Anna’s Foodie Reviews

February 20, 2007

The Banyan Tree @ The Ritz-Carlton

Filed under: 5 Stars! — by annarichmond @ 5:54 pm

When Tom and I were dining at the Maalaea Waterfront, we asked our server where she would go if she had a night out. She told us about a new restaurant, The Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. We had never heard of it, and I didn’t find it in any of the free tourist magazines. I looked it up on the web and found out that it had been named “best restaurant on Maui” for the second year in a row by readers of Maui No Ka Oi magazine. I have never heard of this magazine, but their readers seem to be very discernible critics.

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Kapalu is just minutes from our condo, so it was great to find a place so close. The  grounds and pool area of the Ritz are breath taking. It is on a sea cliff, with no beach, but what a view. It overlooks Moloka’i and the Pailolo Channel.  This would be an amazing spot for a wedding. The Ritz is actually known for it’s golf courses, and draws many golfers to this area.

But I digress… let’s talk about the food. The menu is very Asian influenced and the Chef, Jojo Vasquez is inspired by the fresh Hawaiian ingredients and wonderful fish of the islands. It would have been very hard to decide between the many incredible sounding dishes, so we let the chef pick. We had the Chef’s tasting experience, the four course pineapple menu, “Showcasing the Hawaiian Gold Kapalua Pinneapple.” 

Four courses sounds like a lot of pineapple, but it was like Iron Chef America with pineapple as the secret ingredient. The fruit was used and infused so perfectly into every dish, as not to overpower it, but to enhance it.

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Pineapple Scallops

The first course was Pineapple Scallops. The scallops were perfectly done, seared to a golden brown and served on saffron cous cous with asparagus and a pineapple curry. The curry was not spicy, but sweet and savory with the pineapple. I wanted to lick the plate! This was a good sign of things to come. We had the scallops paired with a crisp and dry California Grgich Hills Fume Blanc. Fume Blanc is the same as a Sauvignon Blanc, just a sexier sounding name to sell more wine.

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Steamed Onaga

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Spiced Essence

The Steamed Onaga with Spiced Essence was next. The Onaga, a thick white fish, is steamed with a potion of spices: cinnamon, gingar, lemon, lime, anise fruit, grapefruit, garlic… it smelled like a wonderful tea. The fish was served with Julienne vegetables and a Chinese black bean sauce. It was topped with a pineapple emulision. We were instructed to dip the fish into the black bean sauce to bring out the other flavors. It was a perfect blend. This was paired with a Grgich Hills Chardonay. It was buttery and fruity, a great California Chardonay.

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Crispy Duck Confit and Foie Gras

The Crispy Duck Confit and Foie Gras was the third offering. The chef took the French dish and made it his own. Un repas magnifique! It was served with a white bean cassoulet, duck sausage, and,of course, pineapple. Tom loved the Foie Gras, as it was done to perfection. We enjoyed a glass of Au Bount Climat Pinot Noir from Santa Clara.

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Pineapple Tiramisu

Our dessert was a delightful Pineapple Tiramisu with a Carmel Sauce and Pineapple Sorbet. Yummy! As I told our very informative and engaging server, the only thing wrong with this meal was that it was three courses too short. I am so happy to say that we have found another stellar restaurant to dine at when we visit. I can’t wait to take Barbie and Keelan here on their next trip with us!

February 13, 2007

The Maalaea Waterfront Restaurant

Filed under: 3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 3:22 pm

On our trip to Maui in 2005, Tom and I were looking for a new restaurant to try. We had decided that Mama’s Fish House had lost it’s magic, and it was time to move on. On Maui, Channel 7 is the visitor channel and a man named Jim Kartes has been talking about his dining experiences on Maui for as long as we have been visiting the island. Of course, he has only the best things to say about every restaurant, but I like to watch and get ideas for new places to try. I saw him talk about the Maalaea Waterfront Restaurant and it’s many awards that it has won, and we decided to check it out. We really enjoyed our dinner that night. We watched a beautiful sunset, had a lovely dinner and a great bottle of Silver Oak from their very impressive wine list.

