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Nov 9, 2009 10:34 PM

Dining in Maui Week of Nov. 8th 2009

Just arrived and thought I'd update some postings. Have had three meals so far, and will add comments to this post going forward.

1. !st night ate at Sensei. Girlfriend and I enjoyed, but some dishes much better than others. Service was very good. Reservation promptly honored. Focused 100% on "sushi" options. For the food: Had the Sansho-Crusted Ahi Tataki. I'm a big fan of Tuna Tataki, but this one missed the boat. Tuna was overcooked, and tuna didn't seem fresh. Good concept that was poorly executed. Also had the Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll and this was a home run. Ahi was great, and the blend of flavors left you wanting more.; Caterpillar Roll
Unagi rolled inside-out, wrapped with avocado and topped with Masago and unagi glaze was also very good. Had the Otoro sashimi, which as Otoro usually is, was quite expensive. Flavor and mouth feel were excellent, but two of the pieces had slight discoloration toward one end, which we avoided, no mention was made of our neglect of these pieces. Also had the Fresh Hawaiian Ahi Carpaccio Sashimi flattened thin and served with cilantro, roasted peanuts, lime zest and sweet Thai vinaigrette. This was also excellent and had us wanting more. Overall slightly above average food, and the price considering it was sushi was fair. Would most likely go back.

Second night went to David Paul's Island Grill. Let me start off by saying i wanted to love this place. Unfortunately the overall experience, especially given the price was severly lacking. We had the tasting menu, with matching wines. I don't think a single wine matched a single dish we had. The worst insult, and i'm getting ahead of myself was the sparkling wine, dry, served with the desert course of creme brulee, and pumpkin cheesecake (both absolutely to die for, especitally the cheesecake, OMG). But sparking wine? Blech. Not a single wine was memorable, and worse, they did nothing to compliment the meal, and actually worked against it. The amuse bouche was outstanding a crab bruchette that lingered for minutes. We both then chose the black been soup, again a solid winner, that had us very excited at that point in the evening. Then the vegetable course, Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad which was Caesar dressing and loose Brussels sprout leaves served with warm polenta croutons, anchovy filet and shaved Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, nice but not overwhelming. Also had some sort of box tomatoe salad. The only thing memorable was the tartness of the vinegar with the dish, and I'm not saying that in a positive way. But come on it was the veggie course, the seafood and meat would bring us home. The seafood started off very promising with Sautéed Opakapaka with Sweet Maui onion soft polenta, pickled Maui onions and Maui onion jus. Fish was cooked perfectly and the sweetness of the onios was great with this dish. The wine, blech. However, the second part of the seafood tasting was a squash ravioli with a bit of poached lobster. Basically a pasta course with a smidgen of lobster, while the pasta was very good, don't think this really qualifies as seafood. Finally the meat courses. A duck confit was so so, but very dry. Also had a Barolo braised short rib. I didn't think it was possible to have a braised short rib that was so tender that it fell aprat in your mouth, but at the same time was so dry that you could barely swallow. The overall impression of the meat was they were prepared will ahead of time and then heated up before being plated. Boring and not acceptable. I've mentioned the deserts, wow. Overall given the total uneveness of the dishes, along with what I consider indifferent service, no personality, no description of the food, no understanding of the wine and why chosen, won't go back.

Evening three - just got back from Bev Gannon's Hali'imaile General Store on the way back from Haleakala National Park and the Surfing Goat farm. Both must stops by the way. This was a meal!! Service, food, atmosphere, the whole nine yards. We had been planning on going to Mama's on the way to the airport for our 10PM flight, but I think we might go back here. Started with the daily soup. A coconut curry chicken soup that was absolutely stunning. Smelled it on the way back to our seats to be seated and had to get it. Was amazing. We then shared the Sashimi Napoleon - Layers of smoked salmon, Ahi tartare, sashimi Ahi, and crispy wontons with wasabi vinaigrette on top of a bed of greens. We each took a bite, stared at each other, and then dug in. Stunning flavor combinations, absolutely extremely fresh fish, couldn't get enough. Didn't say a word to each other except Hmmmm as we ate our way through it. I had the Coconut Seafood Curry with fish, shrimp and diver scallop, steamed in coconut milk mixed with home made green curry paste, Jasmine rice. Coldn't pass it up as I'm a sucker for coconut curries and this one did not dissapoint. Loved every bite. My GF had the catch of the day, mahi mahi, macadamia nut crusted with tropical fruit salsa, mashed purple sweet potatoes, mango lilikoi butter sauce. Fish was cooked beautiffully and the flavors were out of this world. Waiter had recommended a 2006 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir to go with these, and I had my doubts, but went fabously with both dishes, still not sure how. Service was attentive without being intrusive. Would go back in a heart beat.

