In Hawaiian, the phrase "hana hou" means "encore," "repeat performance," to "do it again."
This is a perfect fit for the Hana Hou Cafe in Haiku, where diners love to come back time and again for a repeat of the fresh and flavorful foods, country atmosphere and live entertainment.
"People from all over the island find their way here," says owner Laurent Thibault, who took over the popular establishment four years ago this April with his wife, Katie Thibault.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Owner Laurent Thibault toasts to the new food and wine series he’ll debut the second Saturday of March. Sip four wines and savor four plates in the previous owner’s outdoor sushi bar.
Laurent formerly was head waiter at Chez Paul French Restaurant in Olowalu, where I met him. Before that, he was a waiter at the acclaimed Avalon.
Born in Paris, Laurent has been in the restaurant industry since he was 14 years old, first attending hotel school. During his career in the French army, he was personal maitre 'd to the French president. How cool is that?
Katie's background is in healthcare, but she worked at a winery in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where she met Laurent at a wedding reception.
Hana Hou Cafe fast facts
* Where: It's a free-standing building in the Haiku Marketplace at 810 Haiku Road, (across from Fukushima's).
* Hours: Open for lunch and dinner from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; and dinner only from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.
* Ambience: Hawaiian art, bright colors, beach glass pressed into the floor into shapes of turtles and fish along with a large outdoor patio and views of the gulch make this a country hideout.
* Entertainment lineup: Mondays are Hula Honeys; Tuesdays, Margie Hart (Barefoot Natives); Wednesdays, Blues Night with Vince Esquire and friends; Thursdays, Bentley Kalaway; Fridays, Steve Sargenti and Swiss American Folk.
* For reservations: Call 575-2661.
"What tied us together was the food and the wine," says Katie. "Our first conversation was all about it."
These days, Katie serves as Hana Hou's bookkeeper as well as a hostess and waitress. Laurent hosts, waits and bartends. So it's a family affair.
"If you are dining by yourself, come and eat and drink at the bar," says Laurent. "It's fun. We even feature a variety of live music five nights a week."
On the night we dined there, Wednesday, it was Blues Night with Vince Esquire, Les Adams, Dorothy Betz and Don Lopez and it was incredible.
We were seated on the covered lanai with views of the banana patch and they had us on the edge of our seats listening to ballads by Tom Petty, the Allman Brothers and Linda Ronstadt.
We munched on a warm goat cheese salad with Upcountry greens, roasted beets, garlic chips and candied walnuts in papaya-seed vinaigrette, and marveled at the experience. We were told live bands play from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and there is never a cover charge.
"It was really incredible music, especially for free," my friend reminisces. "It's not like the food was priced high to compensate. What a great deal!"
"Blues Night is an undiscovered treasure," agrees Laurent. "Vince plays mellow music. Every night is different. The Hula Honeys bring in an older crowd from Kihei. And we get people all the way from Lahaina who stay here all evening."
As for the food and the wine, Laurent's pride and joy, they are international in scope and reasonably priced. The lunch and dinner menu are the same, with the addition of a soup, fish, steak and salad as specials during the evenings.
Diners will always find one or two fresh fish specials and the night we dined there, it was lehi, one of my favorites, in sweet and sour sauce with a side of green-papaya salad. The other sauce choices were red Thai curry or black bean.
"Our menu is international," Laurent says. "But we buy local. We buy Maui Cattle Co. beef, pohole fern shoots from Hana, ripe tomatoes from the Big Island and all of our greens are organic."
As for the sauces, one of the chefs is from Thailand and Laurent is from France, so you'll see strong tastes from both of these top food countries.
From a repertoire of 30 to 40 soups, you may find coconut curry and tomato-ginger bisque with lemongrass. And just like fish is always served as a special, so is at least one meat from filet mignon to rib-eye to lamb to even roast duck. All include rice or mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies.
"We serve our duck special with port wine reduction and fruits. Our fresh fish and seafood sauces include beurre blanc and for steaks, you may enjoy cognac cream or green peppercorn sauces."
The specials are the rare entrees priced over $20. Most dishes on the rest of the menu are priced well below that point - at around the $10.95 range.
These local favorites of chop steak, loco moco, chicken katsu, hamburger steak, mahi tempura and veggie curry are served with rice and macaroni salad.
You'll also find vegetarian ginger-taro burgers, shiitake mushroom pastas and Greek and Chinese chicken salad. Hawaiian plates may be colossal with four choices or you may order a la carte.
"Our desserts all have a French influence, especially on the sauces," says Laurent. "The people just love the profiteroles, basically a French cream puff."
Other must-try desserts include tart tatin, creme brulee, lilikoi cheesecake and warm chocolate brownie. All will make you want to come back - time and again.