Coconut Grill

If you don’t usually hear the words “fine dining” and “across from a gas station” in the same sentence, it’s probably because you haven’t been to the Coconut Grill in the Maui Seaside Hotel in Kahului. It’s a peaceful little oasis; old Hawai‘i wrapped in greenery.

For me the decor can be summed up in one word: chairs. Not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill park-your-okole pieces of furniture—these are bamboo and what looks like twisted rope. Trust me, they’re actually much nicer than I’ve described.

When I could tear my eyes away from the seating I noticed glass floats used as lights—very cool—canoe paddles, woven bamboo on the walls and ceramic fish. The overall effect is vintage, old-style Hawai‘i.

I’d also say elegant but owners Mark and Candy Mattos insist it’s a casual family-style restaurant. But they didn’t fool me. The food absolutely gave them away. For starters there were the rolls—homemade, garlicy and buttery, one of my favorite combinations and a definite appetite buster. We controlled ourselves, though, and were glad we did. Especially when we tasted the coconut shrimp tiki appetizer, tempura beer battered, rolled in coconut and macadamia nuts and served with sweet chili pineapple dip.

Butter was back with a vengeance in the Hualalai mushroom sauté with caramelized onions, a dish that absolutely demanded a mopping up of the crème sherry sauce with the garlic rolls. Now we certainly weren’t sorry with our choice of appetizers but could just as easily have picked the paniolo pork ribs, sashimi and poke, escargot melt, etc. 

For an entrée I had the surf and turf with mahi mahi and New York steak, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. This was threaded on sprigs of rosemary—way more exciting than bamboo and definitely more fragrant. The result was inside and out rosemary mahi and steak topped with lobster sauce. 

My husband, ever the ahi man, ordered it seared with a macadamia and coconut beurre blanc. We eat a lot of ahi and prefer it raw—naked if you will—but this dish made him thankful it had gotten dressed. I can tell a good meal by how much he’s willing to share. Sadly, this was a one-bite situation.

They offer somewhere around 15 surf and turf combinations, a luau plate, prime rib, scampi, chicken, lobster, scallops, crab cakes and more. And a grilled cheese sandwich my son described as “Out of this world!” 

Our dessert, called the Hawaiian Trio, should have a review of its own. It featured three scoops of ice cream, coconut, Kona coffee and macadamia nut, each rolled in a different coating: coconut and graham cracker, oreo and macadamia nuts (I think that’s right. At that point there was a feeding frenzy). These were fried tempura-style and garnished with chocolate fudge sauce, strawberry and pineapple puree. 

It’s been my experience that new restaurants usually have a period of glitches and oops, things that eventually get ironed out. I guess nobody told the folks at the Coconut Grill. They worked together like a well-oiled machine; which might have something to do with the fact that Mark and Candy already run a Coconut Grill in Hilo.

I’m glad they chose Maui as their second location. After such a great dining experience I realize that Kahului is much more convenient than Hilo for dinner. MTW

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