Tomorrow going to Lahaina Grill and will post again. Not sure on next couple of nights.

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  1. You had some of my favorite dishes at HGS! If you do decide to go on your way to the airport and you like crab, you must try the crab pizza. It is amazing. My dad had scallops last time we were there that he claims are the best scallops he's ever tasted. Very tough choice to figure out where to go on your last day, either Mama's or HGS are both great options.

    1. Thanks Juji, leaning that way myself, but at this point really confused.

      Just got back from Lahaina Grill . First off, David Paul's is NOT Lahina Grill. World of difference. Loved this meal. Service was top notch. Complete opposite of DP's. Friendly, attentive, interested in us and our wants. Informative, explained each dish in depth and consulted on the wine. IMHO, David Paul's doesn't last another three months unless it gets its act together.

      Again did the tasting menu.They say four courses, but really twelve since each course is 3 tastings. Do tastings all of the time in Chicago but nothing like these. So much food. No Mas.

      Started with apps. Had the Cake Walk. Three seperate "cakes", Kona lobster crab cake, sweet Louisiana rock shrimp cake and seared ahi cake. Hard to pick a winner, but going with the rock shrimp. Since all had some heat, served with a Riesling. Very nice.

      Salads were three courses. Bufala Tomato Salad. Hana tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinaigrette, seasoned with black Kilauea sea salt. ; Baby Romaine Ceaser Sald with garlic-anchovy dressing, croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese; and the daily special a beet salad. All were very good, wines match was o.k. After this and DP's I'm thinking they should start skipping this course. Both were o.k., but not memorable.

      For course three GF got the meat, I got the seafood. For the meat she recieved: Kona Coffee roasted rack of lamb, light coffee-cabernet demi-glace, herb infused mashed potatoes; Kalua Duck confit of duck leg, thyme scented wild rice, plum wine reduction; and Steak Jolene, a beef filet, topped with a potato wrapped prawn, herb infused mashed potatoes, whole grain mustard port wine demi-glace. There was a choice at this point re: the pairing so I suggested she get the La Joya, Gran Reserve 2005 Merlot from Chile. She thought the steak was extremely well prepared, with great flavor, the duck so so, but the lamb... with the wine OMG. Amazing. Was like drining a cup of coffeee and the flavor with two went on forever. This was the only portion i tasted, with a sip of the wine, and if I ever go back I'm getting this combo. One of my favorite dishes all time with a pairing, bar none.

      I got the seafood for the third course: maui onion and sesame seed crusted seared ahi
      Vanilla bean Jasmine rice, apple cider-soy butter vinaigrette; tequila shrimp and firecracker rice with southwestern herbs and spices and tequila butter; and sautéed mahi-mahi with Kula spinach, herb infused mashed potatoes, Gorgonzola, pancetta and Chardonnay beurre blanc. Tuna was amazing, when I go back it will be a tough choice between the Ahi, and the lamb. Flavor went on forever. The mahi mahi was very good. Cooked to perfection with an intense, very intereresting flavor, a solid choice. Shrimp was least impressive overall but very good. I'm not a huge shrimp fan, but i absolutely loved the rice that came with this. It tasted like buttah.

