Stella Blues Supper Club
1279 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei
Remaining shows: February 13, 19, 20, 26-27; reservations required
The term Supper Club has a colorful history. It’s a social destination, with classy cocktails, upscale dining and on-stage entertainment. In the 1930s and ’40s, some went underground to become prohibition clubs. At least on Maui cocktails are legal thanks (or no thanks) to the LC, and Stella Blues Supper Club is rockin.’
Their recently renovated entertainment and dining room is casual and distinguished. It’s separate from the regular dining room; as you check in you’re led past the bar to the back. The mood is festive and dressy. The open-beam ceiling and wood walls give the room a warm overtone, like being in a lodge or a chateau. The white tablecloths and stemmed water glasses are a nice touch—just fancy enough. The four-course meal, wine pairings and the fantastic duo of Barry Flanagan and Eric Gilliom stimulate your senses completely. The room is full of good sounds all night: the clanking of forks and glasses and the din of happy conversation eventually give way to Barry and Eric’s easy banter and amazing acoustic guitar stylings.
The food changes with each show and features items not on the regular menu. The ceviche appetizer was a wonderful starter, fresh and citrusy with a bit of coconut milk. A recent supper club menu featured stuffed mushroom caps with smoked marlin dip. It’s a pre-fixe menu set by the chef; in many ways, it’s refreshing not to have to make a decision about the meal. Your job is to sit down and enjoy. I can do that. A crisp salad follows; fresh greens, fruit and cheese break up the meal. If you are familiar with Stella Blues, you already know that they love to use locally made ingredients, putting an emphasis on sustainable menus and adding a healthy element to their comfort food.
The entree does come with a decision, but it’s not a difficult one—generally beef or fish. (Vegetarians needn’t worry—they have an array of veggie-friendly dishes, just let your server know you’d like that option.) The mahi mahi crusted with macadamia nuts and a lilikoi butter sauce is one of my favorite items. The sauce is heavenly and complements the tender and flaky mahi. They also have a wonderful prime rib, New York steak and pastas. Red or white wine pairing is another option you’ll have to make a decision on.
The dinner finishes with a fabulous dessert. Amid the brownie ala mode and cheesecake, the sweet tooth gets fed as the lights go down and guitars heat up.
Barry Flanagan is an award-winning Hawaii musician well known from his band Hapa. A virtuoso slack key guitar legend, at first glance you wouldn’t expect this pretty haole boy to throw down the chicken skin Hawaiian music, singing in Hawaiian no less. But that’s only if you don’t know him; Flanagan is renowned in the Hawaiian music realm. His 1993 album won 6 Na Hoku Hanohano awards including album, song and artist of the year. His 2006 album, Maui, also won album of the year at the Na Hoku Hanohano and a number of other awards, including a graphics prize for Maui’s own Scott Johnson of Dogtowne Designs.
Eric Gilliom is the second half of the musical team, with a great story of his own. A Maui Boy from an entertainment family, he left the islands to pursue music and theater. After many successful projects on the Mainland and abroad he found himself back on Maui pursuing and feeding the local arts scene. His performance as Franknfurter in the production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is infamous in the best possible sense. His band, Barefoot Natives, a joint venture with Willie K, was also very successful, and he plays with Mick Fleetwood’s Island Rumours Band. According to Gilliom’s MySpace blog, it’s Flanagan who taught him to play slack key and sing in Hawaiian, resulting in Eric’s touring with Hapa a few years back. Most recently, Gilliom performed at the Grammys along with his sister, Amy Hanaialii Gilliom, who was nominated in the Hawaiian music category.
That camaraderie and aloha surfaces while Gilliom and Flanagan perform together. Gilliom steals the show with his stories and self-effacing jokes; it’s practically a comedy sketch in between sets. Barry goes along with it and interjects with explanations, the stories behind the songs and the music. It’s a history lesson you want to hear, your mind opened by food and wine, your ears swayed by the acoustics around you.
Hawaiian music history is being made on the stage as well. The chemistry between the two performers is palpable. To be a part of that is the best part of the evening, compliments to the chef aside.