Duo Offering Their Raw Bar 7 Days a Week

August 16, 2012, 4:58 PM HST · Updated August 30, 1:00 PM
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Editor’s note: The Four Seasons contacted us to say that the two-for-one kama`aina special does not apply to the raw bar – though Vanessa did actually manage to combine the special with the raw bar when buying an entree. A quick phone call to the restaurant confirmed this is possible. However, you cannot use the kama`aina special with two raw bar purchases.

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

Duo raw bar

The incredible raw bar at Duo. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

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If there is a heaven, the food may very well be prepared by Duo in the Four Seasons Wailea.

The all-you-can-eat raw bar ($69) features three to five types of raw oysters, ceviche, poke, shrimp, snow crab claws, Alaskan King crab, and even Kona lobster. Typically only offered Thursday through Saturday, Duo will be featuring this shellfish extravaganza every night of the week for the next two months. If you’ve ever wanted to feast like Caligula, this is your moment.

The oysters alone are worth the price of admission. On the night in question, Duo was offering freshly shucked Kumamoto, Shigoku, Penn Cove, Deer Creek, and Kusshi oysters: arguably some of the best on earth. A restaurant in a neighboring hotel offers a single Kumamoto shooter for $8. Do the math.

Kona lobster at Duo

The aqua-farmed Kona lobster. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The oysters were fresh and perfect and shucked to order. Clean, succulent, and bursting with the flavor of the ocean, the quality is amazing. The pokes and ceviches are prepared fresh each night. The Alaskan king crab was cold and sweet, and the gargantuan peeled snow crab claws were out of this world. The lobster – aqua-farmed in cold, deep seawater off Kona – was perfection. In addition to cocktail and tartar sauce, there is a vat of warm drawn butter, pineapple salsa, brandy and kimchee aiolis, and a variety of mignonettes for the oysters.

The raw bar also comes with a choice of French onion soup or Caesar salad. The soup was traditional: rich, well-seasoned beef broth filled with soft sweet onions and topped with French bread and a healthy layer of Gruyere.

Ribeye at Duo

The 24 oz. bone-in ribeye. Bring some help: this baby’s huge. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

If you’re kama’aina (and both parties can prove it with a state ID), the raw bar falls under the current “buy one, get one free” special if also purchasing an entree (unfortunately, that special does not apply to two raw bar purchases). The 24-ounce, dry aged bone-in prime rib eye ($56…or free if your other half buys) is typically served with Kula corn and Duo barbecue sauce, but the 20-ounce Porterhouse ($52) presentation with crispy onion rings and herb garlic butter caught our eye.

The gigantic slab of beef arrived with a tower of onions rings on top. Although the garlic butter sauce was sublime, the maker of the onion rings used a heavy hand with the smoked paprika, all in all a bit distracting from the sweet and subtle onion flavor. The meat itself was cooked medium-rare as ordered. The deep umami flavor was complimented by a slight char, which offset the richness of the meat. A manager stopped by the table soon after the food was dropped to check that everything was as expected.

French fries at Duo

The French fries and two dipping sauces. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The raw bar also comes with a side of fries. Thick cut and a bit soggy, the accompanying truffle aioli and Béarnaise sauce sides more than made up for it. Rich with truffle flavor – and what even seemed like lilikoi – one might consider licking the ramekin clean. The traditional Béarnaise (a Hollandaise with tarragon added) was exactly as it should be.

Not realizing the extreme generosity of the portion size, Maui Now ordered both the Hamakua mushrooms ($6) and the local green asparagus ($6). The amount of Hamakuas heaped into the bowl bordered on obscene. Mere mortals cannot buy what were easily two cups (cooked!) worth of Hamakuas– let alone prepare them so exquisitely – for $6. Check out the prices at Costco and then get in the car and go to Duo. The asparagus only added to the decadence. Grilled to bright green tenderness and dusted with a light layer of parmesan, it was steakhouse perfection.

The outstanding asparagus at Duo

The outstanding asparagus. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Stuffed and satisfied, Maui Now still found a little room for the complimentary grape-flavored cotton candy delivered by our (until that moment) absent waiter. The flavor evokes memories of childhood fun: carnivals, Kool-aid, and a hardcore delivery of pure, unadulterated sugar.

Vaguely incomprehensible a la Serge in the Beverly Hills Cop movies, our waiter was scarcely sighted during the near two-hour meal. Thankfully, at least a dozen other accommodating employees were there to check in, refill our water, and offer another drink.

A truly fabulous meal, with more amazing food than anyone who ever hopes to fit into their shorts again should consume in one sitting, came to $108 – with the included gratuity – for two people: remarkable.If you are looking for spectacular food – and kama’aina, at an amazing price – you can find it at Duo.

Hamakua mushrooms at Duo

You’d have me down on my knees. Now wouldn’t you, Hamakua? Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

 

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. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line.

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]

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