What do the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award, television’s Top Chef and Hawai‘i’s ubiquitous ABC Stores all have in common?
Sheldon Simeon, Executive Chef of the hot new restaurant LINEAGE in Wailea, Maui.
Chef Sheldon, as he is known, was twice voted “Fan Favorite” during two separate appearances on the Bravo Network’s Top Chef. He opened LINEAGE in October 2018 in partnership with venerable ABC Stores and was nominated as a semi-finalist by the James Beard Foundation for Best New Restaurant in March. The James Beard Awards are akin to the Oscars for movies, so being named a semi-finalist is a prestigious honor.
My wife and I, during a brief staycation recently, took the opportunity to dine at LINEAGE. The restaurant serves traditional local Hawai‘i fare in a unique way. Our delightful waiter Jordan got us started with a cocktail, a Mai’a Tai (the unique spelling is intentional) and a “mocktail,” a Menko Madness. We instantly realized why LINEAGE recently won a Best Cocktail competition on Maui. The Mai’a Tai, a blend of Banks 5 Rum, banana milk punch, walnut, pecan, Giffard Apricot de Rousillon, lime and almond-spice liqueur was delicious. The Menko Madness, a house-made POG (passion fruit-orange-guava) juice, coconut cream, lemon-lime soda and egg white, was a Hawaiian liquid treat—not too sweet and delightful.
The restaurant is a shared plate concept and the first food offerings to the table arrived via dim sum cart and Alexandra, who walked us through each of the dishes. We chose house-made pita style chips with a cream cheese dip topped with mild kim chee spice, pickled vegetables from local farms and a salmon dumpling that my wife wouldn’t let me get near. The chips and dip lasted the whole meal and the pickled vegetables were perfect for munching between bites when the other dishes arrived. Since both my wife and I are grazers, we were in heaven.
Jordan then walked us through the Snacks portion of the menu. We chose the Maui Flying Saucer after he informed us that locals waited 90 minutes in line at the Maui County Fair for them. OMG! I’ve been to a lot of county fairs where fried food reigns supreme, but the Flying Saucers came from somewhere in fried food heaven. It consists of two pieces of brioche bread enclosing homemade beef goulash and Tillamook Cheddar, and then fried. It was like the best grilled cheese we’ve ever had, except better, if that’s possible.
[Full disclosure: this was the only item that we ordered that was filling, so don’t go crazy on the Flying Saucers unless you want to end up staring at all the other food on your table.]
We countered the Flying Saucers with the Bottom of the Plate Lunch salad, which for locals, is self-explanatory. Picture everything left after you eat the meat at the top of a mixed plate—shaved cabbage, kalbi dressing, mac salad mayo and smoked beef fat—so Hawai‘i and so good.
After much consulting with Jordan we picked two items off the Pupu Line—the Smoke Meat, a plate of sweet pork, guava jelly and piko onion and HRC-19, the local fresh catch of the day. In our case, it was Mahi Mahi served over Molokai sweet potato, upcountry carrots, macadamia nut and with a sugar cane buerre blanc sauce. I laugh thinking about the Smoke Meat, because at first my wife remarked that it might be her least favorite dish, but every time I looked up from my food she was putting more on her plate.
By the end of the meal, it was gone and we laughed that it went from her least favorite to her most favorite. And, why not? The meat was a pork belly, or thick bacon, in a delicious sweet sauce topped with the sautéed pink onions. Ono! Words won’t describe the Mahi Mahi; just check out the photo. ‘Nuf said.
While we were busy chowing down, General Manager Matt visited our table and brought a Charred Brocollini, compliments of the chef. I don’t know how he knew how much more I like brocollini than broccoli, but we appreciated it. Perfectly charred and served with a roof Yuzu vinaigrette, it was the perfect complement to the meat and fish.
I was compelled to compliment Matt Godfrey on the service that Jordan and Alexandra provided and I could see him beam. “One thing we learned from ABC was the philosophy of treating employees like ‘ohana (family),” said Matt. “Instead of the typical restaurant philosophy of using part-time workers, we offer full-time hours and benefits.”
The desserts—a lilikoi sorbet and the Filipino Cereal—were amazing. The sorbet was so tangy that it exploded on the taste buds. It was the perfect complement to the other, which was an adventurous blend of pannacotta on the bottom, fresh avocados, homemade cookies topped with a poured over sweet cream.
The only thing more sublime than how it tasted was the story Jordan shared:
“Chef Sheldon grew up in a large Filipino family that ate traditional food for breakfast, like Spam musubi and such. One day his grandfather found him the kitchen mixing crackers, sugar and cinnamon. When he asked him what he was doing, Sheldon told him that he had been introduced to cereal at a neighbor’s house. He was trying to make his own cereal!”
We left LINEAGE feeling like we had a uniquely Hawaiian dining experience and a few new friends to boot. Don’t visit Maui without planning a meal there. If you don’t trust me, trust James Beard.
Happy hour from 5:00PM-6:00PM.