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Lahaina Grill has got it all

By Staff | Jul 23, 2015

Lahaina Grill has a veteran executive chef in Arnie Gonzalez. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAHAINA GRILL.

LAHAINA – There’s one place in Lahaina that hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, which is a good thing because this place is like coming home: Lahaina Grill. Each time I return, I feel welcomed into the open arms of family and know I can expect a satisfying experience.

Now there’s a great reason for visiting Lahaina Grill (as if you needed one). In celebration of its 25 years in our West Maui community, the restaurant is offering local residents 50 percent off all dinner entrees on the 25th of each month, now through October.

I asked owner/chef Jurg Munch what he felt was the main reason for Lahaina Grill’s continued success.

Jurg said, “We have an amazing team of people at Lahaina Grill. In the kitchen, in our office, in the dining room each night, they take the time and energy to make each guest feel like they are special, and they are!”

When Tom and I dined there recently, we asked to be seated at the bar, where we were warmly greeted by Mary Swiger and Annabehl Sinclair. These two women embody Lahaina Grill’s outstanding service with attention to detail.

Lahaina Grill bartenders extraordinaire: Mary Swiger (left) and Annabehl Sinclair. PHOTO BY KAREE CARLUCCI.

As we perused the impressive wine list that features all the varietals in addition to “Interesting New World” white and red blends plus old world classics, Mary answered our questions. Richard, Lahaina Grill’s excellent sommelier, frequently travels across the globe to meet with winemakers and growers. He features these wineries and new discoveries in his “Sommelier Picks.”

We decided to begin in the new world with a Napa Valley Duckhorn Cabernet. It paired well with our appetizer of Shanghai Spring Rolls. The extra crispy rolls are filled with savory natural pork and white shrimp as well as crunchy bamboo shoots, Napa cabbage, mushrooms, mint, basil, cilantro and pickled cucumbers. We dipped them in Thai chili and sweet soy sauces, resulting in an explosion of flavors.

Lahaina Grill’s appetizer menu is replete with old world favorites like filet mignon carpaccio, baked escargots and foie gras with truffle oil. It also includes the chef’s signature creations such as Blue Corn Crusted Chile Relleno with tiger prawns, diver scallops and Monterey jack cheese over sweet corn relish, avocado, crme fraiche and roasted tomato-ancho chile salsa. The new world blend of picante chiles with sweet corn, cream and cheese is one of my favorites.

If you’re into fresh greens and veggies, the salad and soup menu features eight inventive salads and three hearty soups. The Golden and Red Beet Salad is made with fresh beets roasted in the oven and drenched with extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, then tossed with candied pecans, toasted fig and goat cheese crostini. Soup lovers will enjoy the Maui Onion Soup simmered in rich beef and chicken stock with sherry and baked with gruyre and provolone cheeses. I could dine for hours here, sampling the delights from each menu.

As we sipped, dipped and delved our way through this world of flavors and textures, we engaged in stimulating conversation with fellow diners. That’s another reason for dining at the bar: you can meet people from all over the world.

Lahaina Grill’s desserts are works of art; pictured is the Road to Hana, Maui. PHOTO BY KAREE CARLUCCI.

The young man seated next to us said he visits Maui twice a year and has dined at Lahaina Grill over a dozen times. An older couple told us they’ve been coming to the restaurant for 20 years and can’t find another place that meets all their expectations like this one.

One of the primary factors in this winning combination is Executive Chef Arnie Gonzalez, who has been working in the kitchen since 1992 from apprentice to sous chef and eventually the top spot. He expressed the pride that they all feel about the many awards Lahaina Grill has received over the years: “I think it means that our guests like what we are doing and are voting for us time and time again. It makes all of our hard work worthwhile.”

We certainly appreciated the chef’s work on his entrees. You can choose dishes from the land, sea and farm. Tom selected the Slow Roasted Boneless Short Rib. This melt-in-your-mouth creation is made with braised Angus beef ribs in a honey-chipotle fig demi-glace served with herbed mashed potatoes and garden vegetables.

I chose the chef’s special of Pistachio-Panko Crusted ‘Opakapaka over a creamy artichoke risotto swirled with blackberry-champagne sauce. Both dishes offered a perfect combination of heady aromas, taste sensations and mouth-feel textures. We celebrated these culinary delights with a bold, old world Piemonte Barolo, Ceretto Monsardo Bernardina Zonchera.

The Lahaina Grill experience would not be complete without dessert, which are works of art. We couldn’t resist the Road to Hana, Maui. It starts with Hawaiian vintage chocolate cake layered with chocolate sour cream mousse and macadamia nut caramel and finished with a dark chocolate mold of the road to Hana that is attached to the cake by golden bridges of spun sugar. It tastes as beautiful as it looks.

As our evening reluctantly came to a close, we shared our appreciation of the experience with General Manager Debbi Fagan, who has been at the restaurant’s helm for years. Although travels may take us elsewhere, I know for certain that we’ll come back to Lahaina Grill, the place that has it all.

Dinner is served nightly from 5:30 p.m. For reservations, call 667-5117 or visit www.lahainagrill.com.