My friend Dania Katz says she dreams about these pickles.
If meat is too heavy for you (I told you to split the burger!), try the fried fish sandwich. It’s served on that same ‘ulu brioche with pickled radish slaw, almost like the vegetables you get in a Vietnamese sandwich. Again, very good, fresh and tasty, and the batter is fried to a delicate crunch. It’s a simple sandwich, but with a nice blend of flavors and textures.
At dinner, we got the Vietnamese beef meatball appetizer, which is served atop a green papaya slaw, Thai herb salad, chile and hoisin with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts and cilantro. You get very Asian flavors of the salad with the savory-sweet meatball.
We were blown away by the ‘ulu and sweet potato gnocchi, which practically melted in our mouths. It’s definitely sweet, but the brown butter and balsamic give it more complex layers of richness with a little tartness. It’s very garlicky, too, which I think helps keep the dish from being too sweet. Definitely order this when available!
To be honest, I was so full at dinner that I didn’t eat much of the tagine, but what I tasted was good — a flavorful mix of roasted veggies with couscous, toasted almonds, olive, fresh tumeric and crispy chickpeas. In Paia, you need such filling, non-salad vegetarian options, and this is definitely a new approach for our veg friends.
I was surprised at how much I liked the seared ahi, which is comprised of generous cubes of fish, Kula cauliflower, braised chicories, and (of course) a soft-poached egg. The cured mackerel vinaigrette is amazing! It’s not fishy, but is intensely salty (just where it’s drizzled), so that made it one of our favorites of the night. I was also surprised at the $35 price tag, but perhaps it is very high quality fish.
I love home made pasta, and these al dente ribbons of tagliatelle are both silky and firm at the same time. You can’t beat fresh, local shrimp, either, and Kauai’s have a subtle sweetness in the meat. They leave the heads on, not just for presentation, but for people like me who eat the insides. The sauce is also slightly sweet due to the fresh tomatoes, but not due to added sugar.
Save room for dessert. The chocolate icebox cake and its frosting are light and not too cloying — just right for finishing a heavy meal. The raspberry coulis is a nice touch.
One of my new favorite desserts is the rosemary panna cotta, topped with chocolate almond bark and kumquat marmalade. The rosemary is really very subtle, so again the kumquats lend the strongest flavor. I didn’t think the chocolate almond bark was necessary, but chocolate lovers on our table snarfed it up.
Overall, both meals were very special and had very unique twists on familiar dishes — especially because so many of the ingredients were literally fresh from the farm. It’s definitely worth a look if you are going to Maui, and worth the detour even if you weren’t planning to head to that side of the island.
Here’s a look at our ranch tour, plus a sneak peek at the Hana Ranch food truck.
Hana Ranch Provisions
71 Baldwin Avenue, Pāʻia