      Desserts were also amazing. Triple Berry pie, a combination of raspberries, blueberries, and black currants on a cloud of whipped cream. Loved the crust on this dish and berry flavors with our port went on and on. Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee infused with Tahitian vanilla beans, served with fresh berries and a home style cookie was very good, but it was Creme Brulee, my favorite desert, but a good one is a good one and this was very good. Road to Hana lyers of Hawaiian vintage chocolate cake, chocolate sour cream mousse, and macadamia nut caramel. this was my GF's favorite, and the flavors were decedent. Sunken Chocolate Cake Flourless chocolate with Kona coffee ice cream. Absolutely wonderful, wished I'd save some of that Merlot for the coffee notes.

      All in all a wonderful overall experience. DP's, I'm sorry to say, isn't in the same league, and should not be spoken of in the same breath. This was a little more expensive, $300 vs. $180, but amazing service, presentation and food. A must stop.

      1. We had the same experience at DP's Island Grill on Friday night (11/6/09), but hubby had the black bean soup while I had the cold watermelon soup. I actually enjoyed my cold soup quite a bit, but hubby thought it tasted too much like watery salsa. Also, our pumpkin cheesecake was served with English tea creme brulee.

        We aren't well versed in wines, but we know when wines enhance the taste of our foods and when they don't and your review was spot on! Even our unsophisticated wine palates told us that our wines didn't match our food very well that night. We kept looking at one another and saying "really, this is what they're serving with this course???"

        We did, however, like the tiny buttery rolls. I wasn't a fan of the avocado butter, but hubby thought it was okay. I didn't enjoy my Cesar, so hubby ate mine and I ate his ravioli since I love butternut squash stuffed pastas. He thought the pasta filling was way too sweet.

        We had a very bad experience at Lahaina Grill two years ago, but now I'm wondering whether we should have given LG another chance.

        David Paul's Island Grill
        900 Front Street, Lahaina, HI 96761

        6 Replies
        1. re: cvhound

          This will be much shorter as only had dinner, not tasting, only a couple of courses. Started with the tuna taco. GF enjoyed I thought a bit salty, but tuna was very good. My Entree was the tandori fish with cucumber yogurt raita. Very spicy but very good. A VERY well prepared piece of seafood. Moist with great flavor, the raita perfectly complemented the spiciness of the fish. GF had the Hawaiin Fish Mixed Grill with Mahi Mahi, Shrimp, Scallops, Maui Onion, Shitake mushrooms and lemon beurre blanc. She wasn't sure were the mushrooms fit in, but said the fish and other seafood was excellent and extremely well prepared. A constant it would seem here. For the rice she subsituted the mashed potaotes, and then upcharged to the bacon and goat cheese version (Surfing Goat cheese from Maui, a must stop, very good). These were excellent only part of her dish I tasted and I kept dipping back in, thankful for her understanding.

          All in all very good food ant a fairly reasonable price. Would definitely revisit.

          Hula Grill - Kaanapali
          2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, HI 96761

          1. re: ciesel

            For a cheap yummy snack, try Hula Grill's crab wontons, but be sure to ask for the chili macademia nut sauce. I couldn't get enough of this sauce. I'm not sure what's in it, but it tastes like rice-wine vinegar infused with hot Thai chili sauce and crushed macademia nuts.

            We don't eat a lot of fried foods, but the two of us polished off three orders of the wontons over two visits. We like sitting in their beach bar during happy hour with sand beneath our toes while enjoying the gorgeous sunsets. Their mai tais, while not as good as Mama's, are pretty tasty and $2 off during happy hour. Avoid their plantation lemonade.

            1. re: ciesel

              If you're up by the Plantation House, give their eggs benedicts a try. We had dinner there two years ago, but prefer their breakfast/lunch offerings to their dinner offerings. We had breakfast there twice last week.

              We tried both the cajun sashimi benedict and crab cake benedict. Both were delicious, with a slight edge to the cajun benedict b/c of the wasabi hollandaise sauce. We're not huge benedict fans, but I don't think we've ever had such perfectly cooked eggs! The muffin underneath, however, was very pedestrian.

              If you can't decide which one you want, they'll let you order a combo and you can select any two you want. For a small upcharge, they'll also let you substitute fresh fruit (we were served sliced strawverries and bananas) which we much preferred to the potatoes or rice that comes with the eggs.

