The Duke’s scene in Waikiki is well known; famed Hawaiian musicians drop in for jams and blissed-out patrons clink cocktails and cry “hana hou!” (“Encore!”) all night long. On Maui, the off-the-beaten-path location of its sister restaurant, Duke’s Beach House, precludes that kind of spontaneity, but presents an even more relaxing ambience. The entry serves as a minimuseum celebrating the life of Duke Kahanamoku — the legendary surfer, Olympic champion, and “Ambassador of Aloha.” The patio’s thatched umbrellas, tiki torches, and teak furnishings are embraced by tiered rock walls. On a small stage, wonderful Hawaiian musicians send the sweet twang of slack-key guitar and falsetto melodies adrift on the warm breeze.
If this were a museum, we’d love it. But it’s a restaurant. And the menu fails to match the excellent ambience.
The “poke rolls” are an ill-conceived combination of a Japanese sushi roll and a Vietnamese spring roll, served hot … or at least warm. Raw ahi is wrapped with Maui onions in rice paper, and then seared. The result is a confusing, lukewarm mess.
The mango BBQ ribs might be tasty before they are burnt to a crisp (which they have been, twice). Our waiters, while both effusive and overly friendly, didn’t notice that we didn’t touch them on either occasion. Other dishes — even simple burgers — have been disappointments.
Cocktails are unimaginative (chip shots, beautifuls, and standard margaritas) and for dessert — surprise! The Hula Pie has found yet another home. The crème brulee trio — small pots of Kona coffee, Tahitian vanilla, and Hawaiian vintage chocolate — is unremarkable. And what do they mean by vintage chocolate?
We like the organic fruit platter and steel cut oats served at breakfast. If there were live music during this meal, and we were in the mood for oats, we’d be here in a heartbeat.
Address: 130 Kai Malina Pkwy, Honokowai, West Maui
Location: at Honua Kai Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hours: Daily, 7:30am-9:30pm