Duo is so named because it is equally a steak and fish house … but it also could be inadvertently advertising it’s slightly split personality. Both the poolside breakfast buffet and a formal dinner venue at The Four Seasons, Duo bears a huge responsibility at the most exclusive resort on Maui. It must go from brightly-lit, comfy-cushioned, linger-and-read service in the morning to upscale, romantic, full service at night. Let’s start with breakfast. The open kitchen presents a big buffet with platters of pastries, fish, cereals, covered dishes mounded with sausages, scrambled eggs, and French toast, vats of miso soup and oatmeal.
You can get fresh fruit and yogurt or made-to-order omelets. If it’s a holiday, they are likely featuring a more expansive champagne brunch with a seafood bar, carving station, and piles of desserts. We like coming for breakfast on special occasions — not just because the food is good (which it is, and should be at these prices), but because the service is so wonderful. Every morning the kitchen makes a new smoothie “shooter,” which is presented by the waiter during your meal. Whether it’s carrots and orange juice or spinach, apple, mango, and lime, it’s a well-balanced, thoughtful, healthy supplement.
The servers are unfailingly pleasant and efficient, and this is one of the best places on Maui to feel true Aloha in the service. The bright-but-shady poolside location is cheerful, and you can see the ocean beyond the cabanas. It’s just lovely.
At night, the lit-up pool’s fountain, bubbling hot tubs, flaming tiki torches, and star-splashed sky serve as a backdrop for an elegant evening. A few modern décor elements and the gracious, restrained demeanor of the staff helps disguise the breakfast buffet’s teak tables and waterproof seat cushions. Duo’s dinner menu used to be strictly a la carte: even the sauces had to be selected by the customer.
We’re very glad that their new menu dropped this conceit and now showcases nicely composed dishes that pair perfectly cooked proteins (fish, beef, elk, venison, duck) with some delightful sauce preparations and admittedly small side dishes. (Why small? We think they wanted to keep you ordering their rich and sizable sides: white cheddar-truffle mac and cheese, a stack of onion rings, unbelievably sweet and buttery corn from upcountry … the skillet roasted vegetables are the only item on the side dishes menu that won’t threaten a coronary by the time they bring the check.)
There are some good choices in the appetizer menu that could serve as a light meal: a nice pork pate served with grilled toast and a pungent fig mustard, a good crudo made from hamachi and radishes and studded with black sea salt, and the chop salad, which features spicy and bitter greens set off by creamy blue cheese, spicy-sweet pecans, teensy bits of pineapple and bacon, and a light papaya dressing. The steaks at Duo are what you have in mind when you think “good steak dinner.”
Perfectly prepared and dressed in just the right sauces, we’ve never been disappointed when ordering from the “Land” side of the menu. The first time we had the dry-aged bone-in rib eye at Duo it earned a spot in our Hall of Fame as one of our all-time top meals. (We savor our favorite dishes again and again in memory.) On a whim, we ordered an unknown Lebanese wine, which had a medicinal flavor until paired with the tender and pink aged rib eye.
Then, it was nothing short of magical: the wine tasted of passion and spurs, for some reason … we imagined horses racing down an empty beach. Meanwhile, the meat tasted of smoke and honey. The combination was triumphant. We tried recreating it again, but while the steak remains exceptional, the mysterious wine is gone. We’ve also had the elk and the duck and venison preparations, and enjoyed each one. (Although none of them inspired equine fantasies.) The fish entrées are all perfectly cooked, but perhaps less magical. The selection varies by season, of course, but usually includes a mahi mahi, snapper and ahi. A reliable preparation is the seared ahi with mushrooms swimming in a silky miso beurre blanc.
If you’re really a seafood freak, you might check out the raw bar, available on certain nights (ask when you make reservations). It’s on the left as you enter: a cart stacked with iced buckets of lobster, Markea prawns, crab, several kinds of poke, and oysters, which an attendant will shuck for you. This “endless catch” is available for $60. Most of it is cold-water, which means it was flown in from the East or West Coast, but some of the tastiest selections — the sweet Hawaiian slipper lobster and tender and crunchy octopus poke — were harvested from Island waters. We have a soft spot (read that: gluttonous appetite) for fresh oysters … and really, nothing beats having someone shuck them for you.
The green apple mignonette and kim chee aioli accentuate the brilliant briny flavors. Overall, the endless catch is a good value and James thinks it serves very nicely as appetizer, entrée, and sides. The desserts are wildly innovative — from dense, chocolaty donuts in a cloud of Guinness ice cream to dehydrated chocolate mousse crisps. The menu changes often and most items on it are also available in tapas portions: miniature versions that you can mix and match. Some of these desserts have wowed us, others merely satisfied our sweet tooth. The servers are exceptionally well-trained and attentive without being obtrusive (how did that steak knife get there without your noticing?) and they carry little pocket flashlights in case you forgot yours and need to read the menu (yes, the restaurant is that dark at night).
A sweet surprise accompanies your check: a giant spool of cotton candy. This carnival treat comes in sour apple, grape, or strawberry. It’s fun and frivolous.
And, of course, because it’s the Four Seasons, you also get warm oshibori towels to wipe the sugar from your fingers.
Address: 3900 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, South Maui
Location: Four Seasons Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hours: M-Sa 6am – 11:30am; Su 6am – 12pm, Daily 5:30pm – 9pm