I’ve been a public stomach for some time now in my travel writing and had the fortune to eat in some of the grandest pubs around the world. Not that I’m a food snob, rather I am curious and find myself sated in the oddest places. Here I am in Honolulu for my first night and I have eaten for the fourth time at Chef Mavro’s on King Street which is certainly the best restaurant in this town–and there is stiff competition with Alan Wong’s just a block away in this unassuming street and no shortage of other fine dines in this burg.
Some of the most memorable meals I’ve had are a bit pale compared to Chef Mavro’s degustation menu which is an incredible array of his big hits (Hana Hou which is Hawaiian for Encore!) and an elaborate pairing of wines with foods which is a journey in itself thanks to Chef’s superb sommelier. The meal compares to the best that Tetsuya has offered (he ate here last year and was rendered speechless), the finest that I’ve had at Alain Ducasse’s Le Lous XV in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, better than Colombe D’ Or in St Paul De Vence or the greatest that Thomas Keller served at The French Laundry in Napa California.
Chef Mavro’s is a meal of a lifetime served in Paradise without views and with a seamless team of servers and gracious hosts. Chef Mavro even comes to the table a few times a night, especially to serve the salt encrusted onaga fish dish which is the signature. It just doesn’t get any better than this. The secret is he hops all over the islands with his wife Donna Jung who runs front of house, sourcing the freshest and best produce from the abalone farmed in Kona on the Big Island to goat cheese and honey from the other side of the mountains there. Vegetables and greens are from the legendary Nalo Farms another providers on Oahu while his lamb rivals any from Australia or New Zealand and the Wagyu beef is world class.
It’s now 11 pm and I have a flight to Hilo in the morning to start my six island journey over the next five weeks. I usually leave Mavro’s for my last meal but after four years, I had to start there,. Here is the menu with the wine pairings and pics. My companion was Elizabeth Kieszkowski, editor of the TGIF section of the state daily paper, The Star Advertiser who brought to the table the exquisite accompaniment of relaxed and stimulating conversation–a rarity for me as a country boy in Coffs Harbour. Better company could not be had on this island.
A combination of the art of pairing food & wine and the chef’s menu inspired by provence & hawai
We didn’t do the caviar tasting which was fortunate because it would have tipped me over the edge. We limited our wine pairings with each plate to half of what it should have been but the doses got larger by the plate. Because I’m a diabetic, I had opted to pass on the sugary treats but they already had that on file along with the fact that I like a double strong latte at the end of the meal with Splenda as a sweetener.
chilled crécy orange, coconut foam–it was a lush and creamy start to the meal with the flawless contrasts of tart citrus and coco smoothness
meli-melo of upcountry vegetables of the day, chick pea fritters, sumida watercress salad & purée–so small and yet bursting with flavour, crisp and entrancing
jermann, 2012 pinot grigio, friuli-venezia-giulia “lively flavors of citrus & minerals; rich smooth texture, balanced acidity”
confit big island abalone on baby leek étuvée “oursinade,” sea urchin emulsion, uni–a pool of orange richness with a chewy abalone floater, absolute heaven
wakatake daiginjo “onikoroshi” sake, shizuoka “aromas and flavors of melon & asian pear; long, smooth, polished finish”
hudson valley foie gras & mango déclinaison “au naturel,” pickle mango • seared, li hing mui mango tatin • bavarois, mango kanten–foie gras is illegal in many places in the US, here it is simply a delicious sin!
albert boxler, 2011 gewurztraminer reserve, alsace “exotic aromas of rose water & lychee; sweet, spicy finish of honey & candied grapefruit”
baked in a salt crust, tomato-ogo-fines herbes sauce. It’s lauded as GQ MAGAZINE “TOP 10 RECIPES IN THE U.S. and is a mainstay much like Tetsuya’s confit of salmon. Heaven!
henri bourgeois, 2010 sancerre, “le md de bourgeois” loire valley “lively flavors of grapefruit, gooseberry, white peach & currants; rich texture, balanced acidity”
roasted keahole lobster, chorizo-crustacean taro puff, upcountry vegetable fricassée in tamarind-tapioca jus, lobster essence. This is the way lobster should be presented–tiny pieces rich in flavour and dripping with elegance.
jean-marc brocard, 2011 chablis grand cru “les clos” , ” peach, white flowers & mineral aromas; rich, powerful silky finish”
free range duckling from grimaud farm in double cooking, fried bhutanese rice, black garlic, duck leg bacon, baby carrots, haricot verts, braised fennel, star anise duck jus. A complex dish yet the duck was like it should have been born in this preparation.
bergström, 2012 pinot noir, “shea vineyard,” yamhill-carlton a.v.a. “complex flavors of dark cherry, blueberry & forest floor ; balanced acidity & silky texture”
tagine, niman ranch lamb loin, eggplant caviar in brick, couscous, english peas, swiss chard, dried cranberry, pearl onion, green & black olive tapenade, harissa lamb jus–This was the second climax of the night beating any OZ or NZ lamb with magical sauces.
ridge vineyards, 2012 geyserville, sonoma county “century vine field blend of zinfandel, petite siräh, carignane & mourvedre”
100% wagyu beef medallions, agave crisped brussels sprouts, san daniele prosciutto, chimichurri celery root mousse, essence of pinot noir–He had me at the essence of pinot noir but the agave brussel sprouts transcended.
cenyth, 2009 meritage red, sonoma county “velvety textured flavors of, currant, plum & black olive; well structured bordeaux blend”
hawaii island goat cheese with lemon & chive, confit kumquats, molokai ogo, rare hawaiian organic white honey–I’ve never had goat cheese this lush and with the combo of white honey and tart explosion of cumquat, it was a the final climax for me.
domaine huet, 2007 vouvray demi-sec “le mont,” loire valley “slightly sweet flavors of peach, quince & honey with balanced acidity”
watermelon in champagne gelée, fresh mint–The equivalent of a post coital cigarette and glass of champagne.
a chef mavro signature, filled with lilikoi, guava coulis, hawaiian vanilla ice cream. I missed this… longingly!
“braida” di giacomo bologna, 2013 brachetto d’acqui, piedmont
“sweet, slightly sparkling notes of wild berries and lavender; refreshing finish”
chocolate (I didn’t have this either and regret it)
açaí & waialua chocolate crémeux , tuile
açaí-blackberry sorbet ● sand ● coulis
quinta do vesuvio, 2001 vintage port “subtle hints of blackberry, chocolate, raisin & mineral; delicate elegant finish”
And as the meal ended and Elizabeth was sated, it’s time to depart and say au devoir rather than goodbye because we will return again. I only wish it wasn’t a year tip I’ll be back. Onward to the Food Festivals of Maui and Oahu!