If you’re looking for a cherry BYOB spot, I’ve found one for you. The Ohana Seafood Bar & Grill on South Kihei Road has ono grinds, an open but still shady deck and great views of the sunset and ocean. They also started up a daily brunch from 10am to 3pm.
The now-defunct Pupu Lounge has a new banner over its sign, completely new staff, owners and an all-new kitchen. Owners Shane and Tracey Johnston are excited about their project, and their plan is to attract locals and tourists to their casual Kihei Kalama Village spot.
“Great food for reasonable prices–that’s what we’re about,” said Shane Johnston. “I want the locals and the tourists to be able to come in and get good solid food for a good price. Our menu is seafood American. A lot of fish items like fish and chips, grilled mahi and fish tacos and fish skewers. Dishes people on vacation want to see. We make sure our grilled mahi is caught local. Our calamari is great and our fish and chips is a huge success.”
When the Johnstons purchased the old Pupu Lounge they decided to shut it down and start with a fresh liquor license. The application process means they won’t have liquor until next year but they quickly shifted gears by adding brunch to their menu. Sushi is coming up, too.
“When we finally decided to do the restaurant we had to figure out our menu,” said Johnston. “I always like fish and chips and so does everyone else. Then we thought how are we going to do it? Panko crusted or beer batter? Heavy or light? We decided to do big pieces of ono or mahi and we went with mahi, in tempura batter.”
Their BYOB brunch has scrumptious, savory offerings like a seafood omelette, spiral ham or bacon with eggs, loco moco and fried rice. But it’s all about the calamari here. They lightly bread it in a special seasoned flour, deep fry it until it’s crispy, then toss it in a kung pau sauce with peanuts and green onion and serve it over a pineapple cole slaw. It’s so good.
I asked Chef Thomas Bonnette about the inspiration for his dishes.
“Everything here is made in house,” said Bonnette. “Handmade roasted kalua pork, huli chicken. I grew up on the Big Island and I have a lot of local food influence. I like to play with Asian ingredients–I really like that. I use a lot of local flavor, but kick it up a notch. My loco moco–you will never have another one like it, I promise you this. I use veal demi as the base for the gravy. There is no powder. It’s very expensive to make, but people are addicted to the flavor. I’m looking at getting beef from Kauai–it’s hard to get local Maui beef now. If you’ve ever had Kauai Makaweli beef, it’s phenomenal.”
As if on cue, a couple finishing their lunch interrupted my conversation with Bonnette to say how delicious the food was before they left.
“It’s one of these things,” Bonnette said after they left. “I have worked for Roy Yamaguchi, Peter Merriman, Sam Choy, you know all of these big names. I have been in the right spot at the right time. It’s really validating my own chef style. It’s retribution for me. Here I am, 25 years later, making food everyone wants to eat.”
The Ohana Seafood Bar & Grill is offering a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees for first-time customers. You’re welcome to bring your own booze with no corkage fee.
Ohana Seafood Bar & Grill
1945 S. Kihei Rd.