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Hard Rock Cafe serves comfort food at its best

By Staff | May 12, 2011

General Manager Kevin Martinez (left) and Executive Chef Steven Foster show off six fine dishes (clockwise from bottom, center): Potato Skins, Grilled Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta, Caesar Salad with Salmon, Twisted Mac and Cheese, Mushroom and Swiss Burger and Fresh Apple Cobbler. Photo by Rob Reed.

LAHAINA — The Hard Rock and hearty dining right here on Front Street — a duo pleasing all generations!

The first Hard Rock Cafe was established in London in 1971 and began its global expansion in 1982. The company now owns and/or franchises a worldwide network of 168 venues in 52 countries — including 134 cafes and 14 hotels/casinos — and is visited by more than 54 million guests each year. WOW!

And music enthusiasts are ever grateful that a Hard Rock Cafe was established here on Maui. But you don’t have to be a rock and roller to enjoy the fine, extraordinary cuisine served at their oceanfront location. You’ll find comfort food at its best!

The genial gentleman who oversees the Maui location is former Executive Sous Chef Kevin Martinez, who was promoted from kitchen manager at the Las Vegas Hard Rock to general manager of Maui’s operation.

“My family owns a restaurant in Monte Vista, Colorado, and I started working for my grandmother washing dishes in 1983,” said Kevin. “I worked my way up to cook by the time I was a senior in high school. Seeing the enjoyment on people’s faces when they ate the great food was my influence to become a chef.

“We have corporate chefs in Orlando, Florida, that run our test kitchen, always looking at new ideas,” Kevin continued. “Our new menu items were chef-inspired and following the market trend.

And the chef that creates the extraordinary dishes on Maui’s menu is Executive Chef Steven Foster from San Antonio, Texas.

“My mom had to work outside the home, so I learned to cook to help out,” said Chef Steven. “I’ve worked at several restaurants in San Antonio and have a passion for creating good food.

And weren’t we the lucky ones to sample the extraordinary cuisine served at Maui’s Hard Rock Cafe, where only the freshest ingredients are used and all dishes are made from scratch.

The ocean view from every seat is phenomenal — from the ground floor to the raised seating a few steps higher. A flashy 1959 Cadillac hangs from the ceiling, and Hard Rock memorabilia graces every wall.

And what a handsome menu with colored photographs of several dishes! For starters, we chose one of my favorite pupus, Potato Skins. And these are not ordinary potato skins — these are large, moist potato shells fried golden brown, smothered with melted jack and cheddar cheese and topped with crisp, seasoned bacon and green onions. The combination was incredible — a filling, delectable starter!

New items on the Appetizer Menu are Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta and HRC Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Most starters are so large they can be shared.

Our delightful waitress, Lee, suggested we top our Caesar Salad with Wild Alaskan Sockeye Grilled Salmon — a perfectly prepared addition that actually made a complete meal in itself. The Chilled Caesar Salad alone was outstanding, tossed with made-from-scratch caesar dressing, fresh baked croutons — you can tell the difference when they are fresh baked; you have to devour each one! — grated romano cheese and crispy bacon bits. It is garnished with shaved parmesan cheese and whole black olives. It was superb — everything a Caesar Salad should be.

Hard Rock’s 10-ounce Legendary Burgers use fresh, USDA Choice certified Angus Beef, and we can say that their burgers are legendary. Our delectable Mushroom and Swiss Burger was smothered with sautéed mushrooms and topped with two slices of swiss cheese, prompting my partner to say, “This is really a burger!

New on the Sandwich Menu is Blackened Fish of the Day, along with a Grilled Veggie Sandwich and several other excellent choices.

As for their Smokehouse Bar-B-Que entrees, Hark Rock states, “Our roots are in the Southern cooking of our Founder’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, and there is nothing more authentically delectably Memphis than Bar-B-Que — that’s why we don’t trust anybody else to smoke our ribs and chicken; we do it all ourselves — slowly, lovingly right back there in our in-house smoker!” You have a choice of Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Qued Ribs, Chicken, Smoked Pulled Pork or a combination of the Trio.

An old-fashioned favorite we couldn’t resist was the Twisted Mac and Cheese: twisted cavatappi pasta tossed in a lightly spiced three-cheese sauce with garlic, roasted red peppers and romano parsley bread crumbs. Oh, sheer heavenly Mac and Cheese!

Grilled Chicken Marsala and Grilled Lemon Caper Chicken are two new entree items. We relished the Grilled Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta with jumbo shrimp served on top of romano parsley pasta and tossed with fresh peas, artichoke hearts, oven-roasted mushrooms and a lemon caper sauce. Garnished with roasted red peppers, black olives, Roman parsley and served with garlic toast, it’s a fine combination for a fine pasta dish.

Each dessert dish on the menu is tempting, but OH — the Fresh Apple Cobbler is a MUST. It’s a country favorite served warm with Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream. Topped with walnuts and caramel sauce, it’s another old fashioned, unforgettable dessert, large enough to share!

A winning dessert for chocoholics would surely be their mountain-high Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae — Oh Yes!

Hard Rock Cafe, located on the corner of Papalaua and Front streets, has delectable dining for all ages, rock and roller or not!

Visitors and locals can enjoy the night life at Hard Rock featuring live reggae and rock bands, mai tais and aloha!

Hard Rock Cafe also supports local and nonprofit organizations whenever possible and serves over 300 Thanksgiving dinners to the less fortunate, seniors or even visitors who are away from home at that time. Very charitable indeed!

Convenient validated parking is available in the rear parking lot of Lahaina Center. For reservations, call 667- 7400.

Pau for now…