Monday, July 06, 2009

Dinner at Mavro

July 6

Let me discuss again why I am not a restaurant critic and don’t recommend restaurants to my readers (although I did just express delight at the deliciousness of my lunchtime baby octopus).
Saturday night dinner during my visit to O‘ahu (two weeks ago, I know) was at Chef Mavro, where I dined with the chef's wife, Donna Jung, and was given a grand tasting menu that I shall detail in a moment.
As far as I could tell, everyone was getting great service, but it’s hard to tell when you’re eating with the chef’s wife, when the chef is in the kitchen, at the very least looking after every plate that comes your way, and later coming out to chat.
Often when chefs come out to chat they’re very polite but rather standoffish, but given the fact that we’d spent the previous day at the harbor, trudging through a watercress farm and eating malasadas, that would have been weird. And I don’t think it’s Mavro’s style. So he just plopped into a spare chair (because when you’re me — or one of hundreds or possibly thousands of people like me — even when there’s just two people dining, you’re usually seated at a four-top) and hung out for awhile after the main dinner rush had ended.
During dessert, Mavro commented on one of the trendiest flavors going these days. “Maple is a magic flavor,” he said. Like Vanilla or lilikoi (which is what Hawaiians call passion fruit; they can't help themselves) it adds an ineffable flavor that you can't necessarily itentify, but you know that it’s delicious.
I’d put nutmeg in that category, too, but you’ll start to think I’m obsessed with the spice.
Indeed, maybe I am.
We ended up closing the place down and Mavro gave me a ride back to the Royal Hawaiian in his Lotus, and I really, really should have taken a picture of my inelegant exit from that low-slung vehicle, just to show you how self-deprecating I can be.

What I ate and drank (hold on to your hat):

Abalone ceviche, croquettes of cod, red chimichuri, essence of cilantro
Craggy Range 2008 Sauvignong Blanc (Martinborough, New Zealand)

Striped olive oil-marinated marlin (nairagi) with poached quail egg, sunchoke chips, big wave tomato confit and hanapepe salt
Domaine Laroche 2006 Chablis St. Martin (Burgundy, France)

Hudson Valley Foie Gras torchon with cocoa nib and candied pecan crust, pickled grapes, citrus infused celery and toasted Portuguese sweet bread
Fitz Ritter 2007 Gewürtztraminer, Spätlese, (Pfalz,Germany)

Day boat catch with caramelized baby fennel, picholine olive purée and sauce monégasque
Planetz 2006 Cometa (Sicily, Italy)

Crispy rice flake crusted flouner fillet with braised green papaya, broccolini florets and tamarind curry
Vollrads 2004 Riesling (Rheingau, Germany)

Keahole lobster pot au feu with spring vegetable gribiche and calamansi accented crutacean jus
Marc Colin 2006 Saint Aubin premier cru La Chatenière (Burgundy, France)

Kurobuta pork “a la malais” — a roasted rack, crispy shank with sweet and sour watermelon, ginger dressing and caramelized pork jus
Nicolas Potel 2006 vielles vignes Morey-Saint-Denis (what can I say? the sommelier likes Burgundy; it’s not a crime)

Wagyu strip loin, burgundy braised veal cheek, “no eggs no butter béarnaise,” boulangère potatoes and essence of sumida watercress
(and just when you think he’s a Burgundy whore, he pulls out the Bordeau) Clos du Marquis 2003 St. Julien

“Return from Marrakesh” — chick pea crusted mountain meadow lamb loin with bulghur wheat, dates and upcountry vegetables in yogurt-garlic sauce
Dashe 2007 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma, California)

Big Island goat cheese blanc manger toppe with cranberry, marcona almonds and hirabara baby greens
Jean-Maurice Rauffault 2007 Chinon Les Galuches (Loire, France)

The Grand Dessert: star anise pavlova filled with maple-marinated berries, served with berry jus and hibiscus ice cake
Jorge Ordoñez 2006 seleccion especial, (Malaga, Spain)

Lilikoi malasads with guava coulis and pineapple-cocnut ice cream
Five year Blandy’s Malmsey Madeira (Portugal)

chocolate tofu: Valrhona filling, sesame crust, macha sauce and buttermilk ice cream
Domaine de Jau 2006 Banyuls (France)

To view all the blog entries about my trip to O‘ahu, click here.


Anonymous said...

You started your entry with "Let me discuss again why I am not a restaurant critic and don’t recommend restaurants to my readers," but didn't elaborate on that. I'm curious! You seemed to have had a wonderful meal in Hawaii, and are probably offered such opportunities regularly being in the food-writing biz. So why not critique?

Bret Thorn said...

Sorry Anonymous, I think I lost my train of thought, or at least forgot to bring the reader along with me. I believe restaurant critics should be consumer advocates, sampling food and reporting on it to ease the decision-making process of their readers.
But my experiences are rarely typical. I might get treated much better than most diners, so I don’t think it would be useful for readers to know that I had a great meal. It might not reflect the kind of meal they would get at all. I elaborate on the topic a bit here, and here, in case you’re curious.