Carnival CuisineCover Story
February 20, 2022
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
As guests enjoy the local-style comfort food and delicious beverages at Mahina & Sun’s, diners quickly become fans of the excellent cuisine and spirits served during breakfast, happy hour and dinner.
And, with Mardi Gras right around the corner, Mahina & Sun’s is the go-to party spot featuring an array of special dishes and beverages to mark the occasion. Situated in the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club in Waikiki on Lewers Street, Mahina & Sun’s is an alluring oasis tucked away from the hustle and bustle.
Diners can look forward to simple, flavorful cuisine at Mahina & Sun’s that highlights seafood and other “local eats” that are sustainably sourced. Guests can get their beaded necklaces and party attire ready as Mardi Gras specials will be served March 1-5, beginning Fat Tuesday.
Executive chef Erik Leong was part of the culinary team that helped open the restaurant in 2014, and is back after spending some time in California.
Jambalaya-Inspired Risotto ($30) is one of the Mardi Gras specials available during dinner service (5:30-9 p.m.) as Leong puts his touch on the “status quo of New Orleans” with a flavorful blend of sausage, chicken, clams and shrimp.
Kauai Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwich ($25) features succulent shrimp prepared in a corn meal dredge before being fried to perfection and accented with Cajun seasoning and malt vinegar aioli. The open-faced sandwich is served with a medley of fried sweet potato, rustic potato and lotus root chips along with tomato and pickled onion to counter the fried items.
King Cake Donuts ($12 for three pieces) resemble malasadas, but are smaller and filled with lilikoi cream before being accented with colored sugar. Unlike traditional malasadas, there’s no need to preorder. According to Mahina & Sun’s director of food and beverage Lisa Taibi, simply join the team for dinner and enjoy!
“It was fun as we sat down to talk about Mardi Gras because it has a lot of substance knowing the typical cuisine, so we’re able to show our versatility and put our unique spin on it,” Leong says. “I can make a really good risotto, so I figured I could take the jambalaya and accent risotto with that. I’m trying to push the envelope and help us find our identity again. Our focus has been on building the team and bringing the good energy back.”
Mahina & Sun’s executive bar czar Christian Taibi brings his experience in the New York nightlife scene to the restaurant’s expansive bar, that serves as the poolside restaurant’s centerpiece.
Absinthe Frappe ($16) kicks off the Mardi Gras-inspired cocktail specials as this “refreshing palate cleanser” creates a refreshing licorice flavor. Uncle Iz Fizz ($16) is a gin-based cocktail featuring Kupu Gin from Maui with fresh orange syrup, coconut cream and citrus all shaken into a meringue that floats when seltzer is added.
The Hurricane ($16) is packed with vibrant tropical juices as a housemade “fassionola” syrup with fresh strawberries, lilikoi, pomegranate and pineapple is coupled with Plantation over-proof rum to bring out the tropical flavors before this eye-catching cocktail is dressed with fruit and garnishes.
Bijou ($16) and Sazerac ($16) are full-bodied, simple cocktails that are great after-dinner drinks headlined by gin and sweet vermouth, and rye whiskey and lemon citrus, respectively.
“We’re really excited about serving these cocktails, and the history of New Orleans cocktails is part of the fabric of mixology around the world,” says Christian Taibi, whose passion for mixology and creating flavor profiles shines through in each sip.