Friday, August 30, 2013

Mama's Fish House - Yes, it's as good as you've heard.

Mama's Fish House
799 Poho Place
Paia, Hawaii 96779
Third installment of my culinary tour of Maui.
This was one of the two recommendations that I received most when I asked people what restaurants were not to be missed in Maui. It was a good hour drive from our villa, and I was kind of kicking myself for making reservations that far away and expecting something good can come of that. Right?
Anyhow, when you pull into the driveway there is valet parking. Nice touch for a little island joint. Turns out this wasn't your average island joint. There is an inn as well as the restaurant, and there is a nice beach area to hang out on while you wait for your table.
This was the hostess area. Neat stuff.
Pretty table setting...which they mostly removed once they saw who was dining there.
I don't remember exactly what this was, but I remember it was tasty. I tried pulling up their drink menu online, but no dice.
This was a Lava Flow. Pina Colada with pureed strawberries. Nice touch. This beverage is not unique to the restaurant, but it is neat to look at.
Cheryl had the ubiquitous Mai Tai. From the second we got on the Alaska Airlines flight from SeaTac people had been throwing these at us. This was the best of the trip. No overly-sweet crapola flowing here.
They started us out with a freshly baked loaf of bread, still warm. Always a good way to get the ball rolling.
The amuse' was a tomato bisque. Nice kick to it.
Fairly quickly after that we were served our appetizers. This was a seared black pepper tuna. They don't get much fresher.
Same with the Tuna Sashimi entree that Alex had. It was getting dark at our table by this time so the light balance is a little off in the picture, but it was the reddest tuna I'd ever seen. The pickled veg was obviously home-made and very nice as well.
Hamachi Sautéed with Hamakua mushrooms, garlic butter, white wine and capers Hawaiian Snapper caught by Stanley Bascar in deep sea reefs off Lana’i. Seriously. They tell you who caught the fish. The kitchen has a way with fish at Mama's. It was the second best piece of fish I've ever had. The first being at Roberto Donna's now-closed Galileo III.
Mahimahi Stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust Caught along the north shore of Maui towards Hana by Mike Holley. Mike and Cheryl both got this dish. Once again, excellent execution.

Kuau Chocolate Pie 
Baked in a caramel cookie crust  Not too shabby for an ending. The kids inhaled it but I did get a bite.
Liliko’i Crème Brulèe
I don't know about you, but I'm a purist when it comes to creme brulee. I don't want fruit on it. Theirs was good, but mine's better.

So, the scoop is, if you go to Maui don't miss this place. The prices look nutty, but the check was less than $400 and we all ate well. If you have one or two cocktail instead of an expensive bottle of wine you'll get out cheap.  My recommendation is to catch this on your way to or from the airport as it's pretty close to there. Whichever way you roll, don't miss it. It's a classic.
Mama's Fish House on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 26, 2013

Star Noodle - Ramen in the Islands

Star Noodle
286 Kupuohi St.
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 96761
2nd in the series on my gastronomic tour of Hawaii.
 This is the sunset you'll be treated to at Star Noodle. It sits on a mountain side in Lahaina. You'll have lots of time to enjoy it if you don't use their unpublished call-ahead seating. We waited an hour and 45 minutes for seats. Even after the departure of their Top Chef contestant Sheldon Simeon they still pack them in.
 Here are the boys...waiting without causing too much trouble.
We started out with some steamed pork buns with shitake and cucumber. These were a good start. The pork was from the big island and was a bit leaner than you usually get on the east coast.
Alex got the Hapa Ramen. 
 Nice presentation. Not as much body as some I've had, but plenty tasty.
 Cheryl had the hot and sour. Lots of tasty bits in there with smoked prosciutto, shrimp, chili-lime dashi, fried garlic, and cilantro.
 This was the fixin's plate. Fried garlic! Nice touch.
 I got garlic noodles. Fresh and fried garlic, garlic oil, and scallions. This was not as "wow" as it sounds. It was on the dry side. 

Last but not least, by far, the Filipino Bacon and Eggs. Pork belly, tomato and onion with a 62 degree egg. My egg was much warmer than that, but I got the point. It was a good dish. I'm sure you run out of 62 degree eggs when you're as busy as this place was.

Overall, a thumbs up. To wait that long for dinner was a killer though. If you go, make sure you call ahead for seating. 
Let them know where you read about it!

Star Noodle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aloha Mixed Plate - Good Food, Great View

This is going to be the first post in a long series about my dining adventures in the land of aloha. My family +1 took a trip to Hawaii and did all kinds of fun things. Naturally, my idea of fun is spending time at great restaurants and seeing what this gorgeous island, Maui, had to offer. We started out our first night at a place named Aloha Mixed Plate. It's part of a small chain owned by several folks. They do a few other restaurants as well as a luau at the property next door. This restaurant was recommended to me by the carhop at Merriman's.

