Afterthoughts – Mama’s Fish House, Maui / Hawaii
Aloha! Over the holiday season, we vacationed in Hawaii, a group of islands that I’ve dreamed about visiting ever since I was a child. As a child growing up in North America, Hawaii really epitomises everything a tropical paradise should be, so it was a dream come true to finally vacation there.
We started our trip in Maui, and made our way to Oahu. Maui has an easy, relaxed resort feel, which provided a vivid contrast to the bustling city vibe of Oahu. In my next few blogs, I will be reviewing some of the standout restaurants we’ve visited on this trip, so we can paint a road map (of food!) for your next trip consideration.
It’s only fitting to start off this Hawaiian-themed entry with what I consider the best restaurant in Maui, Mama’s Fish House. This restaurant scores top marks for both ambiance – it’s a cozy, laid-back yet classy little cottage set beside the beach, so you can listen to the crashing waves while dining, and for its amazing fresh seafood – all served with impeccable execution and flair.
We made a spur-of-the-moment decision to try Mama’s Fish House after a day on the road to Hana, and were royally rewarded for our spontaneity. Even at 5pm, the restaurant was packed to the brim, but we were lucky to grab a quiet corner table. This relaxed, island restaurant is packed with plenty of star quality, as its walls are adorned with signed photos and praises cataloguing the Who’s Who of Hollywood and American sports. An interesting neighbourhood pet also greeted us from the tall palm trees – a cheeky blue macaw parrot who likes to tease guests and staff by spluttering out random phrases.
Our server was absolutely fantastic, extremely personable and well-versed on the menu. The seafood are all caught locally from the pristine tropical waters, and the menu changes twice daily to reflect the freshest catches of the day.
We started this unforgettable dinner with a savoury lemongrass and ginger amuse bouche broth. The aromas were delightfully uplifting.
Next, came probably the best bread I’ve had in a long time. I almost feel like they’ve put some sort of drugs in it to make it so addictive. The plump little loaf had poppy seeds and sweet potato inside, and came to the table deliciously warm from the oven.
For starters, we shared a platter of Papa’s Three Fish Sashimi, which came in the form of salmon with coconut chili and Molokai pink sea salt, ahi tuna with star anise, daikon and Kukui nut salt, and kampachi with pineapple pomegranate and Hawaiian Island black sea salt. The flavours were clean and defined, with each garnish perfectly matched to bring out the essence of each fish.
Already very satisfied with what we’ve had so far, we were again pleasantly surprised by our mains. I ordered the most popular selection – Mama’s stuffed fish with lobster and crab, baked in a macadamia nut crust. The fish of the day for this was fresh mahi mahi caught along the north shore of Maui by Fisherman Mike Holley. They actually showed the name of the supplier on the menu!
To call this dish sublime would be an understatement. The crust was perfectly golden and the fish so tender it flaked into succulent cloves at the touch of the fork. The lobster and crab added resonating flavour and contrast to the delicate fish. It was an all-round winner.
The Mister decided on the opakapaka (pink snapper) sauteed with Hamakua mushrooms, garlic butter, white wine, capers and accompanied by lemongrass pilaf. The snapper was caught in the deep reefs near Kaupo on the same day by Fisherman Layne Nakagawa. The meaty mushrooms complimented well with the fish, and I loved the garlic butter flavouring! Needless to say, I snuck several bites of his dish.
We were too stuffed for dessert, but the menu looked very tempting. Oh well, there is always next time!
Verdict: Superb! Dining here is the ultimate tropical paradise treat. From the soft island breeze wafting through the open cottage to the beautiful Island decor, this place is perfect for a romantic tete-a-tete or cozy gathering. I dare say that this is the best seafood restaurant I’ve been to thus far, anywhere in the world. The service is impeccable, extremely friendly and thoughtful without being intrusive. The price is on the higher end, at an average of US$20 for starters and US$50 for mains. But keep in mind, you are paying for quality, and it’s absolutely worth it. There is nothing I can fault, except perhaps that the waiting list is long so it’s best to play safe and make an advanced reservation. If there is one restaurant you eat at in Maui, then make it Mama’s Fish House. It’s a decision you’ll never regret!
Mama’s Fish House
799 Poho Place, Paia