2008 Hale Aina Awards
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At Mariposa, executive chef Marc Anthony Freiberg took the helm in May 2007, and was ready to make his mark. He revamped the lunch menu, reasoning the place is so busy at lunch that word would quickly spread about the new dishes. And it has, winning a gold for Best Business Lunch.
Freiberg knew he shouldn't change some of the favorites—the popovers and smoked salmon salad—but introduced new temptations, such as an ahi melt with melted fontina on sourdough bread, served with kobucha chips. He also created more entrée salads, such as a local spinach with Surfing Goat Dairy cheese. "Seventy to 80 percent of our lunch clientele are women," he explains. "So I kept things on the lighter side."
He's now focusing on dinner items, using his passion for Italian cuisine to whip up plates of braised short ribs over polenta, for example, and a peppercorn-seared ahi over caponata.
"I like the way Italians eat—it's simple, and uses the best ingredients, fresh from their backyard," he says. "I pick up inspiration there, and at the same time, I'm trying to be innovative. So it's Old World techniques, with local ingredients."
Photo by Monte CostaThe day-boat catch with ratatouille at Cassis is served on a rosemary brochette. Chef Mavro says it's classic, but "not just comfort; also excitement."
CASSIS BY CHEF MAVRO
Local food champion George "Mavro" Mavrothalassitis was a multiple winner at this year's Hale Aina Awards event (for more on the evening, view the Hale Aina Awards Gala.) His downtown brasserie, Cassis by Chef Mavro, took home a bronze for Best New Oahu Restaurant; his King Street restaurant, Chef Mavro, won Restaurant of the Year, bronze and was also a finalist for Best Wine Program.
Running the two restaurants keeps chef Mavro busy; he works lunch time at Cassis, and dinnertime at the King Street restaurant, where the chef de cuisine is Kevin Chong.
At Cassis, executive chef Ben Takahashi helped create the bistro's new lunch menu, which starts at $12 and features salads, sandwiches and pizza. The duo of small cheeseburgers, topped with cheddar and fried green tomato, has been a popular order, but the best seller remains something that was already on the menu: Flounder Grenobloise, a classic example of French bistro cooking. Mavro notes that the flounder is a Big Island aquaculture product; he's also using Hawaii-raised crabs, oyster, mussels and sea asparagus, in addition to favorites like goat cheese and watercress. "Everything is from scratch," he says. "We make the ketchup. We grind our own spices to make garam masala, bake our own lavosh."
Courtesy of Lahaina GrillThe Sunken Chocolate Cake at the Lahaina Grill is topped with Kona coffee ice cream.
David Paul's Lahaina Grill is now going by the moniker Lahaina Grill, but it's just a name change, chef/owner Jurg Munch assures us. Open since February 1990, the bistro this year claims its 15th consecutive win as Best Maui Restaurant.
As with Duo, Munch notes a steady diner interest in beef, which he sources from the Midwest. He also works with Hana Fresh, a 7-acre farm on Maui, to procure organic local produce. "Baby potatoes, poha berries, fennel, bok choy, Swiss chard ... we basically buy whatever they can produce, then we'll create our specials based on what's fresh," Munch explains. The from-scratch triple berry pie is still the best dessert seller after 18 years, redolent with black currant, raspberries and blueberries.
Newer offerings include caviar. "We found a wonderful producer in California; it's farmed and all natural. We're offering it with traditional melba toast and a bit of sour cream, and also on ahi tartar. Munch is also expanding the range of cheeses offered, and, in a true nod to the times, converting much of his building to solar power.