Big Island Redeemed!
We just dined at Merriman's in Waimea and had what was quite possibly the finest meal of our lives--right up there with our first dinner at Roy's Chicago or every meal at the Rendezvous in Cambridge, MA.
We enjoyed two of their appetizer specials, abalone and a mitake mushroom salad. The abalone, when paired with anything else, would have been outstanding, but served alongside the salad, well, the salad was a dream. It consisted of roasted mitake mushroom served on a bed of arugula with diced red and yellow tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and oil and parmesan cheese. It sounds so simple (I definitely want to try it myself during tomato season)--it was divine. I could have ordered a big bowl of just that salad and been completely satisfied.
For our entrees we shared the Mixed Plate, consisting of Wok-Charred Ahi, Filet of Beef and Mahimahi in Ponzu sauce, and their lamb special. The ahi melted in your mouth, and the mahimahi was prepared perfectly--they were a nice complement to the filet topped with mushrooms and served on a bed of sweet corn (I thought the corn was to die for). The lamb special was everything that Daniel Thiebault's lamb wasn't. Braised and served with its braising liquid, potato gnocchi and a saute of spinach, eggplant, zucchini and onion, the flavor of the lamb shined through. it was supreme.
For dessert we tried their crepe special which consisted of crepes topped with mascarpone (and creme fraiche?), lilikoi sauce and sweet strawberries. We also had the lilikoi mousse which was served with strawberries and macadamia nut coconut shortbread cookies. The crepes were awesome ... but so was the mousse. And the cookies--I WANT THAT RECIPE.
The dining room was nicely done, simple and classy and the service was excellent--not pretentious and well-trained.
We have three regrets: 1) They have not opened a Merriman's in Boston, where we are from 2) Until we are able to forget this meal, every other meal will be a disappointment. 3) We are leaving in two days--can we really eat there two nights in a row?
Now that we are back home on the Bigger Island, we dined our last night at Roy's Waikoloa. It was yet another fine meal at Roy's. After dining at Merrimans I wondered if anything would ever measure up and Roy'd did. I don't remember the fish I had but it was served in a basil parmesan crust and it was wonderful. My dessert was also awesome... warm lilikoi pudding. I have a recipe for Lemon Buttermilk Pudding from my most favorite restaurant in Cambridge and it is very similar (substituting Lilikoi for lemon) but the lilikoi version had maybe some carmelized sugar on top and was also served with a fine dice of sauteed tropical fruits. It was heavenly. Mahlo to the GM who made sure we were well satisfied with our meal and to all of you until our next trip home ... aloha a hui hou.
We're pleased to hear that you had such a wonderful experience. The last time we dined at this restaurant it was not such a high quality experience and we have heard the same from a number of other locals. Maybe they're on their way back to the high quality we knew a couple of years ago. Mahalo for the report.
Thank you for the review. We have yet to dine there, but plan on rectifying that on our next trip. Every time that we dine with AW, on O`ahu, he pressures me with, "well, have you dined at Merriman's yet?" He has taken to shaming me, until I do dine there. Your review re-enforced the feeling, that we must do it.
re: Bill Hunt
While you really need to visit Merriman's, we need to visit AW ... but it will have to wait for our next trip.
I'm just so thankful that Hawai'i has very nice options for a very good meal now--when I moved from Hawai'i there was just Roy's in Hawai'i Kai.
On our next trip back we'll check back with Chowhound on any new up and coming talent to try.
Aloha a hui hou --
That is the story of my life - "next trip." Unfortunately, we usually only get to the Islands once per year. I always try for some days in Honolulu, 'cause I love the food, and we then spend a week on another island, or at least another "side" of an island.
Merriman's is at the top of my Big Island list (have to also go back to Daniel Thibaut's, just to see what might have changed).
You absolutely MUST do AW's, King St. Request the chef's counter, though it is smallish and busy, it is worth the effort. If you deal with either Leigh Ito, or Cathy, please tell them that I send my best. They are wonderful. I am torn, between the two dining venues, the counter, or a table, but the fare at the counter, plus the interaction with the kitchen staff is worth the lack of real estate. Talk to your spouse, before you do this, as there is little time, and the noise level (not my thing) is a bit higher. However, all things considered, I doubt that I'll do a table again, unless I am hosting a business meal.
Do yourself a favor,
I had that mitake mushroom salad the last time I was on the Big Island in December, and I agree with ohnofoodlovr that it is out of this world!
And yes, you can eat there two nights in a row...I had both lunch and dinner there that day and loved every minute of it. We live in Honolulu and only get over once or twice a year, but a pilgrimage to Merriman's is always on our must-do list, We have a friend who lives just up the street, and at one time ate there 2 or three times a week, so was definitely a regular. During one memorable meal, she picke up her plate and licked the last of the sauce off of it! I won't embarrass her by using her name here, let's call her "Mary." We now refer to any dish that is really delicious and deserving of the same treatment by asking each other, "Are you going to Mary that?"
Call me selfish, but I hope Peter Merriman doesn't go the route Roy has taken of creating a restaurant empire, and just sticks to one great restaurant in Kamuela and a nice place nearby in Waikoloa, both focusing on the best fresh, local, and organic when possible.