Unlike the fairy tale, where the tortoise is outrun by the hare, Honu (Hawaiian for "turtle") is fast out of the gate, the talk of the town, ever since it opened last weekend on Front Street in Lahaina.
Situated right on the ocean next to its sister restaurant, Mala Ocean Tavern, it's the latest venture from Chef Mark Ellman and his wife, Judy.
"The structure was built in the 1930s as was the Local Motion store before we took it over," says Ellman about the sixth Maui restaurant he's opened. "We've custom built all of the tables, brought in rocks from Bali, stones from Indolotus Imports. Our kirei board bar is made from reclaimed sorghum wheat and is environmentally friendly and sustainable, too."
Mark and Judy Ellman (seated) have hired their daughters Ariana Guarnier (left, standing) and Michelle Ellman as managers.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
The 100-seat crab shack, seafood house and pizza parlor is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Sundays when it closes at 9:30 p.m.
"We hope to open for breakfast perhaps in September, once we get our sea legs," says Ellman, looking at the ocean as turtles play right in front of him.
The concept came about because, "Judy and I love to travel and we love going out to eat," he says. "In the Bay Area, the first thing we do is beeline for oysters, crab, great wines and beer."
"And, pizza," chimes in Judy.
So at Honu, a crab tank with lots of live crustaceans is situated at the entrance. The couple also installed a brick oven that cooks Naples-style pizzas at 700 degrees in about three to four minutes.
They have 26 seats at the bar and pour 50 beers, mostly organic and microbrews. The esoteric wine list is categorized into a range of prices from $20 on up.
Chef Keoki McKee, who formerly cooked at Mama's as well as the Hotel Hana-Maui, is chef. He makes crab Louie, grilled octopus, steamed Ipswich clams from Maine, and two each of East Coast, West Coast and Hawaii fish such as petrole sole, sand dabs, halibut, monkfish and skate. He also does unusual items such as fried pig ears, and pork belly with grits. Call 667-9390.