Hawaii Restaurant Chefs Recommend

Chef Recommends: Everyone envisions chefs laboring away at the hot stove, so much so that we sometimes forget they do venture out of their kitchens, eat at other restaurants, try new dishes and relax with friends around a table.


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Photo: Courtesy Mama's Fish House


Justin Pardo

Chef/Owner of Market Fresh Bistro

At his restaurant: Haleakala braised lamb ragu on fresh pappardelle ($15).
For Pardo’s recommended dish at Market Fresh Bistro, he takes a whole 40- to 50-pound Haleakala lamb, breaks it down, sears it and braises it over the course of two days along with Kula vegetables and a handful of herbs from the restaurant’s garden. San Marzano tomatoes brighten the ragu, and it’s finished with pecorino cheese. The thick, meaty sauce is spooned over fresh pappardelle pasta for a deeply comforting dish. 3620 Baldwin Ave., Makawao, (808) 572-4877.

He also recommends: Pancakes at Tasty Crust ($3.50).
“I love tasty crust pancakes. I get them whenever I get the chance,” Pardo says. “They’re just delicious— they’re big, they’re fluffy, they’re really, really good. ”The other appeal of eating at this family-run business, which began in 1944, is that, sometimes, he’ll see other chefs. “It’s the kind of place we like to eat, hole-in-the wall, mom-and-pop-type of places,” he says. 1770 Mill St., Wailuku, (808) 244-0845, tastycrust.com.


James McDonald

Executive Chef/Owner of Io Restaurant

At his restaurant: Veal porterhouse with fresh Hawaiian peppercorn-brandy sauce ($44).
What McDonald loves about this dish is the way the fruitiness of the fresh peppercorns in a classic brandy sauce play against the veal. In addition, the accompanying roasted root vegetable risotto—made up of kohlrabi, beets, daikon and heirloom carrots—is sourced from the restaurant’s own farm. 505 Front St., Lahaina, (808) 661-8422, iomaui.com.

He also recommends: Seared ahi and foie gras at Lahaina Grill ($31).
This unctuous dish is served with a fig compote and glazed with a Maui onion duck demi-glace. “What makes it so memorable is the perfect execution of cooking on the foie gras and ahi, coupled with the richness of the foie gras blending with the tuna,” says McDonald. “The demi pulls the two elements together perfectly.” 127 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, (808) 667-5117, lahainagrill.com.


Perry Bateman

Executive Chef at Mama's Fish House

At his restaurant: Fresh fish, Hawaiian-style ($40).
It was hard to nail down down Bateman on a single dish—he kept drifting among seven different preparations of fish, from papio to moi to uku—but, in the end, he settled on the fresh fish sautéed with butter and coconut milk. He seemed slightly embarrassed to be recommending a dish that resembled a luau plate, in such an upscale restaurant as Mama’s, but he didn’t need to be. The fish is accompanied by Hawaiian wild pig, trapped in macadamia-nut orchards on the Big Island; lomi-lomi salmon; fresh poi made in-house with Maui taro; Molokai sweet potato; tropical Island fruit; and an apple banana baked with sugar, rum and butter. It’s a perfect representation of “blending our fishermen with our farmers and making it really good,” says Bateman. 799 Poho Place, Paia, (808) 579-8488, mamasfishouse.com.

He also recommends: Braised lamb shank with lemon risotto at Capische ($38).
“I love the braised lamb and risotto,” says Bateman. “It’s such a simple dish, and yet they do it really well. The lamb is so rich and the lemon risotto balances it well.” A savory herb broth is the finishing touch to this course. Hotel Wailea, 555 Kaukahi St., Wailea, (808) 879-2224, capische.com.


Jojo Vasquez

Chef de Cuisine at The Banyan Tree

At his restaurant: Seafood sausage with pumpernickel and béarnaise ($23).
Vasquez favors this dish as much for its taste as its inspiration. He says, “I always like to tap into the creative medium of my cooks and, one guy, Aaron Palone, is a sausage artisan. He makes sausages at home and this reminded me of my earlier career in Chicago where I handcrafted everything from scratch, from pastas to sausages. Also, Chicago being a sausage-grinding community, it was an homage to my hometown, [while] showcasing Hawaii’s finest seafood. We chose Kona lobster, Molokai shrimp, local snapper and scallops because the flavor profiles were a hit.” Ritz Carlton Kapalua, One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, (808) 669-6200.

He also recommends: Ratatouille crêpe at Paradise Found Crêperie ($9.95).
At this small eatery in Lahaina, Vasquez recommends the ratatouille crêpe, with the traditional stew of eggplant, squash, peppers and tomatoes, folded into a freshly made crêpe with garden herbs and mozzarella. 170 Papalaua St., Lahaina, (808) 661-1747.

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