It’s February, and although I live in Florida, it’s cold. And I am so over it. We Floridians crave the first cold night of the season, the first opportunity to wear a sweater and jeans, the rare occasion to turn on the gas fireplace, being able to turn off the air conditioner for once. But this cold snap has gone on too long. By Valentine’s Day weekend, I was ready for to put my sandals on again.
My husband and I took a brief reprieve from the cold this year – a week-long trip to Maui. And I must confess that, while the purpose of the trip was for a work conference, we mostly played. And it was fabulous.
We had some really nice dining experiences, and we spent way too much money on food. I’m not sure it’s even possible to NOT spend too much money on food in Maui. It was not uncommon to see a fish entree on a restaurant menu for $40 to $50. We went to one really standout restaurant, the Lahaina Grill, that blew our minds and won our hearts. The restaurant was elegant and classy, the service was thoughtful and attentive, and each course was carefully prepared, presented artfully, and tasted, well, delicious. In fact, when each dish was sat down before us, the only thing we could talk about was how wonderful it all tasted.
It got me thinking about the other two meals we ate on Maui that were around the same price point (i.e., expensive). One of the dinners was at Mama’s Fish House, a classic Hawaiian restaurant that’s one of Maui’s most famous. The other dinner was at a restaurant so memorable that I’ve forgotten it’s name. Our bill at Mama’s Fish House was almost identical to our bill at Lahaina Grill, but we were not as blown away by the quality. Mama’s has atmosphere. Situated on an ocean cove, the 37-year old restaurant opens out onto a white sand beach. With tropical breezes flowing through the restaurant, we couldn’t help but relax and enjoy ourselves.
The meal was very good, but we left the restaurant feeling like we spent a lot of money simply to eat on a beach. The quality of the food didn’t quite match the level of quality we experienced at Lahaina Grill.
And back to the third restaurant, the forgettable one. We felt like we may as well be eating at Red Lobster. Or, maybe Red Lobster is better than that – I’m not sure since I’ve not been to the RL for many years. This restaurant was in the touristy part of Maui, so it’s very possible, and most likely, that we were just getting the usual tourist rip-off. We regretted the $100 meal, especially after we realized we could have eaten at Lahaina Grill one last time for just a tad more.
My husband and I have had lots of great dining experiences over the last several years, and it’s been an educational experience. I’ve learned that quality of ingredients – including freshness and seasonality – are vitally important. But even the freshest, seasonal fish can be ruined by an uninspired and overworked chef. Creativity, passion, respect for food – these are the ingredients that draw us in and keep us coming back.