We were very excited to return to the Waterfront this year. On Tuesday we had 6:00 reservations to watch the sunset, unfortunately, the weather was not very nice and there was no outside seating. The dining room has a very old New York night club feeling. It’s very comfy and cozy. The staff has been around for a long time and seemed to know the menu and wine list well.

We decided on a bottle of Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. Our server broke the cork and it had to be pushed into the bottle. She decant the bottle, but we still had cork floating. The wine tasted fine, but at $90.00 a bottle, she should have brought another bottle, or we should have asked for a replacement. I am not one for confrontation, so we drank it. It was a nice wine and I would pick it up in the store for a special dinner at home.

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Tom loves his Island Ahi

Tom started with his favorite, the Fresh Island Ahi, always a winner. I had the Scallop and Shrimp Crepes. I was expecting something different. The description was very inviting: Chilian shrimp, bay scallops. oyster mushrooms, Maui onions in a crepe topped with sherry and lobster cream, Gruyere, Swiss and Parmesan Cheeses. Sounds very French, no? No! It looked and tasted like lasagna. I like lasagna, but that is not what I was expecting. I don’t know where the tomato taste came from.

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shrimp and scallop crepes

We both ordered the wonderful Ceaser salad that is prepared tableside. Our server mixed EVOO (that’s extra virgin olive oil for all of you who are not Rachel Ray devotees), anchovies. garlic, djion mustard, worcestershire, lemon, parmeasean cheese and coddled egg yolk. Fresh Romaine lettuce is tossed in and it is a true Ceaser.

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the table side Ceaser Salad

For the main course, Tom ordered the Ono, Island Style. Ono means “good to eat” in Hawaiian. The fish , also known as Wahoo, is a delicate, sweet tasting lean fish. It was broiled with Chilian red bay shrimp and a scoop of calrose rice, sauteed scallions, carrots, and shitake mushrooms finished with lemon grass, ginger and coconut milk jus lie. Here was a dish that was good, not spectacular. Tom thought it was a bit dry and would have liked more of a sauce.

I had the Opakapaka En bastille. The pink snapper was “imprisioned” in ribbons of fresh angel hair potatoes, sauteed in “Meuniere” sauce of white wine, lemon, garlic. butter and capers, than topped with mushrooms and tomatoes. Again, this was something that had my name all over it, but when it arrived , instead of flavorful and fresh, it was heavy and bland. The potaotes were very overwelming and I didn’t get that fresh island feel. I took off the potato and added salt. All the other flavors sort of blended together. Not stellar.

We went for dessert. Tom chose the old stand by of Taihitian Vanilla Creme Brulee and I tried the coconut creme pie. We liked it, but were not floored.

All in all, I think our dinner reflected our surroundings. It was very heavy and rich with an old New York feel, rather than a fresh island flavor. The Maalaea Waterfront is known as a great place for steak and for it’s award winning wine list, which I think is one of the best and most affordable on the island. I think we will try it again in the next couple of years and hopefully we can recapture the beauty of our first visit.

February 6, 2007

David Paul’s Lahaina Grill

Filed under: 5 Stars! — by annarichmond @ 9:15 pm

I love David Paul’s! I have always loved David Paul’s. Before our first visit to Maui, I saw Chef David Paul Johnson on Great Chefs, Great Cities, and knew that if I ever got the chance, I had to eat at his restaurant. Our first experience there was amazing. David Paul’s is on the main floor of the Lahaina Inn, just off Front Street. It is a very charming space with high tin ceilings, and local art on the walls. A large, friendly bar takes up the center of the main room, with small, intimate tables set up all around. They are close together, with a New York City feel, but every thing else about this restaurant is pure Aloha. On that first visit, we were in a side dining room, close to the special chef’s table. One of the guests that night was Rich Little. I am a self professed celebrity geek, and loved that I could hear him doing so many of his amazing impressions. It was like we were having dinner with Johnny Carson, John Wayne, George Bush, and a host of others. And the food was even better than the entertainment.

