This past March my husband and I went on a mini vacation to Maui. It is always a treat to escape the cold of the mainland during winter and soak up some warm sunshine. We love Maui, as I am sure all of you do. We were fortunate to be able to have seen the Humpback Whales swimming in the channel between Maui and Lanai before they headed back to Alaska with their new calves. Humpback Whales are such awesome and amazing creatures!
My husband and I have a tradition when we visit Maui. After driving away in our rental car from the Kahului Airport, we drive 15 minutes north on the Hana Highway directly to Mama’s Fish House. It is a great way to get the vacation started! Mama’s Fish House is located on the North Shore of Maui about 5 minutes outside of Paia. The restaurant sits right on the secluded white sand beach of Kuau Cove nestled in a coconut grove.
Mama’s Fish House is owned by Floyd and Doris Christenson who opened the restaurant in 1973. Owning a Polynesian restaurant with authentic cuisine was a long realized dream of the young couple. Doris had learned the craft of Polynesian cooking from a voyage she and Floyd took to the South Pacific during the early 1960s. They were a young couple with their 4-year-old son Keith, when they sailed away on their 38’ ketch named the “Marinero,” from San Diego. They waved good-bye to family and friends and headed west towards the South Pacific. After 3,6000 miles and 36 days at sea, the Christensons landed in Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas’ Islands. The Christensons stayed in the Marquesas’ for 3 months, enjoying life on land and getting to know the local peoples They stayed in the Marquesas’ until it was time to sail to Tahiti where Doris checked into a hospital to give birth to their second child; a girl, which they named Karen. Over the next couple of years, the Christensons visited many of the Tahitian islands, Cook Islands, Tonga, and New Zealand. Each new island brought them in contact with new native peoples, who greeted them warmly and invited them to visit their village where they joined them at large feasts. On these occasions, Doris would ask if she could assist the women in the preparation of the meal. Doris became fascinated with Polynesian cuisine, its amazing ingredients of fresh fish with fruit and nuts, the methods in which it was prepared, and the marvelous flavors of this unique food.
Ten years after their South Pacific sailing voyage, Doris and Floyd finally realized their dream and opened a Polynesian restaurant. In 1973, Mama’s Fish House was the first fresh fish restaurant in Maui. The restaurant was built in an established beach bungalow and was decorated to retain the family’s sailing voyage across the South Pacific. Their voyage has been brought to life by Polynesian décor, local woodwork, paintings and artwork, spectacular tropical flower arrangements, and stunning artistic nautical elements, with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.
We prefer eating lunch at Mama’s Fish House over dinner because the view cannot be beat! Sunsets are beautiful on this side of the island, but the setting sun cannot be viewed from their vantage. Once inside of Mama’s and a drink in my hand, I can feel the stress of my life (and the plane flight) fall away, gathered up in the trade winds, and carried off to sea. True magic!
I love reading the menu…. You know you have arrived!!!
“…Onaga… caught by Kamaki Everett in deep reefs near Hana.”
“…Ono… caught by Paul Luuwai fishing near Kahoolawe Island.”
“…Opah… caught in local waters by the crew of the fishing vessel Rachel.”
These wonderful fish are caught daily and delivered to Mama’s Fish House direct by the fishermen themselves. It doesn’t get any fresher! The fish in Hawaii is exceptional because Hawaii is geographical location in the center of the Pacific Ocean, which attracts many migrating schools of fish, as well as incredibly clean waters. Their menu frequently features Opakapaka, Mahi Mahi, Onaga, Ono, Ahi, Moi, and Leihi, to name just some of the many varieties of fish that are caught in the Hawaiian waters. The menu changes daily depending on the fresh catch and the in season fresh vegetables and fruit.
Mama’s Fish House always starts off the dining experience with a little ramekin of delicious homemade soup. On this day, we had a fabulous cream of wild mushroom soup. Soup is accompanied by fresh bread that is baked on site daily.
My husband and I ordered the Grilled Maui He’e (octopus) as an appetizer. The octopus is grilled over an open flame where the meat gets a good char and takes on a smokey flavor. The grilled octopus is finished off with a delicate orange citrus sauce and micro greens. Absolutely delicious!
For our main courses, my husband ordered the Mahimahi, which was stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust and then topped with a small lobster tail. I ordered a trio of fish, Ono, Mahimahi, and Ahi, which was sautéed in Panang Curry and coconut milk. Vegetables of heart of palm and roasted taro were served with the fish, and accompanied with condiments of banana, macadamia nuts, chili sauce, and mango chutney. Our fish was perfectly cooked, served with delicious sauces, and was truly our best meal in the five days we were on the island! I am still thinking about that Panang Curry sauce with coconut milk….WOW….it was awesome!
For dessert we shared the Kuau Chocolate Pie, which was baked in a caramel cookie crust. So decadent…and believe it or not, not too rich or heavy.
The service at Mama’s is excellent and unpretentious, spreading the Aloha Spirit to all who dine there! Over the course of the 41 years that the restaurant has been in business, Mama’s has won numerous awards and accolades for their cuisine and dining experience. Mama’s is open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended.
When in Maui, Mama’s Fish House is a must dining experience! Take the journey to the North Shore and go visit a culinary legend; truly one of the best, if not the best, fish restaurant in all of the Hawaiian Islands!
MAMA’S FISH HOUSE RESTAURANT
799 Poho Place
Paia, Hawaii 96779
Mahimahi Macadamia Nut Saute’ with Tropical Fruit Salad
2 Mahimahi fillets 5 to 6 oz. Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked black pepper 4 tablespoons olive oil
Egg wash (one lightly beated egg mixed with 1/2 cup milk)
2 tablespoon salted butter
1 tablespoon fresh American parsley, chopped 4 oz. white wine
2-4 tablespoons roasted macadamia nuts
1/2 of a fresh lemon
1 ripe papaya, seeded and cut into half
1 cup mango, peeled and medium diced
1 cup pineapple, peeled and medium diced 6 lychees peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons Maui onion small diced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro chopped
Fresh mint chopped add to taste
Hawaiian alea salt to taste
Fresh lemon or lime juice
To Prepare the Papaya Bowl and Fruit Salsa:
Cut papaya in half and take out seeds with spoon, season each papaya half with Hawaiian salt and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice then set aside. Next mix all the other fruit and remaining ingredients in a bowl, season with Hawaiian salt and fresh lemon or lime to taste. Put fruit salad in the papaya bowl and chill, until ready to serve.
To Prepare the Mahimahi Fillets:
Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Dip fish in egg wash then dust in flour. Heat sauté pan with olive oil at medium heat. When pan gets hot, place fillets in and brown one side (1-2 minutes) and turn over and brown other side (additionally 1-2 minutes), depending on thickness of fillets cooking time will vary, but do not over cook the fish. Next add the butter to the pan, parsley, macadamia nuts, lemon and wine. Shake the pan to incorperate the sauce. Reduce to a nice sauce consistency then remove from heat.