From the outside, Lahaina Grill could be mistaken for a Hawaiian version of an every-day gaming lounge. Nestled in a shopping center between Flamingo and Tropicana that seems to just be getting its start, you could miss the restaurant if you weren’t looking for it. However, any fan of truly unique cuisine certainly should make a point of navigating to this destination.
Lahaina Grill aims to be a step above the tavern-style bars that seem to inundate the Las Vegas area. Open for two years this coming December, the restaurant offers patrons an alternative to burgers and fries with their video poker. The owner has been involved in the restaurant industry for over twenty years, with an impressive resume of successful sushi eateries under his belt. His goal for the Lahaina Grill is for it to be a “breakthrough tavern” that brings quality food to the local gaming scene. He hopes this location will be the first of many successful Lahaina Grills.
As we walk in to Lahaina Grill, we’re met by pleasant hostesses who lead us to our seat. We feel as if we have entered a Hawaiian cove, with water and foliage being the theme throughout the establishment. Directly in front of us is the 24-hour bar, behind which discreet lighting illuminates bottles on the shelves. Outdoor dining is also an option and looks to be an intimate experience. As we descend to the main dining area I admire the murals of underwater scenes either side of the dining area. Looking up, I notice we are seated under the stars! I am hard-pressed to think of another establishment where you can try for a royal flush under a nighttime sky. After all, Lahaina Grill does offer 24 hour gaming. A waterfall among tropical plants in the corner of the area not only looks impressive, but adds an island soundtrack to our meal.
The clientele at Lahaina Grill is diverse. Families are welcome here, as well as large groups gathering for celebrations. On the night of our visit both of these groups are represented, with a family on one side of us and a birthday celebration on the other. There are also spacious private rooms available, complete with flat-screen televisions. Couples will enjoy private seating, either indoors or on the Zen-like patio. With the amount of colorful cocktails and water-inspired bar seating, Lahaina can also serve as a great starting point for an evening on the town. Due to the high ceilings and rock walls, one would think noise would be an issue but our dinner is never interrupted by the atmosphere of the restaurant.
Our server, who is very attentive and helpful with our selections, is sporting a lei, as are all of her co-workers. From the moment we order our drinks, Sapporo beer and a crisp, refreshing, sparkling wine, she helps us navigate the incredibly expansive menu. We start our meal with an assortment of appetizers, listed on the menu in Hawaiian as “Pupus.”
The Crab Rangoon, filled with cream cheese, crab and water chestnuts is served with a sweet and tasty chili sauce. Perfectly crisp, it is a nice, light way to start off the meal.
The Sashimi Platter tastes as if the fish arrived at the same time we pulled into the parking lot. Perfect cuts of tuna magoro, yellowtail hamachi, and Atlantic salmon are arranged elegantly next to servings of ginger and wasabi.
Soon to follow are dinner salads made up of fresh greens, grape tomatoes and minced carrots, combined with Lahaina’s Asian dressing. The salads are overflowing out of the bowl and delightfully fresh.
For our entrees, Lahaina Grill shines in the category of presentation. The Kalua Pork is slow roasted and served with grilled pineapple all on a bed of white rice. The rice pulls the dish together, balancing out the flavors of the pork. Showcasing a sweet, smoky taste, the pork is tender and the portion is reasonable.
The Macadamia Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi is served over red skin potatoes and mixed vegetables. What makes this dish stand out is the perfect coating of the macadamia nuts on the Mahi Mahi. The crunch of the nuts combined with the pleasant sweetness of the coconut-lime glaze makes this fish enjoyable and exciting. Topped with tropical fruits, and served alongside zucchini and carrots, the two filets are the perfect portion.
Lahaina Grill also offers a generous sushi menu, with many rolls that utilize distinctive combinations. The Mexican Special Roll, for example, is composed of crab salad and avocado, topped with a special jalapeño sauce. The sauce provides a kick to go along with the creamy, mildness of the avocado. Chopsticks of course are available and are even conveniently unwrapped by the server.
The Oriental Spare Ribs in a hoisin plum honey sauce is a smaller portioned meal, but doesn’t lack in flavor. The smooth sauce is careful not to overpower the quality spare ribs that literally fall of the bone. A side of white rice completes the plate.
The dessert menu is short and…sweet, if you will. With offerings such as Tempura Fried Vanilla Ice Cream and sinful-looking Chocolate Lava Cake with Ice Cream, it is diverse and also available 24 hours a day. We enjoy the Malasadas with Piña Colada Ice Cream, deep-fried, donut-like treats tossed to achieve a light sugar coating. Served warm with exotic piña colada ice cream, the dish has us feeling the tropical breeze of the Big Island. A complimentary after dinner drink, a smooth Kahlua and milk, is brought over in generous shot glasses and is a great ending to the meal.
Visiting Lahaina Grill is like stepping into a Hawaiian oasis behind a sparkling waterfall. The desert outside is a distant memory, replaced by the green and blue tones of the islands. Located in a part of town where you still may come across a dirt road and a fair share of traffic cones, it’s a nice break from the parade of fast food in this developing area. Any time of day, Lahaina Grill is open to cater to your cravings, from breakfast (omelets and fresh fruit smoothies) to a post-night-out 4-a.m. meal. You can even have sushi for breakfast if you prefer. Why not start and end the evening at the same eatery? As we exit the restaurant, the host lures us back for future visits by telling us Monday and Wednesdays are “ladies nights,” during which entrees are half off for female guests. As if we needed to be convinced!