In 2000, Tom and I were in New York City. We were staying at the World Trade Center for a cartoonist convention, and we went to Roy’s New York, which was very close to the towers. Our dinner was wonderful, and we informed the server that we always visited Roy’s when we went to Maui. She asked if we had ever been to David Paul’s. When we replied that it was our favorite, she said that David Paul had been the guest chef that evening, and would we like to meet him? Yes! David came out and was so gracious. We had a photo taken and told him how much we loved his place. When we were back in Maui that October, he came to our table and we were able to talk with him again. I think chef’s are Rock Stars, so I thought it was great. We didn’t know it at the time, but ownership of David Paul’s switched hands in 1999, with David wanting to spend more time with his foundation for disadvantaged youths. It wasn’t until a couple years later that we noticed that he was pretty much gone from the restaurant. The grill did not miss a beat, with David Paul hand picking Chef Jurg Munch to take over. David Paul’s continues to be voted Maui’s best restaurant over and over again.

Last year we were able to dine at the chef’s table in an intimate front room. We had brought two other couples with us, and it was so special to have our own festive space. The walls are adorned with wonderful wine paintings by Thomas Arvid, one of my favorite contempory artists.

Monday night on Maui, we could hardly wait for our 8:30 reservations. The restaurant was really humming and there were people everywhere. I had a glass of Taittinger Champagne and Tom enjoyed his Mai Tai while we perused the menu. For an appetizer, Tom picked Seared Ahi and Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Sweet and Sour Fresh Fig Compote, Maui Onion and Duck Demi Glaze. Chef Jung and his Executive Chef Arnulfo Gonzalez, (The protege of Chef David Paul), had to have had Tom in mind when they dreamed up this dish. Our server expertly recommended Far Niente Dolce to go with it. Mahalo! Tom loved every bite.

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a true masterpiece

I indulged in the Warm Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Baby Arugula Salad with Pears, Roasted Beets, and a Boha Berry Honey-Mustard Dressing. It was fresh and so flavorful. The presentation is as clean and classic as the food is delicious.

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Warm Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese

For the main course, Tom choose the Sauteed Mahi-Mahi on a Bed of Kula Spinich, Herb Infused Mashed Potatoes with Gorgonzola and Pancetta, finished with a Chardonnay Beurre Blanc Sauce. It was so moist and delicious. I love that Tom shares. The sauce was amazing. He paired it with a crisp chardonnay.

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Sauteed Mahi- Mahi

I had the chef’s nightly special, Sauteed Opakapaka over a Lobster Potato Cake with Wild Mushrooms and finished with Caper Champagne Bueree Blanc. OH-MY-GOD! The Opakapaka, a mild pink snapper, was perfect. The mushrooms had just the right woodsie flavor. I had a glass of cabernet sauvignon with the dish to make it complete. This is the food experience that you wait all year for, and count down the days starting at 364, until you get to partake again.

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The Chef’s special

We shared a classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee served with Fresh Berries. This is always a perfect way to end a meal. Our service was exceptional, and very accommodating. The front of the house staff will give you the recipes if you request them. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, I love David Paul’s

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A perfect ending

Roy’s Kahana Bar and Grill

Filed under: 3 Stars — by annarichmond @ 8:00 pm

When we visit Maui, we stay at the Sands of Kahana, a wonderful timeshare that we bought 10 years ago. This purchase guarantees us one week a year, just the two of us, to relax and unwind from the other 51 weeks of the year. Our home away from home is on the beach in Kahana, the North-West top of the island. Across the street from our condo is a small strip mall, home to Roy’s Kahana Bar and Grill. There is no ocean view at Roy’s but I have always enjoyed the view of the open kitchen in the front of the restaurant. I love to watch as the kitchen staff runs around and pulls bits and pieces together, and then presents a beautiful plate of wonderful looking food to be brought out to happy diners. When we first came to Maui, Roy’s Nicolina was right next door and you had the choice between the two restaurants. The Nicolina was a little quieter, and seemed a little more relaxed, where the Kahana Grill was louder and filled with movement. Both places had similar menus, with wonderful dishes, so you just had to pick what kind of mood you were in to decide which place to go to. Some trips, we did both! Roy’s Nicolina has been gone for at least five years now, but the Roy’s chain has taken over the Islands and much of the main land.

