I’O drew a line in the sand (literally) between fine dining and beachcombing. My eyes adjusted to Maui’s Technicolor sky where Jackie Gleason winked from a moon larger than life, but somehow this natural spotlight still couldn't find our waitress. Luckily, an attentive manager noticed our neglected stares and stepped in with some warm bread and cocktails – the perfect solution to any problem.
Dinner: Crispy tuna- panko breadcrumbs framed magenta slices with a hue that reminded me more of a flower than fish. Sweet (green papaya salad) and salty (creamy soy vinaigrette) accessories were like placing diamonds on Grace Kelly’s neck – perfection squared. My eyes involuntarily closed as I chewed...it was a private moment.
Short ribs: were disappointing after the edible epiphany of the tuna. They were slathered in a light cream sauce, but still remained dry and chewy. Plus, I wasn’t impressed with the lifeless sides of sautéed spinach and under-seasoned potatoes.
Dessert: Chocolate Pate – With the dense quality of a flourless chocolate cake, every bite overtook the mouth –teeth, tongue, roof. It was the consistency of a thick peanut butter, but lightened with the crunch of nuts, strawberry glaze and melted white chocolate. Good, not great.
Puppa Platter - there were some islanders selling (and engraving) wooden masks outside the private luau next door (the hip-nosis of hula and drum beats had lingered throughout our meal.) The woodwork was impressive, so we chose a grimacing figure and asked to have “Lauren and Bubba” carved on the back. It wasn’t until we returned to San Diego that we noticed they had written, “Lauren and Puppa" instead.
Go for: the crispy tuna and romantic, beachfront seating.