I’ve been following the progress of Michael Smythe and Chef Kalani Joseph with great anticipation. Recently Smythe opened a new spot in Kahului on Alamaha Street. It’s called Hea and Lou’s Cafe and Joseph does the menu. The whole concept was to be fresh and unique, something island diners haven’t tasted before.
“I’m very excited about the menu,” says Smythe. “I’m proud of the menu. It’s a small menu, more like a specialty list. I didn’t want anything on the menu to taste like an item found here. I wanted each thing to come out a unique flavor. I didn’t want teriyaki five ways–I think that’s over done. I really wanted each dish to taste different. I think we accomplished that.”
Smythe travelled the world before settling down. After he had his daughters Nohea and Olivia, he decided the time was right to open a restaurant. It was something he’d always wanted to do since growing up in Haiku.
“I’ve always been an adventurous spirit,” says Smythe. “Opening this place is a dream come true. I’ve travelled to 13 or 14 countries before I had my kids. Everywhere I went, whether it was Europe or Asia or South America, I was always big on food. Street food. I thought I could come up with something different. Not steak and teriyaki and katsu. I fact, I don’t even have mac salad here–I have a fireslaw. It’s a Sriracha vinaigrette coleslaw. It’s kind of sweet and tangy and the spice is definitely assertive.”
The menu hints at Smythe’s travels with flavors of the Caribbean, Hawaii, Asia and the Mediterranean. The Countryman Steak is steak bites poke, but reminiscent of Vietnamese beef salads with fish sauce and lime. They do Jerk Chicken and Jerk Swine with their own twist–no Scotch bonnets or habanero. The Jerk shows up in sandwiches and mains. They also have a selection of wraps, stuffed pitas called “Pirates pockets” and sandwiches. The menu serves salads of the day, a soup of the day and Island Gumbo. Just about everything is priced $6-10. Another surprise is the Tangerine Beef Stew.
“The Asian influence lends itself to the tangerine in the beef stew,” says Joseph. “Not so much fine dining, but contemporary eating. More suited for today. Fine dining is for the birds. I’m more into contemporary. We hit it with a good price point. That is what I’m trying to do.”
For Joseph, the beef stew really shows off what his menu is trying to accomplish. “I really hate the word ‘fusion,'” he says. “I ran Roy’s with Joey [Macadangdang] and started with Pacific Rim. When I broke off of Pacific Rim, my specialty went to Mediterranean and Italian. But I started with Asian cuisine. Japanese style. The tangerine just fell into place for the dish. Growing up as a kid here in Kahului, I think we have some of the best citrus around, bar none. The sandy soil here in Kahului, in sand hill, the dirt. Growing up as a kid here in the hot summer days, the most refreshing thing you could eat was the citrus. Those were the best tangerines I ate in my life. I have eaten citrus all over the world and I’m partial to the hybrids we have here on Maui.”
The cafe is open from 10 to 7pm Monday through Friday. Hea and Lou’s Cafe will celebrate its opening on Aug. 1 with a Hawaiian blessing at 4:30pm and sampling until 7pm.
Hea and Lou’s Cafe
190 Alamaha St., Kahului