Aloha Mixed Plate

Casual al fresco Lahaina restaurant boasts new look, new menu but same plantation-style tastes

Project Manager Nicky Boskoff and Corporate Chef Ivan Pahk of Na Hoaloha ‘Ekolu restaurant group are proud of the contemporary open feel of the popular restaurant along with the new menu. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photos

The New York Times once wrote that it’s “paper plate meets million-dollar view.” The phenomenal oceanfront view is still there, but things have elevated exponentially at West Maui’s favorite hangout for locals and visitors alike.

Aloha Mixed Plate reopened with even more oceanfront space than before after a three-month renovation, and ceramic plates are used for service.

And the food, OMG! Corporate Chef Ivan Pahk has taken it to a whole new level while keeping classics for those who can’t seem to get away from their favorites.

Situated oceanfront in Lahaina next to its sister business, Old Lahaina Lu’au, it now dishes up pan-seared fresh ono, tomato and onions with lemon-pressed olive oil and soy glaze on steamed rice; and poke of the day that is fresh off the boat.

It’s THE place to go for fun and casual meals of plantation fare in a jaw-dropping al fresco setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour. Sip fun cocktails such as the Maui Mule and the Gimme Guava with Skyy Vodka, Passion Vodka, guava puree and muddled fresh oranges.

Hoaloha salad mixes Waipoli greens, kabocha pumpkin, tomato, cukes, split peas, almonds and long beans.

“We closed for three months after Labor Day weekend and tried to quietly reopen on Dec. 8,” says Nicky Boskoff, Na Hoaloha ‘Ekolu project manager for the restaurant group that also includes Star Noodle in Lahaina and Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu (which will be featured Monday on the Cooking Channel’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” series).

But I digress. They tried to open quietly but got slammed by diners wearing rubber slippers, T-shirts and shorts who craved their crazy-good local cuisine.

“We now have 130 seats,” says Boskoff. “Before we had just 95. We renovated the bathrooms, the kitchen and while we were at it, we moved the bar for a better view-plane of the ocean. Now the upper deck has a roof that retracts and opens up so at night you can see the stars and dine al fresco.”

The renovations are not quite done on the lower deck, which is all al fresco with views of boats and Neighbor Islands.

“When we were closed, we paid the staff’s medical benefits and made up jobs in other restaurants. When we reopened, they were all still with us. We lost only two people to the hotels,” adds Boskoff.

Wrap your own “Spamp” musubi with shiitake rice in nori sheets at your table.

“We’re introducing some fun new dishes to the old favorites so that people don’t freak out,” says Pahk. “I cannot blame people as I’m a creature of habit myself. But now we do loco mocos, teri ribeyes and clams with black-bean sauce on sizzling platters. They are flying out the door. We’ve upgraded all the ingredients.”

The company’s 300-acre Hoaloha Farms provides the goods. And Old Lahaina Lu’au provides the imu, or underground oven, for the slow cooking.

As example, the new imu beet salad is off the charts in taste with Cambozola cheese, tomato and more while the imu short rib is perfectly tender and served with a unique kalo-flower mash (a mix of kalo, or taro, and cauliflower) with butter and cream to take it over the top.

“We’re changing the paradigm. Getting away from the safety net,” says Pahk, who will pass the torch to Aloha Mixed Plate’s Executive Chef Brandon Fujiwara after the reopening rush wears off and things slow down a little bit.

Pahk is most proud of Spamp, a spin on Spam with the last three letters of “amp” representing Aloha Mixed Plate.

“We’re not using Hormel. We cook pork shoulder with spices, garlic, a little salt and sugar. No fillers. We mix it ourselves and it’s insanely good.”

Aloha Mixed Plate at a glance:

• Hours: Open daily for breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m., lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m.

• Where: Located at 1285 Front St., oceanfront in Lahaina.

• New starts: Burrata aga dashi of panko-crusted soft cheese, ban chan and pickles, smoked meat and poi bowl, misoyaki butterfish broiled to order, Filipino adobo wings and baby bok choy.

• Classic items: Shoyu chicken, kalbi ribs, coconut prawns, chow funn, saimin and the Ali’i plate with kalua pig, laulau, lomilomi salmon and housemade Hoaloha Farms fresh poi.

• New mains: Sous vide grilled pork chop, fresh island fish, farmer stir fry. Sandwiches include chicken katsu Sammy and fresh catch on house potato bun.

• Desserts: Lahaina panna cotta with seasonal fruits; lava cake with molten Big Island chocolate, and bibingka upside-down pineapple cake.

• For more details: Call Aloha Mixed Plate at 661-3322.