“It’s local colour I’m after,” I told Jules Bogert, the incredibly pleasant and efficient concierge at the Ritz-Carlton on the Hawaiian island of Maui, who was finding us a restaurant for that evening. “Somewhere with local fish, preferably served outside. Nothing fancy.” What she arranged was a hard-to-come-by seaside table at the laid-back Honu Seafood & Pizza on the picturesque Mala Wharf in Lahaina town – and it was a culinary highlight of my recent Hawaiian adventure.
Honu means green sea turtle in Hawaiian, and these amazing marine animals were frolicking in the lapping surf just a few metres from where we enjoyed the sunset with cocktails and appetisers. The setting is nothing short of magical – and the food, too, fits the bill. All the dishes have been lovingly conceived by owners Mark and Judy Ellman – former Californians and serious foodies with a fondness for locally sourced ingredients such as just-caught nabeta and ono fish, homemade chia seed buns, quinoa and tofu.
We started with ahi tuna bruschetta – bursting with edamame hummus and haiku tomatoes, all drizzled with sweet aged balsamic vinegar – rock shrimp and asparagus grilled a la plancha. All were fantastically tasty. Next, as darkness fell on the water, I tucked into the most delicious piece of mahi-mahi, while my teenagers delighted in the brick-fired Neapolitan pizzas – the Ali’i mushroom variety with truffle cheese and lavender was an unexpected hit.
The Ellmans also own the two neighbouring restaurants, Mala Ocean Tavern and Frida’s Beach House, and all are family affairs run by the couple and their children. Mark even presented me with a copy of his book, Practice Aloha, at the end of our meal, and along with the memory of this most idyllic meal, it is the concept of Aloha – a word that means love, peace, kindness and compassion (and is truly a way of life in Hawaii) – that I’m trying to hold onto back in the hustle and bustle of city life.