David Paul’s Island Grill

David Paul’s Island Grill
900 Front St., Lahaina

Maui is dead last when it comes to adopting food trends from metro areas, but the silver lining is that only tried-and-true trends make it. When David Paul’s Island Grill in Lahaina said they were doing Chef’s Tables, I jumped at the chance.

Soon I found myself nestled into the kitchen at David Paul’s Island Grill, sitting at a beautifully set table for two. This is not a controlled environment; no romantic lighting or ambiance. Instead, it’s a hustling and bustling kitchen replete with clanking dishes, swinging doors and chefs and servers shouting at each other. But I’m at home, and in the capable hands of Executive Chef and owner David Paul.

There’s no menu at a Chef’s Table, just a chef and plates of amazing food paired with fabulous wine. To break the ice, we start with a toast of champagne, a wonderful glass of Nicolas Feuillatte, and an amuse-bouche, tofu with avocado relish served on beautiful handmade blue plates by Seattle glass artist Kurt McVay. The tofu dish is light, a nice entry into this dining experience. The soup course comes next, with the chilled watermelon gazpacho. It’s a surprise to the tongue—the watermelon mellows the jalepeno and diced onions and the olive oil enriches the flavors.

This is not Chef David Paul’s first restaurant on Maui. His reputation precedes him, though he admits he’s having mixed reactions from the community with his latest endeavors. Perhaps some have forgotten what he brought to Maui in the ’80s and ’90s, or maybe his absence after 2000 was a bitter pill. Either way, I’m here without preconceived notions.

What Chef Paul demonstrates is that his heart is in the right place, and his passion for innovation is undeterred by the hubbub his reputation stirs. He’s here to create something new and different, and tonight his focus is me and the table I occupy among his staff and stoves.

I get to take in a lot of raw emotion as my next course is served. The new style sashimi is incredible—fresh grown herbs stud a spectacular square of high grade lime-marinated ahi. Cerrano chile and garlic grace the surface, and a white soy-based sauce is dabbled on top. A table of ten orders the tasting menu and a flurry of action swirls around the kitchen. (The restaurant offers a five-course tasting for $48 per person.)

The approach to wine at Island Grill recreates a walk in the wine cellar, where you can choose your own bottles by labels and price, and there are a mind-boggling 50 choices for wines by the glass under $10.

David is clearly inspired by his children and made a point to describe the Brussels sprout Caesar as his young son’s idea. The unusual leaf holds the dressing up well, and it’s served with anchovy on top. Princess and the Pea scallops are next, and this was one of my favorite dishes—a perfectly seared scallop on a pan-fried pea cake topped by an asparagus tip and a sweet sauce.

In all, nine plates were served, each spectacular in their own way—the Chef continues until you wave a white flag of surrender. There was so much more to try! While I had to throw in the towel for the night, I vowed to be back for some of the events they have planned: classic cocktails on art night Friday with “mixologists,” a Diva Club for lady foodies who like shopping and champagne and many more nights orbiting around the amazing creations of David Paul. MauiTime, Jen Russo

For more of the Chef’s Table experience, visit Maui Time’s food blog, www.mauidish.com