Hali’Imaili General Store. Maui.

February, 2018.

This was our second visit (first about 10 years ago) to this landmark rural Maui restaurant, which has been serving up creative delicious food for decades. The chef is one Beverly Gannon, who along with her husband Joe apparently bought the place from its original retailer owner in the 1970s and turned it into a 1970s-style faux-folksy destination (it’s no general store).

We were early, showing up at about 530 when the place was maybe 20% subscribed, but it filled up quickly. Our server was a little-bit incongruously urbane knowledgeable young middle-aged girl who seemed like she could have put on a cocktail dress and done a creditable job somewhere in downtown Chicago or San Francisco.

From among the impressive list of 14 starters including crab pizza, brie and grape quesadilla, pork and goat cheese wontons, and sake clams and mussels we chose sashimi napoleon which we had had here before (and which our friend Bill Dalziel – who introduced us to this place – did a pretty good job of knocking off one time) because our recollection was of something spectacular. It was the server’s favourite and even sharing between the two of us there was plenty. It’s a crisp fried cracker for pastry with three kinds of raw fish dressed with sauce: smoky salmon, tuna sashimi and tuna tartare, with a beautiful rich wasabi vinaigrette in a little jug for over the top. Creamy fish with flavour and texture contrasts: fabulous treat.

We shared the crispy roast half-duck, chosen over lemon marinated chicken, pork ribs, hoisin braised short ribs, rack of lamb and steak among others, which was delicious. Definitely crisp, it benefited from flavour contrasts of celery root and a Grand Marnier pineapple chutney. Another home run.

The food was really wonderful. Our server thought over our preferences and the wine list and talked us out of the most expensive white in favour of an Australian semillon which was one-dimensional but reasonably priced at $55. We did share the large starter and big serving of duck, but the bill was still reasonable for this neck of the woods at around $135 pre-tip.

The only caution I have if you are rushing online to make a reservation based on the foregoing is that the high-ceilinged wood-surface space operates like an old-fashioned heavily-resonating speaker box. Even with my hearing aids out the howling and shrieking were almost physically palpable and it was with some relief that we headed down the front stairs and got into our silent car.

Food 9.3, service 9.4, ambience 8.2, value 8.7, peace and quiet 3.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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