839 Front Street
Lahaina, Hi 96761
Open daily from 11am-10pm
– Review by Chuck Racine
Voted best new restaurant in Maui by Maui times, Mai Tai lounge is reminiscent of an old fashioned speakeasy. You could walk by it a hundred times and not know it was there, making it a great place to meet friends and enjoy ocean front dining on Front Street without the bombardment of tourists and Bubba Gump-style fanfare.
Located directly on the ocean next to Kimo’s in downtown Lahaina, you walk through a jewelry store to get to the entrance of the restaurant, which is advantageous for local residents looking to go slightly off the radar or slip in for a beverage without being spotted by paparazzi.
I wonder what drink Mai Tai Lounge might be famous for.
Maui times awarded the Mai Tai Lounge purveyors of the Best Mai Tai two years running. That, coupled with the only rooftop dining in Maui, makes this restaurant a must see for visitors, and a “must frequent” for those who live here. Whether stopping by for a cocktail, dining on the first floor, or watching the sunset fall over Lanai while catching a breech or two from our annual visitors, Da Whales, make sure to stop in and say hi to Isabella the bartender. She makes a slamming margarita, and can mix a Mai Tai in her sleep. You’ll also be assured your experience is a memorable one by either Michel Roy, the managing partner, or Fernando Canitrot, dining manager.
On my latest visit, as we walked through the jewelry store and I made a mental note not to drink too much lest my dinner bill come with an added expense on the way out. From there we climbed the stairs to the dining room with the greatest view on Maui.
With a group of three or more I recommend starting out with the Flaming Hibachi Pupu Platter, which is a complete sampler of some of their other aps (yes, there’s an ap for that!) Among the mixture, the Kealoha’s Baby Back Ribs, stood out above all. Slow cooked, tender pork ribs glazed with their secret island bbq sauce, it’s one of the most popular dishes on the entrée menu as well. The Chicken Satay is a nice staple accompanied with three dipping sauces which multi task when used on the Crab Rangoon style stuffed wontons and Shanghai Rolls.
We also dabbled in the lobster quesadilla. With my Latin background and extensive mamacita style cooking experience, although I’d never thought of stuffing lobster into a tortilla before, now that I’ve tried it I feel my youth was sorely lacking since it wasn’t spent eating things this deliscioso. And to think for awhile there I thought I’d had a fine childhood!
Even if it’s for sheer presentation wow-value, order the Ahi Rainbow Tower. Fresh, glistening Ahi that’s been prepared poke style is layered with rice, mango, pineapple and avocado, topped with masago and served with wonton chips and a wasabi ginger drizzle. I know Snoop Dogg would try it, Fo shizzle. The beautiful Ahi tower quickly came crumbling down as our clean-up crew was fast at hand to clear the plate. Whomp.
For those wanting a quick bite while catching a few rays, sit upstairs and order the Riki Tiki Tacos, enough to abate your hunger without weighing you down. Your choice of fillings includes Kalua pork or Sauteed Mahi Mahi. For those in no hurry, try the tropical grilled chicken salad construction of tender, sliced chicken breast with mangos, avocados and feta atop Napa cabbage and greens, with a creamy papaya seed dressing and peanut sauce drizzle; a good way to gear up for a day at the beach.
As for main courses you’ll have a lot to choose from Island favorites such as shrimp or lobster enchiladas, a large order of the baby back ribs mentioned earlier or a filet for those shady meat and potato characters.
Along with a late-night dining menu, music and dancing, Mai Tai Lounge is fast becoming one of Maui’s top hang outs, offering a little something for everyone. Just try it – have a drink with a significant other on the rooftop, as the sun goes down. Romance will ensue, I assure you. Or sit downstairs on the water and watch the tiki torches catch fish off their flickering flame. You’ll be saying to yourself, “We should do this more often!”