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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gannon's - Just Shy of the Hype


The first I learned of Gannon's was through several of those glitzy hotel, dining, shopping and spa magazines that are given away at almost every establishment a tourist might pass through on a trip to Maui.  Ads for this place were everywhere.  They talked of Chef Bev Gannon, the award winning, Texas born, female chef who is seemingly the prize of Maui.  No brainer, I thought.  Had to check it out.  We barely squeaked in a reservation for 8:30 p.m. the following night.  They made it clear they were very committed.  Indeed, the painting that greets you at the entry is simultaneously pretentious and humbling.

Crab, Lobster, Tomato Tower

The aforementioned tourist rags all had pictures of the same appetizer: the Crab, Lobster, Tomato Tower with cucumber and avocado rolls.  It practically popped off the pages, shiny, symmetrical and perfect.  So yeah, we had to order that.  And it came.  And it was good.  But that's it - just good.  Not perfect by any means.  The heirlooms were actually some of the most disappointing tomatoes I had while staying in Maui.  The yellow slice in particular tasted mealy and out of season.  Bummer.  The crab salad part was a little bland, as was the lobster, as were the sweet, sticky rice-heavy avocado rolls.  I just thought the whole thing was missing its bite.

Tuna Tartar

We found the bite soon thereafter, however, in a most redeeming Tuna Tartar.  Tuna Tartar, you say?  Not really known for it's "bite".  Well this one is.  Served with shiso, yuzu, lemon sirracha, cucumber and crisp onion strings, this little appetizer had more flavor in every petite bite than the imposing tomato salad had in its entirety.  I think I sat and fished out each and every last micro cube of cucumber from the bottom of the martini glass.  This dish quite simply had a "brightness" to it that made it impossible not to smile while enjoying.

Braised Short Ribs with Mushroom Sauté & Truffle Mac & Cheese

For dinner, H and I both had the Braised Short Ribs with Mushroom Sauté and Truffle Macaroni and Cheese.  Our server, who was quite funny by the way, and according to H, "transformed from Norm Peterson to Nathan Lane from the Birdcage" over the course of the meal, advised us that the Short Ribs were the closest thing Chef Gannon had to a "signature dish", as it is the only dish that is served at all three of her Hawaii restaurants.  The mac and cheese was a no brainer for me (and I would have actually ordered it as a supplemental side had I ordered another entrée anyway); and yes, it tasted every bit as good as it sounds.  The short ribs were very tender and the sauce was rich, velvety and had just the right touch of sweet to balance the earthiness of the mushrooms.  And yes, I picked around probably 80% of the actual mushrooms, but I really did have a few good bites with the meat just so I could say I tried it.  I still take umbrage with the texture of mushrooms, but their flavor, particularly as utilized in a dish like this, is rich and much appreciated.

Because no Maui dinner seems to be complete without dessert, we ordered yet another chocolate dessert that was shaped like an inanimate object.  This time it was a little chocolate cup filled with an espresso chocolate mouse and served with cocoa and espresso bean shaped/flavored chocolates.  I didn't like this one as much as the chocolate purse at Merriman's, but I think H did, as he remarked as to how much he was really appreciating all of the really good quality dark chocolate on the plate.

So let's recap:  Big hype about this restaurant - very heavily marketed.  Do I feel it really lived up to all of it, when compared to other five star dinners I had during my vacation week on Maui?  No.  If you could only do one five star dinner on Maui would I recommend it be at Gannon's?  No.  But, was it a great dining experience?  Yes, it absolutely was.  It just didn't make it onto my "must go back" list for our next trip to Maui.

Happy Snacking,

The Food Bitch

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