Honu Seafood & Pizza
After a rather perilous and sometimes harrowing drive on Maui’s “Death Highway” we found ourselves back in Lahaina again. By now, we’d essentially made a 360 degree traverse of West Maui or Maui’s “head.” Since we’d been up since 3 am, we were in need of some serious sustenance and since it was just about 1 pm, it was a good time to go and find ourselves some lunch. Prior to traveling to Maui, my husband and I had already come up with a short list of restaurants and eateries that we were interested in trying if the situation arose and we were in the neighborhood. This late lunch meal was one of those situations where we were hungry and found ourselves not too far away from one of those restaurants we had on our list.
Honu Seafood & Pizza is located at the end of Front St. in Lahaina. In fact, it’s the main drag that runs through town and the restaurant sits on the end of Front St. that leads out towards our hotel at Ka’anapali. Honu Seafood & Pizza is one of the latest in a long string of restaurants that Mark & Judy Ellman have opened together throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Originally from the Los Angeles area of California, and both having a background in restaurant service and cuisine, the Ellman’s arrived in Maui in the late 1980s and made the island their home. They, along with many other acclaimed local chefs in the area started a food movement of creating Hawaiian regional cuisine and were featured in a book which concentrated on this food movement along with chefs the likes of Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy. Honu Seafood & Pizza opened its doors in 2010 and considers itself a quintessential seafood eatery featuring fresh, local fare and often organic produce grown on a farm owned by the Ellmans in Lahaina.
From the outside, Honu Seafood & Pizza just looks like another roadside eatery, but once you step inside, you know you’re dining in a tropical paradise. You could never imagine the view you get from inside the restaurant just by looking at it from the outside. As you walk inside, you first notice the brightness and lightness of the space. It it is an incredibly open and airy space that is filled with natural light. There’s a big bar right beyond the hostess stand with lots of local beer on tap. But it’s what lies beyond the bar and past the main dining room that really draws your attention. There is a wide covered patio that opens up completely right onto the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The waves lap right up against the tiny beachfront that the restaurant occupies. There was a brief rain shower that had passed by right before we arrived at the restaurant causing the tables and chairs right up against the oceanfront to be a little wet, so the hostess sat us at an outdoor table back one row from the water. But as no one would be sitting at the waterfront tables, we essentially had a beautiful, unobstructed oceanfront view while we enjoyed our lunch. You just couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
While we had just enjoyed a cup of homemade passion fruit lemonade during our drive from Julia’s Banana Bread, my husband couldn’t resist ordering a cup of Honu Seafood & Pizza’s lilikoi lemonade. Again, it was a warm late summer day, and a rain shower had just passed leaving behind some humidity, so what could be more thirst quenching than a cup of lemonade. Flavor that lemonade with some lilikoi, and my husband is sold. Like POG, lilikoi, or passion fruit, is just one of those flavors that my husband and I both love and can’t get enough of whenever we visit Hawaii. It’s the tropical tang and taste of passion fruit that you just can’t find anywhere else. However, my husband felt that this passion fruit lemonade had more lemon flavor than passion fruit flavor, and while he could taste the passion fruit, it was so subtle. He would have much preferred a stronger, deeper passion fruit flavor that was stronger than the acidic lemon flavor.
For my drink, I opted to sample the lilikoi no-jito. That’s right, you guessed it, a no-jito is just a fancy way of calling a virgin mojito., this one flavored again with lilikoi. I told you, my husband and I really do like the passion fruit flavor. Like any good mojito, my no-jito certain was filled with muddled mint who’s flavor really did infuse into the drink. The drink was very fruity and definitely had the passion fruit flavor but also had that mint flavor infused throughout. The drink was really quite refreshing and satisfying, especially now that the day has gotten quite humid due to the short rain storm.
As we really hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and it had felt like we had been up and at ’em for almost 12 hours already today, we decided that we could order a little more food during lunch to help fuel us through the rest of the day. For an appetizer, we decided to order the fresh burrata mozzarella. It’s definitely not a traditional Hawaiian dish, but having fresh burrata just sounded cool, refreshing and delicious. Served with tomatoes, hazelnut cherry bread, olive oil, 20 year balsamic and sea salt, this was a terrific appetizer. While hazelnut cherry bread wouldn’t have been my first choice in bread for the burrata, it actually worked really well with this dish. The tang of the cherry bread actually accentuated the sweetness of the burrata and the acidity of the tomatoes and the balsamic and sea salt. The bread was still nice and warm and toasty and crunchy, and that was fantastic. The burrata itself was creamy and smooth. The whole dish just tasted so fresh. The combination of the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar and the sea salt and the olive oil was just so perfect, and it really highlighted the flavors of the burrata.
For lunch, I ordered the grilled fish sandwich served with coleslaw, fries, homemade tartar sauce and Korean aioli sauce for a bit of heat. The fish for the grilled fish sandwich was munching, which is a terrific flaky, mild white fish. The fish was grilled to perfection with nice grill marks which added flavor to the sandwich. The homemade tartar sauce was just terrific and really added flavor to the fish sandwich. I was pleasantly surprised at the nice size of the fish filet they gave me with the sandwich, so it was perfectly filling and exactly what I was looking for. These are the flavors that remind me of Hawaii. The fries were a nice mix of shoestring cut regular potato and sweet potato fries. They actually went well dipping them into the tartar sauce as well.
My husband ordered the bikini blonde battered fresh ono fish & chips served with coleslaw, tartar sauce and Korean aioli for his lunch meal. My husband really enjoyed that they served the fish in large battered filets rather than strips as you sometimes see fish & chips served. The ono was a nice flaky white fish that has some body and held up well to being battered and fried, and yet the flavor of the fish still came through. The batter was really nice and perfectly fried. The batter wasn’t too thick and some of the sweetness from the beer came through. There was a nice even coating of batter, and the batter held up well and didn’t start to fall apart and come off the fish or get too soggy and sop up too much of the oil. The fried fish had a nice crunch to it and there was so much of it, it was quite filling. Again, my husband also enjoyed the mix of potato fries and sweet potato fries, and homemade tartar sauce just brought everything together nicely. This meal really hit the spot.
At the end of our meal, the one thing my husband and I both commented on was how this meal really hit the spot. Honu Seafood & Pizza was exactly what we were looking for at this exact moment. The view from our outdoor patio seat watching and listening to the waves lap up against the beach, with the breeze blowing and just some humidity in the air was just so comforting and peaceful – classic Hawaii. The food was fresh and the flavors were vibrant and delicious. The drinks were cool and refreshing. And this was just exactly the meal we needed after the long day we had already had visiting Haleakala National Park and then driving Death Highway. With this kind of food, this setting and environment, what is there not to love?