Side Dish: Musical Chairs

Buckle up for a head-spinning game of restaurant musical chairs.

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Gossip Gourmet

musicalchairscolor1With so many restaurants opening, closing, and swapping locales, Maui’s dining scene has recently resembled a game of musical chairs. Miz Gossip has devised a scorecard for you to keep track.

The Pastulas resurfaced in Wailuku with another Café O Lei on Market Street, having sold Fish & Poi to Michael Lowney and partners, who renamed it Napili Tavern. (Napili net 0, Wailuku +1)

On the south side, Mark Ellman opened Mala Wailea at the Marriott. Kai Wailea Sushi and Teppan is scheduled to fill the void left by Fire Dragon in the Shops at Wailea. Beach Bums landed the departed Blue Marlin’s spot in Ma‘alaea. And is the much-anticipated Bin 69 open yet? You’ll have to see for yourself; we’ve cried wolf too many times. (Wailea +2, Ma‘alaea 0)

After an agonizing six-month hiatus during the Ritz-Carlton’s renovation, Kai and The Banyan Tree restaurants have reopened. Hooray! The former VINO site, however, has been rechristened as an adventure center. Boo. (Net score: Kapalua +1) Banyan Tree chef Jojo Vasquez said he wanted to return with a “one-two punch”—and did. His new menu is a dazzling tour de force inspired by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. The Spanish restaurant, voted world’s best a record three times in a row, closes for half the year to perfect its recipes. Hmmm . . . the comparisons grow. A new dessert Chef Jojo plans to unveil will mimic a tasting tour of Upcountry Maui farms—featuring lavender, macadamia nuts, and herb-crusted goat cheese.

On a recent pilgrimage to her favorite Mexican eatery in Waiehu, Miz Gossip was mortified to find a note taped to the closed door of El Corita. Gasp! She tracked the beloved restaurant to Ma‘alaea, where it took over the Fiesta Time location and changed its name to Juca. (Wailuku/Waiehu 0, Ma‘alaea 0) Please visit Juca often. Otherwise, the restaurant’s incomparable molcajete steak dish, served with a roasted cactus paddle in an oven-hot carved stone pig (yes, stone pig), may become a distant, delicious memory. The head of the Fiesta Time triumvirate also closed his Wailuku location. You can still savor their scrumptious fish tacos at Fiesta Time in Pa‘ia—thank heavens!

Tragedy struck Charley’s in Pa‘ia on Christmas. The landmark restaurant and bar (named for the late Great Dane Charley P. Woofer) nearly burned down; Willie Nelson’s gold records were lost in the blaze. The owners have been hard at work rebuilding, and plan to emerge phoenix-like from the disaster. Across the street, a posh new gelato place opened. (Pa‘ia -1, +1)

Our 2007 ‘Aipono Award-winning Restaurant, Lahaina Grill, lost the David Paul part of its name. The mysterious Mr. Paul should be advised that this only adds fuel to rumors that he will open another restaurant in the future.

Finally, if you haven’t booked your seats for the March 11th ‘Aipono Winemaker’s dinner with Trinchero Vineyards at Pineapple Grill, dial 669-9600 at once! If January’s superlative dinner with the Rocca Family Vineyards at Il Teatro was an indication, guests are in for a memorable evening. Don’t miss it!

Until the next dish, farewell!

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