Situated in historic Lahaina Inn, the iconic award-winning restaurant is an oasis of refinement, taste, stellar cuisine
Looking back in time, I was right on the money when I called Lahaina Grill “the restaurant of the decade” after it opened its doors on Feb. 14, 1990.
In its 27 successful years of business, it’s gone on to be one of the top 25 restaurants in tripadvisor; among the 100 best restaurants for foodies in America 2016 on opentable; and among the top 100 places to eat in the U.S. 2016 on yelp.
And just this week, it was named one of only four Maui restaurants to receive the Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence as it does every year.
On a recent visit, I was pleased to see that Lahaina Grill remains a consistent oasis in the heart of Lahaina for a refined evening of stellar fine dining.
Swiss owner Jurg Munch, formerly the executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, bought Lahaina Grill in 1999, and then the historic Lahaina Inn that it’s housed in two years later.
“We are extremely proud as a team to work together year after year,” says Munch about his long-term staff.
“I believe that some of our recent national accolades speak for our amazing group of chefs, servers, managers and our office and reservations team.”
The best part is, Lahaina Grill is now open one hour earlier than before with seatings starting at 5 p.m.
“We wanted to respond to our guests’ requests for an early fine-dining experience,” Munch says about the growing “early-to-bed, early-to-rise crowd.”
“By opening earlier at 5 p.m., we can accommodate those guests and then set up for our later diners.”
With a tin-stamped ceiling, lively artwork and crisp tablecloths, Lahaina Grill boasts 130 seats, including the chef’s table where parties of six to 10 may enjoy semi-private dining. The rectangular bar is a popular spot serving the full menu.
Speaking of which, the blue-corn and panko-crusted chile relleno filled with tiger prawns, diver scallops and monterey jack cheese on roasted sweet-corn relish, avocado, creme fraiche and tomato-ancho chile salsa was phenomenal. So was the arugula salad with Asian pears, oven-roasted beets, tomato concasse and warm pecan-crusted goat cheese all drizzled with a poha-berry mustard dressing.
“Some of my favorites that I go back to time and again are the arugula salad, the baby romaine Caesar, the wagyu beef ravioli and the ahi poke,” says Munch.
Many diners like to sit at the bar, chat with others and watch the chef at the cold station crafting gourmet salads.
“We created this as a nice area for guests to personally interact with our salad chef Omar Merlin. He has been with us for just over 14 years and is the master in preparing our salad and appetizer dishes.”
For entrees, you may choose options from the land and the sea and vegetarians will also be pleased with the ravioli and a number of gourmet veggie sides and salads.
“From our entrees, I really enjoy Marcho Farms’ center-cut, 12-ounce, all-natural veal chop,” says Munch.
“And the Maui onion and sesame-seed-crusted seared ahi, the Kona-coffee-roasted Colorado rack of lamb and Chef Arnie’s homemade meatballs.”
My friend and I also ordered the famous meatballs made with all-natural veal, pork and angus beef, and ricotta, mascarpone and parmigiano-reggiano cheeses over penne pasts with fresh sauce. Chef Arnie has been at the helm of the kitchen for decades and he still rocks this dish.
“When I am feeling like comfort food, it is always the slow-braised, boneless short rib that I order,” says Munch.
The short rib comes with herbed mashed potatoes and honey-chipotle-fig demi glace and is soul-satisfying. So are the fish entrees such as the wild Pacific salmon, the seared lion-paw scallops with pancetta crisps; and the tequila-shrimp-and-firecracker rice with tequila butter.
Longtime sommelier Richard Olson III also nails it with his wine picks.
“Our wine list is greatly shaped by Richard’s level of interest and involvement and he continues to enhance the service we offer our guests,” says Munch.
Do delight in the legendary triple-berry pie, Maui-grown coffee or an after-dinner drink. And ask about booking a room at the inn upstairs to make the evening safe, special and even more memorable.
Lahaina Grill at a glance:
• When: Open nightly for dinner starting at 5 p.m.
• Where: Street level of historic Lahaina Inn at 127 Lahainaluna Rd. in Lahaina.
• The vibe: Upscale service in a contemporary bistro setting with gourmet new American cuisine and wine list.
• Signature items: Seared ahi in a sesame crust with vanilla-bean jasmine rice; sauteed mahimahi with Kula spinach and herb-infused mashed potatoes; bufala tomato salad; triple-berry pie.
• How much: Entrees range from $32 to $56.
• The players: Executive Chef is Arnulfo Gonzalez; owner-chef is Jurg Munch.
• For reservations: Call 667-5117, visit www.lahainagrill.com or email email@example.com.