Our second course is a happy surprise of two temptingly plated dishes. The first, braised adobo pork belly with seared diver scallops, rests on a bed of creamy risotto drizzled with adobo vinaigrette. The second dish, seared monchong with lemon, white wine and caper-butter sauce over ravioli filled with sweet potato and mascarpone, draws sighs from us before we’ve even tasted it. As Doug fills our glasses with a 2016 Lloyd Cellars chardonnay, I ask, “Are you from Maui?” (Mossman is a prominent and familiar name in the island’s judicial system.) His answer surprises us: Born in Honolulu, he’s the son of actor Doug Mossman Sr., who appeared in Magnum PI, and played the part of Detective Frank Kamana in the long-running television series Hawaii Five-0. Sleuthing must run in the family, I think, as Doug reveals what he knows about winemaker Robert Lloyd. “He was with [the notable] Rombauer Vineyards prior to opening his own winery. You’ll love this selection from the Carneros region. It’s a delicious find for us.” Lightly oaked, the wine shines with crispness and a long finish, and we cherish every sip. “Doug knows his wines and food pairings,” Chris deduces. “This is such a good match for these two very different dishes.”
Just then we see Aaron Plakourackis, whose Tri-Star Restaurant Group owns three other Maui restaurants as well as Nick’s: Son’z Steakhouse in Kā‘anapali, Sarento’s on the Beach in Kīhei, and Manoli’s Pizza Company in Wailea. (Combined, Tri-Star’s Maui venues have won twenty-nine ‘Aipono Restaurant Awards, an annual readers’ choice competition hosted by Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi.) Aaron is greeting diners tableside, and soon heads over to us. “I’m impressed,” I tell him. “Not many restaurant-group owners visit their properties every night.” With a warm smile, Aaron says, “I’m what they call old school. I feel it’s important to visit [all of my] restaurants, not only to meet the guests, but because of my employees. It conveys that we are in this together. That I care about my customers and how they perceive the service and food.” Then he asks, “How is the food? We have a new chef de cuisine in training.” He tells us that executive chef Geno Sarmiento’s protégé is twenty-six-year-old Kaulani Akina, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Maui; she’s been a cook with Tri-Star for five years. “Kau has talent and you will enjoy her food.” We nod, extolling Chef Kau for the dishes we’ve already experienced.