Chef Philippe Chin and Chef de Cuisine Deciao Dacosta, photos courtesy of Sean Hower
We hear so much about fusion cuisine these days that it’s almost become boring. Thankfully, Sugar Cane Maui, Lahaina’s newest restaurant, is anything but boring.
There you’ll find an extensive list of crafted fusion by new Maui Chef Philippe Chin. He’s a classically trained chef from France, born to Chinese father and French mother, who decided at a very early age that he wanted to become a great chef.
Most locals are familiar with being hapa, but we are all products of the island. Chin adds a touch of unfamiliar territory coming from Europe, and an extensive career that has taken him all over the East coast and the Caribbean. His extensive menu starts with elegant breakfast and segues into a craft dining-all-day menu, boosted with special menus for lunch and dinner.
“People may come here expecting something ordinary, but they just aren’t going to get that,” Chin told me. “That is just not what I do. I make my own bread from scratch, I prepare my own bacon, we make our own sausage. I make the unusual.”
At breakfast, the benedicts with Chef Chin’s Hollandaise and shredded potato cake come four ways: grilled mahi and wasabi drizzle, kiawe smoked bacon with spicy lilikoi glaze, pineapple and Portuguese sausage and smoked portobellos with spinach and tomato. You can expect lots of other rich surprises to start the day with on the menu.
Chin approaches his cuisine with plenty of passion, and you can see he takes full advantage of what the island has to offer by way of fresh fish and produce. At lunch, he offers a fennel -rusted walu over Asian slaw (it’s also on the dinner menu as a shared plate or starter). It’s a recipe you wouldn’t think was imported from the East coast. He also recruited his Chef de Cuisine Decio Dacosta from his earlier team, saying he was a perfect fit for his Sugar Cane Maui Restaurant.
“I served a lot of these dishes off the coast. They did well there and now I am bringing them to Maui and adding an island touch,” says Chin. “My classic French cooking techniques fuse with Asian spices and flavors. There isn’t really any Asian cooking technique except for a little wok action, stir frying. I love to incorporate five spice, star anise, furikake, ponzu, teriyaki, sesame, ginger from Asia, and of course the bounty of the islands.”
His signature pupus like the Chef Chin Ahi Nachos is a generous share platter of cubed, seared ahi studded with black and white sesame atop a bed of spinach salad and won ton chips with aioli dressing. The tako poke is surprisingly more like a refreshing kim chee tako salad–a mix of cabbage, seasoned tako and cucumber and Maui onion.
At Sugar Cane, chicken tempura consists of healthy chunks of chicken breast tempura fried and glossed in a wicked POG sweet and spicy sauce and served on coconut jasmine rice. It’s served all day after 11am.
Chin’s craft kitchen menu is packed with sandwiches, sliders, salads, fries, wraps, wings and housemade smoothies and sodas. On dinner menu, the Chin-Choy short rib hints at Chin’s long friendship with Sam Choy, with burgundy five spice gravy and tobacco onions.
The restaurant is located in the old Famous Dave’s location at 736 Front St. in Lahaina. You enter through their grand staircase on the sidewalk on Front Street and then treat yourself to gorgeous views of the harbor, breakwall, Lanai and the rest of Lahaina Town. Their big, inviting dining room has seating on the balcony, too. For now, they have BYOB status, but a liquor license is apparently in the works.
all photos photos courtesy of Sean Hower
Sugar Cane Maui
736 Front St., Lahaina
Open 7:30 am daily in Lahaina till close
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.