Want to expand your culinary horizons? Then head to Haiku, where Max World Bistro will take your taste buds on an adventure around the globe.
From paella Valencia with a blend of Moorish, Persian and Iberian culinary styles, to satay ayam, marinated and skewered chicken with Indonesian peanut sauce, there is something for everyone.
"The new menu is pretty adventurous," says Chef Curtis Hintz. "We feature comfort food dishes from, let's see, at least 14 different countries."
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Owner Cristina Graziano toasts to Chef Curtis Hintz and his menu that takes your taste buds around the globe, from Bali to Japan.
One dish that is quickly becoming a signature is brussels sprouts al Catalan. This year's most trendy vegetable is fried with almonds, anchovies, garlic, sherry vinegar and olive oil. But the recipe is ancient, gingerly handed to the chef from the Miramar Torres Winery in Spain.
"It's a popular tapas bar favorite," says Hintz. "We have guys who come in here for a bowl of brussels sprouts and a cold beer."
The chef certainly knows his way around the world of comfort cuisine. He was raised in Sumatra, Indonesia, as his dad was manager for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. there. They also lived in the Philippines and South Africa.
"I was on a mission to get a new chef, and I called up top people like Bev Gannon and Mark Ellman and the name, Curtis Hintz, kept coming up," says Max World Bistro's owner, John Graziano.
The two men were around the same age and both had rock 'n' roll backgrounds.
"So I thought, this could be a very comfortable match," says John. "He's worked at Hali'imaile General Store, Mala Wailea, Roy's, Casanova Upcountry. So I asked him, 'What if I give you autonomy in the kitchen?' He told me about his world travels and his idea to do comfort foods from some of these places."
John and his wife, Cristina, began embracing the concept. So they followed the chef into the kitchen to see what he could do. "That's when we knew he was a world-class chef and not just a cook."
So now, when you dine at Max World Bistro, you'll find duck Khoresh from Syria, served with bulgur wheat and spinach; penang laksa noodles of Malaysia, aromatic with tamarind and coconut milk; umami-glazed hibachi salmon inspired from Japan; and daily variations of the essential Italian comfort food - gnocchi.
"Up here in Haiku, we've found a diversity of people who are well traveled," says John. "They love this kind of thing. But tasting everything will take a few visits. So bring your friends and we'll provide extra plates!"
Vegans may enjoy tempura vegetables in spicy-pineapple sauce, sweet-pea guacamole and Turkish imam bayildi of baked eggplant in spices.
Others who want just good ol' recognizable comfort food may sink their teeth into the cheeseburger deluxe, fish 'n' chips and all manner of pizzas.
"Besides the international menu, Chef Hintz does about seven specials," says John. "You have to come in night after night to taste them all."
To keep you entertained, Max World Bistro features wines and beers from around the world, and live music from 6 to 9, six nights a week.
"Brooks Maguire plays Tuesdays and Wednesdays," says John. "Every other Thursday, Phil and Angela Benoit rotate in. Fridays, Goody & Kit play a duet, Gerit Williams plays light jazz, flamenco and classical tunes, and Benny Uyetake performs Sundays. Before, we were just known as a pizza parlor. We took a giant leap forward with nightly music and this new menu. Come back and try us again."
The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. It's located in the Haiku Town Center at 810 Kokomo Road. Prices are moderate.
For reservations or take-out, call 575-2629.