Coq au vin never tasted so wonderful. On a recent visit to Gerard's in Lahaina, we were presented a colossal bowl filled with half of an organic chicken - marinated in cognac, red wine, pearl onions, mushrooms and pancetta - all served over a mountain of bow-tie pasta.
Wait a minute, casual French bistro fare at Gerard's, you say?
Well, it is quite a departure from the norm as Gerard's is a fine French restaurant with every award under the Maui sun. It's been the restaurant for romantic date nights and other occasions for 27 years now. In fact, it celebrates its anniversary Wednesday, and will offer 50 percent off its food menu to kamaaina that evening.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Consummate French chef Gerard Reversade will celebrate 27 years of owning his own restaurant on Maui Wednesday with 50 percent off food to kamaaina as a “thank you” for the patronage over the years.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Waiter Rob Neumann presents one of Gerard’s new bistro dishes, coq au vin, which offers heady aromas of chicken marinated in cognac and red wine and then slow-cooked with pearl onions and mushrooms.
But the addition of new bistro dishes are already drawing in kamaaina and visitors alike, who love the robust farm-fresh foods, the huge portions as well as the fabulous service and ambience.
"Over the years, people kept bugging me to do some bistro dishes," says owner Gerard Reversade, a classically trained French chef from Gascony. "But I was always afraid to do it, because I thought it would degrade my reputation."
Gerard finally caved in to popular demand, and now people can't get enough. Regulars know Gerard is a consummate chef, who tended his first garden at age 8 and who made his first croissant at age 12.
GERARD'S FAST FACTS:
* WHERE: 174 Lahainaluna Road, in Lahaina in the Plantation Inn.
* HOURS: Dinner is served from 6 p.m. nightly. Lunch may be booked with a minimum of 60 people.
*BANQUET CAPACITY: Set menus are available for 20 to 150 people; a la carte menus up to 20 people; and the private room may be reserved for 12 to 20 people.
* CUISINE: Contemporary island French - like no other.
* DRESS CODE: Casual.
* WHAT'S NEW: Fried oysters with celery remoulade; fresh snapper dumplings with sorrel.
* KAMAAINA DEALS: Those with Hawaii ID get 20 percent off food bill any evening; and 50 percent off food June 10 for its 27th anniversary.
* FOR RESERVATIONS: Call 661-8939.
These days, he continues to plan the menu and create the new dishes. He pours over his 300 cookbooks and that's where he came up with his new oyster dish.
"Even for my French onion soup, I make my own beef stock, I slowly bake the soup for 20 to 30 minutes and add two cheeses and also croutons."
Another popular bistro dish is Gerard's beef bourguignon - an island beef stew like my mom certainly never made, bursting with earthy and hearty flavors that come from long hours of slow braising.
With 24 hours notice, Gerard will also take you on a trip through France with frog legs Provencale; veal Wellington; sweetbread done crisp with mousseline of sweet peas; and white-bean cassoulet with pork, lamb, sausage and duck confit.
Can't decide what to order? Let Gerard choose with the eight-course degustation menu. And some of the not-to-be-missed temptations off the a la carte menu are the mushrooms in puff pastry, ahi tartare with housemade taro chips and fresh fish just caught by local fishermen.
"To find the freshest fish, we call all kinds of boats. I pay the price. Not like some others who are cheap. I'm a generous person and I serve only the best."
This quality-driven attitude has gotten Gerard multiple past wins for best chef on Maui and best Maui restaurant in various publications as well as Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and a 4-star rating in Mobil Travel Guide. Right now, Gerard's also ranks as Maui's current Best French Restaurant in The Maui News' annual Best of Maui Contest.
"This is the oldest French restaurant in Hawaii with the same owner," says Gerard. "I still make the menu and train each cook and I have a great staff."
General Manager Genevieve Simpson has been with Gerard for 20 years now and Sous Chef Joseph Lopez and Cliff Concepcion have been under his expert direction for five and 10 years respectively.
"We make all 12 desserts and ice creams, including Kilauea volcano, like a big baked Alaska, erupting with fire."
Located in the Plantation Inn, named one of the "great inns of America," Gerard's also serves breakfasts for guests only. "I make my own creme fraiche, yogurt and strawberry jam," he says. The 19 rooms are starting to be elegantly renovated and plans call for 14 more rooms, where the extra complimentary parking lot stands.
These days, Gerard is keeping at the top of his game. It doesn't get any better.