Such was the case with us last week when we were fortunate enough to receive an invitation to sample Chef George Mavrothalassitis’ new Fall Menu. Mavro will be running this menu now through whenever the truffles show up (probably early December) and he switches over to his Truffle Menu.
Here’s a look at the amazing meal we had. (Dining at Chef Mavro is a prix-fixe-only experience; the four-course menu is $95, $60 additional for wine pairings; the complete seven-course Fall Menu experience, which we had, is $165, with wine pairings for an additional $98.)
To start, an amuse bouche of chilled Crécy orange, coconut foam and cocoa nibs. This started out sweet, but then a wave of salty savory-ness washes over your tongue. The problem with Mavro’s amuse bouche is that you always want more! No sense in filling up, though, with all that’s to come…
The next course was a bacon-crusted diver scallop, served with forest chanterelles and hōi‘o (pohole or fiddlehead fern) salad in a mushroom velouté. The velouté was so wonderfully savory and rich, one of our dining companions was convinced it had to have been made with a beef-based broth, but, nope—it was all mushroom! It’s the sort of thing you just want to bathe in. All four of us unabashedly sopped it all up with pieces of bread.
The foie gras course was the big favorite of the night. Of course, foie gras is always a big foodie favorite, but this preparation was something none of us had seen before and now I crave it incessantly.
Chef Mavro crusted the foie with sesame seeds, then seared it. The nutty flavor of the sesame went incredibly well with the deep, rich flavor of the seared foie. It was accompanied by tempura baby cauliflower, cauliflower purée, balsamic glaze and toasted brioche.
Incidentally, please excuse the strange lighting and inconsistent look of the photos—with four people taking photos at the table with an assortment of cameras and lighting gadgets, it got a little crazy. And my personal philosophy when having a meal like this is to snap a couple shots and get down to eating. If the photos come out, great, but I’m much more focused on enjoying the food before it gets cold or otherwise degrades in quality and experience.
I’ve said before that Chef Mavro does amazing things with lobster. This evening’s meal was no exception. I really enjoyed the tamarind-tapioca jus—it came in a separate dish, with a fricassée of Upcountry vegetables, so you can’t see it here. Hilariously, Melissa, who made the arrangements for us with Chef Mavro’s wife, Donna, told them that I hate beets. She thought she was just being funny, in response to their inquiry if anyone in the party had any food allergies or preferences, but it turned out that the fricassée usually has beets in it. So mine came beet-free while everyone else had rooty bits in theirs.
I particularly liked the tartness of the jus and it really sweetened up the wine that was paired with it (M. Chapoutie, 2012 Hermitage, “Chante-Aloutte,” Rhône Valley).
Our lamb course was a tagine, served with an adorable (and delicious) little purse of eggplant caviar and couscous.
At this year’s Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival, Chef Mavro served oxtail rillette on these tasty little potato-mochi cakes. Here, they were topped with yuzu kosho (a very spicy paste made with peppers and yuzu peel) and were a fabulous accompaniment to a tender piece of Wagyu.
And the cheese course! I love Mavro’s cheese courses because they always seem to use my favorite Hawai‘i Island Goat Dairy cheese and have some sweet element that turns it into a wonderful pre-dessert course. Basically, he turns it into cheese for non-cheese lovers. This time, the cheese was topped with confit kumquats, Hawaiian white honey and—surprisingly—ogo (seaweed). I never thought of having honey and ogo or cheese and ogo together, but they worked really well; the seaweed added a nice briny taste and crunch.
The cheese was followed by the official pre-dessert, a palate cleanser of watermelon in champagne gelée, which photographed better the last time we dined at Mavro.
Before dessert arrived, Mavro’s wife, Donna, informed us that their former pastry chef, Elizabeth, had left, and that they didn’t have a new pastry chef yet, though they were in the process of hiring someone. So Mavro had been playing pastry chef for a while—and loving it!
The two desserts of the evening were his creations, “simple” riffs on a single flavor. There were four of us in our party, and two of us got the chocolate dessert (one went to me, yay!) and two got the pistachio and fig.
The pistachio and fig dessert included a fig poached in spiced burgundy wine, a little chewy tapioca dumpling filled with fig and pistachio, and a scoop of pistachio ice cream. It was served with a very lovely sweet wine (Maculan, 2012 Dindarello, Veneto), which normally I would have taken Shake up on his offer to swap (he got the pistachio dessert) but the port that I was served (Quinta do Vesuvio, 2001 Vintage Port) went so much better with the chocolate.
The array of chocolate goodness was rich and tasty: An açaí and Waialua chocolate crémeaux topped with a sticky, toffee-esque chocolate wafer and served with an açaí-blackberry sorbet.
Dinner at Mavro always ends with mignardises—dessert for your dessert! We were served rich, chocolate-y palet d’or (hiding in that red box), guava pâte de fruit and financiers.
Mavro says he loves having new projects, so he really enjoyed his stint as the restaurant’s pastry chef. That hasn’t been his only project, though: He now has a catering division for us regular folks who want to throw a party with delicious food. Formerly, he did catering jobs on a very limited basis, for high-end special events only, but with the arrival of his new chef de cuisine, Jeremy Shigekane, who brings banquet experience to Mavro’s kitchen, he is branching out. We were told that the new Star Catering menus are built to meet all sorts of price points.
This was an amazing meal with wonderful company and Melissa and I got to chat with Chef Mavro at our end of the table for a little while after dessert. What I love about Mavro is how enthusiastic he is about food and cooking. He told Melissa and me about how he came to the culinary world later in life, having been an engineer first, and that while many of his peers have been in their kitchens for decades and decades and decades, to him it still feels fresh. To me, food always tastes best when the person behind it is excited about it—and that’s Mavro, always.
Disclosure: We were invited to dine at Chef Mavro by Chef and his wife, Donna, as their guests. No compensation was received for this post, and the opinions expressed are strictly my own