Makana Ranch House in Kaimukī to Launch Dinner and Brunch
Before March, stop by for a hearty Apache Stew, juicy local-venison burger and classic pasta Bolognese.
Long communal tables in the courtyard of makana ranch house.
Photos: Sarah Burchard
Stepping into Makana Ranch House is like entering a museum of chef Ignacio Fleishour’s family history. Cowboy boots, saddles and animal hides adorn the 2,000-square-foot multiroom ranch house. Outside, Spanish tiles and murals reminiscent of Moloka‘i countryside line an expansive courtyard.
Fleishour’s father and grandfather were ranchers from Kaua‘i, where they hunted, fished and foraged with homemade spears, longbows and arrows carved out of guava wood and bamboo. Add to that Fleishour’s mother’s old-world cooking techniques from her French, Sicilian and Spanish family and you get the look and cuisine of Makana Ranch House: a diverse and rustic menu created almost completely from ingredients hunted, grown and foraged in Hawai‘i.
The venison burger features a juicy patty of 100 percent venison.
The ‘ahi reuben sandwich intrigued me until Fleishour told me the venison burger ($12) was actually a customer favorite. I’m not surprised. When this juicy beast appeared on a toasted purple taro bun with Tillamook cheddar and caramelized onion oozing, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was afraid the all-venison patty would be dry, since Fleishour says he doesn’t cut the lean meat with pork or any added fat. It wasn’t. His secret is incorporating all parts of the venison—nose to tail—and folding peppers, onion and garlic into it. The burger was so harmonious that I would nix the accompanying store-bought potato chips.
The bolognese features ground local venison along with ground pork.
The classic Bolognese ($12) is a 300-year-old family recipe from Fleishour’s mother’s side. Ground pork, venison and soffritto (usually a mixture of chopped onion, celery and carrots) simmer for four hours with a heavy hand of sweet and hot spices and red wine. This hearty sauce, topped with Parmesan and fresh basil, engulfs stiff peaks of penne pasta like thick lava. Craving a glass of Barolo, I kicked myself for forgetting the BYOB policy.
Fleishour, who grew up in Texas, learned to live off the land. His grandfather would take him on trips, spending two weeks training him in Florida bayous, Arizona’s deserts and Mexican mountains, then disappear, leaving a teenage Fleishour to fend for himself. Those survival skills would be essential when he, his father, and his four brothers were lost at sea on their way to Hawai‘i––but that’s another story. (Read about that here from the Los Angeles Times.) These “thrival” skills, as he puts it, created the “work with what you got” mentality that he uses in the kitchen.
The apache stew.
This mentality shines in his Apache Stew ($10), a nod to Fleishour’s father’s Apache heritage. The dish is traditionally cooked in a kettle for days with whatever the daily hunt procured, including captures such as deer, rabbit and rattlesnake. This more urban version, served over brown rice, stews chunks of wild venison from Moloka‘i with cactus, tomatillo, hominy and spices. Raw, chopped white onion, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime balance the meat’s richness. I was already dreaming about my leftovers after the first bite.
Every entrée comes with a simple salad of local greens and the dressing of the day. The herbs and Ka‘ū orange in the vinaigrette on my salad came from his own backyard.
The entrance to the bar.
When brunch service begins on March 2, I’m already planning to try the ‘Āina Benedict (with Mā‘ili Farm eggs, smoked patties made of ‘ulu and ‘uala and hollandaise served over poi English muffins) or a hot stack of pancakes smothered with lehua honey, ice cream bananas and mac nuts.
Dinner service will launch on March 1 featuring a menu with house-made charcuterie, racks of chocolate-spiced venison and lau lau.
Makana Ranch House is a tribute to Fleishour’s father’s ranch. If it’s anything like what he hopes, then it will be just like it—a fun place to hang out, hear inspiring stories, enjoy entertainment, and lazily indulge in a comforting, unpretentious meal.
Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 3574 Waialae Ave., (808) 838-9315, makanaranchhouse.com.