David Paul’s Island Grill: Tasting Menu Dinner

Family Night Out is one of the best parts about being a restaurant writer for 808 Reviews. There is something very special about the whole family getting dressed up to go out to dinner, even in a town with a casual dress code like Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. The idea of dressing for dinner is still extremely worthwhile. Along with button down Aloha shirts and dress shorts for me and my two sons and matching dresses for my wife and daughter, comes a nicer attitude and the concept of being on one’s best behavior. The children all know by now that when they go out to dinner, when I am reviewing a restaurant, they not only represent the web site, but they also represent the family. We have a small business in Lahaina and our reputation as a member of this community is very important to us.

This was a very special Family Night Out because we had the pleasure of experiencing the newly opened David Paul’s Island Grill at the Lahaina Center on Front Street near Papalaua. The restaurant has entrances on Front Street and also on the inside of the Center making it very convenient to find. We opted to enter off of Front Street since this evening we were walking from the Wharf Cinema Center across from the Banyan Tree.

The Front Street entrance to David Paul’s Island Grill is understated and welcoming. You will be pleasantly surprised with the comfortable atmosphere coupled with a high level of sophistication once you walk through the glass doors.

This evening, we were greeted by London, our beautiful hostess with perhaps the prettiest smile we had ever encountered. She welcomed us to David Paul’s Island Grill and offered us a tour of the restaurant. She showed us the main dining room, the seating by the bar, a second dining room, and outside lanais located at both entrances to the restaurant. The interior of the new incarnation of David Paul’s restaurant is quite spectacular. There is even a large window where one can see all the action in the kitchen. Like a large screen television, this window allows one access to a feast for the eyes as the meals are being prepared.

The wine cellar, kept at a cool 61 degrees, was well stocked with wines specifically chosen to accompany the menu items. David Paul’s Island Grill is quickly developing a reputation for offering classic and impressive wines at affordable prices. Because David Paul’s purchases such large quantities of wines, they are able to acquire wines at reduced prices. Instead of making more money by charging more to their customers, David Paul’s decided to pass the savings on to his guests. Wines that properly accompany food is very important to the dining experience. By focusing on the dining experience, David Paul’s Island Grill is able to offer exceptional value to its patrons. This type of genuine caring for the dining experience of their patrons is just one of the many ways David Paul’s is establishing a positive reputation on Maui.

Following the tour of the restaurant, we were given the choice of indoor or outdoor seating. We decided to sit outside and take advantage of the sunset view. With three children, all under the age of 11, it was nice to be given a choice rather than simply being relegated to a table somewhere out of the way. Looking around at the other patrons sitting outside and enjoying the setting sun, I noticed couples, families with between one and four children, groups of three, and groups of more. Everyone was enjoying the outside ambiance, the view of the ocean, and, of course, the food.

Our waiter made our dining decisions easy for us as soon as he mentioned the Tasting Menu. A wonderful idea and a fantastic way to sample a variety of David Paul’s signature dishes. My wife and I both opted for the Tasting Menu. Had I not been working, I may have also selected the wine accompaniment — specially selected wines that include four 1/2 ounce pours and a full glass of champagne with dessert.

The Tasting Menu for the evening included five courses:

Course 1
Chilled Roasted Red Beet Soup, sweet roasted Kula beets pureed with vegetable stock, shallots and unfiltered sake, with a truffle creme fraiche.

Course 2
Watermelon, Feta Cheese and Crab, sweet watermelon, Peaky Toe crab knuckles, feta cheese and pepper-fig vinaigrette.

Butter Lettuce Wedge, locally grown ice cold butter lettuce wedge served with grated egg, tomatoes, sweet and spicy bacon and Caitlin’s bleu cheese-basil dressing.

Course 3
Shrimp with Tequila and Lime, white tiger shrimp marinated in tequila and 15 herbs and spices, served with red chili-achiote rice and Jasmine vanilla bean rice, tequila butter sauce.

Sesame Seared Ahi, Island tuna crusted in sesame seeds and lightly seared, served with Jasmine vanilla bean rice, tamari-ginger soy vinaigrette, avocado, tomato, and onion.

Course 4
Kobe Style Meatloaf, Kobe ground beef and savory pork belly, fresh vegetables roasted with tangy tomato jam, served with red wine mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes.

BBQ Short Ribs, slow braised Angus beef short ribs in tangy BBQ sauce served with smoked fingerling potatoes and fresh vegetables.

Course 5
Dessert Tasting, Chef’s choice of two desserts.

For many people, the menu is perfect just as it is. For my wife, who adheres to a few dietary restrictions, a few modifications were needed. She prefers to avoid pork products and, for reasons we won’t disclose here, won’t go near tequila. We alerted our server to the special request and were assured he would take care of it and we had nothing to worry about.

David Paul’s Island Grill also accommodates the taste preferences of children. At the time of our dining experience, there was no Keiki Menu; our children were given many options. One of the side dishes on the David Paul’s Island Grill dinner menu is a Macaroni and Cheese with swiss chard and pancetta. My eleven year old son wanted to try it with no modifications, while my six year old son wanted “regular mac ‘n’ cheese” and opted for his entree sans swiss chard and pancetta. My eight year old daughter wanted to order from the grown-up menu and decided on pasta with butter and parmesan cheese

Fresh baked rolls accompanied by avocado butter with black garlic were served to the table. We all had a chance to sample a few bites before the full tasting experience began. The first course that was served was the Chilled Beat Soup. David Paul’s Island Grill uses only local beets and it makes a huge difference in the flavor and quality of the food. I was surprised at how smooth and creamy the texture was, nothing like the borscht my mother served when I was younger. Everyone at the table had a taste and all but one child liked it. He wasn’t quite sure what it was that he didn’t like. Happily, that didn’t deter him from trying everything else.

