Maui Now Cooks: A Tribute to Bob Longhi
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Bob Longhi, the self-proclaimed “most opinionated restaurateur on Maui” passed away last Monday. Opened in 1976, the family-run restaurant has been a fixture of the Lahaina food scene (and later Wailea and Honolulu in 2000 and 2003, respectively) for decades.
Longhi’s menu is unique in that not much has changed in 36 years. Bob’s own stated philosophy was that “I believe that when people eat a wonderful dish, they want to have it again. There is a reason things are done classically: because they work! So if you come to Longhi’s 20 years from now and you order Ahi Torino, you are going to get the same dish you ate 20 years ago.”
There is something to be said with not fixing what ain’t broken, and certainly the nearly four decades Longhi’s has been in business serves as its own endorsement of this viewpoint.
In honor of Bob, Maui Now turned to his and Gabrielle Longhi’s 1998 cookbook, Longhi’s: Recipes and Reflections From Maui’s Most Opinionated Restauranteur.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com and in the restaurants themselves. Leafing through the familiar options, most of which are still served there today, we decided to cook up one of his signature and most famous dishes, Shrimp Longhi and share the recipe with you.
The cookbook is like Bob himself was: colorful, candid, and rich with stories and history. The recipes are accessible and relatively uncomplicated: achievable for new cooks, yet still appealing to those with more experience.
In the Longhi’s cookbook, Bob shared that “during my bachelor days this dish was the centerpiece for many of the meals I cooked while entertaining. It was so simple yet so delicious. I knew then that if I ever actually owned a restaurant, this sauce would be one of my most successful creations. If you want to try something great that’s not hard to make, try Shrimp Longhi.”
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 pieces crusty Italian or French bread
- 12 large shrimp (1 pound), rinsed, peeled, and deveined
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 ounce lemon juice (1 ounce is approximately two tablespoons)
- 4 to 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
- ½ tomato, cut into medium dice
- ¼ cup chopped basil
Preheat broiler. Sauté garlic in butter for 2 or 3 minutes. Dip bread in garlic butter and place under the broiler until lightly browned. Put garlic toast on a serving plate.
Dredge shrimp in flour to lightly coat them, shaking off any excess flour. In a sauté pan, combine butter and olive oil over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, add the shrimp to the pan and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until shrimp is cooked. Remove shrimp from the pan and pour out any excess butter. Return the pan to medium heat and deglaze with white wine; reduce for 2 to 3 minutes and then add the lemon juice. Reduce liquid by half (approximately 3 minutes). Then stir in 3 tablespoons cold butter chunks. Add more butter to the sauce 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce becomes emulsified. The sauce should not be thick but just coat the back of a spoon. Add tomato and basil. Return the shrimp to the pan for 30 seconds and toss. Put shrimp on garlic toast and pour sauce over shrimp.
When sautéing the garlic, be careful to keep the heat low to prevent overcooking or browning it, as it will become bitter and unpleasant tasting. You may want to add a little salt and pepper to the flour, as well as the finished buerre blanc sauce as the recipe is noticeably devoid of any seasoning. The finished sauce is quite subtle and lovely, but don’t pour it over the garlic bread until you’re ready to serve it: things get soggy fast!
Longhi’s restaurant will no doubt continue to be a Lahaina institution, but Bob and his outspoken charm will be missed. Our sincere condolences to the Longhi family.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share.
Dying to know how a certain dish is made so you can recreate it at home? Send in a request, and we will try to pry the secret out of the chef…and even take a run at cooking it up ourselves. Mahalo. [email protected]