I walked up to the host and said, "We'd like a table for four outside." He said, "They're all outside." I like it. True enough, they were all outside. The only choice was boozing or non-boozing. For some reason they couldn't serve alcohol at the tables closest to the water. I chose boozing. We had a clear-enough view from that section, or so I thought.

Cheryl had the Fuzzy Pineapple, which had Malibu, Pineapple and Sprite. It was pretty and tasty.

I had the island stand-by, the Mai Tai.

Here are the boys standing by the water...very close to where we sat. Note the frazzled, "We just spent 27 hours travelling to get here" look.

This was my Lau Lau. Pork and beef steamed in Taro and Ti leafs. It was served with a side of macaroni salad and something similar to a salty cevice of salmon with tomatoes and onions. The little white thing in the upper left-hand corner was some very tasty coconut flan-like item.
Alex went for the Saimin noodle dish. Very much like a light ramen or heavy pho dish. The broth was super savory. Lots of flavor.
Cheryl had the eponymous Aloha Mixed Plate, with fish, beef, and chicken. The fish and beef were phenomenal. I didn't try the chicken...
Michael had the Kalua Pork sandwich. My first taste of this popular island dish. It's similar to pulled pork here but without the rubs and sauces.
As soon as the sun started to set, a gaggle of people walked in front of our view and sullied it! Damned tourists.
I moved a little to the right so I could get a good view. Very peaceful and an excellent end to a very long trip.

Couldn't leave without a pineapple upside down cake. It's the dessert of the island. This was good, but not nearly as good as some we had later in the trip. You'll just have to stay tuned to see where the best was had.
Mahalo for reading. Please tune back in or follow me using any of the various and sundry social media platforms I pollute to keep up with my intrepid dining adventures in Maui.
Aloha until next time.
Aloha Mixed Plate on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bistro Vivant - Gettin' French in the 'burbs

Bistro Vivant
1394 Chain Bridge Rd. McLean VA, 22101 McLean, VA 22101
(703) 356-1700

Two fixtures of the DC Metro restaurant scene, Domenico Cornacchia and Aykan Demiroglu,
opened a great little spot in McLean a couple of years ago. I've known both owners since their days
with Le Paradou and Cafe Milano, so I knew the food was going to be good.
I'm glad I took the trip across the bridge.
I was joined by a very good friend, Dr. Paul as his friends know him, for a lovely Friday night Dinner.

I think it's a rule that you have to start with a glass of bubbly at a bistro. I didn't want to chance breaking any rules, so we went for it. 
Rather than order from the menu, we elected to let the chef send us courses as he pleased. Please keep in mind that there were two of us the courses were split between two of us, so actual food on the plate is much likely smaller than you'd get if you ordered for one! That being said, we started with a lamb meatball with pickled onions. The onions added a nice crunch to the lamb. 
Octopus is a tough dish to get right. The smoky red pepper sauce was a good accompaniment. The octopus was just cooked through so it wasn't tough or chewy. Nicely done.
Next up was a nice pinot. 
The fois wasn't on the menu, but I'd asked about it earlier in the week and was told they had some. This was served over arugula and some peaches with kosher salt. The bitterness of the arugula was a stark contrast to the salty and sweet of the rest of the dish. Not your usual presentation, and it worked well.
The bouillabaisse had a fragrant broth that tasted more of sea than added salt. The seafood was just right and not overdone.
This was a very pretty dish: Lamb braised, then fried in chicken skin. It was almost there, but the lamb was slightly dried out. The chicken skin was a nice contrast. 
This was my favorite dish of the evening, after the fois gras of course. Arctic Char over smoky bacon with corn and mushrooms. We spent a few minutes discussing the dish with the owner. The bacon was perfect and the level of smoke was off the charts, but not overpowering. Just right. The fish was also done nicely. The best part was the skin, which had been scaled and was crisped to perfection. It really added a nice contrast to the texture of the fish and the veggies.
For dessert it was a frozen peach that had been hollowed out and re-filled with cream and the peaches. Seasonal and light. A good end to a good dinner.

Overall, a good experience. The staff was very friendly and attentive. Dinner progressed at a nice pace, they have a good wine list, and it's easy to get to and easy to park. It would be nice if there were more places like this in the 'burbs.
If you go, please be sure to let them know you heard about it at Pleasures of the Table.
Bistro Vivant on Urbanspoon