Oceanside Restaurant: More in Māʻalaea
There is change in the air at Māʻalaea Harbor. And on the ground, where new stone planters have appeared and a newly-renovated restaurant sits, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oceanside made its debut in the Harbor Shops complex on December 22, 2015, in the building that formerly housed Saltimbocca.
“I came here because I saw this view, and I’d never even been here before,” laughs executive chef/owner Gary King, who flew in from a vacation in Mexico to meet his business partner on Maui. Once the deal happened, King worked “non-stop, seven days a week” to get the restaurant ready in just eight weeks, versus the typical six months. He even helped build all the pine tables in seven days, after running into shipping delays.
King has opened seven different restaurants in a span of four years, but Oceanside is the first one he’s owned. With an extensive, global background in farm-to-table cuisine, King says his locally-sourced menu changes often, with each harvest.
“Like if they have an overabundance of spinach or kale or leafy greens or beets or whatever it is, we help them out by taking that and then we’ll just change the menu to adjust,” explains King, who says Kumu Farms is currently growing produce especially for his restaurant.
He says the varied menu keeps his kitchen crew on their toes, so they “never get bored.” It’s a team he’s proud of.
“We have a very good Chef de Cuisine, he’s from Merriman’s, and we have a Sous Chef from the Millhouse,” King explains, saying he wants Oceanside to become an institution for young cooks. “We have a really, really good group of kids working in the kitchen; they’re all stoked and excited to taste the food and work with the food.”
Oceanside employs a total staff of 45. There are some staples King says will never leave the menu, like his Kumu Farms kale salad, shrimp spaghettini and whole Snapper. Although the menu has Mediterranean influences, he doesn’t want to label it.
“We keep it simple; it’s American-Mediterranean, but I’m not calling it Italian,” he says. “We’re not a fish joint, we’re not an Italian joint, we’re just whatever I feel like doing.”
King says he started cooking 16 years ago at a very young age, moving to New York, then the French Culinary Institute, back to New York, then Italy, back to New York (working for Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio), then Australia, back to New York, then Maui.
So it begs the question: Is he going back to New York??
“I’m staying here for a while,” he smiles. “I’m gonna hang out for a while, relax a little bit in Maui!”
Relaxation may be on the back burner for now; King says breakfasts and lunches at Oceanside have really been picking up, and dinner is gaining momentum, faster than expected.
“We close at 9 p.m.,” King says, “because the harbor’s not a place to come to yet.”
Notice he said “yet.” There’s a big reason for that: Oceanside’s owners bought the Harbor Shops at Māʻalaea, every space except Maui Ocean Center, and are in the process of making changes. Like a coffee shop, slated to open its doors tomorrow in time for the Whale Day Run. There’s also a “Coming Soon” sign for a wine bar bistro called Cafe Del Vino, touting tapas, pasta and seafood at the former Porto pizza place. The kids’ mini-play area has been removed, with cement work and landscaping in full progress. King says his business partners see value and potential in the harbor area.
“There’s a lot of things coming and a lot of things planned. It’s pretty amazing what they’re doing with the harbor,” he explains. “It’s not like, ‘Hey let’s go hang out in Māʻalaea,’ but 100% it will be; they’re re-doing the entire thing. I saw the plans: it’s gonna be beautiful. It’s gonna be ridiculous!”
As for Oceanside, the 200-seat restaurant should get its liquor license in Spring; it’s currently a bring-your-own, self-service system for beer and wine, meaning each bottle has to be “closed when you enter and it needs to be empty when you leave,” adds King.
Drinks are one thing, but King says his priority at Oceanside is what’s on your plate.
“I want them to remember the food more than anything, because I think we’re doing something really, really awesome here,” he says. “People need to see that, they need to try it, they need to come to Māʻalaea and see the change and the difference, and see what it’s become.”