              We also tried the panko-fried ahi tuna roll which was far better than the version we had earlier in the week at Sensei and their fried calamari strips which were more like sliced thick planks of calamari. Not sure we'd order the calamari again, but would definitely order the tuna roll.

              Very tasty extra spicy bloody mary's (you have to order it extra spicy if you want it served that way) and good strong coffee. We loved the pickled asparagus spears served with the drink and asked for extra asparagus spears on our second visit.

              Breakfast is served until 3pm every day which worked out great for us, since we're late risers.

              Plantation House Restaurant
              2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761

            2. re: cvhound

              I'd give it a try based on my experience. Can's say enough about the lamb and tuna I described. Not sure you have to do the tasting, but those two dishes shined. If you have the lamb, definitely go with the wine match I chose!!

              1. re: ciesel

                Thanks for the lamb and wine pairing rec! Will definitely keep it in mind for our next visit to Maui.

              2. re: cvhound

                "We did, however, like the tiny buttery rolls. I wasn't a fan of the avocado butter, but hubby thought it was okay"

                Upon deep reflection, we thought that these, plus the avacado butter, were the highlights of the meal.


              3. Tonight we cooked in. Porterhouse on the grill florentine style with olive oil and garlic. GF made a mashed potato with Surfing Goat Chive Cheese and bacon (stole it from Hula Grill last night). Pan fried some Maui onion and mushrooms to go with the steak. Had a Pride Cabernet I brought from home. Beautiful, very satisfied. Bought the meat at Lahaina Grocery. For lack of a better description the Whole Foods of Lahaina. Beautiful steaks, well marbled, cut very thick. While there bought some Poke with wasabi, and surf clams as an appetizer. Very ;nice night at a fraction of the cost.

                BTW decided on Mama's for last night on way to airport tomorrow night.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ciesel

                  We loved the poke from Lahaina Farms, especially the spicy poke and kimchee poke. We went through over a lb of their poke last week! We also liked their tako (octopus) with kimchee. The California rolls (sold in the deli dept) were fabulous the first time, but the rice was really hard the second time and the rolls didn't taste nearly as good. Their spam musabi was only fair. We loved the Maui gold pineapple that we purchased from Lahaina Farms which were going for $1.19/lb the week we were there.

                  We stopped for a late lunch at Mama's on our last day as well. Hubby devoured his wok-fried whole moi with island mushrooms, papaya and black bean sauce. We ordered a similar dish at Mala's Ocean Tavern for $75, so the $43 we paid at Mama's felt like a bargain. Mama's version was much better than the wok-fried fish we had at Mala's.

                  I had the famous macademia nut stuffed mahi. It was good, but we both liked hubby's moi better. Loved the sweet grilled corn and grilled asparagus that came with my entree. I don't like drinking alcohol before I fly, so I just had a fresh fruit drink. The one with various freshly-squeezed fruit juices and a splash of soda. Definitely wasn't worth the $10 tarriff, but hubby's mai tai and riesling BTG were both yummy (I took small sips of both).

                  After devouring almost half a loaf of their yummy poppyseed wheat bread and our entrees, we were too full to order a regular dessert,. We ended our meal with a pot of Maui moka coffee (blended specially for them at Anthony's in Paia) and hubby had a scoop of their home-made Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Coffee was good, but we've had much better ice cream at Bi-Rite creamery in S/F.

                  We were seated at a window table overlooking the coconut grove. Service, as usual, was polished and superb. After lunch, we enjoyed sitting on various benches scattered throughout their beach watching the kite surfers.

                2. Thank you for the report.

                  Your visit to David Paul's mirrored ours in almost every respect.

                  Bev Gannon's was very good, and it was also our first evening meal there. We'd done many lunches, but always found ourselves on the other side of the Island, and love our wines too much to even think about driving.

                  Had another brief trip, post Maui, so I am still working on my reviews. Hope to have them up by the weekend. You are just quicker than I am!

                  Still have never done Sensei.