Whether you're familiar with "Top Chef" alum Sheldon Simeon's food or not, you're in for a treat when he opens his latest restaurant, Lineage, on October 15. It's going into the Shops at Wailea next to the Island Gourmet Market, and the buzz about this place has been so overwhelming that they won't be taking reservations — it's first come, first served.
The name Lineage summarizes what the restaurant will be all about: celebrating Hawaii's heritage through family recipes and techniques, and more so, Simeon's own family recipes from the Philippines. The menu went through some research and development with his staff, all young people who have been with Simeon from the start at his first restaurant, Tin Roof; he also put a lot of time and effort on his own to get the flavors where he wanted them to be. He traveled to the Philippines to find his grandmother's adobo recipe, and went to every island in Hawaii to taste the different styles of squid luau. (Did you know every island's squid luau tastes different?)
We went to a tasting preview of Simeon's restaurant, and every dish has a little surprise that puts a delightful spin on local cooking. You'll taste it, and immediately recognize the flavors from the church's fundraiser cookbook, your favorite old school lunch truck, or even your own parents' kitchen, but in a completely new way. Who knew that you could get so creative with these old recipes?
The event was held at Basalt, a perfect tie-in because like Basalt, Lineage is owned by ABC Stores.
I don't have room to post everything we ate, so I'm just showing you my early favorites (and even this was hard to trim down, as you can see). You can see the rest of my photos on my Flickr album. If this preview is a reflection of the rest of the menu, I predict I'll be standing in a very long line to get into Lineage when I go to Maui!
When you eat boiled peanuts, the best part is the water in the peanut as you suck it out, right? Simeon turns that water into an oxtail soup-like broth, including a sprinkling of the spice all over, so you get that addictive flavor in every bite.
Mixologist Alcala-Mosley showed us some of his featured cocktails. One was this drink called Chicken Skin, comprised of Prairie cucumber vodka, carpano bianco, Brokers gin, false 'awa, false citrus, and shoyu to create a lightly savory drink. It was perfectly paired with the amuse bump, a snack of kim chee duck fat. Winna!
One night, Alcala-Mosley and Simeon were talking about some of their favorite foods, and one was the way the pineapples at Panda Express tasted after they'd soaked in the sauce for a while. They then came up with the Panda Express, a strong cocktail made wit Bozal mezcal, Knob Creek bourbon, adobo oil, grilled pineapple shrub, lemon, red wine, and egg white. The best thing is drinking the chef's face!
I absolutely loved the combination of cascaron (a Filipino mochi donut) served with shio koji chicken liver pate and pa'aka'i. Who would ever think this classic Filipino dessert would be so good with pate? It's slightly sweet, but balanced with the other flavors. We didn't even bother using a knife, just broke the cascaron with our hands and mopped up the pate.
Chicharons are a classic Filipino snack, and this one is seasoned with adobo spice to heighten the spiciness of the chili peppa water. By itself, the chili peppa water tastes like a spicy shrub, but when you dip the chicharon in, it is exponentially spicier!
Since Simeon incorporates salmon fat into the rice, this dish is pretty rich. It's a great snack in itself, but then you get to the bottom and find an ikura surprise!
The kim chee dip is another addicting appetizer, partly because no one can ever stop eating the Maebo One-Ton chips. They make their own kim chee, then dehydrate it and grind it into a powder with garlic to add spice and crunch to the cheesy dip.
"Welcome to the Maui County Fair!" Simeon boomed as he served this carnival classic, originally from Kauai. People stand in line for hours at the fair for this hearty filled disk, stuffed with Maui Beef goulash and American cheese, because Simeon says nothing else will do. Indeed!
If you eat enough plate lunches, you know that the bottom of the container, all the stuff that's left over and mixed together, is the best part. Simeon made this salad of shaved cabbage with kalbi dressing, shredded burnt teri beef, smoked beef fat and sesame seeds. But wait, there's more: they made the best mac salad they could, then threw it in a Vitamix to liquify it into a mayonnaise texture, and drizzle that over the top. (They tried making it without the macaroni, but it didn't taste right.)
One of Simeon's favorite dishes (and mine) at Chinese restaurants is cold ginger chicken. For his riff on this, he sprinkles salted black bean and truffle on the cold chicken, then piles a generous amount of green onion pesto over it, then finishes with chili oil. The ginger chicken itself is great, but the black bean with truffle makes it a bougie umami bomb.
Green peas are sprinkled on before serving the pork n peas so the color pops, but other than that, this dish is prettu much an old family recipe. You'll get familiar flavors in this Filipino classic, but it's got a different, comforting essence to it.
I know Maui squid luau tends to be more sweet, so I was bracing myself for this one, sprinkled with coconut candy. It is slightly sweet, but the coconut candy actually imparts a nutty, almost meaty flavor. This one was intruiging and addicting.
There are vegan/vegetarian options, too, and the cauliflower-based katsu curry is so good, you'll forget it's vegan. The patty is made of cauliflower, as is the "rice," but you won't even miss any animal protein in this dish. It's probably a good way to get non-veg people to eat their veggies.
The highlight of dinner was probably the gigantic crispy pata, or pork leg. The leg is brined, then seasoned, breaded and cooked to crispy perfection. You can eat it as is, or make your own lettuce wrap with all the fixings. The sauces are what really make this dish, so be sure to use them ... and what is that Braddah Tommy sauce? Hmmmmm! Anyway, we were all too full to really enjoy this, but I'd order it again if I were out with a large number of friends.
No matter what, save room for dessert. The toasted rice tea chazuke flavor sounds weird, but it's actually very refreshing. So many familiar flavors in one bowl!
Lineage opens on October 15 at the Shops at Wailea. We can't wait to see what else this culinary team cooks up.
3750 Wailea Alanui Dr., Maui