Story by Marti Rosenquist
Before he set a wheel of Brie ablaze for the test-kitchen crew, Chef Lyndon Honda and I enjoyed a laugh or two in the chic, dimly lit bar of 100 Wines, where he shared the story of his progress from beach bum to executive chef for Maui’s most exciting new eatery.
“I was the typical teenager who would rather surf and hang out than study. College was not in my plans, but my mom urged me to go. I signed up for the liberal arts track at Kapiolani (Community College) on Oahu, but at the last minute decided the culinary arts program would be better, mistakenly thinking I wouldn’t have to study or write papers,” Honda laughed. “Of course, becoming a chef was really hard work and I had to take all the core classes, too.”
Chef Lyndon eventually came to Maui, at first to work for the Hoaloha Na Eha group as manager of Aloha Mixed Plate, ultimately serving as designer of their corporate kitchens before being tapped to oversee the kitchen of 100 Wines.
The new restaurant is the latest concept from Cohn Restaurant Group, which also manages and owns Pineapple Grill in Kapalua and the Melting Pot in Lahaina Gateway Center. The latter was recently divided into two separate spaces to make room for the new eatery; the makeover is dramatic.
San Diego-designer Philippe Beltran conceived the concept and decor for 100 Wines. He has hit the mark in creating an urbane ambiance on Maui, starting with what may be the best lighting for an island restaurant. A far cry from Maui’s typical sunlit oceanfront venues, the cozy booths and dark, hip decor of 100 Wines provide the in-crowd with a place to tete-a-tete far from the throngs at the beach.
At the entryway, shared by the Melting Pot and 100 Wines, an eye-catching, glass-encased wine cellar resembles one you’d encounter in an Old World vineyard, replete with decorative bottles coated in what appears to be centuries-old dust.
It’s highly unlikely dust will ever settle on the restaurant’s carefully curated selection of well-priced, highly rated wines, offered for $7 or $9 per glass. Bottle prices start at $25 and range up to $45. Spotting my favorite, Rombauer, at only $35 (it retails for just under that) convinced me that 100 Wines would become a favorite haunt before I even tasted the food.
The bottles, 100 of them, stand side by side on two oversized wood-plank tables in the middle of the dining room. Wine lovers are invited to walk up, peruse the choices (arranged thoughtfully according to price), and select a bottle. Your waiter will be happy to nab a properly chilled version from the coolers, then pop the cork for you at your table.
These international wines were hand-picked to pair with the bistro menu. Dominated by small-plate options designed for sharing, choices also include salads, entrees and gourmet flatbreads. The Brussels sprouts in a jar, caramelized with pancetta dice and bathed in a balsamic reduction, have converted many who otherwise shun cruciferous veggies. Perfect with wine and camaraderie, cheeseboards are laden with exotic selections like Saint Andre and Tete de Moine.
Entrees are elegant enough for a diva but priced low enough for a working stiff. The Burger Royale on a Board includes an eight-ounce Wagyu beef burger decked out with chorizo pork belly, caramelized onions, bleu cheese and a sack of fries. Nightly specials assure that frequent diners never tire of the menu. Rotating entrees du jour include chef’s choice pastas, braised short ribs, paella with tomato bread, and other satisfying comfort plates at $17 per person.