The Cohn Restaurant Group, based out of San Diego, has created a winner and a half with its latest Maui venture.
In fact, I can't wait to get back there again to sip a nice Italian Sangiovese and dive into perfectly ripe and room-temperature cheeses such as Saint Andre.
Called 100 Wines, it's situated next to its sister restaurant, The Melting Pot, upstairs in Lahaina Gateway.
Executive Chef Lyndon Honda of Lahaina’s newest restaurant showcases the French charcuterie board loaded with pate, ham, truffle mousse, cheeses, cornichons and caper berries. Warm bread arrives in a paper bag and wines come in various price points.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
It just opened April 6, and already diners are returning in swarms on a regular basis as they just love the share-plate concept and the old-world charm.
Basically, you walk in the entrance of what used to just be The Melting Pot, and you are in a fun foyer area, The hostess can seat you at either restaurant.
Grab a seat in the waiting area and drink in the creative design effects as there are many. One is the glass-walled wine cellar, where you'll find a colorful display of upside-down bottles with antique patinas.
100 Wines Maui at a glance:
* Where: 325 Keawe St. in Lahaina, second floor at the Lahaina Gateway shopping mall.
* Hours: Open for dinner only from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday to Sunday.
* Menu highlights: Assorted cured olives, flatbreads, gazpacho, pork belly sliders, sardines, paella, Croque Madame; shrimp brochette; baked brie with honey, chocolate mousse in a jar, red-wine poached pears The prices range from $6 to $24.
* Phone number: For reservations, call 661-6181.
The mastermind behind the design for both places, as well as menu implementation for 100 Wines Maui, is Parisian-born Philippe Beltran.
Based in San Diego, Beltran was brought in by owner David Cohn, who also operates Pineapple Grill here in Kapalua as well as seven top restaurants in the San Diego and La Jolla areas such as Indigo Grill, Gas Lamp Strip Club: A Steak Place, Island Prime, Analog, Chop Soo-ey, Corvette Diner and Tea Pavilion.
Once you are escorted past the entrance, the lighting is dark, like you're in a castle in Spain. Once your eyes adjust, you'll see massive, wooden-plank tables laden with hundreds of bottles of wines.
"We have set up big, family-style tables with wine on them, all divided into price points," says Beltran, whose dad is from Barcelona and mother is from Italy. (He also spent his summers in Spain and Switzerland, traveling from France.)
"You select what you like and we take it to your table for you. Then you sit down and we open it and give you the menu," Beltran continues.
"We serve Mediterranean share plates all for under $25. In France they're called hors d'oeuvres; in Greece, meze; Italy, antipasti; and Spain, tapas. It's perfect for couples and for groups of friends."
The wine choices are many in various price points, sure to please everyone. Heck, you may even get a liter of box wine from Spain for $25.
"We have seven wines by the glass from seven countries for $7. Many wines that you may be familiar with from Tempranillo to Sauvignon Blanc."
Then, 100 Wines has nine wines by the glass from nine grape varietals for $9. These are more boutique in origin and you may not have tried them.
Or you may buy wines by the bottle for $25 from one table or $35 from the other. Or opt for a $45 bottle or higher and go and pick it out from the wine cellar.
"Our goal here is not to teach Maui how to drink wine. It's to have people come in and relax, and have the best possible quality for the price with the best selection from all over the world," says Beltran.
As for the tapas, hors d'doeuvres, meze or antipasti or whatever you'd prefer to call them, the food comes in smaller tartines for one or two people; or on wooden boards for larger parties.
The night we dined there, Executive Chef Lyndon Honda did a fabulous job of cooking dishes to perfection and General Manager Cindy Dellefave oversaw the service and the quality control. Also in attendance was Chris Kaiwi, a partner in Cohn's Pineapple Grill in Kapalua.
On the French charcuterie board, cheeses included Saint Andre, Tomme de Savioe and Fourme d'ambert bleu. We broke warm bread that was brought to us in paper bags and indulged, nodding our heads "yes," and raving about the tastes.
"These are high quality cheeses, not your everyday cheeses," says Beltran. "Portions are really big, too."
The shrimp and avocado flatbread with garlic-lime aioli and ancho chilies was also over the top. Other flatbread toppings are the duck confit with gorgonzola cheese and shaved pears; and house-cured salmon with brie cheese. The deep-fried brussels sprouts with pancetta and grated parmesan cheese were also superb.
"We have dishes to share family-style that rotate daily for $17 per person," says Kaiwi. "Monday is beef bourguignon with French country bread; Tuesday is roasted chicken with potatoes. Wednesday, pasta night and it includes a glass of chianti."
On Thursday, you get paella with Spanish tomato bread. Friday, it's moules and frites (aka mussels and French fries). Saturday, you get braised short rib and twice-cooked potato; and Sunday is industry night with flat bread and wine.
Do check out 100 Wines, Maui's hottest new restaurant - and bring all of your pals. It will be love at first bite.