Guido Hauwaerts has opened a little bistro in the Ma`alaea Harbor Shops called Cafe Del Vino. If Hauwaerts sounds familiar, it’s because of the half-century he’s spent in the restaurant business. Wondering what he was up to now, I dropped in the other night.
“I was at Lobster Cove from ’92 to 2005, then somebody from Belgium took it over and stayed a year and a half, then it became Matteo’s and now its Manoli’s,” says Hauwaerts. “Chef Danny [Paquette] and I worked together at Lobster Cove. I was also an investor at Boccalino from 2000 to 2005, before it sold. Now I opened this bistro, I wanted to feature simple, delicious food, and you will find a few Lobster Cove inspired dishes as well.”
Cafe Del Vino is located in the old Porto location, but revamped with a few of Hauwaerts’ European touches. It’s a bit of a French Connection here between Hauwaerts and Chef Danny Paquette. The day I visited, there were others speaking French at the bar.
Paquette recommended the lobster and the clams and mussels. I came in thinking I would have pasta Bolognese and meatballs, but I ended up with a seafood extravaganza reminiscent of Lobster Cove. We started with the escargot, which was exquisite–garlic and butter with ciabatta toast points. The tapas menu has Pacific steamed clams or Mediterranean black mussels for $16.95, but for $2 more you can get the combo which has both. I wanted to try both, and I was rewarded greatly. The mussels and clams in cassolette were clean, and simply prepared with just a light broth around them. It’s a straightforward dish that lets the seafood take the spotlight.
Like Lobster Cove, the restaurant offers several different lobster preparations: steamed with drawn butter on a bed of spinach; Lobster au Bleu with a medley of fresh veggies; Lobster Del Vino with veggies and herbs in a light creamy curry; and lobster Fra Diavolo in a spicy white wine sauce. We tried the steamed, the Del Vino and the Fra Diavolo.
When you order the lobster, a bowl with the shell cracking pincers and a linen bib comes to the table. The lobster arrives as a cross-section, making it easy to pull out the tail, but you still have to crack the claws. Each dish was spectacular. The cream sauce was light served with carrots and leeks, the white wine tomato in the Diavolo was a favorite and plain steamed lobster with drawn butter was modest but nonetheless incredible.
Their desserts were wonderful. I loved finding something a bit different, and the Spumoni ice cream cake was the winner for me. But the tiramisu was equally delicious, as was the vanilla ice cream topped with Grand Marnier, whipped cream and fresh fruit. They also have a chocolate mousse they will be offering as well.
“I want to do lunch coming soon,” says Hauwaerts. “I am envisioning Vichyssoise, some cold soups, salads and croque monsieur on the menu. We are open from 4 to 9pm. Come in for good sangria, or a glass of wine and some tapas, or a delicious meal.”
Cafe Del Vino has a happy hour that runs 4-6pm where Hauwaerts has daily drink specials starting at $4 with tapas specials. Then at 5pm they do a three-course pre fixe Sunset Dinner special for $32 that includes a soup or salad, the daily chef special and your choice for dessert. You can also take advantage of his new special this week: Cafe Del Vino starts a buy-one-entree get the second one half off when you bring in the ad on page 16 of our Aug. 4 print edition.
Cafe Del Vino
300 Ma`alaea Rd.