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Chef David Paul Johnson is back in Lahaina with new restaurant

By Staff | May 28, 2009

LAHAINA — He’s been away for more than seven years. And now he’s back in Lahaina Town, where he became one of Hawaii’s brightest culinary stars.

This time, Chef David Paul Johnson is serving up unobstructed ocean and sunset views with his impeccable cuisine.

Guests will also experience the excellent service for which his former restaurant quickly became known.

Serving his “New Island Cuisine,” David Paul’s Island Grill recently opened at Lahaina Center, 900 Front St.

During his time on the Big Island, Johnson said, “I was able to refocus my thoughts and my energy. I learned to reinvent myself and found new ways to make food that I love to eat and love to cook. Call it ‘high-end comfort food,’ if you will.

Slow-braised roasts, seared fresh fish, macadamia nut smoked and fire-grilled meats, brick pressed chicken, and olive oil-poached Keahole lobster all find their way onto the menu.

The offerings are market-based — changing often, sometimes daily — and seasonal. Island-fresh, natural and sustainable local products figure prominently. A nine-course, chef’s tasting menu starting at just $45 per person is a highlight.

The entire menu is priced to be affordable, especially for families and especially in these times. Most entrees are $30 or less, and many choices in every menu category are offered in “full” or “small” portions.

Fifty to 60 wines by the glass are priced at $10 or less, and those wines are offered by the bottle, as well, at $40 or less per bottle. For more expensive offerings, Johnson built a walk-in wine storage where guests may choose their own bottles.

The restaurant features a cream and light coffee, dark chocolate and copper, and sea green color scheme. Johnson calls it “Tropical Chic, Island Cool.” And there are distinct dining areas.

The front patio, The Sunset Terrace, is across from the Lahaina seawall with a gorgeous, unobstructed ocean view. It can seat up to 50.

The back patio area is The Lanai Lounge with up to 30 seats in a variety of configurations. It’s comfortable with movable, modular furniture — even a fireplace. It’s perfect for cocktails, dessert and coffee, and the weekend late-night “tasting” menu. 

Inside there is a private dining room for up to 48 guests, and there are 20 seats at the bar. An indoor “lounge” area with a living room feel can accommodate up to 12.

Three large banquettes opposite the bar have room for eight guests each. There are 30 seats in the main dining area steps up from the front door hostess stand.

Perhaps the best news for Johnson’s fans is that he will be in the kitchen every night, and they can watch him in there doing what he loves.

“The joy of running a restaurant for me is having one thing to focus on and do what I love. I’ll be in the kitchen cooking every night. It’s what I do best,” said Johnson.

Dinner is served Sundays through Tuesdays (closed Mondays) from 5 to 10 p.m. A weekend late-night menu is offered Fridays and Saturdays until midnight. The restaurant will open for lunch this summer. Call 662-3000 or visit www.davidpaulsislandgrill.com.