Mama’a Fish House by: Suz Pisano
Truly the finest dining establishment on the island of Maui is Mama’s Fish House. Since 1973, Mama’s Fish House has been serving the finest fish and Hawaiian cuisine that the island has to offer. Our host, the founder’s daughter, Karen explained that her parents fell in love with the island and the Aloha spirit and the restaurant has been here ever since. It is definitely worth the trip, and hey if you’re on Maui, you will definitely want to treat yourself to the best!
You will know that you are somewhere special the moment you make the turn into the driveway. The property is beachfront and absolutely gorgeous. At sunset – the ocean view is absolutely breathtaking. As you walk along the beach path to the restaurant, you’ll feel like you’re in ancient Polynesia. The restaurant is not very large, so reservations are necessary. We quickly learned that this is a favorite spot for many who travel to Maui often. Karen explained that the restaurant is not only for special occasions but the experience is always special and memorable. I certainly will never forget it!
Our meal began with a little taste of Curried Banana Bisque topped with Cilantro & Roasted Coconut. The soup had a hint of spicy, it was not sweet as you would imagine, but creamy, warm and delicious. Our second course was Sashimi ($22), this Ahi was the reddest I’ve ever seen and absolutely fresh and melt in your mouth tender. The Lobster and Asian Noodle in a coconut ($18) was as delicious as gorgeous in presentation. It was served with Mama’s Mango Chutney a perfect compliment. Chef Perry also sent out a couple of appetizers for us to taste – Kalua Pig Mini-Sandwiches on Taro Bread served with Mango Chutney, Shrimp Lomi Lomi, and an amazing Opakapaka Skewered with Lemongrass and Ponzu Sauce. The Kalua Pig sandwiches were delicious on the dense taro bread. This was a nice change on a Hawaiian classic. The Shrimp Lomi Lomi was super fresh and disappeared in an instant but our favorite was the Opakapaka. This looked amazing and was delicately battered on a lemongrass skewer. The lemongrass flavored the fish and the Ponzu sauce was to die for. I’m missing this as I write. I’ve never had anything like it. As a palate cleanse – we were served a Coconut Mint Lime Sorbet that was a wonderful refresher. We were honored when Chef Perry came out to visit with our table. He’s young, energetic and has deep family roots in Maui. Chef Perry is unparalleled for his dedication to honoring the fishermen’s catch with the freshest and most intriguing preparations. His unique style is far from ordinary. Many of the menu selections have the name of the local fisherman right next to the menu offering. This is the true Aloha spirit of Mama’s Fish House – acknowledging the fishermen, who catch the wild fish that end up as your nourishment during your dining experience.
When our entrees arrived, we were immediately impressed with the plating and presentation. The Opah caught in local waters aboard the “Pacific Reflection” ($42) served upcountry style with caramelized Maui onion, avocado and jasmine rice was delicate in flavor topped with sweet onion. The rice served “old Hawaiian style” came wrapped in a Ti leaf. A simple compliment to a delicious dish. Mama’s Stuffed Fish Macadamia ($49) created from Mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, Maui onion and baked in a macadamia nut crust was served with lemongrass rice pilaf and Kula vegetables. The lobster and crabmeat alone were enough for two diners and we all loved this fish with macadamia nuts probably grown right on the island. The last entrée we sampled was Pua Me Hua Hana – in the style of Old Hawaii ($49), Opah and Mahimahi sautéed in coconut milk with slow cooked Kalua pig, grilled banana, Molokai potato, poi, Island fruit and a fresh coconut. This is the specialty of the house – it’s like a mini luau all on one plate! I couldn’t pick my favorite of the two fishes on this dish because they were both tender and prepared in a way you will not find on the Mainland. The Kalua pig was served wrapped in a Ti leaf like a little package of tender morsels. The grilled banana with rum was a nice compliment and the fresh fruit was succulent and sweet. The Molokai potato was purple and much like a sweet potato. Now I know if you’ve never had poi, you’re interested to know what it is & how it tastes. It is much the consistency of paste and is used as a sauce for such dishes as the Kalua pig which is prepared by wrapping in Ti leafs and steaming. You do use your fingers to scoop it out of the bowl but it really doesn’t taste like much. It is made from the Taro plant which is grown all over the islands.
Just when we thought Chef Perry has outdone himself, we were asked to select desserts. After eating our meals and sampling each other’s food, we were quite full but asked that he send us something he’d like us to try and we’d share. We were served not one, not two, not three but four desserts because we were told that Chef Perry couldn’t decide which to send out. What we did sample were some of the finest desserts on the island – Liliko’i Crème Brulee, Banana Macadamia Nut Crisp, Polynesian Black Pearl and Kiwi Sorbet.. Liliko’i (the Hawaiian word for passion fruit) and the tangy glaze on top of the Crème Brulee was excellent. The Banana Macadamia Nut Crisp served warm with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream was heavenly. I’ll never look at apple crisp the same knowing that it could be tropical. The Polynesian Black Pearl wins the award for most beautiful and complex dessert ever – it’s a homemade light cookie seashell with chocolate mousse and passion fruit cream in the center covered in a chocolate ganache. It’s literally almost too beautiful to eat, and I imagine any one ordering it for the first time spend a good two minutes just marveling at it’s beauty. The Kiwi Sorbet was served with a Rambutan and pastry crisp garnish. Rambutan is similar to a lychee but with a much more colorful outer shell. This was equally delicious and sorbet flavors change often.
I know it’s a far way away, but if your have the good fortune to find yourself on the island of Maui, Mama’s Fish House is surely not to be missed. Don’t let the prices scare you, the quality, presentation, atmosphere and service is well worth the price. At Mama’s you’ll find fine dining in a casual setting. There is no pretension here – the food speaks for itself. Congratulations Chef Perry and the Christenson family for taking paradise and making it just that much better! Mahalo!