Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Mahina and Sun’sRestaurant Insider
July 10, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
ANNE LEE speaks with Mahina & Sun’s executive chef ERIK LEONG and bar czar CHRISTIAN TAIBI
Bastille Day is recognized in many parts of the world. Historically celebrated on July 14 as France’s version of our Independence Day — often with family activities, parades and in the evening, fireworks. In honor of this tradition, the team at Mahina & Sun’s is celebrating Bastille Week (July 11-17), offering new dishes and libations created by executive chef Erik Leong and bar czar Christian Taibi. This duo created some fun dishes and drinks for me to try as we talked more about what guests can expect.
AL: What are the dishes you created for Bastille Week?
EL: Chris and I took a different approach to traditional French dishes and chose dishes from places that had French influence and incorporated local flair.
Poutine Fries ($10) represent French Canada, which is also their national dish. Even their McDonald’s offers poutine fries on the menu, and who doesn’t like gravy on their fries? Our take on it has seasoned potato wedges, homemade gravy and cheese.
The Bahn Mi ($25) represents Vietnam. My take on this is adding my Chinese influence, using char siu pork belly, cilantro, mint, pickled veggies and hoisin sauce in a French baguette.
To represent French Polynesia, we have a Poisson Cru ($20), which is the national dish of Tahiti. It translates to mean raw fish. We are using fresh local ahi and coconut milk, lots of fresh veggies and jalapeños served with taro chips — it’s almost like a fish salsa.
To represent Louisiana, where the French started Mardi Gras in New Orleans, we have a Shrimp Etouffee ($30). It’s the same process as making a Creole dish, like jambalaya and gumbo, but more of a shrimp-based stew with rice. Creole dishes are really dark earthy colors, and we wanted to lighten it up by adding fresh green onions and peppers.
Since we are celebrating Bastille Day, we had to incorporate France, I made a baked Clafoutis ($12), which means batter pudding. It’s like a baked cherry crepe, served in a cast-iron pan and topped with creme anglaise. It’s an old-school traditional dish.
AL: How many dishes and drinks are being offered?
EL: I have added, for a limited time only, five dishes to celebrate Bastille Week. Christian also has five cocktails that he has added, as well. There will be some French wines that we will also be bringing in.
AL: Tell me about the cocktails.
CT: I wanted to incorporate five classic French cocktails. First we have the Sazerac. Some of the best I’ve had was in New Orleans, named after a French brandy. It’s a different take on an old fashioned; as simple as it is, it’s different in its complexity.
I also have a Sidecar, which is more of a dessert cocktail. We use a French cognac, a little bit of rye and fresh lemon juice for a light bright cocktail.
When my wife, Lisa, and I were in the South of France, everyone was drinking Aperol Spritz, and this is my take on this popular cocktail. I add sparkling wine and seltzer, along with amaro from Kupu Spirits based on Maui.
For the Absinthe Frappe, we use fresh lime juice, cucumber and mint. Absinthe is very popular in France, and when it’s used properly it makes an impressive cocktail. This is a light fresh, summery cocktail with a hint of anise that demands it and respects it when you sip it.
Finally, we have our rendition on the French 75 — one is used with cognac and one is with gin.
These drinks are $16 each.
AL: Why did you guys want to celebrate Bastille Week?
EL: Christian really has a pulse on different holidays that are not necessarily celebrated here in Hawaii, and for us, when we do kick off non-traditional holidays, such as Mardi Gras, there is a lot of interest. Hawaii has so many unique types of people from different ethnicities, including French and people that are familiar with this holiday. It gives another reason for you to come and visit us.
Christian’s wife Lisa, who is our restaurant manager, both worked in New York City in the bar industry, and Bastille Day was often celebrated with large parties.