Mama’s Fish House

There’s a funny story here. Patrick, my husband, has a friend named Jim who has an assortment of jobs, most frequently as a writer. Jim got the rather plum assignment a few years ago of reviewing various restaurants and other tourist destinations in Maui. I’m sure he did it enthusiastically. So, when he heard we were going to Maui for a short vacation, he had quite a few suggestions, including a visit to Mama’s Fish House. We planned to be in that area a couple days ago, and thought it would be fun to have lunch there.

We missed a few clues. We’re very early risers, and are ready for lunch by 10 A.M.(Or maybe we’re Hobbits looking for Second Breakfast.) So we arrived at the parking lot around 10:30, and talked to some nice guys in polo shirts who were parking cars. It seemed a little much to have valets at a funky restaurant, but they were friendly and helpful, and suggested what we could do until we returned at 11 A.M. when they opened. We figured they were there to keep the surfers from filling up the parking lot with their cars.  So off we went to the little town of Paia, and poked around for a bit, then returned, ravenous, around 11:15, and the same nice guys parked our car for us and sent us to the concierge to see about getting seated. The concierge had a stand in the parking garage, which seemed odd, and she implied that we probably should have had a reservation (for 11:30 on a Thursday? What is going on?) But she made an instant reservation for us, and sent us downstairs. I spent a minute looking at the menu near her desk, and was puzzled by the total lack of prices on the menu.  So off we went downstairs, still without a clue. This was what greeted us:p1020384

And this was the restaurant from the inside; remember,it’s a Thursday morning:


We were warmly welcomed and seated, and offered drinks. The tiny bell is starting to ring that just because Jim, who must know that my husband is a total tightwad, recommended it, and the sign directing us here was very funky, perhaps this is not a low-budget operation. We took a look at the drinks menu and were totally shell-shocked by the prices. What to do? We’d already parked the car and been seated. We hadn’t found any place to eat that looked promising in Paia. oh no! So we gave the server the drinks menu back, with a “No, thanks” and she gave us the lunch menu. Here the sticker shock was even worse. This was very much a high-end restaurant, something we never visit. Speaking of visiting, the birds were totally part of the charm, and wanted to help with the meal. Some even flew in to a table after a diner left to scavenge some crumbs before the waiters cleaned up. Here was one trying to persuade me to feed her:p1020383

We dithered a couple minutes, and then decided to just go for it. Our wedding anniversary is next week, and we would celebrate it at lunch. Today. So we did. I ordered coffee (which wasn’t cheap either, though they kept the refills coming), we listened to the specials, and ordered. Okay. Let’s see what happened next.

What happened was they brought us a little amuse bouche that we hadn’t ordered, and I had to ask the server what it was. It was our bread for the meal, and some mushroom soup.p1020382

It was good. Holy smokes, it’s how the gods would make mushroom soup. I might have tried to fit my tongue in to get the last drops of soup.

I had ordered two appetizers, a crab aloha soup and some crab cakes. Here they were, and possibly even more delicious than the mushroom soup.That’s a sweet potato chip in the soup. I didn’t even offer a bite of it to my husband. See the orange roe on the crab cakes. And dream.

Thp1020386The crab cakes deserve their own photo, so you can appreciate the plating of the food.

When the server described the daily specials, they sounded totally scrumptious.  The bouillabaisse, especially, though I think the most expensive item on the menu, called to my husband, and he responded. Here’s the bowl that he was served. p1020385

I tasted the broth, and it was nectar. And he ate every bite. Look at that amazing slice of bread to mop up the broth.

The place was doing a bustling business, and diners walked through the open courtyard to the doorway, carrying umbrellas provided by the valets to protect them from the light rain. Servers bustled back and forth, filling my coffee, bringing us more bread, checking to see if we needed anything. They were cheerful, helpful, and very professional.

So, dessert. Surely we wouldn’t have dessert? No way! But we watched the two women celebrate a birthday at the next table, and the birthday girl got a cupcake, and each woman had a dessert, and a drink, and the birthday girl had some wine. So, surely that meant we should have dessert. And we did. It was SO HARD to figure out what to get. And we settled on this. It’s a chocolate mousse pearl, with some amazing flavors around the mousse. It was hard keeping our forks away from it long enough to get a photo.


It was almost impossible not to lick the plate afterwards, and some spoon wars erupted over the final bites. There was  comfort in knowing I could never make this in my kitchen, so I could just eat it up and enjoy it.

When we finished the dessert, surely, that was all? Mais non! Here comes another little amuse bouche for dessert, and hot damp washcloths. The washcloths were scented with the same wonderful soap that I had enjoyed in the ladies’ restroom. I wanted to wash my face with the cloth.p1020392

It seemed a perfect way to end what is surely one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever eaten. I also got a photo of the bill, but won’t be sharing that with you. We sent that photo to Jim, who wants more details about the meal.  On the way out, I grabbed the rest of the bread from the plate, and scattered the crumbs outside for the birds. It was good to share the blessings.