Our last couple of visits to Roy’s have been hit and miss. Once known for the utmost service, we started to see a difference a few years back. More tables were added, making for close quarters, and the water glasses that seemed to never be empty, now begged to be refilled. The staff was still very friendly, but more rushed and seen less. But, old habits die hard, and Tom does love the chocolate souffle, so we keep going back.

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Back on Maui

This visit, Tom and I both decided on the pre-fix menu. We started with an appetizer sampler. The presentation at Roy’s has always been beautiful, combining the island’s fresh ingredients and a little Asian flair.

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Appetizer sampler

We sampled Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Ahi in a Hot Chinese Mustard Soy Butter Sauce, Roy’s Original Szechuan Style Baby Back Ribs, and Crispy Shrimp & Pork Lumpia with Maui Gold Pineapple Linghan Sauce. This was very good with the lumpia being my favorite. The sauces are always wonderfully paired with the appetizers. This first course was paired with Roy’s Euro-Asian Riesling 2005. It was very light and fruity.

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Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

The second course was Roy’s classic dish, Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Red Bliss Potato in a Lobster Essence. This dish used to be one of my favorite on the island, but this visit, it was very plain and bland. In most fine restaurants, there is no salt or pepper on the table, as none is needed. At Roy’s it was needed, but not present. Tom had the same opinion. We both felt that Roy’s just wasn’t what it used to be. The wine for this course, Roy’s Au Bon Climat “Ohana Reserve” Santa Barbara Chardonay 2005, had not arrived even when we were half finished with the dish. We finally asked another server to bring it. As we finished our fish, our server, who was very nice, but a little stretched, brought over our wine. We had already finished the glass brought to us earlier! If you are ordering a dinner with wine pairings, it’s important to have the wine arrive with the courses.

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Roy’s Chocolate Souffle

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Macadamia Nut Tart

For dessert, Tom had his favorite, Roy’s Chocolate Souffle. You have to order it with your meal, because it takes 20 minutes. This did not disappoint, and Tom had a glass of Edmeades Alden Vineyard, Late Harvest Zinfindel 2003. I had the Macadamia Nut Tart with a Churchill 10 year Tawny Port. Both were very tasty.

All in all, there was nothing glaringly wrong with our meal, it just wasn’t spectacular. Roy’s used to be worth waiting all year for, and now it seems to be just a step up from Red Lobster. We will probably go back, because it is so close to our condo, but it could easily be replace if something stellar comes to the Island.

February 1, 2007

Aloha from Maui

Filed under: General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 2:55 pm

Tom and I are here in paradise, on our 10th trip to the enchanted Isle of Maui. Over these many visits, we have dined at numerous restaurants on the Island. Some are no longer open, and some probably shouldn’t be. In the decade that we have made our yearly pilgrimage, we have learned about great food, discovered a love for wonderful wines, and have turned into full blown foodie snobs. We tend to plan our trips (here and elsewhere) around where we are going to dine. On our first trip to the Island, we knew nothing of fresh fish. Being from Minnesota, I knew Walleye, Sunnies, lutefisk, and if you got lucky, Northern. We took it slow, adding new island flavors with every meal. I truly think that Maui is where we began our appreciation of a really fine dining experience.

Our first visit, we took many suggestions, and tried what was “the best on the island”. Before the Food Network took over my viewing habits, I would watch a show on PBS called “Great Chefs, Great Cities”. I had seen Roy Yamaguchi, of Roy’s, David Paul Johnson, of David Paul’s, James McDonald, of Pacific’O and Alex Stanislaw, of The Plantation House Restaurant. I had to try all of these places on our visit. We rounded it out with a luau and a trip to Mama’s Fish House. Over the years, we have left some behind, given second chances, found a few new gems, and held tightly to our favorites. I will share our experiences on this trip, and in a few cases, long for the meals of years past. Aloha!

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