Let’s start at the end, with dessert. “You really should try the fried ice cream,” Penny Thomas, the young woman working the counter at Maui Ocean Grill, told us. “It’s soo bad, but it’s soo good.” With a description like that, how could we refuse? Thomas then handed us a single scoop of extremely cold vanilla ice cream, which was encased in a fairly thick and slightly cinnamony crust and then covered with chocolate sauce, strawberries, whipped cream and crushed walnuts. Wendy, who took the photos accompanying this story, said it tasted like a sundae wrapped in a churro. Later Neto Soledad, one of the grill’s owners, laughed when I told him that.
“We make the fried ice cream every other day,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest sellers.”
Though it’s located in the Maui Marketplace’s Kau Kau corner food court in the old Aloha Grill location—Soledad worked there for two years before buying the place last year–Maui Ocean Grill doesn’t offer typical food court dining. “Kahului needed something a little healthier,” said Yuri Soledad, who along with his brother Neto and Mauricio Abreu, is also a part owner.
But it’s Neto who designed the menu. Currently attending Maui Community College’s culinary program, he moved to Maui from Brazil in 1999. He’s worked at a small bakery in Paia, a restaurant on the Wailea Blue golf course, a cinnamon roll place, a catering operation in Waikapu, Bella Luna in the Diamond Resort and the old Aloha Grill.
His Neto’s Salad is apparently one of the grill’s more popular items. Start with a bed of greens, then add sprouts, carrot shavings, tomatoes, goat cheese crumbles, balsamic dressing and then a huge slab of tender ahi that tasted like it was just taken from a backyard grill.
Wanting something a bit more filling, I ordered the fish ‘n chips, another popular item. A few minutes later Thomas handed me a plate holding four fingers of fried Mahi sitting atop an overflowing bed of skinny, delicious French Fries.
Unlike some places that plaster their fish with enough batter to poke your gums when taking a bite, Maui Ocean Grill’s fish had very little covering, but a great deal of flavor, even without dipping into the dollop of tartar sauce that came with the plate. Eating the fish took very little time—the fries, a bit longer.
“I make my own mixture of crumbs and herbs,” Neto said. “Some places you need the tartar sauce because the fish has no flavor.”
Even the cole slaw was different—and by “different,” I really mean “crispy,” a word seldom used to identify slaw of any kind.
“I don’t really like the cole slaw served here [on Maui],” Neto Soledad told me. “You can taste the mayo, or it’s too sweet. We wanted to offer some balance.”
Of course, Maui Ocean Grill also offers an array of plate lunches, including kalua pork, Maui Cattle Co. steak, blackened or charbroiled fish, and burgers—made with your choice of chicken, fish, beef, garden or taro patties.
It’s not a big place, but there are a lot of choices. MTW