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Dec 6, 2006 03:45 AM

Mama's Fish House Maui

What is it that brings carloads of diners to this out of the way location on Maui to drop beaucoup bucks for mediocre fish and tiki-room decor. We were urged to go here by my in laws who know their food and drink and we made the pilgrimage to the suburban Maui location and jammed into their parking lot to expectantly join other salivating howlies. Doesn't the name conjure up a big happy Hawaiian lady serving you on picnic tables in her backyard? Well guess again. The only Mama here is probably a nationally registered brand name in search of a franchising plan. We were shuttled in with great efficiency and given the drink menu which listed Mai Tai's for $15. Wait a minute, this isn't the Tonga Room at the Fairmount, it's some supposedly cutesy out of the way place. So we decided to cover our downside by splitting an appetizer ($22 tomatoe and blue cheese salad) and entree ($34 tiny piece of spearfish with a rub based upon Accent) and ordering the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu. ($32 for an Italian white). They brought us "freshly baked bread" that reminded me of what I made in my new home baking oven (since given to the Goodwill) and the home made ice cream tasted like ice milk from the supermarket. So my question is: What brings in all the folks and why are they so happy? Tables around us changed several times during our 1 1/2 hour meal. I felt lucky to get out with the bill at $145 for half a dinner. Mahalo.

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  1. Our experience was totally the opposite. We had a leisurely late lunch and the dining room was only about one third full. We reserved in advance and had a window table. While the food may not have been better than the French Laundry or L'Auberge du Soleil or The Ivy in London or a few of the bistros I've tried in Paris, the overall dining experience was one of the best ever. The food was delicious, the server was attentive to everyone from my 10 and 11 year old kids to my 67-year-old mother who was having her first fine-dining experience, and the view was nothing short of spectacular. Lunch for the 5 of us was almost $250, about what I expected. As a final thought, I'm always surprised when people complain about the cost of restaurant meals. If I'm travelling and haven't seen a menu online that includes prices, I'll ask to see a menu before being seated. Then I can decide beforehand if it fits into my dining budget...sometimes it does and we ask to be seated and sometimes it doesn't and we just politely say "thank you" and walk away. While Mama's website menu does not list prices, I'm sure they would have provided a menu for you to peruse before you being seated.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mimi

      I am not sure what your point is about looking at the menu: You can't tell if the food is good from reading a menu!

      In this case, I don't think that the OP was complaining about the cost: she was complaining about the value and whether the food was good or not!

    2. CharlotteMichele, wish that you'd read my "Mama's" post a while back - would have saved you aggravation and money. I'm one of the few who thinks this place is hugely over-rated, over-priced and over-visited. How lemmings blindly following one another qualify as Chowhounds is beyond my ken. Your description of the super-hype is spot on. My complaint is not about the cost, it is about the "Disney-esque" decor, slapdash service and very average food. Our lunch was simply ordinary. Granted, it is located in a pretty place but is not worth a detour, to paraphrase Michelin.

      One visit per lifetime is my quota but I was roundly trounced for expressing this by Mama's fans. How and why I will never understand, but Mama does have her followers.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sherri

        Ditto, ditto, and ditto. I think we have had this conversation before, but I am with you. Mama's is very mediocre food, and waaayyy overpriced. I'd happily pay their prices for delicious food and great service, but that isn't what I got at Mamas.

      2. I have been to the French Laundry and Auberge de Soleil and the Ivy in London as well as other Michelin 3 star restaurants. I am stupefied that you could possibly compare this Pirates of the Carribean experience as belonging in their league. We did consider leaving but we couldn't bear dragging our 3 year old back out to the car. I will say that they treated her nicely as I would expect at Disneyland. The high point of my evening was seeing the autographed pictures of Frank Sinatra, Wink Martindale and Ludakris. Now that's something you won't find at Guy Savoy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: CharlotteMichele

          I'm not intimating they are in the same "culinary league" but I'm talking about the whole experience. Maybe your expectations were lots different than mine but I was looking for a good food and a beautiful location where my family and I could enjoy being together on a memorable vacation. Since I haven't been to Disneyland, I can't comment on the Pirates of the Caribbean experience you cite. I didn't even notice the autographed photos you seemed to be so wrapped up in---I was too busy noticing the beautiful tropical views.

          1. re: Mimi

            I wouldn't ordinarily be so worked up but the lack of "mama" and the elevated prices get me worked up. Did I mention the pictures of Ann Margaret and Marvin Hamlisch?

        2. CharlotteMichele is onto something. I dined at Mama's about 28 years ago. At the tender age of 12, and still in my Hamburger Hamlet years, I thought the place more themepark than fine dining.

          1. OK, I have not been, having dined in and around Lahina Town, on all of our trips to Maui, but with all of the recent discussion (last year), I will have to do Mama's, just to see, for myself, what the fuss (good and bad) is about. I have had recs. for it, going back 15 years, but have just not made the trip to dine there. It's about time, and how bad can it be? Since I've dined on all of the Islands, but Molokai, I've had the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've paid 3-star prices for poor food, and fast-food prices for meals that should have cost me 10x more, due to the fixins' and the flavors. Maybe this Oct, I'll add Mauai and do Mama's.