Before the second course was served, my eleven year old needed to use the bathroom. I insisted both boys go at the same time and I used the opportunity to check out an important, but often left out, part of any restaurant review. When we opened the door to the bathroom of David Paul’s Island Grill, my older son summed it up, “This is the fanciest restroom I’ve ever been in.” Enough about the bathroom.

When we returned to our table, the next course was already served and our napkins were refolded. To my daughter’s delight, our waiter taught her how to fold the napkins while we were away. Together, they folded our napkins so everything would be perfect. The table and the food looked great. There were actually two different samples served for this course. One was a combination of watermelon, Feta cheese, and crab. The other, a lettuce wedge with grated egg, tomatoes, bacon, and bleu cheese.

The watermelon was extremely sweet and its flavor blended nicely with those of the feta cheese and the crab. No particular flavor overpowered the dish, instead, a new flavor was created that was quite spectacular. This was easily my eleven year old’s favorite dish. He took one bite and exclaimed, “Amazing” and he meant it.

The lettuce wedge with bleu cheese combined sun dried tomatoes and a sweet and spicy bacon. The sun dried tomatoes were good. The standout flavor was the bacon. It was hot, spicy, and smokey. It reminded me, and it may sound strange, but it reminded me of beef jerky. Not in a bad way, by any stretch of the imagination. It was flavorful and robust, adding just the right passion to the rest of the dish. Both dishes were a little too sophisticated for my six year who preferred the rolls and avocado butter.

Since my wife has issues with tequila, the next course included a variation from the David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu. While I enjoyed the shrimp with tequila and lime, my wife was treated to Lobster Ravioli. She promised to share, but after her first taste and a “this lobster ravioli is great”, I never actually got the opportunity to try it. That was fine with me as the flavor of the shrimp was sweet with a hot, but not too hot, finish. I liked that the heat was not the focus; the focus was the flavor.

The sesame seared Ahi was tender and well seasoned. The sauce, a soy-vinaigrette with tamari and ginger, was nice, but the standout flavor was the sugar green beans –Amazing.

Our waiter brought the children Macaroni and Cheese around the same time as our Ahi, shrimp, and ravioli. My six year old decided at this point that he didn’t want to eat mac n cheese and threw a brief temper tantrum. My wife explained to him that without eating, dessert would be out of the question. Like magic, the tantrum dissipated. After a few bites, he gave us the “thumbs up” and kept on eating until the dish was empty. My daughter had ordered pasta with butter sauce and parmesan cheese. She tasted it announced that it tasted like popcorn. For not having a Keiki Menu, David Paul’s Island Grill did a reasonable job for the younger set.

Meatloaf and short ribs were delivered to our table as the next course. Since the meatloaf is made with pork, my wife was given a full plate of short ribs to compensate. She was very pleased and impressed that the kitchen staff were willing to substitute food to accommodate her dietary preferences, even when sampling the set menu of the David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu. My six year old, as it turned out, loved the ribs even more than the macaroni and cheese.

I loved the sweet sauce that accompanied the short ribs. I thought it was excellent. What impressed me even more was the tangy tomato jam that topped off the meatloaf. Initially, I was thinking the tomato jam was going to be just another fancy take on ketchup. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was much more like a jam (I had expected more of a paste) and very fresh. It made the perfect bite when joined with a small bit of mashed potato and meatloaf.

Dessert from the David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu consisted of two specialities. On this particular evening, the specialties were creme brule and chocolate decadence. The creme brule had a hint of orange and a dollop of whipped cream. The texture was smooth and the flavor was pleasant. The chocolate decadence was more dark chocolate than I could handle — and that is a very good thing. More importantly, my wife loved hers and helped me to finish mine.

All three children were given vanilla ice cream for dessert. Which just happens to be my daughter’s favorite flavor. The boys don’t have favorites; any ice cream will do.

As we were finishing up our desserts, David approached our table and invited us to join him for coffee at the outside fire pit. That sounded like a nice idea, so we left our table and walked through the restaurant to the patio located at the back front entrance to David Paul’s Island Grill. The seating was comfortable, but it was a little too warm for a fire. (It would probably be better in the winter.) We had the rare opportunity to converse one on one with one of the best known chefs on Maui. We talked story about family, restaurants, island life, and the inspirations for David Paul’s Island Grill. The perfect ending to a perfect evening.

808 Review’s Visitor’s Tip
A quick word about the David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu. During the dining experience, I felt like a judge on Top Chef. The portion size was perfect for tasting, more than to enough acquaint oneself with all the flavors and textures, and not so much food that you become uncomfortably full during the process. The David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu is a perfect way to taste the highlights of the restaurant and have a truly memorable evening. If you like wine, ask for the David Paul’s Island Grill’s Wine Tasting Menu, an affordable pairing for each of the courses, topped off with a full glass of champagne. David Paul’s Island Grill Tasting Menu is available for dinner nightly from 6:00 to 9:00.

David Paul’s Island Grill
900 Front St.
Lahaina, HI 96761
808.662.3000
www.davidpaulsislandgrill.com

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba