The first time I went to Blu, the latest addition to Front Street’s many oceanfront eateries, was during the week of their grand opening. Back then, I was showered with plate after plate of contemporary Mediterranean food by an enthusiastic kitchen and service staff. Several months later, that pride and excitement still lingers, as I now enjoy my regular weekly meals at Blu.
Tucked back behind a row of booths selling jewelry, handbags and miniature ship replicas, Blu holds court at the former home of Cafe O’Lei, in a two-story sliver between Kimo’s and Lahaina Yacht Club. Its upper level rises higher and juts out over the water’s edge slightly more than neighboring restaurants, which gives it a definite atmospheric advantage.
It’s also the newest member of Tri-Star Restaurants, which include prestigious Maui joints Nick’s Fishmarket, Son’z at Swan Court and Sarento’s on the Beach. Comparatively, Blu is a more casual operation than its sister restaurants—and therefore more affordable—but the food favorably reflects the culinary expertise of Chef Maka Kwon, apprentice to Tri-Star Executive Chef George Gomes, Jr.
Chef Kwon’s menu is an amalgamation of fresh flavors and spices from Spain, Italy and Greece, combined with local produce and fish to update classic Mediterranean dishes and family recipes.
“Souvlaki,” a skewer of grilled meat traditionally made with lamb or chicken, is offered here with fresh island fish like ahi or mahimahi, served with rice pilaf, toasted pita bread and a creamy Tzatziki sauce. A grilled shrimp-orzo salad with vine-ripened tomatoes is made local with chunks of Hana avocado, sweet Maui onions and Hawaiian chile-lime dressing.
There are some items worth mentioning that are available on both the lunch and dinner menus—and for good reason. I can’t resist the Tandoori oven-fired naan bread with curried hummus, roasted olives—and that Tzatziki sauce again. Another favorite is the scrumptious, grilled ahi-mahi nachos with refried black rice, lilikoi-chile sauce and mozzarella cheese.
But what brings me back to Blu the most—aside from the location and fantastic bar service—is the ultimate burger, an impressive feast of Kobe beef, crispy Maui onions, cheddar cheese, sliced tomato and gorgonzola aioli. Paired with an order of garlic fries with Blu cheese sauce, parmesan and olive oil, and I am happier than a Phoenician in Thebes.
One remarkable entree that’s only available for dinner, however, is the Tandoori-fired half chicken. I’m not generally a chicken person but this dish is delectable. It comes cooked with a yogurt and spice marinade, which means you’ll want to eat the skin and all, and is served with basmati rice and a coconut-cilantro chutney.
C’mon people—did you think I wouldn’t talk about dessert? Oh, of course Blu offers a daily selection of ice cream and sorbet. But their signature dish—and one that comes straight from Executive Chef Gomes’ Portuguese grandmother’s recipe book—is a homemade “S’mores.”
You might as well just book that appointment with the trainer the next day, ‘cause if you don’t after you down those brick-sized, toasted homemade vanilla marshmallows, spiced Graham Crackers, bittersweet chocolate sauce and Kahlua caramel, your belly-dancing days are numbered. MTW