You may choose to enter Hawaii's waters delicately with just an appetizer serving of, say, fresh Kona lobster.
But once you squeeze a fresh lemon on the succulent lobster chunks and dip them in a creamy brandy aioli, you'll want to venture a little deeper into the seafood realm. That's when you may order fresh ceviche such as the scallops Peruvian.
Or, if you are like me, you'll prefer to go for the gusto and dive right into the Endless Catch, packed with all-you-can-eat of fresh oysters, pokes, prawns, lobsters and crab claws - all glistening on ice.
Raw Bartender Mike Termini, who looks just like Billy Idol, will assist you at the Raw Bar by shucking oysters to order, handing you lobster tails, and telling you which sauces will go with what fresh seafood. This fun-loving chef was featured on the “Hell’s Kitchen” TV?show and he helps to make the experience more enjoyable. But if you are a bona fide steak lover, then you may order at the table and sink your teeth into prime cuts of New York steak.
CARLA TRACY / photo
We're talking about the Raw Bar at DUO Steak & Seafood, located poolside at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea. It's all the rage with diners Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights.
I said it was "rawsome" on my first visit and I'll say it again. Only this time around, it was upgraded and more elegant in style. Gone were the buckets full of seafood, the fishing nets and other decorations like at the Wharf in San Francisco.
Now, everything is gleaming, lusterous, and set on ice in cool glass drawers the color of aquamarine.
DUO at a glance:
* Raw Bar: On ice from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Order a la carte or go for the all-you-can-eat Endless Catch with Caesar salad or onion soup and house-cut fries for $69, plus tax and tip.
* Other DUO highlights: Frothy martinis in designer glasses, prime Brandt steaks, sides such as Kula corn and creamed spinach; sauces from green peppercorn to Bernaise; and cotton candy and chocolate souffle for dessert.
* Let it flow: Mark your calendars for Friday, Feb. 17, when DUO will present the Stag's Leap winemaker dinner. Cost is $160 per person, plus tax and tip.
* Contact info: Call 874-8000 or visit www.fourseasons.com/maui.
"The new display looks a lot different," says the resort's longtime Executive Chef Roger Stettler. "It's sleek. Our guests just love it. We started the Raw Bar last April or May and we wanted to change it up with a new look."
These days, five different types of fresh oysters on the half shell are making a splash and friendly and fun Raw Bartenders will shuck them to order.
"Right now, we have Shugoku oysters, very nice oysters delivered in sturdy boxes. We also have Kusshi, Kumamoto, Belon and Fanny Bay varieties."
A couple of Raw Bar staples that always remain are the Kona lobster tails, the pokes and the ceviches.
"Other than that, we change the Raw Bar menu quite often," says Stettler. "I don't think there's anything like it. We change it every week to entice guests and keep them coming back."
With the freshest seafood such as snow crab claws and more, and fun sauces such as red-wine mignonette, ponzu, cocktail sauce, kim-chee aioli, pineapple salsa, horseradish and clarified butter, and lemons and limes, it's easy to see why people want to savor it again and again.
"Everything is flown in fresh," says DUO Restaurant Chef Chris Galicinal. "I want to say that some of our items are gently cooked and then chilled, such as the tako or octopus, lobsters and prawns.
"We call it a 'raw bar,' as people recognize it when you say it. The majority of our items are raw."
In addition, the Raw Bar wine list is a hoot, and super user-friendly.
"Choose wines by the glass or the bottle in categories such as bubbly bubbles, pink stuff and white stuff," says Restaurant Manager Cecil Kepner, who has a passion for guest relations. Let him will charm you with his knowledge from top culinary establishments on both coasts.
Those who choose just an appetizer from the Raw Bar will want to order a hot dinner at DUO after. Of course, this being the Four Seasons, you will find a host of gourmet and tempting entrees.
From the sea, you'll find tender and moist grilled mahimahi with a rich red curry and ginger coulis, crispy tempura oysters with pear-and-jicama slaw and aromatic steamed clams with chorizo in saffron broth.
"As for our steaks, we pride ourselves in serving the best quality prime cuts. There are no growth hormones or antibiotics here. We serve only free-range and organically raised beef," says Stettler. "In all of my years as a chef, I've never seen such quality. We use the Brandt name. But since there is not that much product out there, it's limited, hence the price."
Meat lovers may sink their teeth into dry aged, bone-in prime rib eyes, and 20-ounce Nebraska corn-fed Porterhouses along with Muscovy duck breast sand crispy roasted chicken - all cooked to perfection. Sauces and sides abound.
Personally, I crave the white-cheddar-and-truffle mac and cheese and the blue-cheese creamed spinach. The sweet Kula corn and the onion ring stack are also top picks and are sustainable and organic like the rest of the menu. All pair well with wines from the impressive international list.
Speaking of wines, DUO will uncork the Stag's Leap four-course wine dinner on Feb 17 and it should be phenomenal. Limited in seating, it's sure to sell out fast.
With fun events, an ever-changing Raw Bar, sizzling steaks, beautiful sunsets and top-notch Four Seasons service, DUO is the place to dine. "The Raw Bar really is a great bargain," Stettler says. "Compare it to any restaurant, anywhere."