Erika Engle

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Swan Court’s swan song;
Aaron’s happy about Blu

THE 25-year legacy of the Swan Court restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa came to an end last night.

The restaurant was hailed by the heavily accented and bombastic Robin Leach on the TV show, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," as one of the top 10 most romantic restaurants in the world. It also was honored repeatedly with AAA Four-Diamond awards.

So den, what?

"We are in the process of finalizing the terms of our agreement with a very popular, well-established restaurateur on Maui and are excited about the opportunities this presents," said Frank Lavey, Hyatt Regency Maui general manager.

Because the deal is not signed, the hotel is not revealing the name of the restaurateur, and the restaurateur deferred the announcement to the hotel.

The Swan Court will continue to operate, serving breakfast, pending the renovation of the restaurant.

Employees at the Swan Court will be worked in to other positions at the hotel, so there will be no job losses, Lavey said.

Happy over Blu

Cafe O'lei in Lahaina has been purchased by restaurateur Aaron Placourakis and a new partnership, JAS Restaurant Group LLC.

The company includes Jiro Noguchi, who is also chairman of Placourakis' Tri-Star Restaurant Group LLC, and a new partner, Scott Rolles.

"The agreement was that we would keep it open" and operating the way it has been, pending approvals of the permits required to change it.

Once the permitting is in place, it will be renovated and renamed Blu.

It will be open for lunch, dinner and the cocktail hour -- or hours, given its visitor-geared geography.

The 120-seat eatery is next to Kimo's, a 28-year Lahaina fixture and is "an outstanding two-level location overlooking the ocean," he said.

Blu will serve Placourakis' Mediterranean Rim cuisine in a casual dining setting.

"We'll do salads, appetizers, nice fresh fish with a Mediterranean feel, but we'll also do the traditional burgers and everything too. We're not going to reinvent the wheel here. This is Lahaina," he said.

Rolles is the son of Chuck Rolles, of Chuck's Steakhouse fame. Scott Rolles runs Chuck's restaurants and owns the rights to Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants for the state of Hawaii.

Scott "is a longtime friend and a great restaurateur," Placourakis said.

It's a partnership that's going to enable us to try to brand that particular concept and go forward with it."

The planned first location of Blu should be open some time in November, with 50 to 60 employees, he said.

Placourakis made his restaurant bones on the mainland and Oahu, first under restaurateur Nicholas Nickolas. Tri-Star, in which Placourakis is president and chief executive officer, operates Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana (formerly known as Nicholas Nickolas), Sarento's Top of the "I," Sarento's on the Beach and Nick's Fishmarket Maui.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com

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